Customer Review

217 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great camera, May 9, 2012
By 
This review is from: Samsung WB850F 16 MP Smart Long Zoom Digital Camera - Black EC (WB850FBPBUS) (Electronics)
I've had this camera for three days but I've owned a lot of cameras so I will give you my initial impressions. (Note: Updates after one month of ownership are attached at the end)

This is a great camera overall. I will talk about the features. You will probably find other reviews that will give you more details of photo and video quality but in a word the picture quality is excellent. I have a Canon T3i with a Tamron 18-270 lens. That was my favorite camera before the WB850. The T3i is more fun and easier to use but it has one big drawback. You can't put it in your pocket. It's big and it's heavy and travelling with it can be a pain. So I sought another pocket camera. I have been using a Canon TX1 as my pocket camera when I didn't want to carry the T3i which was becoming more frequent. The TX1 is also a great camera but it is 7MP and only shoots 720 video. I wanted a pocket camera that shot full HD. To be honest, I think the megapixel spec is overblown and overemphasized, unless you are printing really big pictures which in truth only pros do and even most pros don't print poster sized pictures. They only print 8x10's most of the time. On my computer monitor (a 32" monitor) I really can't tell the difference in quality between my 5MP Galaxy Nexus phone pictures and the 18MP photos from the T3i. So I'm not a pixel counter, anything 5MP or larger looks great on my monitor. Now on to my impressions of the Samsung WB850.

I had several specs that I wanted.

1. Big zoom. Boy does this camera have a big zoom. It effectively goes from 23-483mm and that's huge. My Tamron lens which has one of the widest ranges that you can find (and it costs $600+) only goes from 18-270 so the WB850 zoom is absolutely fantastic. Plus the lens is fast at 2.8. The Tamron is 3.5 and the extra speed of the WB850 lens makes a difference. For those who don't know, by fast I mean F stop which means the WB850 lens is brighter than the Tamron with the same amount of light. This means better low light performance. The zoom action is smooth. It takes 5 seconds to go from wide to full telephoto. Even during movie mode, the zoom motor noise is noticeable but fairly quiet. The zoom can lag sometimes before moving when you press the zoom lever.

2. Great screen. The screen is very bright and super sharp. I had ordered a WB750 but before it shipped I read where the 850 was being released soon in the U.S. The 750 had the problem of a mediocre screen so I cancelled the order for the 750 and ordered the 850. I'm probably one of the first to get the 850 in the U.S.

3. Micro USB charging port. This was a BIGGIE for me. I've tried to standardize on microUSB ports for all of my electronics. My phone, car GPS and external battery pack all charge via microUSB ports. This allows me to carry one charger and it works for everything. I can carry a cigarette pack sized 8400mah external battery Anker Astro2 Dual USB Output 8400mAh External Battery Pack and Charger with Flashlight for iPhone 4 / 4S / 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, The New iPad (iPad 3), iPod (require your own cable for Apple); Android Smartphones: (Samsung Galaxy S2 / Galaxy Nexus / Galaxy... and plug it into the WB850 and it will both power the camera and charge the camera battery. There is a battery icon on the screen when not plugged in that shows the remaining battery level. When you plug in the microUSB to power, the icon changes to DC. With this feature, I don't have to worry about carrying spare batteries or an additional charger. As long as I have the external battery, I can literally shoot all week. The 8400 mah external battery is equivalent to 8 regular WB850 batteries.

Those are the major features that interested me. There are other unique features such as the magic scenes that allow you to photograph with some neat special effects but in truth I'm not going to use those.

These are some of the software features of the camera that I will use:

Smart Auto: Most cameras have presets for portrait, sports, landscape, night, etc. The WB850 has a smart auto mode that automatically selects the proper preset. It's kind of an advanced Auto mode. It seems to work fairly well.

