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Samsung WB800F Smart Camera review: A 21x zoom smartphone camera accessory

Basically a lower-cost version of Samsung's Galaxy Camera, the WB800F makes a nice smartphone accessory.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

9 min read

Editors' note: Several of the design elements, features, and shooting options are identical between the Samsung WB800F and the WB250F we reviewed earlier, so readers may experience some deja vu when reading the same sections below.

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7.6

Samsung WB800F Smart Camera

The Good

The <b>Samsung WB800F Smart Camera</b> has excellent wireless features and an abundance of shooting options for all types of shooters. It has a handy pop-up flash and very good photo and video quality for its price and features.

The Bad

Button placement on top of the camera could be better, and accessing some of the setting menus isn't always straightforward. Photo quality is merely OK above ISO 400.

The Bottom Line

A 21x zoom and a wealth of shooting options and wireless features make the Samsung WB800F Smart Camera a fine smartphone accessory.

To those familiar with Samsung's point-and-shoot cameras, the Samsung WB800F Smart Camera might look a whole lot like Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy Camera.

The cameras share the same 21x zoom lens and 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. They also have many of the same shooting options, and the WB800F has built-in Wi-Fi for easy shooting and sharing among other things. But other than general appearance, that's pretty much where the similarities end.

The WB800F doesn't have a SIM card slot for mobile broadband and there's no Bluetooth, GPS, or NFC; it's not running on Android; and its 3-inch touch screen is dwarfed by the 4.8-inch one on the Galaxy. It is, however, considerably less expensive because of all this and the photo quality and performance are for the most part the same (actually the WB800F performs a bit better in some respects).

So, if you like the idea of having a connected camera to complement your smartphone shooting, consider the Samsung WB800F Smart Camera.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality
The Samsung WB800F's picture quality is very good for its class. As usual, the more light you have, the better your photos will be, so if you're considering this primarily for daylight shooting, you'll likely be very satisfied with the results.

Subjects do get noticeably softer as you increase ISO, which means with less light you'll lose sharpness and fine details, and things start to look flat. (They definitely benefit from some light post-shoot sharpening.) On the other hand, the f2.8 lens and the BSI CMOS sensor keeps the camera from immediately ratcheting up ISO, so you can take low-light photos (at least at the wide end of the lens) with better results than with some competing models.

Samsung WB800F Smart Camera sample pictures

See all photos

Basically, if you're considering this for its online-sharing capabilities and don't typically make large prints above 8x10s, regularly enlarge and heavily crop pictures, or view them at large sizes on screen, it's a fine choice. You can read more about picture quality and shooting features in the slideshow above.

The zoom lens does function while shooting. It can be heard moving while recording, but Samsung includes an option to damp the audio when you zoom. The continuous autofocus can be slow to adjust and may pulse in and out of focus, so it might be best to zoom in first and then start shooting; you can always pause the recording (yes, the camera lets you pause) and zoom out and start capturing again.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shooting performance
If you're feeling like you're not getting the shots you want from your smartphone because it's just not fast enough, you won't fare much better with the WB800F (or most other point-and-shoots in its class); it's not slow, but it isn't lightning-fast, either. From off to first shot takes 3.7 seconds, which is longer than competing cameras take, and the lag from shot to shot averaged 1.9 seconds. Using the flash tacks on another second to that time. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing is low, though, 0.3 second in bright lighting and 0.4 second in dim conditions. Keep in mind that this is with the lens at its widest position and focusing with the lens zoomed it takes slightly longer.

If you're trying to capture a burst of action, the camera's continuous mode is capable of capturing up to six photos at 8 frames per second (my lab tests clocked it at 9.5fps). However, focus and exposure are set with the first shot, so depending on how much subject movement there is, all of the shots may not be in focus. This is typical of most burst modes on point-and-shoots.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
Despite what the numbering might indicate, the WB800F is actually the successor to the WB850F. While some of that camera's features transferred over to the WB800F (the lens and sensor, for example), much of the design is different, which is for the best.

The WB850F's flash was poorly placed on the top of the camera, but that's been replaced by a handy pop-up flash that can be pulled back and aimed up so you can bounce the flash; a feature few, if any, cameras have at this price level. However, you do have to press the flash button on top next to the mode dial to use it; it won't release on its own.

Samsung WB800F Canon PowerShot SX280 HS Nikon Coolpix S9500
Price (MSRP) $269.99 $329.99 $349.95
Dimensions (WHD) 4.2 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.9 inch 4.2 inches by 2.4 inches by 1.3 inches 4.4 inches by 2.4 inches by 1.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.7 ounces 8.2 ounces 7.3 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 18 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch touch LCD, 460K dots/None 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None 3-inch OLED, 614K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 21x, f2.8-5.9, 24-483mm (35mm equivalent) 20x, f3.5-6.8, 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) 22x, f3.4-6.3, 25-550mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still / video) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 AAC (.MP4) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still / video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 60fps (progressive) 4,896x3,672 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (progressive)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 280 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 230 shots Li-ion rechargeable, 230 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer No; wall charger supplied Yes; by computer or wall adapter via USB
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Built-in Wi-Fi/GPS Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/Yes

Speaking of buttons, to accommodate the flash placement, Samsung moved the power button to the middle of the camera on top. Though this might not seem like a big deal, it puts the power button out of reach of the shutter release, which makes it harder to quickly turn on the camera and fire off a shot.

