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Samsung WB210
14.1MP | 24-288mm (12X) ZOOM | $279/£249

The Samsung WB210 has no direct predecessor (and Samsung was unable to supply the WB700, successor to the HZ35W which we tested last year, for this review), but inherits virtually the same touch interface as the innovative SH100. With this model, Samsung has chosen to emphasize its capacitive touchscreen by granting it nearly the entirety of the back of the camera, leaving only a home button and thumb grip. With the exception of shutter button, zoom rocker, playback and power buttons, all of the other camera functions are controlled thorough its on-screen menu system.

This represents a very different design philosophy to that adopted by Panasonic in its Lumix DMC-ZS10, which typically offers the photographer a choice of using either its pressure-sensitive LCD screen to manipulate key settings or the more conventional external controls.

Leaving its touch-sensitive screen aside for a moment, the WB210's other key features are more or less in line with our expectations of a camera in this class, and at this price point. At 12x, the WB210's 24-288mm zoom lens is amongst the most restricted in the group, although a wideangle setting of 24mm (more on this later) makes it one of the most versatile. A resolution of 14MP puts the WB210 towards the top of the group in terms of image size though, which should pay dividends in terms of detail reproduction.

  • 14.0 effective Megapixels
  • 24–288mm equiv lens with optical stabilization
  • 720p HD video and HDMI connection
  • 3.0 inch LCD with 1,152,000 dot resolution
  • ISO sensitivity up to 1600
  • 3.5" LCD touchscreen with icon based interface

Click here for full product information including reader reviews and image samples (opens in new window)

Key Features

Clearly taking inspiration from Apple's mobile iOS interface, Samsung has designed the WB210 as a 'lifestyle' camera and viewed alongside its competitors in this group, the WB210's stand-out feature is obviously the large capacitive touch screen and 'app-style' user interface.

Each mode on the camera is accessed through a separate 'app' on the home screen. There is some puzzling redundancy in these modes, (the WB210 has a dedicated 'delete' mode, but images can just as easily be deleted in the 'album' mode) but thankfully many of the shooting modes can be found as menu options when shooting in 'P' mode so there is generally no need to go back and forth between 'apps' when actually taking photos.

Many of the WB210's unique features revolve around photo manipulation and playback. The 'Smart Filter' mode allows you to add one of 12 filter effects like 'Miniature', 'Soft Focus' and 'Sketch'. These filters are applied at the time of shooting and cannot be edited later. Relegated to a separate mode, 'Beauty Shot' utilizes the camera's facial recognition capability to add softening and tone adjustments to portraits, ostensibly to add 'beauty'.

The wide 1,152k dot touch screen gives you access to all of the camera's shooting modes in an 'app' style interface more than a little reminiscent of that used by recent Samsung smartphones (oh, and Apple's too...)

The app-style icons can be moved around so you can bunch together those that you use most.
In lieu of external controls the on-screen menu provides access to all shooting adjustments. Despite being capacitive, the WB210's touchscreen is not as responsive as we would like, but Samsung has done a good job of placing the most-accessed options at the top of the list so you don't need to scroll too much, too often.


Unique in this group test is the WB210's 21mm (equivalent). 'Super Wide Shot' mode. At 21mm (equivalent) images from the WB210 are perfectly acceptable, although distortion is slightly more pronounced, and corner sharpness isn't great. Overall though, we're impressed by how good image quality is at this setting, and in situations when you need a little more coverage, like interior shots and landscapes, Super Wide Shot can be genuinely useful.

The WB210's 'standard' wideangle setting is 24mm (equivalent) In 'Super Wide Shot' mode the WB210 switches to a fixed 21mm (equivalent) setting which provides greater coverage at the expense of slightly decreased peripheral image quality.

Image quality and performance

The WB210 is capable of producing sharp and detailed images, and Samsung's noise reduction system does a good job of retaining much of the finer detail. Although not top of the class, at low ISO sensitivity values, pixel level detail from the WB210 compares well to the other cameras in this test, thanks in part to the camera's relatively conservative approach to luminance noise at these settings.

