Samsung WB250F Preview
by Mike Tomkins
The Samsung WB250F is, according to its maker, the new flagship model of the long-zoom WB camera series -- interesting, because it's actually not the highest-priced model, nor does it have the most resolution or zoom reach. That said, it certainly offers quite a bit of both. The WB250F follows on from last year's WB150F, but its body has been totally redesigned, making it look rather more similar to the simultaneously-announced WB800F -- although it's a bit smaller than that model. The WB250F targets photographers in need of a travel camera with a fairly generous zoom reach, easy Wi-Fi sharing, and a reasonably compact body.
The Samsung WB250F has a similar imaging pipeline to its predecessor, but with one important difference. There's still a 14.2 megapixel image sensor, paired to a 18x optical zoom lens. Where last year it was a standard CCD image sensor, this year it's a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that should provide a fair bit better performance and noise characteristics. That said, the sensitivity range is unchanged, and still spans ISO 100 to 3,200 equivalents.The lens would appear to be the exact same unit used in the earlier camera, but has been stripped of its Schneider-Kreuznach branding, and now bears Samsung's own brand instead. It provides a generous 35mm-equivalent zoom range from a healthy 24mm wide angle to a powerful 432mm telephoto. Maximum aperture starts off at a f/3.2, and falls to f/5.8 by the tele position. Optical image stabilization is included in the design.
Perhaps the most obvious addition since last year's model is the Samsung WB250F's new display. Last year's 3.0-inch AMOLED panel is replaced by a new 3.0-inch standard LCD monitor, and it now includes a touch-sensitive overlay. That allows it to be used as an input device, with a tap of a finger making settings changes, setting the point of focus, and so on. If you prefer physical controls, you can of course continue to use the WB250F's four-way controller with central OK button, which is accompanied by 11 other buttons, dials, and levers spread across the rear and top panels. Among these is a mode dial that provides access to program, priority, and manual exposure modes among others. (As in its predecessor, the priority and manual modes together share a single "ASM" position on the dial.)
The WB250F includes the latest iteration of Samsung's Smart Camera system. Now dubbed Smart Camera 2.0, the system allows for quick one-click sharing of images with a smartphone. It also lets you remotely control the camera using a free Samsung Smart Camera app, available on either Android or iOS operating systems. This provides not only for remote shutter release, but also for remote viewfinder, so you can confirm everybody's pose is OK before tripping the shutter. The WB250F also allows for movie capture, with videos saved using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression. Resolutions from Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) down to QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) are available, all with a fixed rate of 30 frames per second.
The Samsung WB250F stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the newer SDHC and SDXC types. Connectivity includes standard-def composite video output and USB 2.0 High Speed data. Power comes from a proprietary SLB-10A lithium-ion rechargeable battery. No information on battery life was available at press time.
The Samsung WB250F ships in the first quarter of 2013, with pricing set at around US$250. Four body colors are to be available: black, white, red or gunmetal.