Also, Samsung added a Direct Link button that lets you initiate a wireless feature with a single press. For example, I set it up to immediately open the e-mail feature so I could send off a photo quicker than jumping into the Wi-Fi menu (more on this menu in a second). It's a great idea, but the button is placed right where my left index finger sits when I pinch grip the camera, causing me to accidentally launch a search for a Wi-Fi signal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One other oddity: Samsung placed spots for Wi-Fi and camera settings on the mode dial. Time after time, I'd go to connect to my smartphone and forget that I actually had to change out of my shooting mode in order to get to the Wi-Fi settings and instead, would hit the Menu button on back. This is something you would probably stop doing after a lot of use, but getting there might cause some frustration.

None of these are necessarily deal breakers, though, and really, for me, having the pop-up flash is worth putting up with these things.

For people who like to actually take control away from the camera, Samsung includes its Smart Panel user interface. Press the Fn button and up pop all your available options. Use the control pad or touch screen to select what you want to change and use the zoom control to cycle through the available options.

It's fast and efficient, but it can take time to adjust to, especially if you're already familiar with another camera maker's UI. Also, Samsung includes many of the same shooting options laid out in a regular vertical menu system when you press the Menu button, which is unnecessary and potentially confusing. And there are two ways to select options with the Smart Panel UI, which can add to the confusion. So, thumbs-up for the Smart Panel UI, thumbs-down for the learning curve.

Lastly, battery performance is good, CIPA-rated for 280 photos. However, using the zoom lens a lot, recording video, burst shooting, or turning on the Wi-Fi can really cut into that shot count. If you regularly go out for a full day of shooting, you'll want to get an extra battery, and probably an external charger, too, since the battery is charged in the camera.

General shooting options Samsung WB800F
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Photo Filter) Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent H, Fluorescent L, Tungsten, Custom, Color Temp
Recording modes Smart Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Magic Plus (My Magic Frame, Split Shot, Motion Photo, Movie Filter, Photo Filter), Best Face, Smart (Beauty face, Continuous shot, Fireworks, Landscape, Low light shot, Panorama, Sunset, Macro, Action freeze, Light trace, Rich tone, Silhouette, Waterfall)
Focus modes Center AF, Multi AF, Face Detection AF, Touch AF, Tracking AF, Manual Focus
Macro 4 inches (Wide); 4.9 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Spot, Center-weighted, Face Detection AE
Color effects Custom RGB, multiple photo and movie filters
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Six

Shooting options are plentiful on the WB800F. If you like to experiment with control over shutter speeds and aperture, there are aperture- and shutter-speed-priority modes as well as full manual. Shutter speeds can be set from 16 seconds to 1/2,000 second. Available apertures at the wide end are f2.8, f3.2, f3.5, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0; in telephoto you have just f5.9, f6.9, f7.5, and f8.5.

Picking up from there is Samsung's Smart scene mode, which is loaded with automatic ways to do things like freeze action or create light trails without messing with shutter speeds on your own. Then there's Magic Plus mode, with a large selection of filters and effects for both photos and videos and a new Motion Photo option for creating animated GIFs on the fly. Also included is Samsung's Best Face mode that lets you take a group shot -- firing off five frames -- and then you can pick the best faces for everyone in the shot, seamlessly combining them into one photo.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Wi-Fi
Samsung's Wi-Fi options remain some of the best available and easiest to use on point-and-shoot cameras. If you've ever thought, "Why do I need Wi-Fi in my camera?" Samsung has got several answers to that question. It can be used to connect to your Wi-Fi network for automatic backups to a Windows computer or Microsoft SkyDrive, viewing photos and movie clips on DLNA-equipped devices, or sending them by e-mail; to connect to other Samsung Wi-Fi cameras for direct sharing between cameras; to connect to hot spots or wirelessly tether to a smartphone; and to connect to an Android 2.2-powered or higher smartphone or tablet or iOS 4.3 or higher device.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That last option can be used to upload content to sharing sites, but it will also allow you to control the camera remotely. Your display turns into a viewfinder and you can move the camera's zoom lens as well as hit the shutter release. It'll also use the device's GPS receiver to geotag your shots. And while doing all of these things previously required two apps, Samsung has combined them into one and added a new feature: AutoShare. Turning this feature on pairs the camera wirelessly with a phone or tablet and then every shot you take will be immediately sent from the camera to the device, ready for you to upload on the go or view on a larger screen.

Conclusion
The Samsung WB800F Smart Camera's image quality or performance likely won't blow anyone away. However, when you take into account what the camera is capable of doing, especially for its price, it's hard not to be impressed. If you're looking to get something that's better than your smartphone's camera without sacrificing an easy shoot-and-share experience, the WB800F is the way to go.

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7.6

Samsung WB800F Smart Camera

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 7Image quality 7
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