Social sharing and wireless connectivity continue their slow infiltration of the compact point-and-shoot market. We've said it time and again, but the trend is clear evidence that manufacturers fear the rise of smartphone cameras and their always-on cloud connections.
Samsung's newest flagship smart camera, the WB250F, checks all the most important boxes for a modern compact, but its only real innovation is the company's new Direct Link technology. This connectivity suite allows users to more seamlessly upload images and video to social networks and WiFi-enabled devices. It's something we should expect from everyone by now, regardless of whether we actually need it, but Samsung is definitely doing it better than anyone else.
Design & Usability
The Direct Link button makes image sharing and uploading that much easier, but beyond that there's nothing new about the WB250F's design.
Anyone familiar with Samsung's previous point-and-shoots will have an easy time navigating the WB250F. It's coated in the familiar glossy white found throughout the brand's product line, and it sports a rounded ergonomic grip that's surprisingly effective.
The menu system is well-designed and easy to figure out, though I tend to prefer instantaneous menu prompts—none of this animated, newbie-friendly hullabaloo. But that's me. Samsung has a knack for simplistic menu design, and the WB250F's control layout, once again, compares favorably against most compacts in its class.
Samsung is really pitching its Direct Link technology (a booth representative gave me an impassioned earful about it), but I fail to see what the big deal is. Sure, it makes sharing easier, and that's great. But it's 2013: Apple just released its fifth generation iPhone, Instagram continues to kick butt, and third-party developers are finding new ways to make smartphone imaging better and easier. So when a Samsung rep comes up to me talking about how awesome it is that you can share photos instantly from your phone, I'm left thinking, please tell me more.
With some mildly impressive core specs, the WB250F will satisfy most basic picture-taking needs—but don't expect it to wow you three years down the road.
The WB250F's specs won't stun you, but they'll certainly do the trick. The ISO range extends from 80 to 3200, and there's a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, an 18x optical zoom, a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, and 1080p video capabilities. But aside from the aforementioned Direct Link feature, there's nothing very innovative or impressive about these stats. The image quality seems to be slightly above average, and the user-friendly interface allows any novice to capture decent pictures regardless of the lighting situation, but it's the Direct Link option that Samsung seems to be pushing hardest.
Aside from affording users the ability to simply share and upload images, the Direct Link button can be customized to a specific social function. So by setting the sharing button to, say, your Facebook account, you can automatically upload an image to Facebook email with the push of a single button. Prefer email? It can do that too. Will this functionality serve to stem the tide of consumers ditching their point-and-shoots for optically inferior smartphone cams? Probably not, but we admit it's a pretty valiant effort.
The WB250F is a capable low-end point-and-shoot in early 2013, but will it hold up two years from now?
If you're in the market for an affordable point-and-shoot with above-average image quality and a minimum of UI-related fuss, you should be satisfied with the WB250F. However, in this day and age there's the question of how you prefer to upload, share, and store your images. These are questions that the engineers at Samsung are clearly trying to answer.
Samsung's answer with its newest flagship compact is to provide instantaneous, customizable sharing and uploading via the Direct Link button. It's a nice gesture, for sure, but is it enough? The camera offers little else in the way of innovation, which seems to imply that Samsung has put all its eggs in one basket.
When it comes down to it, the WB250F is very easy to operate, includes a host of specs found on higher-end models, and has a sleek design to boot. If this is all that matters to you, pull the trigger; you won't be let down. If you're more concerned about sharing than image quality, stick with your smartphone.