Flash: When I read up on the WB750, many complained that the flash pops up under your thumb and you must get used to it and keep your thumb out of the way. True, but the 850 has a button that you push to pop up the flash. When you pop up the flash it automatically switches the flash on in Smart Flash mode. I like this much better than having to navigate in the menu to turn the flash on and off. If you want the flash on, just push the button, it pops up, and it's on. If you want it off, just push the flash down. The T3i had a flash off mode on the dial. I like the WB850 implementation better. You know the flash is off when it's down and you know it's on and in auto mode when it's up. Simple and better.

Low Light Performance: The low light performance is really good. Both pictures and videos are light enough even in low light. The pictures are grainy though which is normal as most cameras boost the ISO to compensate for low light. To me, the WB850 has better low light photos than the T3i but I haven't done a side by side comparison.

The biggest negative of the WB850 is the cycle speed between photos. With the T3i I could shoot practically as fast as I could press the shutter button. I'm not talking about continuous mode, just single shot mode shooting like a semi-automatic gun. With the WB850 in single mode shooting the fastest that I can take pictures is approximately one picture per second. Once you take a picture, you have to wait for about a second until it processes and then you can take another picture. I tried turning the picture review off but it still took the 1 second processing time. That's the biggest drawback that I could find. You can't just press the button and shoot fast. Even my phone, a Galasy Nexus will take pictures as fast as you can press the button. Sooner or later, this is going to cost me some missed pictures.

The slow single shot recycle time is why I give this camera four stars instead of five. NOTE: I initially gave the camera four stars but changed my rating to five stars after owning the camera for ten days.

There is a Drive Speed wheel that allows you to very easily cycle between 10 frames/sec, 5 frames/sec, 3 frames/sec and single. This works fine but it still doesn't give me the control that I want to be able to just push the button and take pictures as fast as I can push the button. It also has a limit of 8 pictures and then it takes about 12 seconds to process those 8 shots. If you take 3 pictures using this mode, it still takes 3-4 seconds to process the pictures once you are done. I wish it just had a very fast single shot mode.

You can also take very high res stills while shooting a video and unlike the TX1 or the T3i, it doesn't pause the video while the still is being taken. So the video remains uninterrupted while you take stills. The drawback is that you can only take 6 stills per video. Once you stop the video and start a new video, then you can take 6 more stills.

The video is also limited to a maximum of 20 minutes. It does not matter what the video resolution is or the size of the SD card (I have a 64GB 10X SDXC card in the camera) you cannot shoot a video longer than 20 minutes. The limitation on the T3i video is 12 minutes so it is almost double on the WB850. Once the 20 minutes are up, you can push record again and record for another 20 minutes. A 64GB card reads 9 hours and 12 minutes on the available record time meter on the screen for Full HD.

Also, the remaining picture count is not accurate. With a 64GB card with no pictures on it, (only a 1.1GB map database) it reads 7518 pictures remaining. At 4mb per photo average, that's almost 16,000 pictures remaining so the remaining photo counter is not accurate with a 64GB card. Maybe it is with smaller cards but not with a 64GB. This doesn't really matter that much anyway. I will clear the card long before I have taken 7,500 pictures.

The map data for the GPS for the entire U.S. takes up 1.15GB that is stored on the card so allow for that. You must install the map database from the website for the GPS to function properly. You have the option to download maps for each foreign country or individual states in the U.S. or the entire U.S.

The T3i is known for its great video quality. It is great because it makes the colors more vivid than true life but the auto focus tracking on the T3i is just horrible. The auto focus tracking on the WB850 is pretty good so overall if you have to video something where the focus will vary, you are going to have a much better video because it will be in focus with the WB850.

There is no external mic jack so for real pro stuff, super quality sound is out.

The Remote Viewer is cool. On my Android Galaxy Nexus, I can see on the phone what is on the screen of the camera and even take a photo from the phone and it will transfer instantly to the phone. That's an impressive feature and perhaps someday I will find a use for it.

