Ease of Use: 4 / 5
Pricing: 1.5 / 5
Video Quality: 2.5 / 5
Photo Quality: 3.5 / 5
Features: 3 / 100
Entry level cameras and camcorders seems to have become a bit of an endangered species, thanks in large part due to the surge in quality from smart phones (Blackberry does not fit this bill). Smart phones have good screens, slim bodies and decent quality photos and videos nowadays. And together with the above mentioned qualities, they come free with your contract.
With that in mind, lower end cameras should have a few differentiating qualities to make sure they survive this smart phone onslaught. The WB 150 has a few that sounds very interesting and could just make it worth your while. This camera has an 18x optical zoom lens, 14MP photos at up to ISO3200 and can share its photos via WiFi.
On the outside:
The camera doesn’t feel like a premium product, but it also doesn’t feel cheap. The matte black finish looks stylish and the size makes it a comfortable camera to operate. It is not the smallest camera around, but with such a zoom, do you want to hold it steady, or have it look good while shaking all over the place?
This is a minimalistic camera on the outside. You’ll find the power button, zoom dial and mode dial on top, with the usual menu and playback buttons at the back. It also has a dedicated video record button, with a rubber grip where your thumb rests when holding the camera. The rest of the back is covered by a decent 3.0” LCD screen. Ergonomically, this is a well laid out camera.
On the inside:
If you’ve ever used a Samsung camera before, the menu system shouldn’t be that difficult to navigate. I could find my way around the menu system quite easily and set up took but a minute or so. The Samsung menu’s are easy to use, but not as stylish as the Sony menu’s. Here it is more function over form.
The menu system also works in conjunction with the mode dial, as there a a filter dial where you can zoop up your photos in the camera, without having to mess with them in Photoshop or something similar. I personally find these filters and borders tacky, corny and basically nasty. No manufacturer seems to have gotten this right yet. Smart phones now have apps with much better and solid filters and settings.
This is where things got interesting.
Let’s start with the video. Video quality on this camera wasn’t terrible, but also didn’t blow me away. A lot of finer details got lost, and movement pronounced the loss of detail, which is trademark of a low data rate on the video. The data rate came in at around 11MBps, which for 720p is decent, but not good.
Exposure changes in video mode seemed very “steppy” and not smooth at all. Focus also started to hunt a bit when zoom out a lot, although not terrible. On the wider side of things, the focus was quick and seemed accurate.
The image stabilisation wasn’t fantastic, but seemed to be able to cope with a more measured approach when shooting.
Photos were of decent quality. Exposure seemed good, as well as white balance. Although white balance was a bit too cold (blue) for me. There is a lot of detail in the photos and photos are relatively noise free. A nice feature of this camera is that it can shoot at up to ISO3200. At that ISO photos are pretty unusable, but from ISO1600, you would be able to salvage the photo, especially for social media purposes. As you can see in the photos below, the quality takes a knock as the ISO rises, starts taking substantial knocks in quality from beyond ISO800.
This camera has a fully manual setting, with most things working well, except for the manual focus, which really needs to be rethought. I eventually gave up on that function. But the rest of the manual functionality worked well, helping to get better results in tricky conditions, like sunsets etc.
The thing about this camera that interested me the most was the WiFi functionality. And man, did it work a charm. When activated in-camera the first time, I wanted to connect to my Android phone, which also happens to be a Samsung device. It asked me to first download an app from the Google Play Store, which is about 500kB. No biggie. I did that and when I tried again, it immediately picked up the phone. On the phone, it loaded up the gallery of photos and videos on the camera, and I could select which one I wanted to transfer. Transferring a single photo is near instantaneous. The camera easily connected to a pc as well, with the WiFi protocol working much better than Bluetooth and much faster. It was a glitch-less and very pleasant experience working with the WiFi functionality.
I need to stipulate that the app is for a touch-screen interface, and it states that it will work with Android and Apple devices. It should work with Windows devices, but unfortunately if you own a Blackberry you are out of luck. Get a proper phone next time and you can also play.
This WiFi functionality got me thinking that this camera could be perfect for the social media junkie who likes to post photos to apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Streamzoo and all the others that let you post photos, but want that little extra when it comes to quality vs phone photos, without the usual schlep that goes with shooting on a normal compact camera/DSLR and then having to transfer the photos to the phone. The Wifi connection is the perfect bridge. The transfer process is quick and easy and then you can mess with the photo with your phone’s apps when posting to all your social sites.
But this would only work if this camera was actually better than today’s smart phones right? So, I put this to the test, with another product from the Samsung stable, albeit a little older model, the Galaxy S2. So did this WB150 trump the Galaxy?
On the photo side of things, the Galaxy S2 actually showed higher levels of quality and was even less noisy that the WB150 at lower ISOs. It also has a warmer, more pleasing white balance than the WB150. It does lack outright resolution at “only” 8MP vs. 14MP for the WB150, but for social media and general photos, you’ll never need more than that. The WB150 can zoom quite far and actually performs better than the Galaxy at higher ISO’s. The Galaxy though, has a fantastic Super AMOLED screen, weighing in at 4.3” vs. The rather average 3.0” LCD for the WB150.
Ultimately on the photo side of things I’d give to the WB150 with its higher resolution, zoom functionality better low light performance and its manual control.
The video side of things was another story altogether. The WB150’s video at 720p output at a measly 11MBps vs. the almost 18MBps of the Galaxy. Again the WB150 has the zoom to count in its favour and to a lesser degree here, the low light performance. But the exposure changes were not smooth and footage showed quite pronounced artifacting.
The Galaxy again, had the stunning screen to its advantage, as well as a much higher data rate. And the Galaxy can shoot at 1080p. Footage showed tons more detail and less artifacting than the WB150 and exposure changes were done smoothly.
The video challenge was a very one-sided affair with the Galaxy badly beating the WB150.
The showdown might have confused you a lot if you were looking at this camera. The Galaxy, although already more than 2 years old, can still be seen as a high end phone. With the iPhone quality being comparable to the Galaxy, that phone would fall into the same category.
So, I would say that if you are getting a high end smart phone, the only reason to go for this camera would be the zoom and low light performance. If video is part of what you do, then don’t bother with the WB150.
If you are getting a mid-range, low-end smart phone or Blackberry, then the choice is much easier. The WB150 should still trump most of these phones, and could help you gain many more Instagram followers.
Overall the WB150’s quality does not do enough to differentiate it from smart-phones today. The WiFi functionality is seemless and works a charm, but could ultimately not count enough to sway someone to get this over a better smart phone. Remember, you will be dishing out R2000+ for this camera, when the phone could be free with you contract upgrade.
Here’s a sample gallery of photos taken with the WB150:
And a sample video of footage taken with the WB150: