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Samsung NV3 - Digital
this to say about the camera:
as a high resolution 7.2 mega-pixel digital camera, the NV3 is both a
luxurious and practical multimedia device sure to attract the next generation
of digital photographers. Encased in a thin 17.5mm case, it also acts
as an MP3 player using a special audio processing chip delivering 3D,
Jazz, Rock, and other sound effects. The NV3 includes a Portable Multimedia
Player (PMP) for realistic movie sounds. The NV3 also doubles as a digital
camcorder with MPEG-4 TVD (720x480) 20fps &; VGA (640x480) 30fps with
Auto Gain Control (AGC) technology to minimise zoom noise during video
recording. A text viewer allows the user to read text on the LCD, or to
use as an e-book, whilst the multi-tasking ability enables you to listen
to music while taking pictures."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - There is no memory card provided with the camera, instead the camera has 15mb of internal memory - this is worse than a lot of other cameras, and you should invest in a much larger memory card. Some kind of case would be very useful. There is an optical docking station available for the camera.
The Samsung NV3 adds stereo speakers, a tripod socket, new flash mode (called "Wise shot"), a 7 megapixel sensor, ISO1000, higher resolution video recording (720x480) and a smaller body... when compared to the Samsung Digimax i6. Some of the other unique and interesting features the NV3 (and i6) have are explained below:
PMP / Portable Media Player: The Samsung NV3 with a high resolution 2.5" screen, built in speakers and headphone socket, is well suited as a compact and portable media player - the digital camera supports XVID video recording and playback. The XVID video format is a high compression video format that allows a good length video to fit in a small amount of memory, for example a 60 minutes video at 320x240 resolution and 30fps would take around 260mb - meaning you should be able to fit nearly 2 hours on a 512mb card assuming nothing else is on the memory card. The Samsung comes with XVID video codec software for playback on the PC, plus XVID codec encoding software called Samsung Digimax Convertor that will allow you to convert the majority of video files into a suitable XVID video for playback on the Digimax i6. Converting a 60 minute file on a 1.5ghz "Centrino" laptop took around 30 minutes (a 5 minute video took 2.5 minutes - compared to iTunes 7 this is very quick, as iTunes takes around 18 minutes to convert the same video and manages to loose the sound!).
After converting the file, you will need to copy the file to folder called PMP on your memory card. You can fast forward or rewind at 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, or 32x. Converted files can be played back in Windows Media Player, and unfortunately for Apple users, Samsung Digimax Convertor is only available for Windows 2000 / XP computers. If the video source is in widescreen you can crop it or stretch it to fit the full screen of the NV3. Battery life: I was able to play videos for 2 hours and 10 minutes and then the battery went flat - if you need to watch videos for longer than this then you'll need to either plug the camera into the charger or buy a second battery.
MP3 Player: The MP3 player is very easy to setup and use, simply copy your MP3s to a folder called MP3 on your memory card.
Battery life: I was able to play MP3s repeated for around 3 hours and 50 minutes - this is with the screen off which automatically switches itself off when you're not pressing any buttons. You can take 3 megapixel photos while listening to MP3s, however as soon as you exit the MP3 mode or enter the MP3 player's menu, MP3 playing will stop, and loose your current position in the track you are playing. Going between tracks and stopping starting tracks is very responsive (slightly more responsive than a Video iPod (5.5g) due to the iPods hard drive).
Battery usage: Battery life seemed good, using the provided battery I was able to take around 125 photos. MP3 playback ran for around 3 hours and 50 minutes. Video playback lasted for 2 hours and 10 minutes. If you need longer than this then I would recommend you buy a second battery.
Operation and Options: The
control dial on top of the camera lets you select the camera mode from:
Program, Auto, Text, PMP, MP3, Video, Scene, and ASR. This is an improvement
over the Digimax i6, which made you choose the camera mode within the
Photo mode / menu: (some screens from the Digimax i6, as they are identical)
In photo mode you can also access an audio recording mode by pressing up twice on the 4-way controller. Scene mode selections: Nightscene, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach and Snow. The nightscene mode has a "trick" feature allowing you to manually set the shutter and aperture when you press the +/- button, the shutter settings are Auto, 1s - 16seconds, and aperture settings are Auto, F3.5 - F6.3 (wide) and F4.5 - F8.0 (telephoto).
Effect Menu / +/- Menu Options:
The E button brings up the effect menu where you can alter colour, highlight areas, take multi-frame shots, or frame images with a cartoon frame. The +/- button is where you can find RGB, ISO, White Balance and Exposure compensation options - these options aren't available in AUTO mode.
