Other than using a fairly wide range of SLR’s, DSLR’s and Bridge Cameras, I also use, and in many ways actually prefer to use on a daily basis, capable point and shoot cameras. Whilst not as high-tech as the many DSLR’s, and usually with smaller sensors than both DSLR’s and Bridge Cameras, point and shoots can still deliver some impressive results. Add to that how small most of them are, and that most of the newer models can also record HD video, and you can probably see why I prefer them as an everyday carry camera compared to their other, much bigger, and usually much more expensive counterparts.
One model that I have been using quite a bit lately is the Samsung WB500. I bought it some time ago from eBay used. Paying a little under £30 for it basically brand new in the box, I wasn’t expecting that much from it in terms of performance. After the initial purchase I used it for a little while but was then distracted by other cameras I use more regularly. First impressions were that the WB500 was a decent little point and shoot, but lacked a few key qualities that I look for in certain areas. One of those being the ability to produce great close up / macro shots.
After revisiting this camera, and now using it again for the past few months regularly, I still stand by that finding. Close up shooting, whether in manual mode, auto, or even scene mode using the specific “close up” settings, is one of the WB500’s weaker points. It has a hard to time picking up the super sharp detailing when trying to take a close up image. Overall, I would say the auto focus on this camera is not the best and the user has to work that bit harder to get the results they are looking for.
On a side note: I’ve had a few point and shoot Samsung’s over the years, and have found that while the Schneider – KREUZNACH lenses (that’s what this model has) are generally good all rounders and are highly regarded by many people, I’ve found that in my experience the Samsung S.H.D lenses are far better when it comes close up / macro shots. Just something to be aware of.
Anyway, considering how cheap this camera is to buy used, and the value on offer here, those are the only negative things that really stand out to such an extent at which they are the most noticeable and worthy of pointing out. Now, in 2018, the Samsung WB500 could be considered as a little bit dated. And in some ways it is. No WiFi, a maximum resolution of 10.2 mega pixels, 10x optical zoom, and the ability to only hold up to an 8GB SD card.
However, all is not bad. 8GB is plenty to play with, a cable is perfectly fine for transferring images and footage to a computer, and 10.2mp is more than adequate of producing good quality images, at a size significantly larger than needed for most people. For such a cheap camera to buy used, there are some areas where it makes a great purchase for those on a very tight budget.
First off, the build quality. For a camera in this price bracket the build quality is really good. It looks like a more expensive camera than what it really is. The power up time is really quick, so if you see something passing by that you want to photograph, from the camera being off – to ready to go, is an extremely quick transition. It’s ready to capture in 1 – 2 seconds. Battery life is also impressive, lasting anywhere from 2 – 5 hours with continuous usage. Of course, this really depends on how you use the camera, as in, how much are you using battery zapping features like zooming in and out constantly, etc.
As mentioned above, other than close up shots being hard to complete with success, the image quality for other scenes is good, with dull days definitely being the best for picking up crisp shots in auto mode. Sunny conditions can be harder to capture in auto mode, but there are quite a few manual and scene settings built in that help eliminate glare and excessive brightness that direct sunlight can bring.
Some of the modes are excellent, but its the beauty mode “beauty shot” that stands out the most for me. It does a superb job of removing blemishes from the subjects skin. So much so, that even someone with fairly bad acne actually appears to have a smooth, largely blemish-free complexion. Great news for those who love taking selfies! Furthermore, beauty mode can also be used for capturing other subjects, not just faces, and gives certain images a nice soft, smooth look that really gives them an extra level of depth, quality and overall softness. This is a great mode.
Like most cameras the Samsung WB500 also has some common image settings that can alter how an image is capture in its entirety, like vivid, soft, forest, retro, cool, calm and classic (black and white), and of course, normal. The two that really stand out here are soft, which gives a nice smooth, almost old SLR feel to an image, and Classic (black and white). This camera can produce good results. And I have to say, in all honesty, I’ve seen and used some older DSLR’s with image quality that can’t match what the WB500 is capable of producing. That’s not to say the WB500 can rival top-end DSLR’s or some of the excellent Micro Four Thirds of today, because it can’t. But it can still produce very acceptable results for such an easy to carry, low priced point and shoot.
OK, so I’ve talked about the WB500’s image quality and versatility, but now I want to quickly touch upon what I think is one of the best features of this camera. I’ve saved the best till last. The one area that has impressed me the most with this camera is its video recording capabilities. Bad points first. Again, as mentioned above regarding close up imagery, even while recording video the auto focus is somewhat slow, and it can have a hard time when filming a close up subject. The lens zooming in and out while recording video can also be heard on the clip when replaying the footage. However, for anything else, like filming a broader area, and not using the zoom, the results have been very impressive. Lately I’ve been using this camera to record car dashcam footage, and it has been surprisingly good.
Video quality and size can be set to 320, 640, 1280 and 1280HQ. The highest frame rate is 30 frames per second, which at 1280HQ, is capable of recording fairly smooth HD footage. Definitely good enough for uploading to websites like YouTube. Using the WB500 on the highest quality settings (1280HQ @ 30fps) I’m getting 1 hour 6 minutes of video footage from an 8GB memory card, which is not bad at all considering the quality. Of course, the size is a dead giveaway, but sometimes this isn’t exactly 100% accurate to the quality displayed when replayed in real time. Or when a loss of quality occurs by uploading the clip to websites like YouTube. However, I would estimate that 1280HQ is about the true equivalent of 720p in terms of HD quality. I say this because when uploading videos made with this camera to YouTube, that’s the highest quality available from the settings once the video is live, and the videos themselves are labelled as HD by YouTube.
Moving on, there’s also an optional image stabilizer which is much needed if you are filming in-hand without a tripod. For dashcam footage, although good to help with bumpy roads, it’s not desperately needed due to the camera being mounted securely on a holder on the dashboard, or in my case, the front window (windshield). One negative worth mentioning regarding recording is that the camera does not save the stabilizer “on” setting. So if you want to use the stabilizer in a hurry, you will need to turn it on manually each time you turn the camera on. Unless its just my product, for some reason it doesn’t save this setting once the camera has been turned off.
All things considered, the Samsung WB500 is a great little versatile camera that is definitely worthy of being on anyone’s shortlist who happens to be looking for a cheap, portable camera for taking shots or recording video quickly and mostly hassle free while out and about. I’ve been having a lot of fun with mine. It’s also been dropped a few times, but thankfully hasn’t suffered any damage to the exterior or shown any electrical faults. So it’s clearly well made and pretty sturdy. This is an essential, must have for me, as I’m forever dropping cameras. Great value for the money.