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Samsung WB1000 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £220.00

Digital cameras just keep on getting better and better, which means that my job gets harder by the week. It’s rare indeed that I come across a genuinely bad camera, and even average ones these days are packed with advanced features and have the kind of performance and image quality that would have been exceptional just a few years ago, so it gets harder to find one that really stands out from the crowd. However once in a while a camera will cross my desk that is unmistakeably something a bit special. I have one such rarity today in the shape of the new Samsung WB1000, a new advanced compact from the same series as the superb WB550 travel camera and the also impressive WB5000 superzoom.


The WB1000 is a technically advanced camera with a lot of useful and interesting features. Its basic specification compares well with rival compacts, with a 12.2 megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x zoom f/2.8-5.6 Schneider Kreuznach lens with a zoom range equivalent to 24-120mm and optical image stabilisation, and a new three-inch high resolution AMOLED monitor. It offers HD video recording with stereo sound recording, full manual exposure and HDMI output. It’s hard to think of any recent cameras from other manufacturers with which to compare the WB1000. While it’s not quite up to the exalted level of advanced cameras such as the Canon G11 or Panasonic LX3 it’s certainly head and shoulders above most point-and-shoot compacts. Perhaps a fair comparison might be the Panasonic FX550 which also features a 5x zoom lens and manual exposure. It is also about the same price, retailing at around £220-230 depending on where you look.


It has to be said though that the WB1000 is not the most attractive camera in the world. The design of the body is obviously derived from Samsung’s NV series compacts such as the NV100HD, and even incorporates the novelty analogue dials for battery life and memory card capacity previously seen on the NV9. It solidly made with a strong metal body and well mounted recessed controls, and is available in either black or the brushed metal finish seen here. The WB1000 is surprisingly compact considering its ambitious specification, measuring 97 x 61 x 21mm and weighing 184g including battery and card. The design incorporates a textured handgrip on the front and a strap lug that doubles as a thumb grip on the back, and the camera handles well, however the proportions of the body do look rather ungainly and the mis-matched textures look a bit scrappy.

The WB1000 is part of a growing and very welcome trend toward compact cameras aimed at more experienced users. It has a number of features that enable a more creative approach to photography, including program auto, aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure. Menu options include adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, a wide range of picture styles and adjustable RGB colour balance, as well as spot, centre-weighted and matrix metering and a range of AF options. Automatic shooting options include a range of scene modes, full auto and Smart Auto, an automatic scene recognition mode.


One of the WB1000’s key features is its three-inch AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) monitor. This is a new type of display screen technology that has a number of advantages over conventional LCD displays. It uses less power, meaning longer battery life, it is sharper, brighter, has a faster refresh rate, much higher contrast and can be viewed from any angle. It is also a lot tougher, and can actually be made on a flexible material. The monitor on the WB1000 is superb, with an ultra-sharp resolution of over 518,000 dots and is clearly visible even in bright sunlight. If AMOLED is the wave of the future then this example certainly bodes well.


The WB1000 also has a very good video recording mode, shooting at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps, and recording stereo sound via built-in microphones. The optical zoom can be used while recording, although audio recording is muted while zooming to prevent the motor noise appearing on the soundtrack. Video is recorded in the popular H.264 format, with a maximum recording time of 20 minutes. Optical image stabilisation is also active while recording video.


The WB1000 also has some nifty features in playback mode, including the ability to apply colour corrections and picture styles to shots, including the dynamic-range boosting ACR feature. There is also a Smart Album feature which can search for images based on file type, date or by colour.

The WB1000’s overall performance is reasonably good, although it does look a little sluggish compared to some other recent high-spec compacts. The start-up time of under two seconds is good, and the shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode of approximately 2.1 seconds is comfortably above average. In continuous shooting mode it can maintain approximately one shot per second, but the monitor screen remains annoyingly blank while shooting, so trying to follow any action is rather hit-or-miss.


The autofocus system is also a little slower than some market rivals, although not enough to cause any problems, and it is extremely reliable even at maximum zoom. Low light focusing is also extremely good, and isn’t noticeably slower than daylight focusing. Again, this is true even at the longest zoom setting.


The WB1000 scores well for overall image quality. The Schneider Kreuznach lens is exceptionally good, with superb corner-to-corner sharpness, good contrast and no barrel distortion even at the 24mm wide angle end. Dynamic range is much better than expected, which is just as well since the ACB contrast-balancing feature doesn’t appear to work especially well. Exposure metering is very reliable, and colour rendition is also excellent.


The only real fly in the ointment is, as usual, image noise. While the level of detail is excellent, there is some colour mottling even at the lowest ISO setting, and this persists at higher settings. While image quality is good at 200 ISO, noise reduction causes significant reduction in sharpness at 400 ISO, and colour is very blotchy at 800. The 3200 ISO maximum setting, available at 3MP, is very poor, and should probably not have been included in a camera with aspirations of quality.


”’Verdict”’

The Samsung WB1000 is an ambitious camera with a lot to commend it. Build quality is excellent, it handles well and the range of features offers a lot of creative potential. Performance is well up to scratch, the lens is superb and the AMOLED monitor is a revelation. The only disappointment is the lacklustre high ISO noise performance. If Samsung can crack that they’ve got it made.

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These pictures were taken indoors using shaded natural light. ”


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This is the full frame at 80 ISO.


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Even at the lowest ISO setting there is some colour mottling, although the level of fine detail is very good.


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Much the same at 100 ISO.


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Image quality is still good at 200 ISO.


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Noise reduction has blurred the level of detail at 400 ISO.


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Noise is severely reducing image quality at 800 ISO.


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Even more noise at 1600 ISO.


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3200 ISO is available at 3MP.


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This is the full frame at 3200 ISO.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image.”


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Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture.


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The level of fine detail is very good, thanks mainly to the high quality Schneider Kreuznach lens.


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The lens produces no barrel distortion at wide angle.


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Centre sharpness is excellent.


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Corner sharpness is also superb, with no chromatic aberration.


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”Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including dynamic range, colour rendition and the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image.”


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The wide angle end of the zoom range is equivalent to 24mm.


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The telephoto end is equivalent to 120mm.


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Dynamic range is actually quite good for a 12MP compact.


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The ACB feature doesn’t help much, just brightening the image.


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Colour rendition is very good.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 10
  • Image Quality 8
  • Build Quality 9

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 12.2 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 5x

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