Pros: Attractive design, good array of modes and features, superb wide-angle lens and 10x optical zoom.
Cons: A bit bulky for a compact camera, troublesome menu, picture quality is merely adequate for the asking price.
Like most current cameras (see the Canon IXUS 110 IS, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT1 and Olympus Mju 9000), the Samsung WB500 comes with an advanced automatic mode that the company has dubbed Smart Picture. (They also could have called it Dumb Photographer, but we suppose that wouldn’t have gone down too well.) This mode automatically adjusts the brightness and exposure to suit the situation at hand. It will even swap between Macro and Landscape mode unprompted.
Another standout feature is smart album, which helps you to keep track of stored photos. It categorises photos into different, er, categories (date, colour, theme, city, etc.) to make browsing more streamlined and user-friendly. It includes a timeline tool that lets you jump to particular dates. The Samsung WB500 also comes with inbuilt editing software that lets you adjust colours, crop photos and create fancy slideshows complete with music.
The Samsung WB500 offers a similar imaging performance to the Samsung NV24HD; another high-end model that comes with an identical pixel count and sensor. The 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor is capable of capturing good quality photos. Chromatic aberration was barely noticeable, with minimal haloing or purple fringing in high-contrast images.
Not the sharpest tool
Although our test shots were reasonably sharp, we did notice some detail loss in complex areas, such as bushy, overlapping tree branches. However, this was only noticeable when we magnified the affected area. It should therefore still be capable of making largish prints. Noise control was adequate for a camera in this price range, with images becoming noticeably speckled at ISO 800 and above. While we wouldn’t call them 100 per cent accurate, the colours produced by the Samsung WB500 were vibrant and pleasing to the eye.
All up, the image quality of the Samsung WB500 is average for a camera in this price range — it's neither bad, nor exceptionally good - and the camera certainly isn't in the same league as the Canon's pocket zoom, the PowerShot SX200 IS (though that camera does cost a lot more). However, the wide-angle lens and ultra-powerful zoom go some way to make up for any shortcomings. The 24mm wide-angle lens (35mm equivalent) is ideal for group photos and landscape shots; a boon for tourists. The 10x optical zoom is equally impressive. While we did find it difficult to hold the camera steady at full zoom, the dual-image stabiliser and super speed sensitivity mode helped to keep our photos blur-free.