Setup Menu / Playback
Mode / Menu:
Screen / LCD display in play mode: (shown above, right) The screen resolution with 230,000 pixels is very good and pictures look clear on it. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The screen is slightly reflective, but blacks are good. Playback mode: Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. Zooming in is very quick and magnifies the image up to 12x. Zooming out shows 9 images at a time as thumbnails. The menu system is somewhat confusing, pressing menu will allow you to resize and rotate photos, while the E button allows you to alter the colour of the image, or fix red-eye.
MP3 / PMP
/ Text Screens:
MP3 playback: This shows a background image of your choice - there are two default backgrounds provided or you can use your own photo or image if you want. The screen switches off automatically after a while. PMP video playback: The screen at 2.5" is a good size, however, if you play wide-screen videos then the image becomes quite small. The built in speakers arequite loud, or you can use the earphones provided. Text Reader: features MP3 playback, autoscroll etc.
Optical / Electronic Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number will fit in the built in memory (when the build in MP3, Video, and Text files are left on):
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. You can fit a very limited number of 7mp Fine images on the built in memory, and you will definitely need to buy a larger memory card, especially if you want to store MP3s or videos.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you intend to use the PMP or MP3 features of this digital camera then you would be best with a 1GB or 2GB memory card. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Samsung NV3:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6,
1gb (1000mb): £11,
2gb (2000mb): £25
Speed: The camera's switch on time is fairly quick but could be quicker, and takes around 2 seconds to switch on and become ready to take a photo. Focusing is quick at around 0.4 seconds - shutter response is a bit slow at around 0.2 seconds. Shot to shot time is around 2 seconds, with flash on this slows down to around 3 seconds between shots. Playback mode is quick, and its easy to zoom in on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is quick but you can also get an overview of 9 shots at a time if you zoom out one more notch. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. Continuous shooting is a bit sluggish taking 1.1 second or more for each shot (slower than 1fps) and the screen switches off meaning you can't see what you are taking photos of.
Ease of use: Using the camera is fairly straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, however, when you want to use some of the more advanced features of the camera it can becomes more complicated, due to some of the hidden functions (such as the +/- button and audio recording). Switching between the modes is easy thanks to the mode dial on top of the camera and once you find all the options the camera becomes fairly easy to use, and it is fairly easy to use the more basic functions of the camera - for example it's easy to switch the the MP3 or PMP mode and use those parts of the camera. Using the Advanced Shake Reduction system is somewhat of a learning curve as best results are acheived in fairly limited lighting conditions. The confusing menu system of the Digimax i6 has definitely been improved thanks to the mode dial.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels solid, with a robust metal body. The stylish design and colour scheme looks very good. However there isn't much that your thumb can grip onto, and the front of the camera is completely flat, so style 1, handling 0. The zoom control is fairly easy to use, however I personally prefer horizontal controls that you press left or right rather than the vertical control fround on the NV3. There is a built in tripod mount which is an improvement when compared to the Digimax i6. The strap loop is very stylish. The camera labels are fairly clear although the +/- button was fairly cryptic, and the playback button doesn't stand out. The buttons and controls are all positioned so that the camera can be operated with one hand.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Samsung NV3 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is red-eye in the photo, and there is noticable redeye in the group photo - the built in red-eye reduction does help, however it will occassionally correct the wrong thing (an example can be viewed here). The colour is very richly saturated and detail is average. It has a fairly decent flash, and copes well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept fairly low in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light.
ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel, Fujifilm FinePix F30, (which is currently the benchmark compact camera for noise tests due to it's excellent high ISO performance), and 7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm FinePix F30 on the left, Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS on the right. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance.
The NV3 appears to have more aggressive noise reduction, resulting is less detail, when compared to it's predecessor, the Samsung i6, and the NV3 appears to have even more saturated colour, which is surprising considering the i6 already had strongly saturated colour. Compared to the IXUS 850,the NV3 appears to have much lower noise at ISO80 and ISO100 although this does mean there is also less detail. The NV3 appears to use much stronger noise reduction when compared to the 7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS. ISO80 and ISO100 produce good results. ISO200 produces acceptable results, and ISO400 should probably be avoided. The NV3 shows a dramatic loss of colour (greens become grey) at ISO800 and above, rendering these modes much less useful. For best results I would recommend you use ISO400 or below. The NV3 and IXUS 850 IS are unable to produce images that are as noise free and detailed as the Fujifilm FinePix F30 in this test, except perhaps at the lowest ISO settings of ISO80 and ISO100.
