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Old Feb 9, 2013, 9:29 PM   #1
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Default Samsung WB210 review (big touchscreen,wide angle,non-wifi|Hacking?)

The Samsung WB210 from 2011 is an apparently rather disputed compact digicam with fully touch screen operated smartphone-style GUI, great 21mm wide angle mode and many gimmicks - basically a cheaper non-wireless predecessor of the (in)famous Samsung Galaxy Camera. Some love it, some hate it. This is my review.

I especially like the sharp TFT with its easy accessible album mode, but this camera has also some quirks. Most annoying to me is the too dark lowlight video and the missing VGA photo mode. According to the scarceness of forum entries it doesn't seem to sell well, so I hope to bring some light into this uncommon model.

- why I bought it

Since my old Jenoptik 4.1 x z3 started to fall apart (loose battery lid, mode knob makes random bad contact), lacks good album mode and anyway focusses poorly in the dark, I decided to get a modern digicam with mechanical image stabilizer for 100..150. Despite I was almost sure to buy a Canon (due to CHDK programmability) bridge camera with NiMH AA batteries and big enough to rest well in my hands, after comparing many digicams in shopping centers I ended up with something completely different...

Because a main purpose of my digicam is a visual notebook/diary to document electronics (I collect old music keyboards, sound toys, videogames and such things and often repair or modify them), I tend to take hundreds of tiny pictures of wirings, screw lengths etc. those I need to view and re-access easily - not least as an aid to put things back together. So I always wanted a kind of tablet PC with built-in zoom camera and *without* radio transmitters (I strictly refuse to become irradiated and spied out by that brain destroying scrap) - unfortunately knowing that there is no non-wireless tablet gizmo yet and the obnoxious wifi disease is even pesting the digicam market now. (If companies would install less fragile connectors and flimsy cables, no sane people would come in mind to want cameras wireless.) So at least I wanted a digicam with big screen; in a MediaMarkt store I saw this Samsung WB210 which had the biggest and was reduced to 130. The Canons had smaller screens and especially I worried about their wide-angle of only 28mm. Unfortunately I couldn't try out the WB210 nor see the GUI due to empty battery. Knowing the impressive Samsung Galaxy Camera ads and that Samsung has the knowhow of being among the 2 best reputed smartphones and tablet PC makers, I asked a vendor who ensured me that the WB210 was really non-wireless. So after trying the GUI on a smaller and 199 expensive flip-out screen variant (MV800?) I dared to buy it.

- battery & accessories

The WB210 is rather small (much thinner than my old Jenoptik) and takes instead of NiMH AA cells a way overpriced exotic lithium grenade (Samsung BP85A, 4.2V 850mA Li-Ion - I would definitely wish here a thicker grip end (resembling Galaxy Camera) containing AA cells.) To charge it, the camera comes with a 40cm short special cable which USB end plugs into a wall wart (plug charger, 4.4V with only 400mA); the other plug looks flimsy and has a coloured LED to indicate charging. The PDF manual warns not to use the camera or unplug the cable during recharging due to risk of electric shock or fire (charger too weak?? - I need to do this while I repair electronics and can't waste 4 idle hours!) and even wait additional 10 minutes (for cooling?? - it won't get warm) before using the charged battery - this really doesn't help to improve my impression of safety of such lithium explosive charges. The original battery life isn't overly high (below 100 photos - no wonder with the large bright TFT and the beehive of humming stabilizer and motors). An annoying surprise is that the battery charge indicator keeps showing all 3 bars until it is almost empty, which increases the need of a 2nd battery or using the camera (against warnings) while charging. Beside wrist strap (you need it to avoid dropping the slippery small camera), instruction sheet and a CD with manuals and copyright notices there are no further accessories; no bag and not even an AV cable comes with it. Thus I ordered AV cable and external charger on eBay as cheap 3rd party replacements. While Samsung sells their original 850mA battery for absurd 35, on eBay you can get 2(!) generic ones with each 1300mAh for only 6 (didn't buy yet - higher energy density means more risk, and I fear they are unprotected detonating fuses ready to explode).

(I hope I will get used to the Samsung WB210. I already had got the mythical 6 megapixel Canon Digital Ixus 800IS (bought defective and repaired the zoom lens) that I failed to like so much that I never used this handbag camera. I think it somehow felt too small, heavy and hot, the stabilizer whines like mosquitoes and especially I just hate its too firm, rough and flimsy mode switch cog that I would need to crank hundreds of times a day to toggle between capture and album mode. After 43000 something pictures even my Jenoptik knob broke. Fortunately the WB210 has a button.)

- manual

The user manual comes only as PDF files (one per language) on CDROM. It looks well written without much Engrish gibber.

Embarrassing is only that the slide show scene change effect "Sweet" in the German manual and menu is named "Possierlich" - a word that verbosely translates into something like "possum-like", and which untranslatable meaning can be defined best as "the degree of visually resembling a (cute) small furry animal with whiskers". Being a friendlier denomination of "rodent-like", for a German it would be extremely unusual to use this in a general (non-animal-describing) manner for "cute" or "sweet" (at least unless you are in the "furry" cosplay scene or such oddities) and would surely result in big laughter. The correct neutral word (without rodent connotation - used for many lovely things like small animals, small children or pretty ornamented decorative objects) would be "niedlich". Also shake-blurred pictures in German are "verwackelt", not "verfackelt".

