Like many of Samsung's compact cameras, the 10.6-megapixel WB2000 looks utilitarian when viewed from the front. Even the wide-angle, 5x optical zoom, which is more versatile than most, looks small and stubby. But don't stop reading just yet. Viewed from other angles, it becomes clear that something special is afoot with the WB2000. It's available for around £300.
Two dials that resemble fuel gauges sit on the camera's top. One indicates the camera's remaining battery life and the other reveals how much storage space is available on the inserted SD card. These dials give the camera a dash of retro cool.
On the back, Samsung has fitted a searingly sharp, 76mm (3-inch) AMOLED screen. The result is a more life-like image than usual. The screen really raises the camera above the level of the ordinary snapper. We used the camera mainly in bright sunlight and didn't miss an optical viewfinder -- the screen is as bright and clear as you'd hope.
The WB2000 weighs 153g (excluding the supplied battery, and an SD/SDHC card) and boasts dimensions of 100 by 59 by 22mm. It's very portable.
The WB2000 powers up in 2 seconds. A zoom lever encircles the shutter-release button, and, to its right, sits a shooting-mode dial, with a ridged edge to prevent slippage.
Give this dial a twist and a virtual version appears in tandem on the screen, with a brief explanatory line at the bottom for each setting, so the user needn't take their eyes off their subject.
The zoom takes just over 2 seconds to travel steadily from maximum wide-angle to extreme telephoto, soundtracked by the faintest of motor noises. This, happily, means that the zoom can be fully accessed in both stills and video modes.
While most owners will be happy to leave the camera in 'smart auto' mode, and concentrate on accurate framing rather than fiddling around with functions, the WB2000 also offers a degree of real photographic control that belies its pocket dimensions.
For example, there are program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual settings, along with dual image stabilisation to prevent blur resulting from camera shake in low light and at the extremities of the zoom. There's also a light-sensitivity range stretching from ISO 80 to ISO 3,200, to suit differing lighting conditions. Completing the shooting options are scene and 1080p video modes.
There's even the option to capture raw files, along with super-fine, fine and normal JPEG compression settings. You can shoot raw files at the same time as JPEGs too, a feature usually found on digital SLRs, and -- more unusually still -- you can do this at each of the three JPEG compression levels. This makes the WB2000 a real contender for dSLR owners who want a portable back-up.
The WB2000 has a slightly raised and rubberised grip. It's a helpful addition that provides something to hold onto when shooting hand-held. There's inevitably a screw thread on the base for attaching a tripod, if so desired.
Also very useful is a dedicated, one-touch video-record button on the back of the camera. It does take the camera a while to get going in this setting, though.
The WB2000 offers a 1080p video resolution, and the ability to record at up to 1,000 frames per second, as well as the default 30fps. The result? Play the footage back and it'll look as if your subjects are wading through invisible treacle in glorious slow motion.
For action fans, there's the option to snap photos at up to 10fps. If you can't decide whether video or stills would best suit a subject, there's the camcorder-like ability to fire off a shot while recording video, via a dual-capture mode. A mini-HDMI port on one side of the camera lets you hook it up to a TV, while standard AV and USB outputs also feature.
The WB2000's panorama feature with object-tracking capability provides pictures with real wow factor. Sweeping the camera in a continuous arc results in it producing a single, elongated image. While some minor tell-tale overlaps are visible, most users will be pleased with the no-fuss results.
The WB2000's response times are good for its class. The camera determines focus and exposure in a second or so. It writes a 10-megapixel JPEG to memory in just as short a space of time, which is also impressive. The time to write a raw shot is between 5 and 6 seconds. While that's par for the course, it's possible to compose and shoot a second raw file while the first is being written, so operation isn't slowed down terribly.
Battery life is a disappointment, though. The WB2000 runs out of juice quickly, managing a paltry 140 images on a full charge. This is a real flaw, and prevents us from recommending the WB2000 as the ideal travel camera it might otherwise have been.
The WB2000 is capable of taking some decent shots -- outdoors at least. Indoors, image noise starting at ISO 800 and visible camera shake are problematic.
The Samsung WB2000 is a mid-priced competitor to the likes of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7 and Fujifilm FinePix F300EXR. It doesn't offer the style of those models, but it's easy to use and is capable of delivering decent results. It's a shame the camera's indoors performance isn't that great, because, in other respects, this model surpasses our expectations of a £300 pocket camera.
Edited by Charles Kloet