At base ISO, the WB210's image quality is very good, and detail capture is high, even in low-contrast conditions like this market interior. At the higher end of its ISO sensitivity scale the WB210 is still capable of describing high-contrast detail fairly well, but luminance noise, and the smoothing effects of noise-reduction become very obvious.

Compared to the HZ35's 15x zoom, the WB210's 12x zoom lens seems to be affected more by lens distortion and purple fringing. At the wide end of the zoom lens (~24mm - 50mm) distortion is more apparent than when shooting at higher zoom ranges.

At wide focal lengths (<70mm) corner softness is quite noticeable on near the edges of the frame. 100% crop

As we've mentioned earlier, the WB210 has placed a lot of emphasis on its new 'Smart Touch' interface. While it looks nice (and will no doubt have a pleasant 'familiarity factor' for photographers upgrading to the WB210 from a smartphone) in some instances we have found that the touch screen interface can complicate actions which would be more straightforward with a traditional button control. The majority of image controls are accessed through the menu button on the lower left of the screen. Clicking on this brings up a scroll menu that allows you to adjust settings like exposure compensation, ISO and white balance. In common with the whole experience of using the WB210's screen, this scrolling action isn't as fluid as it should be, and sometimes takes more than one swipe to initiate, which soon gets frustrating.

In theory, the WB210's menus offer 'momentum' scrolling which should allow you to scroll quickly by flicking your finger across the screen but we have found it nearly impossible to make this work consistently. While the WB210's capacitive touchscreen is more responsive than the pressure-sensitive screen found on the SH100, it is still often reluctant to respond, especially when scrolling.

Image Stabilization

To test image stabilization we shoot a standard test target at the long end of these cameras' zooms, at 1/30sec. We take ten images at each stabilization setting (including 'off') and average the results, expressing performance as a percentage of shots which we judge to be 'very blurred', 'blurred', 'soft' (usable at small print sizes) and 'sharp'.

The WB210's optical image stabilization functions very well in everyday shooting, but as we'd expect, hit-rate decreases when shooting at the long end of the zoom. In terms of effectiveness in our (very tough) studio test, the WB210's image stabilization system falls somewhere in the middle of this group of cameras.

Even with the WB210's image stabilization engaged, some images were still blurry, but overall performance was significantly better than with IS disabled.

Summary

The WB210 is one of only two cameras in this group test which features a touch-sensitive screen, the other being the Panasonic ZS10. It seems safe to assume that screens like this will appear on more and more compacts in the future, and in some instances they can be a useful extension of the camera's external controls. Unfortunately, on the WB210 the touchscreen is something that all too often gets between the photographer and the camera - i.e. it gets in the way.

Interface issues aside, the WB210 is a fairly solid performer in terms of image quality and features. Image quality across its ISO span is very good, and in terms of detail reproduction and noise levels the WB210 sits towards the top of the cameras in this group. The only major issues are pronounced corner softness towards the wide end of the camera's zoom, and slightly crude noise reduction at the top of its ISO sensitivity scale.

Ultimately, despite its 'lifestyle' pretensions, the WB210 is a capable camera with a lot to recommend it. If you're interested in a camera that has a lot of photo editing and playback options the WB210 is definitely worth a look. If however you value manual control and quick operation (or of course in cold environments where you might be wearing gloves), you might be disappointed by the forced reliance on its somewhat quirky touch interface.

As a side note, although the WB210's metal body feels nice and solid, our two test samples both had sticky lens covers, which frequently jammed half-open (eventually permanently, in one case), partly blocking the front lens element. Nothing a quick poke with a fingertip and little sticky tape can't solve, but disappointing nonetheless.

Samsung WB210
Category: Travel Zoom Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
21mm wide angle mode is great for landscapes. Intuitive interface is easy to navigate.
Not so good for
Operational control is complicated by being limited to a touch-screen only interface.
Overall score
66%
The WB210's touch screen-centric operation won't suit everyone, but as a point-and-shoot travelzoom it has a lot to recommend it. Image quality is competitive, and we like the 'Super Wide Shot' 21mm equivalent wideangle mode. The WB210 loses points for its sub-par images at high ISO settings and the slightly fussy, somewhat unresponsive touch interface.

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