The Samsung Smart Camera WB350F is a good reason why you shouldn't shop by specs alone.
When it was announced at CES 2014, it seemed the WB350F was a redesign of 2013's WB800F camera, a higher-end compact megazoom that featured a similar 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and a 21x, f2.8-5.9, 23-483mm lens. The WB350F is actually, as the model name might suggest, an update to the lower-end 18x zoom WB250F. Or to be more succinct: this camera, despite what its specs might imply, is not as good as the WB800F and really offers little improvement over the WB250F beyond having a longer zoom lens.
Basically, you'll want to consider this camera for its features more than for its photo quality. The photos aren't bad, especially if your priority is to share them online. If you need a camera that can take photos for prints larger than 8x10 in all lighting conditions or for something like birding, where you'll want to enlarge and crop in to examine fine details, this likely won't be enough camera for you. The camera's strengths are in its novel shooting options and Wi-Fi capabilities (though even those are starting to slip behind the competition).
Like many point-and-shoots with its price and features, the WB350F does well up to ISO 400, so you'll be able to get good-looking shots when you have plenty of light. Photos get noticeably softer from noise reduction at sensitivities above ISO 400; going above ISO 800 isn't recommended as you lose too much detail and colors desaturate, and even at small sizes subjects look soft and mushy.
The camera's video quality is good enough for posting online or viewing at small sizes on a computer screen, and having a zoom lens with optical image stabilization gives it an edge over a smartphone. However, depending on which smartphone you have, there's a good chance you'll get better video from it than the WB350F.
Like its pictures, the video isn't particularly good in low light. There is some judder when panning the camera, and you'll see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects (which aren't uncommon for the category). The zoom lens does work while recording, but you will hear it moving and focusing. (There's a Sound Alive feature that will dampen this sound, though it will muffle the rest of the audio, as well.) The camera is relatively fast to refocus and adjust to exposure changes.
Though not sluggish, the WB250F wasn't a particularly fast shooter and neither is the WB350F. Time from powered off to first shot takes 1.7 seconds, which is pretty good considering it's starting up a touch screen and readying a 21x zoom lens. Its shot-to-shot lag time is about 1.1 second, which goes up to 2.8 seconds using the flash. Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is reasonably low, taking 0.3-second in bright lighting and 0.5-second in dim conditions. Keep in mind, though, this is with the lens at its widest position; focusing with the lens zoomed will take slightly longer.
If you're trying to capture a burst of action, the camera's continuous mode is capable of capturing up to six photos at 8 frames per second (my lab tests clocked it at 8.5fps). However, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so depending on how much subject movement there is, not all of the shots may be in focus.
|Samsung Smart Camera WB350F||Canon PowerShot SX600 HS||Nikon Coolpix S9600|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.5x2.6x1 inches||4.21x2.4x1 inches||4.3x2.5x1.3 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||7.7 ounces||6.6 ounces||7.3 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch touch LCD, 460K dots/None||3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None||3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||21x, f2.8-5.9, 23-483mm (35mm equivalent)||18x, f3.8-6.9, 25-450mm (35mm equivalent)||22x, f3.4-6.3, 25-550mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still / video)||JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 AAC (.MP4)||JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)||JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 AAC (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still / video)||4,608x3,456 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)||4,608x2,592 pixels / 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)||4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital||Optical and digital||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 310 shots||Li-ion rechargeable, 290 shots||Li ion rechargeable, 290 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer||No; wall charger supplied||Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB|
|Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS||Yes (with NFC)/No||Yes (with NFC)/No||Yes/No|
Samsung updated the design of its point-and-shoots making them look more like cameras and less like its smartphones. The WB350F has a leather texture on its plastic body that adds some grip -- not a lot, but some. Carried over from previous models is its handy pop-up flash that can be pulled back and aimed upward so you can bounce the flash -- a feature few if any cameras have at this price point.
Samsung also rearranged the position of the flash and the buttons on top, making it easier to release the flash and angle it with your left hand. The power button is closer to the shutter release, too, so you can turn on and shoot a little faster than you could with the WB250F.
Also returning is Samsung's Smart Panel user interface. Press the Fn button and up pop all your available options. Use the control pad or touch screen to select what you want to change, and use the zoom control to cycle through the available options.
It's fast and efficient once you get used to using it, which can be tricky if you're used to another manufacturer's interface. Also, Samsung includes many of the same shooting options laid out in a regular vertical menu system when you press the Menu button, which is unnecessary and potentially confusing. On top of that, there are two ways to select options with the Smart Panel UI.