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Samsung WB650 - Features and Design

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Samsung WB650 front angle


Our Score:


The control layout of the WB650 is slightly different to the WB550, with the shutter button positioned further forward and angled slightly for greater comfort, while the mode dial has moved a little to the left. The controls are sensibly laid out and accessible, although as usual with Samsung the buttons are very small and most are labelled with silver-on-silver embossed symbols that are hard to see in low light. There is a separate button to start video to start video recording, with a delay of only about two and a half seconds. One useful feature is a separate switch to turn the GPS unit on or off, helping to limit the battery life problems that plague the Panasonic TZ10.

Samsung WB650 back

The WB650 is well equipped with features and options, including optional manual exposure modes, a wide range of picture adjustments, some digital filter effects and automatic contrast balance, which boosts shadow detail in high contrast situations. The menu system controlling all of these is clear and comprehensive, although its habit of jumping from a full-screen menu to a sidebar overlay is a bit disconcerting.

The key feature of the WB650 is its 15x zoom f/3.2 - f/5.8 Schneider-Kreuznach lens, with a focal length range equivalent to 24-360mm. This is the longest zoom range of any comparable camera, all the more remarkable because it is no less compact than the 10x zoom of the WB550, retracting completely into the camera body when powered down. It has a very good optical image stabilisation system, and I found I was able to take consistently steady shots at full zoom at shutter speeds of 1/15th of a second, which is an impressive performance.

GPS is already a common feature on mobile phones, and is appearing on more and more cameras. It is used for “geotagging”, locating travel pictures on applications such as Google Earth or websites such as Locr or 100BestViews. The GPS system on the WB650 is very good, picking up a satellite signal in approximately 30 seconds and holding it well. It seems to be quicker, more accurate and more reliable than the GPS in the TZ10. The WB650 also uses its GPS for a built-in map feature, which can show your location on a map displayed on the monitor. The maps have to be downloaded from Samsung's website and manually installed on the SD card, a procedure which is fairly complicated and not helped by Samsung's usual terrible translation of the instructions. However once you've got everything into the right folders it works smoothly and the map location is accurate, although the level of local detail is a bit limited. The map can be zoomed in and out, street names and road numbers are shown, and there symbols showing locations where you have taken photos, as well as for things like doctor's surgeries and train stations, but some of the symbols are not obvious and are not explained in the manual.

Samsung WB650 side

Another stand-out feature is the monitor, which is a gorgeous three-inch AMOLED screen with a pin-sharp resolution of 614,000 dots, better than most DSLR screens. AMOLED uses less power than conventional LCD technology, and is also stronger, brighter and less prone to sun glare. The WB650's screen works extremely well even in bright sunlight, and has a viewing angle approaching 180 degrees.

The WB650 can record HD video at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and 30 frames per second, recording in the popular H.264 format used in many web applications. Audio is recorded in stereo via two microphones located on the top panel. The optical zoom can be used while recording, with the option to mute audio recording while zooming so that the motor noise doesn't appear on the soundtrack. There are a number of menu options for video recording including picture styles and digital filter effects.


June 3, 2010, 6:28 pm

This is a camera, right?

How can it be given an overall score of 9 when its score for image quality is 7? Does that mean the other issues over and above it primary purpose makes it somewhat better.

I don't see how a camera with 7 for image quality is better than another with suitable but less features should get a higher rating than another camera with 9 for image quality but less features.

Features are a factor but they are not what I would buy a camera for.


June 4, 2010, 3:53 am

Darn! Why can't compact superzooms like this one sport a peep-through viewfinder? Even given the shortcomings noted in this review, I would have bought this camera if it had a viewfinder.

Martin Daler

June 4, 2010, 4:49 am

a medium format camera will doubtless have better image quality, if it gets the shot. Sometimes getting the shot is a function of the camera features, like zoom range, or pocketability. Getting the shot is the ultimate arbiter of image quality - no shot = zero quality. I'd give a camera extra points for features which translate into getting the shot.


June 4, 2010, 1:14 pm

I like the "GPS - For Digital Nomad" - highly amusing!