- connection

The WB210 takes Micro-SD (TF) cards (small and easy to loose). When plugged into USB, it is recognized as an USB storage device. The Intelli-Studio software that comes with it is not on the CD, but on a simulated USB CD-ROM drive that appears as a 2nd drive letter (unless disabled in menu) when the camera is plugged in. Intelli-Studio supports Windows XP/Vista/7 (not Mac). On my Win98SE with KernelEx it does install, but exits with an error when startet. My IBM Thinkpad 760XD crashes when plugged in with empty camera battery, because it can't deliver the charging current. Also my historical PC (Win98SE with AMD K6-3+@550MHz, DFI K6BV3+/66 mainboard and USB2.0 card) locks up while failing to access the fake USB CDROM. This may be a mainboard timing problem; powering the camera off ends the lockup. The camera works properly as USB drive when PC software is disabled in camera settings.

- touch screen GUI

This camera has no viewfinder, which might make trouble in bright sunlight (I don't care) and of course a touch screen camera has to be looked at during operation. The 3.5'' wide TFT looks clear has the claimed enormous resolution of 1152K pixel (likely divided into 3 colours) and 3 brightness steps ("Dark" is bright enough). There are only 3 buttons (power, playback, home) and the shutter/zoom combination. The touch screen seems to be capacitive (ignores insulating objects) which makes it very responsive, but increase EM radiation.

A comprehensive GUI description can be found on the thew's reviews site:
Samsung WB210 Touch-Screen Camera

The stylish "Smart Touch 3.0" touch screen GUI looks and works like with smartphones or tablet PCs (you can swipe and move things around and even manually sort the icons like apps); it seems to use Samsung's TouchWiz interface. Particularly the pretty (ticket clock style) clock/date setting screen looks like transplanted from a smartphone. Only the famous 2 finger pinch zoom gesture is missing (perhaps by lack of multitouch - it seems to recognize only the leftmost finger); in playback (album) mode you instead zoom in and out with the zoom lever (around the shutter button). When off, the playback button additionally powers the camera on without sticking the snout out. A bit annoying is that you can not zoom into photos while the camera is held rotated (unless you start zooming while unrotated) and shows an automatically rotated screen image (can be disabled). Zooming into rotated (upright) displayed photos does not fill the whole screen, but only its previously occupied rectangular area. When you zoom further out, you see the "Smart Album" in a 3x3 pictures thumbnail view and further out even in a 4x4 and 6x6 matrix that you can swipe up and down to see more. Great is that you can automatically sort folders by days, which helps retrieval of large photo collections. A bit stupid is that sorting can be only reached through the home screen 'Album' app, which needs a few clicks more and lacks 4x4 and 6x6 matrix. There is also a sorting with automatic face recognition and plenty of other face rubbish (blink and smile recognition, red eye fix, self-portrait positioning beeps and even wrinkle removal etc.) which I have really no use for. You can also mass-delete selected photos in thumbnail mode. However you can not manually create named folders or name photos (only add a 10s speech comment or record a separate voice memo file) to sort them, and you can not quickly step through photos while zoomed in (Ixus 800IS can do this) to compare and delete blurred ones. Nice is that there are basic photo edit features (hue, contrast, crop, reduce size etc.) built in.

Less nice is that (like buttons on modern toy music keyboards) the assignment of functionality to individual app icons seem to be rather designed for marketing (shop demo) than ergonomy. I.e. easiest to find are spectacular gimmicks rather then what you daily need, while other (technically similar) modes lack important menu items for no obvious reason. Many of them do similar things and should be better combined into one (I feel badly reminded to famiclone game consoles), but the menu structure in general isn't too complicated.

Some people complain that the touch screen would be less responsive then it should; IMO the screen itself responds nicely (needs no pressure), only its scan rate may be sometimes (depending on the selected mode) a little low, which can disturb the slick "momentum scrolling" of menus. The WB210 also focusses a bit sluggish (despite help by a red LED) and has a noticeable delay after taking a photo, and various settings are mutually exclusive without obvious reason. All this is likely result of the underpowered Zoran CPU, that was not designed for handling a complex animated realtime GUI. My old Jenoptik is even slower anyway, but my Canon Ixus 800IS responds feelable faster. Because the WB210 is solely menu based without direct manual control buttons, it may be no good choice for rapid snapshooting of disappearing motives (like sports or animals). It is similar like trying spontaneous live performances on a menu programmed music synthesizer without realtime sound controls, but for my application (mainly indoor photography of inanimate objects) the GUI seems okay.

