It's been several months since I last reviewed a Samsung camera, and in the intervening time the Korean electronics giant has completely revamped its entire range. I'm hoping to get quite a few of the new models in over the next few weeks, but for today I've got one of the most interesting of them, the WB500. Although it's only the base model of the creative WB series, it has an impressive specification, featuring a 10.2MP sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, 720p HD video recording, limited manual exposure control and an industry first, a 10x zoom lens with a 24mm-equivalent wide-angle.
As I've remarked before, the long-zoom compact market is extremely competitive, and the WB500 will be going up against some very strong recent rivals, including the Canon SX200 IS, the Ricoh CX2, the Olympus mju 9000, and of course the benchmark for this class, the Panasonic TZ7. The WB500 offers a specification which bears comparison to any of these, but it only costs £170. That's the advantage of being the world's largest conglomerate company; when you make all of the components yourself, you can knock out some very advanced technology at ridiculously low prices.
The WB500 makes a good impression straight out of the box. The body has a nice clean shape with an elegantly sculpted handgrip and rear thumbgrip, and feels substantial and solid in the hand. It's quite chunky as compact cameras go, measuring 105 x 61.4 x 36.5mm, making it slightly larger than the TZ7 or the CX2 and a lot bigger than the mju 9000, although it is a little skinnier than the SX200. It has a strong all-aluminium body with superb build quality, although its solid construction, added to the weight of that big f/3.3-5.8 4.2-42mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens dominating the front do make the WB500 quite heavy. At approximately 240g including battery it's the joint heaviest in its class, matching the Canon SX200.