Apart from the more powerful sensor and larger, sharper LCD screen the WB550 is identical to the WB500. The body is mostly aluminium with only the trim strip on the top and the hatch covers being made of plastic, and the battery hatch has a strong metal hinge. The overall build quality is excellent, and the camera feels strong and durable. It's quite large and heavy compared to other long-zoom compacts, measuring 105 × 61.4 × 36.5 mm and weighing approximately 250g including card and battery. The shape of the body includes a flared handgrip and a raised thumbgrip area on the back, and it is very comfortable to hold.
The controls are well laid out, but like the WB500 they do have some problems. The buttons are quite small, and are labelled with embossed chrome-on-chrome symbols that are hard to make out in dim light. The menu system provides a lot of creative control, with multiple filters and colour options, but it is needlessly complicated, with various functions spread over three separate menus each with its own button, as well as several secondary functions on the D-pad. There is also a small and rather fiddly rocker switch control on the thumb rest, the function of which can be customised, controlling exposure compensation, ISO setting or white balance.
Unusually for a long-zoom compact the WB550 has a manual exposure option. It's rather limited compared to more advanced cameras, offering only minimum or maximum aperture and shutter speeds from 16 seconds to 1/1500th of a second, but it's better than nothing and does provide some creative potential for more adventurous photographers.
The WB550 also features the now obligatory HD video recording mode, in this case 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps with mono audio. The zoom lens can be used while recording, but as with the WB500 it does produce a loud mechanical whirring that can be clearly heard on the soundtrack. Video and still images can be displayed on a digital TV via the HDMI output socket. Like all of Samsung's current compact camera range the WB550 can be charged from a powered USB socket, so if you take your laptop on holiday you don't need to take the camera charger.