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**2012 Best Camera for the Money** Samsung's new WB150F combines two very trendy technologies currently sweeping the imaging world: impossibly long zoom, and Wi-Fi connectivity. But when manufacturers do this, especially at the low end, there's a tendency for gimmickry to overpower image quality. That may be the case here. We spent some time with the WB150F and both our shooting experiences and test results were mixed.
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The 18x lens is massive for a camera of this size and we're guessing this alone will sell some units. The Schneider Kreuznach barrel is accented by four chrome bezels, but the mechanical action is jumpy and imprecise. The zoom lever also has a tendency to become physically stuck to one side, causing the lens to extend or retract out of control. Construction isn't sturdy either, and the two inner elements feel loose.

In the absence of an optical or electronic viewfinder, framing is limited to the 3-inch rear LCD. This is a rather low quality monitor, with a narrow viewing angle and less detail representation than its 460,000-pixel resolution suggests. Lining up a typical portrait of friends will not be a problem, but any sort of creative handling (low angles, overhead shots, etc.) will probably require blind framing.

A single proprietary USB terminal resides underneath a plastic cover on the right side of the body. This port is used for PC interfacing, A/V output, and charging the battery via an included adapter. Unfortunately an A/V cable does not ship with the WB150F, so you'll have to purchase a separate adapter to stream content directly to a TV. Battery charging may be accomplished using either a wall socket or a USB connection to a computer.

Of course the final method of connectivity is Wi-Fi, however we find this method slower and less reliable than simply plugging in your memory card.

Despite an encouraging color accuracy score, the WB150F's resolution and noise reduction result in unattractive shots, especially indoors. This model's price is certainly right, but even for $230 it's hard to recommend a camera that produces images like this.

On a body of this size, the 18x lens is very ambitious, and unfortunately this results in mixed sharpness scores. The WB150F should not be considered a particularly sharp camera, evidenced by most of our sample photos, however our tests did record some decent detail in certain zones, likely due to both software edge enhancement and sweet spots in the lens.

If you're stuck shooting detail with the WB150F, we recommend limiting your focal length to the minimum and ignoring the rule of thirds by keeping important subjects at the center of the frame. More on how we test sharpness.

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Optical stabilization is a more advanced technology than the digital method often used by small or inexpensive cameras. However the WB150F's optical stabilizer actually worsens sharpness by 18% on average. Therefore we only recommend enabling stabilization for assistance with framing long zoom shots.

The WB150F returned an error value of 2.86 in our color accuracy test, slightly better than the 3.00 average. Greens and skin tones are among the most accurate shades, and in practice our shots of human subjects were flattering even in low or mixed lighting conditions. Samsung is not the first company we think of when it comes to color accuracy, so hopefully this represents a big step in the right direction for them. More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

By far the best color reproduction in this category belongs to the Sony HX9V which we reviewed late last year. Beyond that, the WB150F is neck and neck with Fujifilm's excellent F600EXR, and exceeds Panasonic's new ZS20.

The WB150F does not define any individual color modes, and that's okay since we normally find them pretty redundant. The most accurate mode is always going to be the most useful, so why include others?

White balance accuracy is a mixed bag. Tungsten light is handled especially well by the automatic method, with an error of only 300 degrees Kelvin. However, daylight is also off by 300 K, and we expect much better accuracy at this temperature.

Custom white balance is highly accurate, with no light sources producing errors greater than 100 K. On rare occasions, the custom option accidentally came up with a wildly inaccurate reading, necessitating a do-over to fix it.

In addition to automatic and custom white balance methods, the WB150F ships with five presets: Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, and Tungsten; as well as an option for entering color temperature directly in degrees Kelvin.

Noise rates are quite low at the bottom of the ISO spectrum, however above ISO 200 the influence of noise and destructive noise reduction become exponentially more pronounced. Noise crosses a full 1.00% at ISO 400, which is a bit early. Beyond that, noise increases quickly but shots are still serviceable up to and including ISO 1600. As for the maximum ISO, 3200, we don't ever recommend shooting at that sensitivity.

Frustratingly, the Program Auto shooting mode will not meter above ISO 400, even though the shots still look okay. This adds quite a bit of extra work to everyday use, and there seems to be no way around it. More on how we test noise.

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Sensitivity ranges between 80 and 3200, with no reduced resolution options available. We never say this, but for once they're sorely missed. For pretty much all indoor shooting without flash, you'll need better performance than what the WB150F offers.