There is no one button way to turn the GPS on and off. That would be a nice addition as all GPSs burn battery pretty fast.
Wifi works well but I won't use that much either but it is there if you need it.

I have owned a dozen cameras and this one is by far the best overall camera that I've ever owned.

After using the WB850 for three days of sightseeing and jogging in Charleston S.C. I am posting new info and pictures.

The battery life is actually very good. I shot over 400 pictures before the battery went dead and this was with the GPS ON. This is a fairly small and thin 1,100mAh battery. Once you get used to the GPS feature, you probably won't want to turn it off. With the GPS off, no doubt the battery life would improve significantly. I thought that I wouldn't use it because it would be redundant info (after all I should know where I am or was when I shot the picture) but not so.

The downloaded database doesn't just list City and State, but it lists the POI (Points of Interest) that you are either near or at. This is on the top of the screen and recorded in the picture metadata so it's actually good info to let you know exactly where you are. For example, when I was taking a picture of the submarine outside of the museum, the camera said, "Charleston Museum...". Once I saw it in action, I wanted the data embedded in all of my pictures and I wanted to see it on the screen.

The only problem is my old photo browsing program won't display the new embedded location data so I will need to upgrade that program.

Samsung WB850 Battery performance
Total pictures taken: 422 (402 w/o flash 20 w/flash)
Screen on time: 2 to 2.5 hours
Video recorded: 2 minutes
On/Off cycles: approx 50

Overall, I was very impressed with the battery endurance. The TX1 will only shoot about 125 pictures before the battery dies so the WB850 had over 3X the battery life. The T3i however is still the battery champ by far as long as you use the optical viewfinder and not the screen.

I got used to the way it handles. I still like photographing with the T3i better but remember the T3i is many times the weight and size and over three times the cost with the lens.

The zoom can be a little slow to intially respond but overall I think this is an awesome camera. From looking at the pictures, they seem to be every bit as good as the T3i/Tamron pictures and the colors may be richer.

The remaining picture count with a 64GB card decreases by roughly .6 pictures for each shot. For the count to go down 10 pictures you must shoot 16 pictures so at least the relative number of pictures remaining is a little more accurate. This will probably be fixed in a firmware update.

I was looking at other tourists lugging around big cameras and thinking that they are carrying around those big bulky cameras and did not have half of the zoom that I did and most did not even have the megapixels. For the non-pro, I believe this camera and its type spells the beginning of the end of the big SLR.

Pictures at 7tw.com/charleston2012

There may be some concerns about the 4X digital zoom. The digital zoom takes the zoom from 21X to 84X.

First, the digital zoom is not available in the Smart Auto mode with face detection or AF Tracking on. "The Digital zoom is not available with the Face detection option, Smart Filter effect, Tracking AF option, Burst option, or Manual Focus."

Second, I have no intention of using the digital zoom even if it was available. Come on, 21X is enough and digital zoom always degrades the quality I don't care what camera it is. From my now three days of use, I am becoming increasingly pleased with this camera and far less likely to ever carry my big T3i again. The pictures are fantastic, the ease of operation is great and fairly simple, the zoom is amazing at 21X, the battery takes over 400 pictures and an extra battery is small and easy to carry in case you wanted to shoot 800 pictures in a day. I am also ordering a right angle microUSB cable just in case I want to plug it into the external battery. If you do get a cable, make sure it is right angle and left handed so the cable angles down and not up when inserted.StarTech 3-Feet Micro USB Cable - A to Left Angle Micro B (UUSBHAUB3LA)

Other than the lag when taking single shot pictures (which I've gotten used to) this camera seems perfect.

UPDATE: I've now had the camera for ten days. I am changing my rating from four stars to five. Although it does have the single shot lag, there is simply no other camera that in my opinion even comes close to the features of this camera. So if it's the best that's available, even with flaws it deserves five stars. I looked back at the T3i pictures and then at the WB850 and the WB850 pictures to my eye are BETTER. The colors are richer and they simply look better.