- gimmicks & effects

But many functions are toy-like stage magic tricks - e.g. you can automagically play selected photos as a slideshow with several preset musics, trick effects and 3 frame themes. You can convert or take photos with fancy (postcard style) decorative frames, vintage looks, fake fisheye distortion, pencil drawing style and much more, and there are also such effects for videos, however like with cheap digital home keyboards, most of these gimmicks are fixed factory presets without any editable parameters. People those don't use photo editing programs certainly find these exiting, but they are nothing you can't do anyway on PC. Also the stylish GUI with its many icons, animations and sound effects, (unlike e.g. my Canon Ixus 800IS) doesn't seem to be customizable through user themes (nor supports additional apps); you can only add a start picture.

- shooting modes

When taking photos, most important is the "P Mode", which permits manual control over most parameters (except arperture and shutter speed). Beside normal stuff you can e.g. change sharpness, contrast and saturation, or focus on a touched spot. Nice is the ACB mode, which automatically optimizes contrast to brighten dark areas, and there is also an AEB mode (shoots 3 photos, externally combinable into HDR) and you can add some effects. The camera has 14 megapixel. Very annoying is that the smallest selectable photo resolution is 1M (1024x768), which even at lowest resolution eats 250KB despite in "Motion Capture" mode (a machine gun mode that fires bursts of always at least about 5 up to 30 photos) it solely shoots VGA (640x480) by its own. For recording thousands of banal technical details like the placement of cables, writing on capacitors or computer error message screenshots 250KB is a huge waste of memory. My Jenoptik can do 50KB pictures. And manually deleting those tons of superfluous machine gun photos spoils the speed benefit of the fast touch screen GUI. 50KB is fully sufficient for my music keyboard website to illustrate enlarged details. Only for photos with many small details (e.g. the main photo of a keyboard) I choose a multi-megapixel resolution (something like 1400KB) and manually compress it further. To take visually sharper photos than my Jenoptik highest resolution (4.1 megapixel) I have to select the 5M mode. But at least handheld with room light (incandescent ceiling lamp) resolutions above that IMO don't look much sharper anymore (tested with control panel writing of a music keyboard), so 14M is a waste of memory. The only benefit of having much more than 5 physical megapixel is better colour contours, because sensor pixels are divided into red, green and blue ones. Generally my old Jenoptik pictures look somehow a bit more honest and direct (may be its the harder contrast and sharpness without a software-corrected lens) despite its colours were often very off (in daylight dark violet turns light blue). But a super-wide-angle lens certainly has some limitations - else every digicam would have one.

Also video recording on the WB210 can be "officially" selected only in VGA and 2 HD (1280x720) modes (each either 15 or 30 fps), while the memory conserving QVGA (320x240) is buried in the "Easy Mode" and some gimmick menus. Video can be paused during recording and you can even take snapshots of them or cut out unwanted parts to conserve memory, but length is limited to 20 min (to avoid spoiling Samsung's camcorder sale?) and the tiny microphone is mono. Zooming is possible, but only at reduced speed (likely to reduce motor noise or to avoid blur by the slow autofocus).

The "Easy Mode" is extremely automated POS (POint-And-Shoot, or Piece-Of-Shit?); despite there are many available scene modes (each indicated by a fancy icon), this camera AI "Smart Auto 2.0" refuses any manual selection and decides solely by its own what is best. If this sorcerer's apprentice decides wrong and the motive is gone, you are lost. On the internet people e.g. complain that in the dark it selects macro when it should't. I have tried to shoot out of a window through a flyscreen, which at least in daylight works okay - you have to zoom in a little to tell the AI not to focus on it. Entering Easy Mode also always resets the flash strobe to "auto". (I hate and generally never use strobe since they cause whitish pictures full of reflections. The strobe current is also most stressing for average camera electronics and shortens its life.)

On the internet people often complain that the WB210 tends to overexpose the sky in sunny outdoor scenes (I don't care). Possibly they used wrong metering setting; the AEB feature can automatically shoot 3 differently exposed photos (useable for HDR) which may help to avoid this.

- wide-angle zoom lens

The optical zoom is up to 12x, followed by 5x digital zoom (unless a non-standard photo format/resolution or other incompatible modes disable it). At lowlight it would make more sense to permit digital zoom first because the zoom lens darkens the image. The macro focusses not closer than 6cm (others do more, but still sufficient to read tiny numbers on SMD components).

The objective has a great 24mm wide angle, and there is even a 21mm "Super Wide Shot" mode, which unfortunately is (again) fully automated and e.g. disables zoom, macro, white balance and all other fancy features. It would have made much more sense to include this into the manual "P Mode". Another mode is dedicated for nightshot with manual multi-seconds exposure and aperture (2 steps). In a position where my old Jenoptik potato e.g. shows horizontally only about 5 bathroom tiles, the WB210 shows 8, and in 21mm mode even 9. Unlike my expectation, to my eyes the fisheye distortion caused by this is (thanks software compensation?) surprisingly low. I found it always annoying that indoors with my old camera I could only put a much smaller portion of the room on a picture than I see with my eyes, so the wide-angle is a big improvement. The 21mm mode sees almost as much as one human eye.

