On the whole, the results achieved in our tests were good to excellent -- particularly when presented with well-balanced scenes with no great extremes of light and dark.
We were very impressed by its performance in suppressing ambient noise. We performed the majority of our tests on a busy high street and could clearly hear street performers speaking on our soundtrack over the general background hubbub. It also effectively cut wind noise and traffic for one of the best examples we have yet heard of a well-handled soundtrack.
Just about all of the regular shooting adjustments are also available in video mode, including exposure compensation and a choice of metering options (for different lighting conditions). You can emulate a wide aperture's shallow depth of field by using the miniature smart filter to throw your background out of focus.
These 14 smart filters work in a similar way to scene modes, applying effects at the point of capture. There's no denying that many are gimmicks -- including the kooky halftone and sketch effects, which give Sin City and Take On Me-style results respectively. But some are genuinely useful, such as the three pre-set tone correction settings and the 'classic' option that lets you shoot in black and white. By far the most versatile, though, is the last on the list, custom RGB, which consists of three individual colour sliders through which you can tweak the tonal balance of the shot.
It's a shame, then, that depending on which effect you choose, you may end up losing other features to accommodate it. Shooting in miniature robs you of your soundtrack, while switching to vignetting, half tone, sketch, fisheye or defog cuts the resolution to 640x480 pixels.
Build quality is excellent. Its boxy design is about as no-frills as you can get, with the back dominated by the 3-inch screen and simple controls. On top, the mode selector gives you direct access not only to program, aperture and shutter priority, and full manual and auto modes, but also the scene modes, of which there's a somewhat stingy selection of eight to choose from.
Each is illustrated by a full-colour icon and a string of text at the bottom of the screen, both of which are good. What's less impressive are the obvious omissions from the list. We can live without the pet and gourmet modes that feature on most of its rivals, but where is portrait? There's a beauty mode for touching up unflattering skin, but we'd prefer a simple aperture and exposure equation that gives us a shortcut to perfectly balanced lighting with optimum depth of field.
You're certainly not short-changed here when it comes to specs and options, though. The slowest shutter speed in full manual mode is an impressive 16 seconds (1/8 second in auto), with the night mode topping out at eight seconds and fireworks fixed at four. The fastest shutter in any mode is 1/2,000 second.
Sensitivity runs from ISO 80 to 3,200 with compensation of +/-2EV in 1/3EV steps. Although there isn't a dedicated button for quickly switching into this mode, you can bypass the regular menus by pressing the 'fn' button in the lower right corner of the rear cluster. This will allow you to step into a truncated shooting menu where you can set compensation, resolution, metering mode and white balance, among other options.
Besides auto white balance, there are five pre-sets, plus two user-defined settings, the first of which meters from a white surface, the second by manually setting the temperature on a scale of 3,000K to 10,000K.
There's plenty to like here, not least the price. This much power and versatility for £160 could easily point to compromised results, but that's not the case. Our images were sharp, colours were bright, and apart from some clipping on extreme highlights, our pictures were detailed and well-balanced. The movie mode is one of the best we've come across, with carefully suppressed background noise and well-retained aural detail. The Samsung WB700 is a great choice for the more ambitious point-and-shoot photographer.