Build quality is reassuringly solid. The outer casing is mostly metal in construction, although the handgrip and thumb rest are given a rubberised finish. While the decision to go with a metal finish does aid build quality, the WB850F does feel slightly heavy in the hand, at least in comparison to other compacts.
In spite of being a bit bulky, the WB850 is well designed and generally handles quite well. You’ll find the main exposure mode dial on the top of the camera next to the shutter release and power buttons, with all of the other buttons found on the back. Menu navigation and feature selection is handled via a combination of the directional-pad and the command dial that encircles it. Thankfully the mode dial is stiff enough so as not to be accidentally nudged during use.
While the WB850 scores well on design and general handling there are some niggling performance issues. Processing times are noticeably slow, even with a fast memory card inserted, which means you can expect a delay of several seconds between shots. While it’s still possible to focus and record new images during this time, the zoom freezes up and is rendered inoperable. Autofocus performance is also a little under par, with the WB850 struggling to lock close focus when the camera is used in any of the PASM modes. Using the camera in Smart Auto mode does tend to make the AF more reliable though.
On the whole, image quality is pretty reasonable, especially when the camera is being used in Smart Auto. It's capable of capturing a good dynamic range, and while the camera’s automatic white balance setting generally produces results that can be a little warm, the end result is far from displeasing. The 16MP sensor is able to resolve an impressive amount of detail, with the in-camera JPEG processing generally preserving captured detail. The Schneider-KREUZNACH zoom also performs well, although lens flare is an issue in harsh direct lighting, which results in a peculiar series of glowing round orbs in some shots.
We found the WB850’s ISO performance to be respectable up to ISO 800, although at ISO 1600, and more so at ISO 3200, fine detail does take on a smudged appearance while colour-shift also becomes a bit of a problem.
The Samsung WB850F is a 16MP travel compact that offers a generous range of features including built-in Wi-Fi functionality. While these all combine to make the WB850 a solid travel compact, there are a few performance issues holding it back from achieving a higher score. Overall though the pluses outweigh the negatives and so if you’re in the market for a pocketable compact with a long zoom and plenty of useful features them the WB850F certainly warrants a closer look.