- lowlight & poor stabilizer

Dim incandescent light photos (livingroom) look brighter and more colourful than with my old Jenoptik (both at ISO400), but also a little blurred and snowy (but certainly not worse than my (darker) Jenoptik photos with brightness increased on PC). Unfortunately the optical image stabilizer doesn't seem to be overly effective. Although it helps a bit in well lighted area, at least with zoom in lowlight you still need to care very much not to shake. (Even the mythical Ixus 800IS can't do this either.) Possibly it has no mechanical motion sensor and so fails to track snowy lowlight images properly, or it simply lacks an additional digital stabilizer that can overlay many high ISO photos by motion detection to compensate wider swings. Due to the wide angle lens you also have to zoom in to get the same view angle like my Jenoptik, which additionally darkens the sensor image. So although it focusses much better than my lousy Jenoptik, non-tripod lowlight shots always blur a bit, which makes it a waste of memory to set higher resolutions than 1M. May be I complain about flaws by physical restrictions those are completely normal with that size of camera, but IMO in lowlight a digicam should better choose digital zoom *before* optical - not least to have many surplus pixels left to perform digital image stabilization through motion detection. Interesting is that with lamp light and same ISO my 800IS seems to use a much higher shutter speed and its snow is generally more coloured (many blue pixels); also its live preview in lowlight is much brighter.

Maximum ISO is 3200, but already at ISO800 black begins to turn bluish (with pink snow on the rest) in the dark - especially with white balance set to incandescent; so to avoid silly colours better select here automatic white balance. The blue is likely a tinted noise floor from the image sensor, but things like this should get automatically compensated in software (much like it does with lens distortions and chromatic aberration). My old Jenoptik (has only ISO400) stays unuseably dark anyway in such extreme lowlight, but the 800IS doesn't fail with bluish snow.

Last edited by CYBERYOGI =CO= Windler; Feb 9, 2013 at 10:34 PM.
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Old Feb 9, 2013, 9:41 PM   #2
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Default Samsung WB210 review [part 2]

- poor lowlight video

Very annoying is the poor lowlight behaviour in video mode. Dark areas simply drown in pitch black, so it can't see the silver ghettoblaster in the corner of my kitchen (illuminated by 15W kitchen hood incan), and even modes with manual EV settings or 15fps don't help. My old Jenoptik can't do this either (Ixus 800IS is barely better), but the WB210 shows the image properly in live preview (when not filming), which proves that the "burnt" dynamic range is only a software bug. Perhaps Samsung feared to show snow, but since even cheap minicams with pinhead size lens (e.g. Aiptek T300LE) can do this better, I consider black (underexposed) lowlight video a very serious flaw that should not exist in modern cameras anymore.

- flimsy construction

Although major case parts are of metal, small parts are flimsy and easy to break. E.g. the 20 pin special connector (combined USB, charging, AV - pry-prone by too long plug) and micro-HDMI jack look like they won't survive a jammed grain of sand. Also the large and thin glass display and always protruding objective need to be protected against mechanical shock, so using the wrist strap and a hard shell case (I bought a cheap Hama one) is recommended. And not least the tiny Micro-SD cards are easy to loose or damage. I even read complaints that the fragile internal metal lens cover can scratch the lens when bent, thus be very careful not to squeeze small objects (like cable plug or wrist strap) between it and other surfaces (e.g. in bag or pocket). A softer plastic lens cover would prevent this. Because lens covers are intended to protect the lens and not cause damage by themselves, I rate this a major design flaw or even potential self-destruction mechanism.

Samsung should really rethink their constructions and design things durable instead of scaring off customers with planet polluting throwaway products. Additional money should be better made with the sale of apps (installable through USB without wifi) or useful unique accessories (e.g. large camera handle or portable tripod with manual buttons, more jacks and compartment for standard batteries | underwater case | snap-on lenses) than by limiting product lifespan. (This is also true for many other modern electronics companies.)

hardware info

The objective is labelled: "Schneider-KREUZNACH, VARIOPLAN 3.5/4.0-48.0mm 1:3.4/2.9-5.9 21mm/24mm". The maximum resolution is 4320x3240 (14MP) while the 7.76mm CCD sensor has technically 16.4MP (the rest is likely used for stabilizer).
Video uses H264. Photos are stored as JPEG files at 3 different compression rates. Some people complain that there was too much snow because of "too high compression" even at maximum quality setting. Seeing the large file size, I suspect that rather the opposite is true; while other cameras blur their snow by lossy compression, the WB210 compresses less and so keeps it visible. It also may do less aggressive post-processing (by slower CPU?).