The battery does drain fast while shooting video but if you use the external battery microUSB cable combo you can shoot video for a very long time.

It does need a quick GPS off/on button or feature. It does not have assignable quick buttons like some cameras but button space is at a premium here. The GPS will not register indoors at all so it burns battery searching for a satellite. If you are indoors you might as well turn it off. The camera needs a quick way to do this without several button pushes.

In a nutshell, I am VERY GLAD that I bought this camera.

These are the accessories that I bought and am happy with:
1. Camera case: This case holds the camera, the usb cable and the spare battery. It has a shoulder strap and belt loop. It is available in black, red and blue.
Lowepro Ridge 30 Camera Case (Arctic Blue)

2. Spare battery: You do need a spare battery or external battery especially if you are shooting video. This one works well and it includes a charger.
SLB-10A Battery + Charger for Samsung SL202 SL420 SL620

Video battery test:
It seemed that videoing used up the battery fairly fast so I ran a test to see exactly how long did the battery last with video. These are the test conditions. I zoomed the camera in on a television show so that there was constant movement on the screen. The room had subdued lighting so if the camera screen brightness varied by ambient light the screen would be at the lowest brightness.

The battery indicator has four levels: Three segments and then a red outline when the three segments are gone. I used the Full HD video setting, GPS and continuous autofocus were on. You can only video for a maximum of 20 minutes per video. At the top of the screen is a counter and bar that lets you know how many minutes and seconds you are into the 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes the video will shut off and PROCESSING will come on the screen. The PROCESSING screen lasts for three seconds and then you can press RECORD again to start another video segment. This means that for a one hour video you would have at least two 3 second gaps in the hour.

Battery meter results: 0-34 minutes = 3 bars, 35 minutes = 2 bars, 41 minutes = 1 bar, 64 minutes = red outline, 83 minutes = shut off

20 minutes of Full HD video varied between 2.9 to 3.0GB of space.

You can get 83 minutes of video out of single battery charge. This is a battery that was freshly charged so this is as good as it gets but 83 minutes was not bad.

The battery meter however isn't very uniform. Three bars were indicated for the first 35 minutes, two bars for the next seven minutes, one bar for 24 minutes and red for 20 minutes. A percentage or time remaining indicator would be far better.

Five point update after one month of ownership:
#1 (Con) - If you need to transfer a large amount of movies or pictures from the camera, take the SD Card out and put it directly into your SD slot on your computer. The transfer rate via the camera connect via USB with a Class 10 card is roughly 3.5MB/s. When I took the card out and put it directly into the computer the transfer rate was 18MB/s or over five times faster. This makes a big difference especially when transferring video.

#2 (Con) - Take the battery out of the camera when you are not using it. There is a defect in the camera that causes the battery to go from full to dead in two days with the camera off. From reading the forums, Samsung is aware of the problem and their tech support tells you to take the battery out when not using it. Of course that's not acceptable but there is no other choice for now if you want a working battery after two days. I updated the firmware and it still goes dead in two to four days with the camera off. The only solution is to take the battery out when storing the camera for any length of time. Hopefully this will be fixed with another firmware update.

Note: This problem has been fixed in the June 7, 2012 F205256 firmware update. I kept the battery in the camera for four days and it is still registering full. If your camera was manufactured in mid June or later then you won't have this problem. I have detailed the firmware update procedure at the end of this review. It is a good idea to check if your camera has newer firmware available so follow the procedure at the end.

#3 (Con) - Camera operation with USB charging with some external batteries does not work nor does it work with the 2amp USB port of my external battery. My external battery has two USB ports, a 0.5 amp port and a 2 amp port. The camera will operate fine and change from the battery level icon to DC when plugged into the 0.5 amp port. When connected to the 2 amp port it says "Connecting Computer" and you CANNOT operate the camera while connected. It charges the battery but you CANNOT operate the camera. Some other external batteries also won't let you operate the camera while connected so some external batteries will let you operate the camera while charging and some won't. It depends upon the USB port power and/or connection configuration. Perhaps Samsung will correct this also in a future firmware update and allow you to select Connect Computer or Operate Camera.