Blue and yellow fringing is quite common and this problem is worsened by extending the lens. As always, high contrast areas are the worst offenders, so when shooting scenes like this be sure to zoom out all the way.

Framing with precision is very difficult due to the extreme pincushion distortion produced by this lens at the widest angle, however the camera's software compensates. Most final images are therefore all but free of distortion, though a few of our sample shots still suffered from the effect to a lesser degree.

This is only a 720p video device, however motion still isn't very smooth. Moving subjects have a bit of a stutter to them, and are usually surrounded by some compression artifacts. We're sure a 60p option would've improved things, but this camera just doesn't seem to have been designed for video. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The WB150F resolved 400 lw/ph horizontally and 450 vertically in our video sharpness test, making it a below average performer. Casio's ZR100 offers the best resolution in this category for video, and also features a slew of the ultra high speed video options that Casio is known for. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

We're impressed by some (but not all) of the WB150F's automatic features, making this camera a decent choice for beginners. Unfortunately grip is given less priority than looks, and the so-called "high speed shooting" features are a bit of a joke.

The WB150F features a Smart Auto mode that completely automates all shooting variables. This setting does a decent job making the right decisions, and we'd be comfortable handing this camera to a beginner knowing that the option is available. It's also possible to manually toggle a few options while using Smart Auto, including self-timer and–thankfully–flash.

We always prefer hardware mode dials, like the one found on the WB150F, but this particular dial overstays its welcome. In addition to the typical selection of automatic and priority modes, plus a few effects modes and a dedicated video mode, the WB150F has stops on its dial for the main menu, and even a dedicated Wi-Fi mode. There's no reason for extra steps like this, and it slowed down our shooting process considerably, especially while first getting to know the camera.

The menu system is divided into an easily accessible quick menu and a more in-depth main menu. The quick menu is overlaid on top of the live view and can be pulled up at any time simply by pressing the Menu button on the rear panel. In Program mode, this is where you'll find all shooting options including exposure compensation, ISO, stabilization, and all the rest. That interface is highly intuitive, however it automatically closes after each selection, so if you have a bunch of settings to change this will become a pain.

The main menu, on the other hand, must be accessed from the mode dial, a strange choice in our opinion. Once there you'll find hardware preferences like volume, display brightness, etc. This menu is just as intuitive, we only wish it wasn't so much of an annoyance to access.

The WB150F ships with an entirely unhelpful Quick Start Guide, but the included CD-ROM contains a thorough full length instruction manual. This document is indexed for easy searching and we found it very helpful when getting to know the camera for review.

Samsung's commitment to aesthetic appeal means the WB150F has a smooth, attractive chassis, but not a very good one for handling. This is a slippery camera and the minimal thumb rest on the rear panel adds little in the way of traction.

Handling Photo 1

But the WB150F does offer one major ergonomic feature: the large hand grip on the right side. This went a long way to keep the camera under control, and we imagine the camera would be uncomfortably difficult to use without it. We still would've preferred a bit more stick, but at least the camera is usable.

Handling Photo 2

We always prefer hardware mode dials, like the one found on the WB150F, but this particular dial overstays its welcome. In addition to the typical selection of automatic and priority modes, plus a few effects modes and a dedicated video mode, the WB150F has stops on its dial for the main menu, and even a dedicated Wi-Fi mode. There's no reason for extra steps like this, and it slowed down our shooting process considerably, especially while first getting to know the camera.

Buttons Photo 1

On the rear panel, buttons are arranged in an entirely typical way: four individual buttons surrounding a directional pad, plus a video hotkey. We like the dedicated back button included in the control scheme, and each button is very clearly labeled.

Buttons Photo 2

In the absence of an optical or electronic viewfinder, framing is limited to the 3-inch rear LCD. This is a rather low quality monitor, with a narrow viewing angle and less detail representation than its 460,000-pixel resolution suggests. Lining up a typical portrait of friends will not be a problem, but any sort of creative handling (low angles, overhead shots, etc.) will probably require blind framing.

Optical stabilization is a more advanced technology than the digital method often used by small or inexpensive cameras. However the WB150F's optical stabilizer actually worsens sharpness by 18% on average. Therefore we only recommend enabling stabilization for assistance with framing long zoom shots.

Shooting modes are selected via a hardware mode dial at the top right corner of the body. In addition to full PASM shooting, other modes include Smart Auto, a dedicated video mode, Scene modes, and a Digital Effects mode. Strangely, there are also dedicated modes for Wi-Fi connectivity and even the main menu. We can't help but think that these latter features should've been built into existing modes, rather than adding the extra step.