Exciting is that the chipset is Zoran COACH (likely 12 or 13), which predecessors were used in many (often poorly working) cheap Aiptek and no-name mini camcorders, including early disposable cameras those have been well examined by firmware hackers. So it may be possible to port something like CHDK to the WB210 to overcome annoying restrictions. Not least because COACH is nowadays used in many name brand cameras (including Samsung, Casio, Fujifilm, Olympus), porting CHDK to the COACH platform would make a lot of sense. On the WB210 GUI zoom effects look less smooth than with modern smartphones and there are no animated rotations, which makes me conclude that the chip has no hardware 3D acceleration. On the CD that comes with the WB210 are beside manuals in many languages the following copyright notice files:

Code:
COACHOpenSource_Index.pdf
- (libpng, mscellaneous, zcam, libjpeg, gnu stdc++, ffmpeg)
COACHOpenSource_Introduction.pdf
- ("COACH Firmware package by Zoran Microelectronics Limited")
OpenSourceInfo.pdf
- (zlib)
On my memory card is a file /SYSTEM/DEVICE.XML that contains (among others) these entries:
Code:
        <ModelName 	  value="SAMSUNG CAMERA" />
        <BaseModelName   value="SAMSUNG WB210" />
        ...
        <Platform	    value="Zoran" lab="C12mHD" />
        ...
        <FirmwareUpdate  value="TURE">
        ...
            <CurrentVersion	  value="1108261" />
            <ProductionPlace  value="Global" />
            <Variation 	   value="" />
        </FirmwareUpdate >
        <VID	 value="1256" />
        <PID	 value="4890" />
A quite similar camera with wifi remote control through Samsung Android smartphones (but cheapish with boring 5x zoom lens) is the Samsung SH100. Possibly its control software may be useful to research the WB210 operating system. The GUI looks like Samsung's proprietary TouchWiz interface, which also exists on Samsung smartphones with various operating systems including Samsung's Bada or Android.


firmware:

The USA and EU version of the WB210 seem to differ, or at least take different firmware (due to HDMI regional codes??). I downloaded from Samsung the following versions:

Code:
WB210_DSP_U_SR_F1108264.zip (56MB, for US-version)

model: EC-WB210ZBPRUS
   Upgrade File (Firmware) (ver.1108264)  
   All OS   09.02.2012   MULTI LANGUAGE   55.24

   1. Title [WB210] The latest F/W (ver.1108264)
   2. Applicable Model WB210
   3. Carrier or Corporate Customer Open Market
   4. Description
      - This is the latest F/W for WB210 camera.
      - Improved video recording and HDMI.
      - Only USA released model.
      - You should use intelli-studio for upgrading firmware
Code:
WB210_DSP_G_SR_F1108261.zip (56MB, for non-US version)

model: EC-WB210ZBPBE3
   1. Title
   [WB210] The latest F/W (ver.1108261)
   2. Applicable Model
   WB210
   3. Carrier or Corporate Customer
   Open Market
   4. Description
   - This is the latest F/W for WB210 camera.
   - Improved video recording and HDMI.
   - Do not use USA released model.
   - You should use intelli-studio for upgrading firmware
The contents is intended to be placed in the root directory on the memory card in the camera and shall start automatically when disconnected from PC and powered on. (Updating the firmware may possibly delete the memory card, thus backup it before you proceed.)

Each firmware ZIP contains a ELF binary file (about 101MB)

WB210-DSP-1108261-full.elf
or
WB210-DSP-1108264-full.elf
and
FWUP.txt (string "upgrade dsp", likely starts the update process)

US and non-US version differ in many places and not just a single spot. A hex editor reveals in the ELF files plenty of unencrypted text, including copyright notices, many error and function names, but no onscreen messages or menu texts from the camera, so they may be compressed. But possibly these firmware upgrades are only partial, because the "Samsung WB2000 Firmware analysis" website mentions beside "dsp" plenty of other files with corresponding FWUP.txt update commands.

possible electronic component names in firmware:

SENSOR - SONY682_ADDI9004
LCD = SAMSUNG_AMFR001
SAMSUNG.SAMSUNG PL150 / VLUU PL150 / SAMSUNG TL210 / SAMSUNG PL151
SAMSUNG.SAMSUNG PL170,PL171 / VLUUPL170,PL171

A large portion of the about 100MB huge ELF files (56MB compressed) takes the "Intelli-Studio" virtual CDROM partition. I don't see a string "Android", but various references to "Google Maps" and "MySpaceIM" (part of "Intelli-Studio"?). Possibly existing hacks for Samsung mobile phone or tablet products may be adaptable to access this camera or install additional apps. Here are some websites to start:

Samsung WB2000 Firmware analysis
http://www.unternet.org/wiki/Firmwar...Samsung_WB2000

CameraHacking forum (Zoran COACH)
http://camerahacks.10.forumer.com

CHDK Forum
http://chdk.setepontos.com


eastereggs:

WARNING: The following hidden modes and menus were discovered by personal experimentation and internet search. I am not associated with Samsung and can not guarantee that they won't do harm to your camera. Samsung keeps them secret because they are not intended for end users and any damage by misusing them is not covered by warranty. Use them solely at your own risk.

