The 12.2-megapixel Samsung WB550 is a camera that looks good on paper but doesn't live up to the specs. The main attraction is its 24mm-equivalent wideangle lens with 10x zoom, which is certainly a plus in a camera of this size, giving you plenty of shooting flexibility for around £220. It also has numerous features to keep you experimenting. On the other hand, the lens doesn't result in the greatest pictures, and finding what features you want to use can be trying at times. We're sure the WB550 will have its fans, but there are better-executed compact superzoom cameras available for roughly the same price.
Bulges awkwardly in your trousers
As you'd expect from such a camera, the WB550 is neither small nor light. It's pretty amazing that the camera is as compact as it is, though, and it'll comfortably fit in a small bag or jacket pocket, or rather awkwardly in a trouser pocket. From the front, it's a good-looking camera, too, as it's basically all lens and hand grip. On top is a standard, simple arrangement of controls: a power button, a shutter release with zoom ring, and a shooting-mode dial.
On the back, things get weird. To the top right of the reasonably bright and sharp, 76mm (3-inch) LCD display is a rocker switch that sits in the thumb rest. The 'command lever', as it's called, is primarily used for adjusting exposure compensation, although it can be programmed to adjust ISO or white-balance options instead. Its location makes it prone to being accidentally pressed while you're doing things like zooming the lens or, you know, taking a picture.
Below that sits an 'Fn' button that brings up a context-sensitive shooting menu. If you choose to set the command lever to change ISO or white balance, a single press of the Fn button will bring up exposure compensation, which you can then adjust with the command lever. A second press of Fn gives you the actual shooting controls.
Then there's a four-way directional pad for navigation and changing display information, setting a timer, entering macro and manual focus, or turning on the flash. At its centre is a 'menu/OK' button for accessing basic shooting, sound, display and system settings. At the bottom of the control panel is a 'playback' button, as well as an 'effects' button. The latter is for selecting a colour style, a photo filter, or tweaking sharpness, contrast or colour saturation. We don't know why these options need their own menu with a dedicated button, but three menu systems is really one too many to keep track of in a point-and-shoot camera.
It's pleasing to find a mini-HDMI jack on the left side of the camera, in addition to Samsung's proprietary charging/AV/USB jack on the right side.
Full shooting-option spectrum
Shooting modes range from full auto to full manual. The 'smart auto' mode automatically chooses the appropriate camera settings based on 11 scene types. Otherwise, you can choose from 15 scene-shooting options, including a 'frame guide' option that lets you compose a shot, capture part of the pre-composed scene on the screen, and then hand the camera to someone else to take the picture while you get in the shot. Those who don't want to touch any settings can put the camera in 'auto', which locks most options and prevents them from being changed.