Samsung WB150F

The compact digital camera market offers buyers a brain-scrambling amount of choice, so when a point-and-shoot comes along and offers something unique, we sit up and take notice. That’s the case with the Samsung WB150F, which sports Wi-Fi for easy photo sharing - and quite a bit more.

Ruggedly elegant

Not to be confused with the Wi-Fi-less WB150 (that F is all important), it’s a ruggedly elegant and fairly bulky compact, thanks to the protruding grip and - even when concertinaed-down - lens. It’ll bulge out of a trouser pocket. But we can live with that: the lens offers a massive 18x optical zoom, allowing you to shoot a 24mm wide angle landscape one moment, then zoom in and snapping a squirrel’s nostrils the next.

There’s a standard 3-inch screen it's not particularly sharp or bright, but fine for most use, combination charging and AV out port at the side, and a dial at the top to switch between various modes and settings. Clued-up enthusiasts will welcome the inclusion of full manual controls as well as aperture, program and shutter priority modes. There's also the obligatory automatic Smart mode for hands-off photographers, but there isn’t an option to shoot in RAW.

Pretty pictures

Thankfully the WB150F’s 14.2-megapixel JPEGs are fine. They’re vibrant, with reds leaping out at you, detailed and, if you use the camera in the right way, you can achieve some fairly attractive bokeh in the background. There is a bit of noticeable grain and noise when you push the ISO towards its 3200 maximum, and we’d like a see a bit more contrast in shots, but for a compact point-and-shoot performance is good.

HD videos – which, again, are decent – are limited to 720p, but we like the way you can use the full 18x zoom while filming.

Wireless features

So on the WB150F’s killer app: Wi-Fi. Samsung could have settled for letting users transfer their photos and videos to a computer wirelessly, but went much further than that. You can use the feature to email files (automatically compressed) to friends, or share them directly via Facebook, Picasa, Photobucket and YouTube. You can also back up automatically to the cloud, but you’ll need a Microsoft SkyDrive account for this, or to your Windows PC. There’s no option to do so on a Mac, which is disappointing.

The Wi-Fi also works with Android and iOS smartphones. Install the MobileLink app and you can transfer shots easily from the camera to your phone, while the Remote Viewfinder app is more interesting still: it lets you use your phone screen to see through the camera lens, and you can zoom, change basic settings and take photos by touching icons.

This sounds cool, but our experiences with both apps weren’t encouraging. On iOS, while the viewfinder app was fine, the MobileLink app featured only Korean text, leaving us to press icons and hope. On Android the problems were more severe: neither app would link with the camera. We were using the ICS-powered HTC One S, so perhaps Samsung needs to update the app for the new OS.

Verdict

When viewed purely as a higher-end compact, the Samsung WB150F is slightly above average: its photos and videos are decent and its big zoom is handy. It’s fairly idiot-proof on the usability front, and there are a handful of enthusiast-friendly modes for those that like to tweak.

The Wi-Fi features, which should make the camera more appealing, aren’t quite as compelling as they appear on paper. Yes, they let you share compressed versions of shots and do so fairly well, but the apps feel undercooked (or worse), as if Samsung made a vague stab at them and thought ‘that’ll do’. We reckon the inevitable update in a year’s time might eliminate these issues, but as it stands the WB150F is an intriguing, flawed enigma rather than a game-changer.