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Samsung WB5000

Samsung WB5000

A 24x superzoom that goes the distance?

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The WB5000’s 3in LCD panel has a resolution of only 230,000 pixels, which makes for a less crisp viewing than the high-res screens mounted on its main competitors. To compensate for this, Samsung provides an electronic viewfinder with dioptre control and plenty of shooting information available at the touch of a button. Ingeniously, the WB5000 lets you use the viewfinder also for browsing and reviewing your shots, a very helpful alternative to the LCD screen in bright sunshine.

Samsung WB5000

A separate viewfinder complements the LCD framing alternative

The superzoom lens, the most powerful and versatile ever mounted on a Samsung compact, should be the big winner here, but it is not entirely convincing. It’s a slim built Schneider Kreuznach 4.6 - 110.4mm (26 - 624mm equivalent. Across its 24x magnification, the lens has a good response, travels rapidly to full extension and feels robust and stable in the hand.

Although more versatile than most compacts’ zooms, the optical build of this lens is nothing more than average. Delivering decent results in middle and telephoto range it does suffer from visible barrel distortion at wide-angle length and quite a significant amount of chromatic aberration in high contrast scenes.

At maximum extension the lens is not perfectly sharp but does gets much better when Samsung’s Dual Image Stabilisation is activated. The feature works pretty well distinctively improving camera shake at slower shutter speeds. The zoom lever, located around the shutter button, is responsive but not very smooth. On the plus side the Macro function is quite remarkable with the Super Macro option allowing you to focus as close as 1 cm from the subject.

Both the ISO range – 64 to 1600 at full resolution and 3200 to 6400 at reduced resolution – and shutter speed selection offer plenty of flexibility for action and low light photography, at least on paper. It is refreshing to see Samsung including ISO settings as low as 64 in a market often concentrated on reaching silly scales of higher sensitivity and forgetting the creative possibilities offered by lower speeds.

Samsung WB5000

An impressive focal range, but not without imperfections and distortions

On the other end of the scale, however, Samsung has to resort to capping the resolution for the highest speeds – dropping to 5Mp at 3200 ISO and 3Mp at 6400 ISO – to improve an overall poor noise performance. Even at lower speeds images are not noise-free. Pixellation starts to appear at 200 ISO and becomes increasingly worse from 400 ISO onwards – not the ideal choice for night photography. Aside from noise, chromatic reproduction is not consistent across the whole ISO range and colours change visibly and unpredictably at higher settings.

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