With the described operations generally the correct order of holding controls matters, i.e. first (pressing and) holding 'tele' and then (pressing and) holding 'shutter' is different from holding 'shutter' and then 'tele'. Also the timing may be important. All entries start with the camera powered off.

silent mode

Holding 'playback' for 5s powers the camera on with all sound muted. (This is an official mode that is safe and documented in the user manual.)

reset all

With memory card inserted, holding 'wide' (zoom out), then 'shutter' and then pressing 'power' displays a short text, but the screen quickly goes blank; press now 'power' again without releasing 'wide' and 'shutter'. This turns the camera off and resets all settings (including time and language) to factory defaults and deletes all photos and videos on the internal memory (but *not* the card). Powering on will now restart the initial setup menu.

orange dot

There is a strange orange circular dot on the initial setup screen. Touching it does nothing. It may be a mouse pointer from a non-touch-screen (mouse?) based debug input mode.

service mode

Without memory card, holding 'wide' (zoom out), then 'shutter' and then pressing 'power on' displays firmware info (and makes stabilizer noise).

My camera shows here:
Code:
FW : 1108261-G(1202.0234.019a)


OIS_Ver :2.32
FULL   SR
S/N: ************


D0 : 1060 OK               PD0 : 4   OK
D1 : 2516 OK               PD1 : 12  OK
L0 : 1201 OK               L1 : 1201 OK
Name:  Samsung_WB210_serviceMode.jpeg
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DANGER!: The following procedures may permanently mess up your camera's fine tuning or do other harm (in worst case up to permanent damage that may make it unusable!). Although mine survived without bad side effects, I can not take responsibility for undesired results, so do not continue unless you know what you are doing. (If in doubt, press 'power' to exit.)

Pressing here 'playback' shows:
Code:
One Card Step 7
Wide - Reduce
Tele - Increase
Shutter1 - Initialize
The number behind "One Card Step" changes between 0 and 254 with the zoom lever (above 254 it flips over to 0, but you can not step below 0 to flip back to 254). Pressing 'shutter' changes the number to 0. I don't know what this does. Each number may reset one of 255 items to its factory default or what ever. Perhaps it can even format something, thus be careful and better do not press 'shutter' until it has been investigated what this is for.

Pressing here 'tele'(zoom in) for one second shows:
Code:
Ptp Adj disabled


To toggle

press Right or Left
'wide' or 'tele' toggle here the word "disabled" into "enabled".

The following mode looks like a really dirty hack to adjust something like brightness and colour of the image sensor. Possibly this can fix the overexposed photo problem mentioned on the internet, but it also may be just a harmless test mode for something, or even a jump into dead code fragments those are not functional anymore in the released version.

Once you select "Ptp Adj enabled" and power off, powering on with the 'playback' button (important!) enters a strange faulty "P Mode" (aka poo mode) that shows an empty info box and a floating small English text "P Mode" (even in German language version, where the regular one is named "P-Modus").

Name:  Samsung_WB210_pooMode1.jpeg
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The entire mode is a big mess full of flicker and anomalies; it looks like when it causes all kinds of race conditions and other realtime atrocities like violently intercepting interrupts and throwing wrenches into running tasks. You can not even exit with the 'home' button. Zoom, shutter and most icons do nothing ('timer' icon looks like a 2nd 'flash auto' icon).

Name:  Samsung_WB210_pooMode1Menu.jpeg
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The menu here only contains 'Photo Size' and 'Timer'; selecting any of them and tapping 'ok' enters a new mode with unknown icon (tapping it shows an empty info box) and across the live preview 2 horizontal sliders labelled "brightness" and "color", those end icons (coloured fruit photos) have to be tapped to move the sliders (you can not simply drag them).

Name:  Samsung_WB210_pooMode2.jpeg
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Both sliders have a barely visible center mark to indicate a default position. Possibly they can tweak the image sensor behaviour or such things, but you can't take photos in this mode, and the live preview image looks the same. The slider settings are saved, so they reappear at their positions when this mode is visited later. If they do anything to the sensor, then changes are very subtle (photos don't look different, and it won't fix lowlight issues). It also may be that the sliders have no designed purpose at all, but are only side effect of a wrong subroutine address table or debug data spoiling return addresses on a CPU stack. Because the 'home' button doesn't work, to get back to the app icons press 'playback' to see the album mode, from where you can exit with the 'home' button. From here the behaviour looks normal. (Pressing 'playback' again enters the regular "P Mode"). Powering off with 'power' button quickly displays in the top row "PM END...POWER OFF". (But this won't change the camera behaviour back to normal).

Powering on with 'power' button causes a non-working touch screen (home screen icons etc. don't work at all).

WARNING!: The *only* proper way to permanently exit this broken mode is to go into the service mode again and select "Ptp Adj disabled". (Battery removal or reset doesn't help here!)

Also other Samsung cameras seem to suffer of this poo mode (websearch "P mode" + "PM END" + "POWER OFF"). In forums people suggest that this may be a debug mode, and that it sometimes turns itself on when a Samsung camera got wet. So far I understand, it can be only terminated by entering the hidden service mode and setting "Ptp Adj disabled". (Hold 'wide', hold 'shutter', press power, release all and press 'tele' for 1 second, use zoom lever to toggle it, exit with 'power'.) To make it clear, you do *not* need new firmware to fix this, and the poo mode (despite it displays the word "P Mode") has nothing to do with the regular "P Mode" (which is a great feature of the normal Samsung user interface for manual shooting mode control).

