Samsung is not a front-rank player in the digital camera market, but it would certainly like to be. Every time I’ve attended a Samsung press briefing, I’ve had to sit through a long Powerpoint presentation describing its corporate strategy for the next 12 months, and how this year it’s definitely going to overtake Sony as the worldwide number one camera manufacturer. It hasn’t managed it yet, and frankly I don’t think it’s going to any time soon. It’s a shame really, because the Digimax V700, like most of Samsung’s recent models, is a good camera at a very reasonable price, and certainly deserves to sell better that it’s probably going to.
The problem is one of brand identity. While you may trust Samsung to make a photocopier or a TV set, it’s not a name that you associate with cameras and other small portable electronic gadgets. If you’re in the camera shop looking at the V700, you’ll look up at the shelf, see the Sony DSC-P200 or the Olympus C-70Z for about £20 more and probably buy one of those instead. It’s odd really, because many of the electronic components inside both of those cameras are made by Samsung.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the V700 from a technical standpoint. It has a sleek, stylish and well-made aluminium body, an excellent Schnieder-Kreuznach 3x optical zoom lens, a seven megapixel CCD and a nice sharp 2in LCD monitor with 118,080 pixels. Its performance figures are also right up there with the best of them. It starts up in around two seconds, which is quicker than most, and has a shot-to-shot time of about two seconds, which is also far from sluggish.
The range of features on offer is also impressive, and comfortably above average for what is, after all, just a high-powered snapshot camera. It has aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure, albeit with a fairly limited range of settings, but offering a degree of manual control nonetheless. There are 11 different scene modes, including night scene, portrait, children, landscape, close-up, text copying, sunset, dawn, backlighting, fireworks and beach & snow - more than enough to cope with any unusual situations.
There are no less than six image size and resolution settings, and four quality modes including TIFF. This generates huge 20MB uncompressed files which take nearly 20 seconds to write to the card, so although it is handy for when you want maximum quality, it’s not recommended for everyday use. White balance, exposure compensation and ISO are set using a small button on the left of the screen, labeled only with a +/- symbol. There is also an option to alter the RGB balance of the recorded image. Unfortunately this is covered only briefly in the rather poorly translated manual.
The V700 also features a very good movie mode, which can capture full 640 x 480 VGA clips at 30 frames per second with mono sound and digital image stabilization - the results are saved to the memory card as high quality MPEG-4 files. Clip duration is limited only by the capacity of the card. The camera has some limited built-in movie editing capabilities, and the bundled software can do more. However, for some reason the zoom lens cannot be used while shooting a movie clip.