Samsung WB250F Smart Camera review: An able smartphone camera companion

Key specs Samsung WB250F
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.2 inches by 2.4 inches by 1.3 inch
Weight (with battery and media) 6.8 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS (16 megapixels total)
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch touch LCD, 460K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 18x, f3.2-5.8, 24-432mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 300 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; Micro-USB cable, wall adapter supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC

Speaking of buttons, in order to put the flash on top, 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. This basically kills the ability 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.

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, having the pop-up flash is worth putting up with these things for me.

General shooting options Samsung WB250F
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 2 inches (Wide); 5.9 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 WB250F. 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 1/2000 second. Available apertures at the wide end include: f3.2, f3.6, f4.2, f4.6, f5.2, f5.8, f6.6, and f7.3; in telephoto you have just three: f5.8, f6.8, and f7.6.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Motion Photo is one of the many shooting options on the WB250F. Joshua Goldman/CNET

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's combined them into one and added a new feature: AutoShare. Turning this feature on wirelessly pairs the camera 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.

Given its price and features, there's very little not to like about the Samsung WB250F Smart Camera. No, its photos are not digital SLR-quality, nor are they the quality of a large-sensor compact. This is still a midrange point-and-shoot when it comes to photo quality and shooting performance. For those looking to do more than simple snapshots with a phone without completely losing the fast sharing, this is a good way to go for less than $250.