#4 (Pro)- The good news. I needed to video an event and had an employee with my T3i there to video it. The T3i video was darker in the ambient room lighting. I pulled out the WB850. Fortunately I had it with me because I keep it in my notebook bag which is easy to do since it is small. The battery was dead (forgot to take it out) but I had a spare one and the external battery.

The difference in the lighting between the T3i and the WB850 was noticeable and you could see the difference. This ONE feature of MUCH better low light performance makes a big difference. Picture taking has the same difference. I have rarely needed a flash with the WB850 and pictures come out with very little grain. Most of the time I prefer the no flash picture over the flash picture with the WB850 in low light situations. With other cameras using a flash in those situations is mandatory.

#5 (Con) - I also did a direct comparison of the zooms. The Tamron 18-270 lens that I have on the T3i has MORE zoom than the WB850. Even though the specs say 23-483mm the zoom equivalent it is still not as powerful in terms of bringing a subject up close as the Tamron 270. I would estimate the WB850 zoom is equivalent to a 240mm zoom compared to the Tamron 270mm but not a 483mm as claimed so it's half. I'm not sure how they figure the equivalent zoom for these cameras but in practical use it is simply not that strong compared to a standard DSLR attachable lens so the mm equivalents are NOT directly comparable. It is still a great zoom but it is NOT nearly double a standard 270mm.

I still must rate the WB850 five stars even with the drawbacks simply because there is still nothing that beats it in that size range. I still would not buy anything else, substitute it for any of my current or former cameras nor am I even remotely considering returning the camera.

Still a great camera!

Read the text below only if you have purchased the camera and need to update the firmware.

These are the instructions to update the firmware. It is a little twisty because camera firmware does not update fully by itself with the Samsung photo program Intelli-studio like camcorders do. You will have to follow a few extra steps that are not immediately obvious. Firmware update number 205256 fixes the battery drain issue so make sure that you have this update or newer (higher number) on your camera. When you perform the update procedure below it will tell you if you have the latest firmware.

Make sure that you have a fully charged camera battery and at least 200MB of free space on your camera SD card. That's 200MB not GB. It takes 1,000MB to make one GB so if you have a multi GB card you should have at least 200MB free.

1. Install Intelli-studio on your computer from the disk included with your camera. Start Intelli-studio and click "Web Support" on the upper toolbar then click "Upgrade Intelli-studio" to upgrade Intelli-studio to the latest version. If you don't upgrade Intelli-studio the firmware update may not work. All of this is free so don't worry about cost.

2. After Intelli-studio is updated, connect the camera to your computer, turn the camera on and start Intelli-studio then click "Web Support" then "Upgrade firmware for the connected device"

3. Follow the screen prompts and wait until the firmware is downloaded to your camera.

4. Once Intelli-studio tells you the firmware has been downloaded disconnect the camera from the computer and turn off the camera.

5. Turn the camera on again. The camera will recognize that new firmware is available and put a notice on the screen. It will ask you to press the shutter button to upgrade the firmware. Press the shutter button. Wait until the camera turns off by itself.

6. Turn on the camera again. The camera will again place a prompt on the screen about a GPS update if a GPS update is available. Follow the prompts. Once the camera turns off by itself turn it on again and the firmware updates should be complete.

If your camera was manufactured after June 7, 2012 then it will have the firmware that fixes the battery drain issue but it's a good policy to check for new firmware when you get your camera.
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Comments

Tracked by 10 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 43 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 9, 2012 7:41:27 PM PDT
Manh H Le says:
Could you please post some pictures taken with the camera somewhere on the web for viewing?

