Samsung's cameras are starting to look increasingly similar, and while some might say that suggests the company is running out of ideas, I'd argue that it actually points to a design team that's found a winning formula on which to build.
Sit the WB250F beside theand the similarities are obvious, with a white body (also available in blue, grey or red), nigh-on identical lens housing and a gently bulging grip. Even the recently released compact interchangeable lens system camera shares some design cues -- albeit on a grander scale -- with this budget, entry-level snapper.
Where they differ, though, is that the WB250F's lower price is reflected in its build quality. It's light and very obviously encased in smooth plastic, but once you look beyond its outward appearance, it still offers plenty of impressive features.
For a start, the screen is touch-sensitive, so you can navigate menus by prods and swipes, and tap to focus (if you don't get on with touch navigation, you can also use the regular hardware buttons to the side of the screen).
It's available online for around £179.
The WB250F has a 14.2-megapixel sensor putting out 4,320x3,240 pixel JPEGs (there's no option for saving raw files at this level) behind an 18x zoom lens equivalent to 24-432mm on a 35mm camera. That's a great range, with the longest end well suited to shooting wildlife, or getting close the action on a sports pitch while you're safely ensconced in the stands.
At wide angle, the maximum aperture is f/3.2, while at full telephoto it's a still respectable f/5.8, so you'll get some decent shallow depths of field at either end of the zoom.
So far, so impressive, but it's been necessary to make some compromises elsewhere. Sensitivity tops out at ISO 3,200, and compensation runs only two stops in either direction, in 1/3EV steps. Moreover, maximum shutter speed is just 1/8 second in auto mode and one second in programme. Switch to full manual and you can push it to 16 seconds, which is better, and should be enough for satisfying night-time cityscape photography, allowing you to stick with lower sensitivities to reduce possible noise in the result.
Controls and layout
There's a fully featured mode dial on the top plate, which is a welcome alternative to the software mode selectors implemented in some rivals. This lets you directly access programme, auto and scene modes without touching the display, but the ASM modes have been clustered onto a single selector position, so you'll still need to pick between them on the screen.
Fortunately the on-screen controls are extremely well thought out and easy to work with. Picking shutter or aperture priority mode presents you with a gauge for each parameter, while in manual they're presented one above the other. You can simply drag them to whichever value you need directly by sliding your finger across them on the screen.
The screen itself is a fairly standard 3 inches (75mm) from corner to corner, and is a regular TFT, so the angle of view is a little sharper than on the AMOLED screens used in some other Samsung cameras. It's not articulated, either, so doesn't fold out from the back of the case.
Finally, as far as the hardware is concerned, it's got Wi-Fi built in, so you can share your images directly, back them up automatically or use your smart phone as a remote viewfinder.
Colour reproduction was good throughout my tests, with the WB250F accurately reproducing a good balance of realistic tones in natural environments. Grass, skies and plants were consistently true to the originals.
It consistently focused in around one second when making small adjustments to the framing, but could approach double that after significant changes to the level of zoom.