No mechanical manual controls are included (don't be fooled by the textured lens ring, it's just there for grip), however the full range of shooting modes do allow complete control over exposures. Our only complaint here is Program Auto, which will not automatically increase sensitivity beyond ISO 400, and there's no menu option to fix it. This really takes the "Auto" out of "Program Auto" in our opinion.

Most size options are 4:3, but some selections are available for 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1. This camera is not capable of lossless RAW encoding, however JPEG compression quality levels are user-selectable from Normal, Fine, and Superfine.

The WB150F is capable of full resolution continuous shooting, as well as a faster Motion Capture mode that trades resolution for speed. There's also an Auto Exposure Bracket setting that fires three shots at varying EV levels in succession. The self-timer comes in three flavors: 10 second, 2 second, and Double, which counts down from ten seconds and then takes two shots.

But despite a decent feature set, this camera is a slow poke. At full resolution and quality, the "continuous" shooting mode, if we can even call it that, shoots at only 0.66 frames per second. Motion Capture mode is much better, over 8 frames per second, but resolution is limited to a paltry 640 x 480.

We don't believe there's a strong case for embedded Wi-Fi in cameras, however we appreciate the WB150F's extensive manual controls and had no problem with the video feature set.

Wi-Fi Transceiver

Seems like all the manufacturers are shoving Wi-Fi into their cameras this year. That's fine, it doesn't get in the way. We just think the process of uploading your content to a nearby PC or tethered device is way slower than just popping out the memory card and going to town. We've awarded a few points just for including the feature, but this is a gimmick for sure. Sadly, Remote Viewfinder, one of the camera's more intriguing features, doesn't seem to function.

Maximum video resolution is only 720p, though it's also possible to record at 480p or 240p. Frame rates of 30 or 15 frames per second are available for each resolution. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Most shooting variables that can be adjusted for stills are also available for video. It's possible to tweak EV, white balance, focus mode, metering, self-timer, image stabilization, and even Scene Detection.

Zoom

Optical zoom is unlocked while a recording is in progress, though the lens' movement speed is slowed considerably to reduce mechanical noise. Unfortunately, such noise is still audible in recorded clips.

Focus

Autofocus is active while a recording is in progress, however the response is extremely sluggish, especially when taking advantage of the WB150F's long zoom. We recommend framing, focusing, then recording your clip.

There are plenty of better options out there than the Samsung WB150F. And many of them were released sufficiently long ago that street prices will equal Samsung's aggressive MSRP. For almost every feature, every one of our lab tests, and indeed every reason to purchase this camera, someone else has already done it better.

Although we were moderately impressed by the camera's color accuracy score, all photos shot with the WB150F were far too unsharp for our taste. Thus with image quality out the window, it fell to this camera's feature set to provide any potentially redeeming qualities. The full range of manual controls were nice, but the limited Program Auto mode made indoor shooting a real pain. Continuous shooting is almost as slow as single shot with other cameras, and while the Motion Capture mode is faster, at that resolution you're better off just shooting video.

Wi-Fi, a highly advertised feature of this camera, never worked the way we wanted it to, and wasn't really a selling point for us to begin with. And while the 18x lens is impressive, without decent image quality there's no point. They even put the flash emitter on the hand grip. Seriously, is there a worse spot for a flash bulb? Maybe behind the camera?

Samsung has designed some fantastic examples of tech, but this isn't one of them. We don't recommend the WB150F.

UPDATE 12/04/12
As sharp commenters have pointed out, the WB150F is both the winner of our "Best Camera for the Money" award for 2012, and not "recommended" in the review itself. How embarrassing....

The truth is, nobody released a high-quality camera for under $200 in 2012. Yet out of all the sub-$200 cameras (or cameras that fell under $200 due to a price drop, like this one), the WB150F earned the highest scores. If you absolutely cannot spend more than $200 for a camera, here's your best choice. We understand people are on a budget, may not have a smartphone, and still want a new camera for themselves or as a gift.

Our recommendation for those who have a little more of a budget is to step up to something like the Canon S-series, or maybe a Sony NEX-F3. You could also opt for an older Micro Four Thirds camera (some of those are available for under $200 body-only) or a compact camera from years past.

Meet the tester

Christopher Snow

Christopher Snow

Managing Editor

@BlameSnow

Chris was born and raised less than ten miles from our editorial office, and even graduated from nearby Merrimack College. He came to Reviewed after covering the telecom industry, and has been moonlighting as a Boston area dining critic since 2008.

See all of Christopher Snow's reviews

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