Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Samsung WB500 Camera First Impressions

In a previous post I mentioned that I was waiting for my new camera to arrive. It's a Samsung WB500 that I bought on eBay used for £30. Well, it has arrived! First impressions regarding the condition are WOW. The camera looks like it's hardly been used. Not a mark or scratch on it, and it wasn't damaged while in transit. So at least that's some good news.

Now on to the design and image quality of the camera. First off, the design is not too bad. My previous camera was also a Samsung so I'm quite familiar with the layout of the buttons and certain features that each one is responsible for. However, comparing this to my old camera I quickly came to realise, the WB500 has so many more settings. Almost too many. And one thing about the design I do not like is the shutter button is quite far over. It should be the first button on the top to the right, but that is where the camera dial / mode wheel is.

First impressions are not good to be honest. It seems like its much harder to actually "Point and Shoot" with this camera on Auto mode and capture a nice sharp, crisp image. A lot of them are blurry. And let me just say, I have an extremely steady hand. Auto mode on my old UCA-5 is much better. With the WB500 it seems like you have to work a lot harder to capture a good picture, going through all the different settings trying find the right set up for the scene. Don't get me wrong, the images are Okay, but dare I say it.. The images on my old UCA-5 appear to be more crisp, and much easier to achieve. Could that be because the UCA-5 (5 mega pixels) has an SHD Lens and the WB500 does not. I don't know. Some good things about the WB500 though, the flash is good, build quality excellent, and the battery duration (1050mAh capacity) has been impressive. Start up is also very fast. It's ready for action within a second or two. And the battery / SD card compartment door has the smoothest open and close mechanism ever.

Now, I'm no expert on cameras and SD cards, but one thing that I noticed was the 2GB SD card that came with this camera is Class 2. So the write speed is rather slow. Can that affect the overall quality of the image.. Some people on certain forums think it can. I'm going to find out, as I've just ordered an 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 Memory Card - 40 MB/s. Let's see if that makes a difference. From what I've read in the manual, 8GB is the maximum this camera can hold in terms of memory card size. Hopefully, Class 10 should be compatible.

I was reading about the WB500 on Photographyblog.com long before I actually bought it, and one thing I remember which the reviewer said, was that the images sometimes seem a little surreal, almost too vivid and looking borderline fake. And you know what, I agree with him. At first, when I was using the camera and going through the settings taking pictures, I found a mode called "Vivid" and I thought to myself, ah, the reviewer must have had the camera in vivid mode all the time he was testing it for the review without realising it.

But he didn't. See, what I've come to find out is that Vivid mode and "Normal" mode are basically the same. I can't see much difference at all. And another thing I don't like, when looking at the LCD screen just before taking a picture, the image looks great. Super sharp and colourful. I take the image and all seems well. But when transferring the image to my computer and looking at it enlarged (smaller than their actual size of 2592 x 1944) it's just not the same. The clarity has diminished some how. And there is a fair amount of noise, even when the image is not full size. I know I didn't pay much for this camera, but I expected better image quality than this. Quite disappointing to be honest. Maybe I was expecting a little too much from a now older model 10.2 mega pixel point and shoot camera.

There might be a image subject / scene where this camera may be really strong. I'm thinking maybe city shots, people, buildings etc. Because one area where it seems to be terrible is with close up / macro shots. They just don't have the sharpness, or at least, I can't seem to achieve it. And when I do capture a sharp macro shot, when shown at actual size on a computer monitor it seems to be out of proportion. Like it's not well balanced. Some images appear too close, even though when the picture was taken it looked to be at the perfect distance for a nice capture.

Maybe I'm judging the camera too early, who knows, I might come to love it. But those are my first impressions. I will keep using it, testing out different settings and hopefully getting to the stage where I've mastered the art of taking really good pictures with the WB500. One area I haven't tested much is video mode. Looking at the sample video on Photographyblog the quality looked really good. But then again, so did the image quality in their sample images and I've been somewhat disappointed so far.

*Update: While in the process of writing this post I have received the 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC Class 10 SD Card. And today, I have had the chance to get out for a while and take some pictures. Please Note: All images in this post were taken with the new SD card. I think the new, faster card has made a big difference, and now I'm kinda thinking I may have been a little harsh with my judgement of this camera. I take most of it back. Some of the images I captured today were actually not that bad, even when viewed at their actual size. The beautiful Birds Of Prey topped my day off, as that was a totally unexpected meeting with two men that I just happened to stumble upon in the middle of nowhere who were out training their birds. They were kind enough to let me take some pics. Great result.

So, is the better image quality down to the new Class 10 SD card, or just due to shooting various subjects under many different lighting situations. I can't be 100% sure, but like I said, I think the faster SD card has made a quite a big difference. I also managed to do a quick video test to see what the quality was like. Not too bad at all, and definitely good enough to film something, upload it to YouTube, and not have people commenting "Was this filmed with a Potato".. See below for the sample video. It was filmed at the highest resolution - 720p (1280HQ) with the Class 10 memory card @ 30 Frames per second (FPS). There is an option for 60 Frames per second but for some reason it's greyed out and can't be chosen. I'll have to see what setting or mode is needed to enable 60 FPS.
The best shooting modes for me so far have been Auto and Dual Mode. Dual Mode offers maximum image stabilisation. However, even in these two modes it still seems to be a little too "hit and miss" as to whether you get a sharp image or not. But, I guess that's the same with the majority of cameras, even the costly DSLR's. I've seen my fair share of pictures that were taken with expensive DSLR's that I thought were terrible. All the images displayed in this post were taken with the WB500. I chose some of the better ones rather than showing the many blurred shots. I would like to hear what people think about the quality, and whether you consider the clarity / sharpness to be good considering the cameras age and specification. Pictures have been resized, making them a bit smaller. But no effects or anything else have been added. I never do that to any of my photographs.


Anonymous said...

Northern Goshawk. What an absolutely beautiful bird.