I'd consider buying this when the price drops. Although the images look a bit like an oil painted up close, thanks to the processing, I think the overall lens quality, colour reproduction and DR outweigh this. I tend to keep most of my point & shoot photos 'as shot' anyway, so this wouldn't be an issue for me. Maybe they'll release a firmware update to improve this, but its Samsung, so I wouldn't hold my breath!

Ian Porter

June 4, 2010, 11:27 pm

@ Fiqqer, Martin & Chris... I'm looking for a high quality point & shoot/travel camera in the £200 arena. As soon as I saw the 7/10 for image quality I immediately dismissed this camera, it could be voice controlled, have artificial intelligence, run battery free and double up as an emergency phone.. I still wouldn't buy it. Sorry Cliff.


June 5, 2010, 3:15 am

Totally agree with Fiqquer...how on earth can a camera that has 7/10 for image quality get a 9/10 score? If the images are no good then neither is the camera.


June 5, 2010, 5:04 am

really depend. my family hardly print any photo. and if we do, most are just 5*7. for this size, really does not matter. and we most only view photo and share with people on computer. we hardly post photo online using any size bigger than 2 or 3mp.

so that is the point. now we are judge it by its full size. but we should always ask ourself that in pratical do we need full size photo?

at least for many people they do not need at all.

Woking Wounded

June 5, 2010, 2:53 pm

When are manufacturers going to give us the option in pocket cameras of taking photos in RAW? Then we won't be dependent on their clunky in-camera processing and, given the availabilty of reasonably priced software like Photoshop Elements, the user can do his or her own processing in RAW and then save as jpeg (or whatever) as needed. In camera storage limitations are no longer an issue with huge capacity SD cards available so why insist on creating jpeg in the camera?


June 6, 2010, 2:31 pm

I have been using this camera ( WB 660, Malaysia ) for 2 months now and find it very competent and easy to use. I have no issues with the image quality as I shoot mostly in daylight. The 15X zoom & HD video are superior to the TZ7 which I had previously. It is a much better camera than TZ7 tho I have not compared it to the TZ10


August 5, 2010, 3:02 am

I have created an account just so I can comment on this thread.

Have just posted the WB650 back to the seller for a refund.

In short this camera is the DB's and much more, in reality the photos are CRAP.Some photos turn out OK but most resemble blotchy oil paintings.

A great shame as I would have liked this camera to have worked at taking great photos but it does not. The rest of the Camera functions are brill, but what is the point of brill add ons when the image quality is crap?

Just to say some photos have come out OK , so why not a mode where the image destruction can be switched off?


August 26, 2010, 1:44 am

This is a follow up from my previous comments as I wish to be fair to both Cliff's review and the Samsung technicians.

I returned WB650 then tried a host of other compact zooms and not one of them produced a better IQ. WB650 Geo tagging and mapping leads the pack, as does the build quality. Obtained another WB650 and actually read the manual (pdf file) then got excellent results.

Am now keeping this cam as an easy to carry anywhere backup to my millstone DSLR.

In short, the point score by Cliff of 9 out of 10 is spot on and the Samsung team have done a great job. I got it wrong 1st time, this is a great camera.


September 14, 2010, 4:30 pm

david,how much did samsung pay you,thats a big backtrack,i've got this camera and as has previously been said whats the point of a camera if the image quality is poor..and it is!!! my sony compact is far superior despite it lacking on a few features which are hardly used anyway..no offence intended..just my thoughts.


November 8, 2010, 12:28 pm

Yeah, no offence meant, just my thoughts, but... accusing some-one of being corrupt IS offensive. And the inference from "How can a camera be given an overall score of 9 when its score for image quality is 7?" is that a camera with an image quality of 10 is perfect for a taking on vacation - even if it's the size of a house. Why bother with the other qualities of size, ease of use etc that determine a customer's choice if "image quality" is the only consideration? The quality of these tiny cameras is incredible. I have a TZ5 and will probably upgrade to a WB650 rather than a TZ10 now that Panasonic forbid 3rd party batteries. Yes, I would like to see lower resolution sensors with bigger more sensitive pixels, and the option to switch off in-camera image massaging, but apparently that's what the customer wants. We can't really blame the manufacturer for that.

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