I read on the internet that the abbreviation "ptp" may stand for "Picture Transfer Protocol" (used to sends pictures to computer or printers - e.g. for remote capture commands), so "Ptp Adj" may be originally intended to adjust something related. However another interpretation of "PTP" is "Precision Time Protocol", which is used to synchronize clocks through a computer network, which e.g. can be the timing between realtime processors needed for proper hardware multitasking. Messing this up would explain erratic behaviour with flicker and touch screen fail, and if code bank switching fails or interrupts collide, it would also explain the menu mess.

I first got panic and thought I had bricked it when during experimentation suddenly the camera did not power on anymore and only showed a flashing green LED, but it turned out that only the battery was empty.

unknown 1

With memory card inserted, holding 'tele' (zoom in), then 'shutter' and then pressing 'power' makes the green LED flicker but TFT stays off and no response. Also 'playback' does nothing. 'power' exits this mode. (This only seems to work after reset when no photo mode was selected yet, else it starts in that photo mode.)

unknown 2

With memory card inserted, holding 'tele' (zoom in), then 'shutter' and then pressing playback makes the green LED flicker but TFT stays off and no response. Also 'playback' does nothing. 'power' exits this mode.

(I don't know how dangerous the hidden modes are. I have no WB210 service manual but only read one of the Samsung S630/S730 compact camera from 2007 (COACH 8 CPU, no touch screen GUI). Despite it has a service mode (accessed from its voice recording mode), any dangerous internal adjustments are not done from there, but by placing on its memory card a TXT file with fixed special name ("STS373ADJ.txt") that can contain many different batch file commands and is automatically executed (and then deleted?) when the S630 is powered on. The adjustment process consists of placing the camera on a special test bench (with controlled light setups, charger voltages etc.) and powering on the camera for each adjustment with a different "STS373ADJ.txt" copied to its card. Thus without such a file nothing bad should happen with a S630, but I don't know if the service mode is also safe with the WB210. At least I see many of the scripting language commands also in the downloaded WB210 firmware, which suggests that the WB210 is likely adjusted through a similar batch file mechanism (here "FWUP.txt"?) rather than hidden menu items those damage things accidentally.

The S630 service manual is mainly about schematics and replacing mechanical parts; it does not explain the scripting language except containing the individual batch files for adjustment (of dead sensor pixels, lens shading, strobe timing, battery voltage sensor etc.). On an intact camera no hobbyist should ever mess with these, because most adjustments need a special test bench without that you can not put things back to defaults to make the camera work properly - doing so *will for sure void warranty*. Most commands seem to immediately write changed settings into flash rom. The command "adj_check e2p_read start address, end address" apparently can backup the "EEPROM" (i.e. flash rom??) contents to the memory card. I don't know if there is a command for executing external programs like CHDK. Interesting is that beside the normal firmware update mode there is the "FULL firmware1" upgrade that can be used when the camera is bricked so badly that it doesn't turn on anymore. The service technician performs this by shorting 3 special pins on the PCB and powering on with inserted memory card containing this firmware (waiting until power consumption drops from 200mA to 0 to see when it is finished). After this he has to execute the LENS SHADING and CCD DEFECTIVE CELL adjustment procedures. I am neither a Samsung technician nor own a S630, so everything you may do with this info is solely at your own risk.)

- Has anybody the Samsung WB210 service manual to explain its hidden modes?
Attached Files
File Type: zip Samsung_WB210_hiddenModePicts.zip (64.0 KB, 25 views)

Last edited by CYBERYOGI =CO= Windler; Feb 9, 2013 at 10:06 PM.
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Old Feb 9, 2013, 9:54 PM   #3
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Default Samsung WB210 review [part 3]

upgrade wishes

These are some improvement wishes for the Samsung WB210 (items sorted by priority).

what it really needs:
- selectable 50KB VGA photos in "P Mode" & editor resize
- working lowlight video (setting higher ISO/EV)
- QVGA video in "SD Video" mode
- selectable scene modes in "Easy Mode"

other suggestions:
- "Super Wide Shot" in "P Mode" & video
- disable strobe in "Easy Mode"
- video recording in "P Mode"
- 25fps video for smooth PAL playback
- faster video zoom (despite motor noise)
- playback zoom when rotated
- playback zoom by 2-finger pinch or by double-tap+dragging
- playback compare photos while zoomed (e.g. by momentum scroll)
- compensate bluish black at high ISO
- in lowlight use digital zoom before optical
- nameable photo files & folders
- fix poor translations ("possierlich" etc.)
- downloadable apps (Samsung could make money with these!)
- theme support/ customizable GUI
- webcam mode
- eBook reader (offline HTML browser+PDF, e.g. for viewing schematics)
- paint program
- flashlight app (plain white or coloured TFT light)
- colorimeter program? (monitor adjustment)
- use focus LED + image sensor as *optical* wifi ;-)
- music player?? (is sound output stereo?)


