The Bottom Line
Samsung has included an impressive set of features with one of its newest thin zoom cameras, the WB850F. The 21X zoom lens in a model that measures just under 1.4 inches in thickness is difficult for any other camera maker to match. Throw in built-in GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities, and you have one of the most versatile and powerful cameras on the market.
However, all of those features come with a price -- namely sacrifices in battery life. The rechargeable battery included with the WB850F just doesn't run long enough, especially when you're using all of the different gadgets. This camera's response times aren't good enough, either, for a camera that costs almost $400.
The WB850F's image quality is quite good, so that makes up for some of the issues, but you really will need to make sure that you don't mind some of this camera's drawbacks before you decide to pick up this model.
In other words, don't spend the money on this model unless you're sure you can use all of its special options, as most of the WB850F's photography features can found in less expensive cameras that are currently on the market.
Image quality is very good with the WB850F, which is what you'd expect from a camera with a $300-plus price tag. Colors are very accurate and bright with this model, and you're going to find that the focus is sharp the vast majority of the time, regardless of the shooting situation.
If you're planning to shoot at the maximum zoom quite a bit, you may notice a few problems with camera shake. You can fix this problem by using the dual image stabilization that's built into the camera, as well as adding a tripod to your camera gear.
Samsung included quite a few options for setting the aspect ratio and resolution (between 1 megapixel and 16 megapixels).
You can manually control quite a few aspects of the camera's settings, which is nice for a camera that's also pretty easy to use.
With all of the advanced features in the WB850F, it's no surprise to find an HDMI slot on this camera, which will make it easier to download your full HD videos shot with this model.
The overall performance levels of the WB850F collectively represent the most disappointing aspect of this camera, especially for a camera in this price range.
Battery life is the most noticeable performance problem for this Samsung camera. With a large zoom lens and bright display screen, seeing a shorter battery life with this camera isn't a big surprise, but the battery performance in the WB850F is even a little worse than I expected. And if you use the Wi-Fi and GPS features a lot, you'll drain the battery very quickly. Just plan on having a second battery on hand if you choose this camera, which will add to the expense. You also must charge the battery inside the camera, as Samsung didn't include a separate battery charger with the WB850F, which can be inconvenient.
The camera's response times are a bit of a disappointment, too. The optical zoom lens moves very slowly through its large range (23-483 mm equivalent), which may cause you to miss a photo or two. Even worse, the zoom lens moves even slower right after you shoot a photo and while the WB850F is saving the photo. Again, you'll miss a few photos while waiting for the lens to move to the desired focal length.
Once you move beyond the mid-range of the 21X zoom lens, you also will have limited ability to pick a precise focal length. I counted only three precise "zoom stops" in the upper end of the zoom lens range, which is disappointing.
The WB850F has some problems with shot-to-shot delays and a slow startup. However, this model's shutter lag is not really noticeable most of the time, which is nice, as the WB850F's autofocus works very quickly.
You can counteract some of the problems with delays between photos by shooting in one of the many burst modes that Samsung has included with this model, including the ability to shoot at up to 10 frames per second at a high resolution.
Although the WB850F is a relatively thin camera (1.38 inches in depth), it packs quite a few significant features.
Throw in the 21X optical zoom lens and full HD video recording, and there are very few cameras currently on the market that can match the designed feature set of this model. The popup flash unit is particularly helpful, because the large zoom lens extends almost 3 inches from the camera body when it's at full zoom, so the popup flash gives you a better angle on shots.
The WB850F also has a small right-hand grip that makes this model a little more comfortable to use than many thin point and shoot models. The addition of a mode dial with this camera makes it very easy to pick the exact shooting mode you want to use, and the design of the buttons is nice, as they're a good size and are comfortable to use.
The AMOLED screen on the Samsung WB850F is very bright and sharp, and it's one of the better screens you're going to find on the market in a camera. You'll have no problems using the screen to frame photos, even in bright sunlight outside. Samsung has created a great set of graphical menus, making it easy to navigate through the camera's settings. Those menus look really nice on this high-quality display screen.