Last month I reviewed one of Samsung's latest range of cameras, the WB500. Today I'm taking a look at its big brother, the new WB550. Like the WB500 the WB550 is a medium-sized compact featuring a 10x zoom f/3.3-f/5.8 Schneider-Kreuznach lens with a 24mm-equivalent wide-angle, 720p high-definition video recording and limited manual exposure controls. The WB550 has a superior specification though, with a 12.2-megapixel 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor and a sharp 3.0-inch 460k LCD monitor. Naturally the improved spec demands a higher price, and the WB550 is currently selling for around £220, which is very cheap for such an impressive list of features. The class-leading Panasonic TZ7, which has a 10MP sensor but a 12x wide-zoom lens, sells for around £250.
Samsung was a relatively late entrant into the digital camera market, launching its first 1.2-megapixel non-zoom compact in 2002. For the first few years the Samsung name could be found on a fairly uninspiring series of cheap, ugly low-performance cameras, and the company generally gave the impression that it didn't really take the whole camera thing seriously, and was only making them to compete with arch-rivals Panasonic and Sony. However around 2005 there was a major change in Samsung's attitude toward its digital camera brand, and it started devoting serious development and marketing funds towards carving itself a bigger share of a lucrative and growing market.
The results included the stylish and innovative NV series, as well as a development partnership with Pentax, producing the GX series of digital SLRs. Samsung is now in the midst of its second major range-revamp, and the results so far have been pretty impressive. The WB550 is a good looking, well made camera with a range of features that can match any of the longer-established brands at a price few of them can match. It bodes well for the forthcoming Samsung NX APS-C mirrorless system camera, due to launch next month.