Summary

The Samsung WB210 is a nice camera with great wide angle mode, intuitive touch screen GUI and many gimmicks, but it has some quirks and some modes are too automated. I love the sharp TFT and album mode. Most annoying are the lack of VGA photos and the underexposed lowlight video.

(items sorted by priority)

positive:
+ big and well working touch screen.
+ no wifi radiation
+ mechanical image stabilizer
+ manual "P Mode" (contrast, colours etc.)
+ great wide angle mode
+ fast photo album access
+ basic photo editing
+ nice & easy GUI
+ gimmicks

negative:
- no 50KB (VGA) photos & size change
- too black lowlight video
- stubborn "Easy Mode" (no manual scene select, strobe starts on)
- special Li-Ion battery
- no external charger
- too few accessories (no AV cable & bag)
- image stabilizer poor in lowlight
- bluish black at high ISO

lesser flaws:
- no "Super Wide Shot" in "P Mode" or video
- no QVGA in "SD video" mode
- no programmability (like CHDK, add apps, edit effects, RAW mode?)
- flimsy metal lens cover (may scratch lens if bent)
- flimsy special connectors
- no playback touch zoom
- macro only 6cm
- no stereo microphone
- too coarse battery indicator
- battery consumption
- slightly illogical menus
- increased EM radiation by capacitive touch screen
- mic records stabilizer beep
- slightly warped picture (pincushion)
- small & slippery
- a bit snowy
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Old Apr 4, 2013, 10:40 PM   #4
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Some more notes about the WB210. With plenty of daylight it isn't that bad.

Today I photographed some old music keyboards and their original boxes. When set to ISO80 and held very steady (I pressed my arms against a chair backrest against shake), the picture is indeed less snowy than my Jenoptik, and there is now indeed a small visible difference between 5M and higher resolutions when there is absolutely no shake (as difficult as with my Jenoptik without tripod, despite stabilizer). E.g. on a perfect full scale picture of a keyboard box I now indeed can read most of the small text (even on the depicted keyboard control panel). Also the "normal" and "fine" compression mode make a small difference at fine structures. The "super fine" (twice file size) mode otherwise is a waste of memory and only shows more snow. It might make sense with very hard to compress pictures (like fine fractal shape rug patterns) where the JPEG algorithm fails.

Perhaps I should install some kind of broomstick mount at the ceiling as a kind of upside-down hanging tripod (like a submarine periscope?) that takes no space on floor.

The WB210 sometimes over- or underexposes depending on the motive, so I have to manually tweak EV for good contrast. In macro closeups the rim tends to blur a bit, thus it is a good idea to zoom out and hold the camera a bit farer away (which otherwise increases shake - not good to show the copper traces on electronics PCB). I also sometimes accidentally click touchscreen icons with the left thumb while holding the camera.

The battery drains roughly as fast as in my Jenoptik, but I bought now 4 additional used original batteries + external (cheap Chinese) charger to recharge the Li-Ion grenades in a strongbox outside the digicam.
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Old May 16, 2013, 9:52 PM   #5
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Here is some more experience with my WB210. I now tried a clamp tripod on a chair backrest to photograph music keyboard hardware in ISO 80 mode. In daylight this way I can get nicely sharp pictures with well readable control panel writing and visible individual PCB traces.

But because the whole contraption is wacky, I always need to select the 2s selftimer to compensate tripod shake caused by pressing the shutter button. Anoying is that this selftimer disables itself after one shot, so I need to re-select it every time (needs several menu clicks) to take multiple photos. (I additionally turn off the stabilizer, which vibration is claimed in manual to increase shake when used on tripod.) Because I only use "P-Mode", I have to scroll around in a long menu full of unneeded features, which is a bit awkward (and confusing when tired). This camera really lacks a feature to save user presets for the most used manual shooting settings.

Another annoyance is that the zoom steps are too coarse, so without height adjustable tripod it is often impossible to make a motive fill the screen exactly. How ever because the lens (independent from zoom) anyway always blurs the outer rim, I strictly recommend to use the next higher resolution, make the motive only fill 3/4 of the screen and then crop the taken photo by menu.

And I think I know now what the common complaints about the "unresponsive touchscreen" mean. They seem to affect mainly scrolling in zoomed photo playback mode. The image here moves jerky and often keeps scrolling for another second after lifting the finger, which makes it hard to precisely center the motive for cropping. Sometimes even the scrolling direction seems wrong. I am not sure if this is a bug in momentum scrolling algorithm or an electrical issue. On-screen buttons also respond worse when on a tripod the camera case is not held in hands, so it seems to need the metal case as the electric return pole to make the touch sensor respond well.

With picture quality I notice that red is often rendered a bit too glowing. (But colours are not that ridiculously wrong as the light blue "violet" of my old Jenoptik.) Unlike my Jenoptik, once the WB210 considers its battery empty, it will not turn on again until you charge or replace it. (Waiting doesn't help.) So owning more than one battery is strictly necessary to stay ready for snapshots.

The Samsung WB210 is useable and has a nicely big hires screen, but (not unlike my Jenoptik) it has quirks you need to learn to work around to take good pictures.
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