ASR / Advanced Shake Reduction: The Samsung Digimax NV3 and i6 features ASR / "Advanced Shake Reduction" - this is a software based blur reduction system, it is designed to enable low light shots without flash, with sharp results, and accurate colour. It works by combining a slow shutter photo (with full colour information) with a fast shutter photo (with sharp edges) in order to generate a natural coloured sharp photo. There are some limitations to this, in that the subject and camera have to remain quite still, unlike other anti-shake / image stabilisation systems, and the camera takes two photos which isn't as instant as just taking one photo. Samsung explain it on this page. (examples taken with the Digimax i6)
Examples: Flash on, Flash off, ASR - The photo using the flash appears the sharpest and most detailed with good colour and low noise, although the background is quite dark, and there is obvious flash reflection. The photo without the flash is blurry and dark, but the background wall can be seen. The photo using ASR produces a fairly sharp picture with good colour, both in the subject and in the background, although noise is quite high. Attempting to use ASR outside at night produces photos that were drastically underexposed, as the slowest shutter speed was 1 second - using night scene mode, the shutter speed was 16 seconds.
It is a clever idea, and works well in some situations, but I can see it's limitations compared to other camera manufacturers methods which are: (software based) using high ISO settings to enable higher shutter speeds and freeze subjects (Olympus, Casio, Panasonic, Fuji etc), and (hardware based) using anti-shake CCD / image stabilisation / vibration reduction lenses to combat camera shake. The more "traditional" methods generally work to avoid camera shake, whereas using the ASR version it is more difficult to avoid the camera shaking - in fact the manual recommends the subject and camera stays still. In some situations the ASR mode seems counter-active, as it disables the flash, and occassionally seems to use slower shutter speeds compared to the normal mode. I think it would be better labelled as a "Natural light" mode rather than an anti-shake mode... as the ASR mode works well in limited situations as it seems designed for indoor use (the manual states that ASR doesn't activate if lighting is brighter than "Flourescant lighting"), and can be confusing, and dissapointing when it doesn't work (at night) or isn't available (in bright daylight). ASR works fairly well for macro photos in low light, as long as you can hold the camera fairly still.
New "Wise Shot" mode: "This feature automatically shoots the subject twice successively -one time with anti-shake ASR and another with flash light. The LCD screen splits into four sections then, and displays both pictures along with an enlarged view of reach. You can compare the images and check the noise, clearness, light and other factors using the enlarged versions, and then save the best of the two shots"
Outside: The camera has rich, saturated colour wirh good contrast and fairly good detail. Some may find the colour saturation too high. Noise was low in ISO50 photos. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts.
Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 5x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom is capable of.
Exposure The photos of the clock tower seem well exposed, with an detail in the dark areas, and detail in the clouds. This could be altered using exposure compensation. There is some slight purple fringing on some edges mainly on the 3x optical zoom photo.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is silent in operation. There are seven steps between wide and telephoto zoom, this gives you fairly good control over how you frame your subject.
Quality issues: Purple fringing was difficult to detect in any normal
photos, although there was some in the telephoto clock tower photo.
The macro mode allows you to be 5 cm away from the subject - this is gets good close up shots, although detail seemed a little bit low. The super macro mode is very impressive, allowing you to be 1 cm away from the subject - this gives you fairly good detail but the image seems slightly soft! Custom white balance helps get better colours, and automatic white balance wasn't as good on the NV3 as it is on a Canon Digital IXUS I was testing at the same time.
Video mode: The camera features a very good video mode - it records 720 x 480 (widescreen) video at 20fps, and VGA videos at 30fps with sound as MPEG4 files - this means you can fit a decent length video onto your memory card. The video mode also features digital image stabilisation* and uniquely lets you use the optical zoom whilst recording. The video records sound on videos and then whenever you want to zoom in or out the sound is muted so that the camera doesn't record the noise of the lens moving. *Digital image stabilisation is accessed with the "E" button and is not available when recording videos to internal memory.
Summary: Point and shoot holiday shooters will be pleased by the camera's punchy colours, but people who put image quality above everything else may be disappointed by the camera's slightly soft images and lack of detail. Parents will be happy that there children can be entertained on long journeys with the MP3 player or the video player. Overall the Samsung NV3 (like the Digimax i6 before it) is a great ultra compact digital camera. It provides generally good image quality with very richly saturated colours, has a great screen, and a built in 3x optical zoom lens. The camera is easy to use and it feels well built. The camera is a very complete package, there really is very little missing from this digital camera, it has an excellent macro mode, an excellent screen, video and audio recording, custom white balance, and built in advanced shake reduction. If you are in the market for an ultra compact digital camera with built in MP3 playback or built in video player then there is very little else to choose from. The digital camera is excellent value for money and definitely recommended.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Samsung NV3 Sample Photo Gallery.