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Samsung NV15 Digital Camera
As with most industries producing consumer goods, digital camera companies will often make the most of their investment in research and development by launching several very similar models, reusing the same basic design and sharing most of their components and features, but differing in a few details to produce a range of distinct products. Sometimes the result can be surprising. For example the Panasonic TZ3 differs from the TZ2 only in the size of the monitor screen and an extra megapixel of resolution, but the result is a significantly better camera. However sometimes the surprise works the other way. Samsung has two very similar cameras in the 8.1-megapixel NV8 and today's camera, the 10.1-megapixel NV15, but in this case adding more megapixels has not produced the desired effect.
Outwardly the NV15 is all but identical to the NV8. It has the same attractively designed all-metal body, following the styling lines common to the rest of the NV series. It has a small but useful handgrip on the front and a strap lug that doubles as a thumbgrip on the back, and it feels very secure and comfortable in the hand. External features include the 3x zoom, f/2.8 - f/5.2 Schneider-Kreuznach lens (equivalent to 34 - 102mm), a 2.5-inch 230k monitor and Samsung's innovative Smart Touch control system. I've mentioned this system in several previous reviews, so I won't go into too many details here, but suffice it to say that I really like it and find it an extremely quick and intuitive alternative to a conventional menu system. Apart from the model number on the front and the numerals on the top panel describing the sensor resolution, the only external difference to the NV8 that I could find is a slightly darker coloured shutter button.
The NV15 is about £25 more expensive than the NV8, at around £145, and for a premium 10.1-megapixel camera there's no disputing that it is priced very well. It compares favourably with rival 10MP models such as the Nikon CoolPIx S550 (£200), the new Panasonic DMC-FS20 (£230) and the Olympus mju 1010 (also £230). Of course there are cheaper 10MP compacts on the market, such as the Pentax Optio S10 and the Casio EX-Z1080, both priced at around £130, but neither of these models can match the Samsung for features.