Check out an examination of the photo capabilities of Samsung's WB150F, an 18x compact megazoom with built-in Wi-Fi.
Photo quality from the Samsung WB150F is good up to ISO 200. It's not a camera you'd want to use in low-light conditions or indoors without a flash. At ISO 400, a common sensitivity for well-lit indoor photos, subjects look soft, but are passable at small sizes. The photos get much worse above ISO 400, picking up a lot of noise and losing detail to the point where subjects look smeared. Actually, noise is a bit of a problem even at its lowest ISO sensitivities when photos are viewed at full size; if you need to enlarge and heavily crop your photos, I would skip the WB150F. However, if you're considering this for its online-sharing capabilities and don't typically make large prints above 8x10s or view them at large sizes on screen and don't need good low-light photo quality, the WB150F's shots are OK.
Most long zoom cameras don't produce great photos when viewed at 100 percent; the lenses can't resolve fine details and that's the case with this camera. Samsung appears to be using only the center of this camera's sensor, too, making matters worse.
This is a 100 percent crop from the inset image taken at ISO 80. It's basically the best quality you're going to get from the telephoto end of the lens. Viewed at this size, it's not bad (though it's not great, either), but if you're the type to pixel peep, you likely won't want to see its photos at full-screen size.
The WB150F can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject. Again, for smaller prints and Web use without a lot of enlarging and cropping, the results are decent. But if you look at them at larger sizes, things look slightly oversharpened and crunchy.
Samsung includes aperture- and shutter-speed-priority modes as well as a full manual mode on the WB150F. It's nice to have the extra control, but they're a bit superfluous given the camera's overall photo quality. Shutter speeds go from 16 seconds down to 1/2,000 of a second. Apertures are selectable from f3.2 to f7.2 at the wide end and f5.8 to f7.5 at the tele end.
The WB150F's lens goes from an ultrawide-angle 24mm to 432mm, or 18x. You have to be careful when using it in Smart Auto mode, though, because there is no way to shut off Samsung's digital Smart-Zoom, which reduces resolution and looks bad to boot. The camera's optical image stabilization isn't particularly good, either.
Given the WB150F's 24mm ultrawide-angle lens, I expected to see more barrel distortion, but Samsung has it under control for the most part (top). With the lens extended there's no signs of pincushioning, either (bottom). What I did notice is that while center sharpness is good, the lens is soft edge to edge at the top and very soft in the corners. It's soft down the sides and in the bottom corners, but noticeably softer at the top.
Color performance is OK from the WB150F, at least below ISO 400. Colors are bright and vivid, but not terribly accurate, which is the case with many point-and-shoots. The positive for this Samsung is that if you don't like the colors, there are sliders for tweaking them some to make them more natural or more saturated. The Auto white balance seemed a bit cool to me, but again, Samsung includes controls for tuning them to your liking.
The WB150F has a big selection of photo filters, many of which are available for movies, too. They can be used before or after you take a photo, and Samsung gives you a live view of the effects when you shoot. Depending on the effect, images are either captured at full resolution or 5 megapixels, which is plenty for Web sharing or small prints. From left to right, top to bottom: Auto (no effects applied), Miniature, Vignetting, Ink Painting, Oil Painting, Ink Painting (again), Cartoonize, Sketch, Soft Focus, Fish Eye, Cross Filter, Old Film, Half Tone Dot, Classic, Retro, and Zooming Shot. Take a closer look if you want to see the differences a little better.
Along with the photo filters and a handful of other novelty shooting modes is a Live Panorama that lets you capture a panorama simply by panning the camera left, right, up, or down.
If you view it at full size, it's not great, basically looking like a low-resolution video capture. To be fair, with the exception of Sony's excellent Intelligent Panorama, similar modes from other manufacturers' cameras look about the same.