Review Price £149.95
Like most recent Samsung compacts the WB650's overall performance is very good. It starts up and is able to take a picture in less than three seconds, which is a creditable performance. In single-shot mode its shot-to-shot time is approximately 2.1 seconds, which is also quicker than average, especially for a big high-tech camera. In continuous shooting mode it can shoot at a consistent one frame per second apparently until the memory card is full. There is an audio cue to let you know when a picture is taken, but the monitor screen remains blank after the first shot, so tracking moving subjects is a bit of a guessing game.
The autofocus system is also very good, focusing quickly and accurately in all lighting conditions. Its low light performance is much better than some previous Samsung models, and will focus reliably in dim twilight. For lower light conditions the WB650 has an AF assist lamp with a range of about three metres.
One of the few problems with the otherwise excellent Panasonic TZ10 was its very poor battery life, especially when using the GPS system. Samsung must have noted this with some satisfaction, because the WB650 has no such drawback. It is powered by a chunky 1130mAh Lithium Ion battery with excellent duration, no doubt thanks in part to the lower power consumption of the AMOLED screen. I took the WB650 on holiday with me two weeks ago, charging it up before I left. I used the GPS function extensively and took around 200 shots, and even now the battery indicator is still showing two out of three bars. Samsung makes no specific claim for the number of shots on a single charge, but suffice it to say it's enough.
One problem area for Samsung in the past has been image quality, and sadly the WB650 also has some issues in this area. The problem is the massively heavy-handed image processing, which leaves images looking as though they have been blurred and then over-sharpened. Whether this is part of the noise reduction system or just general sharpening I'm not sure, but it does rob images of a lot of potential quality. It's pity, because the lens is very good, with very little optical distortion or chromatic aberration at any focal length, and the overall level of recorded detail is excellent. Colour reproduction is very good, and even dynamic range is better than average. Noise control is, to be fair, about average for the class. At lower ISO settings it's certainly not a patch on the superb low-ISO results of the TZ10, but at 400 ISO and higher there's really not much in it. If only Samsung could sort out its image processing, Panasonic and the other manufacturers would be in real trouble.
In many ways the Samsung WB650 is a better camera than the Panasonic TZ10. It has a better zoom range, a more accurate GPS system, a sharper monitor and crucially longer battery life. Build quality, design and handling are all excellent, but it can't quite match its rival on low ISO image quality.