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 7:17:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2012 7:17:38 AM PDT
cybervoodoo says:
Several photos from russian user: http://therione13.ya.ru/index_fotki.xml

Posted on May 11, 2012 10:08:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 11, 2012 10:11:38 PM PDT
P. King says:
Good review, about time someone with more than beginner knowledge, posted online about this potentially superb camera. The quality of picture at full digital zoom might not affect some people. Probably not the camera for enthusiastic maacro nuts, or wildlife. But as said sure better than lugging round 2 grands worth of kit on holiday. My photo's and some basic review from my experience of owning this camera since 27th April when it was released in UK.
https://www.facebook.com/SamsungWb850f

Posted on May 16, 2012 1:44:38 PM PDT
Alex V. says:
Thank you for such a nice and detailed review. Now I'm ready to purchase this camera.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 6:20:04 AM PDT
Do42 says:
The pictures that I took are here:
http://www.7tw.com/charleston2012

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2012 10:15:09 PM PDT
Nida D. says:
thank you for this very detailed review! I have a Canon DLSR and it is very cumbersome to carry around for regular events although it does take great pictures. I had been in the market for a versatile pocket camera. I will get this one. Thank you!

Posted on May 21, 2012 8:55:39 AM PDT
First of all I totally agree with your findings. However, I have found a very limiting problem on my WB850F. In aperture priority or manual aperture mode, you can not sufficiently control the aperture once you are going into optical zoom > 1. At zoom = 1, there is no problem controlling the f-stop all the way from 2.8 to 8. But if you zoom, lets say to 21x, then you should hav a range of 5.9 to 11. But you dont, the dial gets stuck at around 8.5, which is a limitation especially for tele lens photography.
I have some hope that this is only a software bug, because I have looked into the pupil to see the iris opening and closing. In a non-manual mode, by shining a flashlight into the objective, I did observe the iris closing completely to 11. In full manual mode it truly closed only a little bit. I will contact Samsung about this or have a look at the store's demo model. I dont want to return the camera, I really like it. But this seems a big problem to me. Have you observed this problem too?

Best Regards
Lutz

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 10:00:05 AM PDT
Do42 says:
Mine seems to be working fine.

I had not tried aperture priority. I usually only use shutter priority since I'm more concerned about photographing moving objects than depth of field. At first it seemed that it wasn't working. Then I realized that each time I changed the zoom I had to press the OK button then turn the ring above the OK button.

At 21X it will go from F5.9 to 8.5
7.5X F4.5 to 8.9
4.0X F3.9 to 8.6
1X F2.8 to 8.0

When you vary the zoom, press the OK button and a double ended arrow that indicates to turn the ring above the OK buttons appears. Once you see the double ended arrow turning the ring will then vary the F stop.

It is rather odd that the smallest aperture varies from 8.5 to 8.9 depending on the zoom.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 10:41:45 AM PDT
Hi Nathaniel,
thank you for the reply, you describe the same problem I am having. The effective aperture changes with the focus length, but the range is usually the same. for 21x one should get a range of 5.9 to 11, but we get only up to 8.5. Additionally, and as you point out is even stranger compared to slightly higher values for smaller focal lengths. When you shine a flashlight into the front lens, you can see the iris. In automatic mode it will eventually close beyond 8.5 (or whatever you observe in manual mode), but will not report it in the user interface. I suspect a software bug.

If you use the tele lens often, you will want to control the depth of field, which then is significantly smaller. For example you want to shoot a portrait with the background still in focus, then you need to close that aperture.

I am a bit disappointed, I really like this camera for everything else though.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 10:57:15 AM PDT
Do42 says:
I can't seem to find the F stop range on the upper end. The only published spec is 2.8-5.9 on the lower end. Most lenses will go to 11, 16 or 22 but I'm not sure what this lens is supposed to go to. If I need super fine control for a portrait shot, I guess I will need to pull out the T3i but fortunately I rarely need that scenario. Most of what I'm usually concerned with is the low end of F stops since I encounter more low light situations than situations needing greater depth of field.
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