Point-and-shoot cameras may not be the go-to solution they once were due to the proliferation of smartphones, but they still have a lot to offer. Case in point with the Samsung WB350F. Featuring a 21x optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, and a more potent sensor than on a smartphone means this type of camera will always provide more photography friendly features.
These little units always pack a lot of features into the box, which means lots of options, but can also mean a few caveats along the way. Thus, let’s see what the Samsung WB350F can provide and if it is a good solution as an all-rounder.
One of the distinctive advantages of this type of camera is its small, compact size. This unit isn’t the smallest or lightest one out there at 216g, but with the 21x lens, this is easily forgiven. The whole camera is wrapped around a 1/2.3 inches, 16.3-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor which has an ISO range of 80 to 3,200 and a continuous burst mode of 7.1 FPS. Video also comes in at 1920 x 1080 at 30 FPS.
Visually, the camera is the standard, compact design, which comes wrapped in a faux leather covering available in a bunch of colors – white, black, brown, red, and blue silver. All are very cool looking, but the surface can pick up dirt easily, so it’s always best to keep this camera in its own carry case.
As this camera is aimed at the point-and-shoot market, it’s simplistic in design with the front showing only the lens and the AF-assist/timer lamp. The bottom of the camera has a battery compartment which doubles up for inserting a Micro SD card, while on the back, a simplified set of recessed buttons allows for accessing the most common features such as menu items, playback, a video record button, and exposure levels.
The rear 3-inch LCD is bright enough for most situations and has touchscreen functionality, much-needed for this type of camera. It’s not articulated, but this isn’t always a sought-after feature on this size of camera.
The top of the camera has the familiar mode dial for fully automatic and semi-auto shooting modes, power button, zoom, power button, mic, and a flash button to pop-up the tiny flash. There’s also a direct link button for linking up to Wi-Fi. This in itself is a clear indication that this is more than just a point-and-shoot solution and a step in the right direction to be more of a photographer’s tool.
Along with the usual shooting modes such as aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual, there is the Smart Mode which has presets for different shooting conditions. For portrait shooters, Best Face mode allows the shooting of multiple images, so that you can pick the best one and an additional mode for adding different looks or effects.
One thing to note is that the camera charges directly, so there’s no included battery charger. You will also need a card reader, as the camera uses Micro SD cards.
The Samsung WB350F in Use
As most of the workings on this camera will be accessed via the touchscreen, it’s luckily very intuitive. It’s not the most up-to-date version as you would find on the likes of the NX cameras; however, it’s very graphical looking and straightforward to use. Most of the functionality works best in fully automatic mode, but the ability to tweak settings is available if you need them.
The ability to easily share images is almost a de-facto standard these days and it’s not been forgotten about here. The Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to easily share photos on common social media platforms or even transferred via email.
Images can be sent to a smartphone or the camera can be controlled remotely, with live video streaming available. You may need a different app for each bit of functionality, but the whole system works in a simple manner and is straightforward to use.
Without having any experience of using this type of camera, the Samsung WB350F is very easy to get up and running. Turning the dial to fully automatic, then zooming to your preferred focal length is ultra-simple.
Using the Fn button in combination with the touchscreen allows you to tweak all the included settings and in semiautomatic and manual modes, all the usual adjustments can be made. These include ISO, white balance and exposure compensation. You can also adjust the focus manually with an on-screen slider if that’s your bag.
When it comes to general operation, zooming, then locking in with autofocus isn’t the fastest in the world, but it’s adequate for this level of camera. With good levels of light the camera shoots a lot of keeper images and facilities like Face detection are generally accurate, but best kept to close-up subjects.
The 21x zoom lens is very handy, with an equivalent focal length of 23-483mm. Lots of scope for creative shots, but what goes with the territory of such a wide zoom range is that images can look soft at the extremes of the zoom range.
The variable aperture range of f/2.8-f/5.9 should, in theory, be good in low light conditions, but in reality, you need to err on the brighter side of things when shooting. Especially to keep noise levels down.
Images generally come out looking well saturated with a good degree of contrast. Very accurate when viewed on small screens, but on closer inspection the edges of images aren’t as crisp as the center. Also, with a small sensor, noise does start to creep in early at low ISO levels, most obviously in lowlight shooting. Something to be aware of when shooting any nighttime scenes.
As for video quality, all footage is recorded in MP4 format and is generally clean and detailed. With enough light, zooming and refocusing is at an adequate speed, but as soon as light levels drop, speed is reduced.
The optical image stabilization is more useful for stills, so if possible it’s always advisable to mount this camera on a tripod or on a solid surface. In many ways, it’s a symptom of its size for handheld stability.
In general, the ability to quickly zoom in, snap away, then upload your images is one of Samsung’s standout features. As a general walkaround solution, the camera has its hiccups, but nothing detrimental.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re in the market for a general, compact camera, then there are a good few options to choose from. One of the main players in this market are Canon with the PowerShot SX720 HS. This one boasts a 20.3MP sensor, a healthy 40x optical zoom (ignore the digital zoom), comparable video quality, and image stabilization.
Connectivity may not be as seamless as on the Samsung, but as a general point-and-shoot camera, the Canon provides a lot of features for the money. Plus the backup reputation of a long-standing camera maker. If you’re looking at optical quality alone, the Canon has the edge.
|Samsung WB350F||Canon PowerShot SX720 HS|
Summing up, the Samsung WB350F has a lot of usable features and won’t let you down as a general shooter. It has a good quality zoom range, excellent connectivity and produces good quality stills and video. Autofocusing accuracy and speed are not lightning-fast, but good for this level of camera, with images being rendered with good quality as long as you’re in reasonable light.
There are obviously caveats to the package, such as noise creeping in from an early start and soft edges at the extreme focal lengths. However, as a general all-rounder, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung WB350F.