Camera Review: Samsung NV3

The Samsung NV3's MP3 player and built-in stereo speakers will appeal to multi-function gadget lovers, but overall image quality won't impress the serious shooter.

Camera-Review-Samsung-NV3
Camera-Review-Samsung-NV3
Samsung NV3

Camera Review: Samsung NV3CG800256KSamsungNV3If you were asked to design the ultimate pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, what would you build into it? Would it be a tank-like design? Made of strong, black satin-like heavy gauge stainless steel? Maybe with a touch of color and some brushed, silver hued stainless trim to go along with it? You'd also give it at least 7MP and maybe a 3x 38-114 f/3.5-4.5 (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The controls you design will be solid and match the rest of the camera's build and aesthetics. How about being a portable media player, MP3 player and e-book reader as well? And of course, you couldn't have a point and shoot these days without NTSC quality video. And just for fun, let's throw in some external stereo speakers to get the full audio experience during playback. Since you're going for groundbreaking, you've even rethought the battery charger, which can hook into either a wall socket or a USB slot, so that the camera charges while you're downloading your images. And you'd encase all of this in a cool retro styling that's almost Leica-like, but with a hint of neon. Your camera will feel good when you hold it too, because after all, this is supposed to be the ultimate pocket-sized point and shoot camera. And finally, since it is designed as the ultimate point-and-shoot camera, image quality is paramount. It needs to look great and shoot great as well. Congratulations, in concept, you have single-handedly designed a camera that the engineers at Samsung call the NV3 (street: $235). While it shares this list of features and abilities, the NV3 falls disappointingly short in that most important area, image quality.

If you were asked to design the ultimate pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, what would you build into it? Would it be a tank-like design? Made of strong, black satin-like heavy gauge stainless steel? Maybe with a touch of color and some brushed, silver hued stainless trim to go along with it? You'd also give it at least 7MP and maybe a 3x 38-114 f/3.5-4.5 (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The controls you design will be solid and match the rest of the camera's build and aesthetics. How about being a portable media player, MP3 player and e-book reader as well? And of course, you couldn't have a point and shoot these days without NTSC quality video. And just for fun, let's throw in some external stereo speakers to get the full audio experience during playback. Since you're going for groundbreaking, you've even rethought the battery charger, which can hook into either a wall socket or a USB slot, so that the camera charges while you're downloading your images. And you'd encase all of this in a cool retro styling that's almost Leica-like, but with a hint of neon. Your camera will feel good when you hold it too, because after all, this is supposed to be the ultimate pocket-sized point and shoot camera. And finally, since it is designed as the ultimate point-and-shoot camera, image quality is paramount. It needs to look great and shoot great as well.

Congratulations, in concept, you have single-handedly designed a camera that the engineers at Samsung call the NV3 (street: $235). While it shares this list of features and abilities, the NV3 falls disappointingly short in that most important area, image quality.

* Image Quality GalleryWhat's Hot: MP3 player External Stereo Speakers Full functioning zoom during video HDR Imaging through the "Wise Shot" mode Excellent value What's Not: Poor image quality Zoom toggle that works inconsistently Below average optics

"NV" stands for "New Voyage," and the 3 is the entry level digicam in Samsung's new premium line of digital cameras. In electronics techno-speak, the NV3 is known as a "convergence model," meaning that not only is it a camera, but an NTSC quality video camera, a stylish MP3 player with external stereo speakers built into the camera and other features. Not only can you shoot your images, but you can also listen to AC/DC's "Back in Black" in stereo while you're doing it. How cool is that? Samsung calls this "Sensory Pleasure" and I personally have to agree.

The NV3 uses a sharp, contrasty 2.5 inch LCD that is viewable from almost any angle. Like many point and shoot models, the LCD is the only viewfinder option. The menu is sleek, easy to read and simple to follow. Both modes use the full 230,000 pixels, making the camera's focus amazingly accurate. Another nice focus feature we discovered while shooting is the NV3's "Auto macro" feature. In most similar cameras, you have to switch to a macro focusing mode, but the NV3 does this automatically (many Casio Exilim models have a similar feature, but only in low-resolution eBay mode). Just place the camera as close as you want, all the way down to two inches, and it'll focus without your changing the focus preference. For this level of camera, this is an impressive feature.

Another feature that is unusual in similar cameras is the ability for the camera to rack the zoom while shooting video. In many similar models, you must stop shooting, adjust the focal length and begin shooting once again. With the NV3, you can do this on the fly with a minimal amount of noise introduced into the clip. It's a really nice touch, as it allows for seamless video, without jumps and breaks.

The NV3 has an audio coprocessor, which allows the full stereo sound to play and not rob the rest of the camera of its resources. Samsung built in a plethora of sound choices for camera functions too, including rock and jazz sounds that can be changed to suit your personal style.

Great Photo Features & Great Extras, But Disappointing Image Quality

The NV3 has only 10 scene modes for quick settings optimization in different conditions -- less than many competing cameras. Samsung has made a clear distinction between scene modes and "Shooting Modes," which are Auto, Program, Scene and ASR. The ASR stands for "Advanced Shake Reduction" and is a digital image stabilization system. My only real complaint with this is that by design, the image stabilization should be available and activated for any shot that needs it. Considering all of the auto features that are built into the camera, it's a little surprising that Samsung engineers failed to incorporate this technology into all of the scene and shooting options rather than require you to manually turn this function on. Samsung has also built in some monochrome modes as well, allowing you to shoot black and white, sepia and other monochrome settings. Another interesting feature is "Wise Shot," which shoots two images at the same time and compares them, keeping only the better shot. Again, for the street price, this is an awesome feature.

While shooting with the NV3 was a nice experience, the zoom toggle was noticeably clumsy. Using the zoom, it would stop intermittently and if you didn't know better, you'd think that the lens had reached the maximum or minimum focal length. Push the toggle a little more and the lens begins zooming once again. It's a minor flaw, but it's more noticeable because the rest of the camera is such a high build quality.

Equally disappointing was the image quality. The other cameras in the NV line use Schneider-Kreuznach lenses and say so on the lens barrel. This lineage stamp is noticeably missing from the NV3 though, which is disappointing. Perhaps this is partly to blame for the disappointing image quality.

Like many other point-and-shoot cameras, the NV3 suffers from noticeable shutter lag, but is greatly improved by depressing the shutter half way to keep the camera "warmed up" for shooting. Samsung claims that the NV3 can shoot an unlimited number of frames without delays, but the real-life results show that you can expect to shoot five to 10 shots without the camera stopping to write to the SD card. Shooting 10 frames continuously took about 6.5 seconds, or about 1.5 frames per second. These results are middle-of-the-road for many comparable point-and-shoots. Writing these images took 12 seconds, which again, is typical of cameras comparable to the Samsung.

Another item that would set this camera apart from other models is designing two SD card slots into the unit. Since this camera has so many different functions that require the use of an SD card, it would be groundbreaking to have two slots and give the user the option of choosing which card they want to place images onto. This way, if you download a movie to watch, or listen to music and don't want to use up your imaging card holding the 1000 or so MP3 files you have, you can store the images on card number two. By having a dual card slot, there is no need to worry about overwriting, running out of room or having to change cards out when you see something you want to photograph. And let's face it, most of us will elect for four $25 1GB SD cards rather than the $200 4GB SD card. Having two slots would alleviate many issues.

Overall, the NV3 is a pleasing camera for casual snapshooters and multi-function gadget types. If having a wad of gizmos in one compact unit is your thing, then the NV3 may well be the answer to your wishes. It's a shame though that high quality imaging has taken a back seat to gizmos in this model, and Samsung would do well to review this. If you raised the quality of the lens and image processing and added to the price, it would still be a great deal for a camera with this build quality and feature set at $100 more.

In the Box:
NV3 Camera
Software CD
Printed Operations Manual
Charger for wall and USB with cable
USB Cable
Li-Ion Battery
Hand strap
Specs:
94.5 X 57 X 17.5mm
142g without battery and card
SD card slot
7.2 MP
JPEG, AVI and MPEG-4 format
38-114mm f/3.5-4.5 (35mm equivalent)

In-Black-and-White-mode-the-Samsung-produced-a-go
In-Black-and-White-mode-the-Samsung-produced-a-go
In Black and White mode, the Samsung produced a good representation of what a black and white image should look like.Mark Lent
The-NV3-s-poor-lens-quality-is-apparent-in-images
The-NV3-s-poor-lens-quality-is-apparent-in-images
The NV3's poor lens quality is apparent in images that demand crispness in the details. Overall, it's an amazing camera, but falls short in image quality.Mark Lent
One-surprising-feature-is-that-the-NV3-can-focus-i
One-surprising-feature-is-that-the-NV3-can-focus-i
One surprising feature is that the NV3 can focus in macro mode on the fly.Mark Lent
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