As well as the scene modes, the NV3 has a comprehensive list of digital effects, all of which have multiple options, including several colour modes, a highlight mode that emphasises particular areas of the frame, a composite mode for making multiple exposures, and a function that superimposes one of a selection of photo frames or graphics over the image, including speech bubbles, a heart with the message “I love you!”, prince and princess hairstyles, a royal crown and something that looks like the rosette around the MGM lion with the text “The beautiful life!”
As Benny pointed out when I last took the piss out of Pentax for including these, perhaps kids will like them but I have no time for them. It has no less than nine image size settings including a five megapixel widescreen setting, and three quality (compression) settings. At the highest setting the image files are around 3MB each, and a 1GB SD card provides enough space for 249 shots.
Other photographic options include multi-zone or spot metering, centre or multi-zone AF, adjustable sharpness and auto-bracketing. There are some features available in playback mode as well, including red-eye removal.
In program or auto mode the camera performs reasonably well. It starts up in just over a second and at full resolution, maximum quality single shot mode it can take one shot every three seconds. In continuous shooting mode it can manage 10 frames in about 12 seconds, although the monitor screen is inactive while the shutter button is pressed, so all the shots after the first one are a bit hit-or-miss.
The AF system is nice and quick, certainly faster than the one in the Pro815, and works well in low light thanks to an AF illuminator, however there is a slight and inexplicable pause after the shutter is pressed, so total shutter lag is a little longer than average.
The NV3 has an above average movie mode, capable of shooting at 720 x 480 resolution at 20fps, or 640 x 480 at 30fps, both with audio (mono) and optical zoom.
The flash deserves special mention. When I saw how small it is I was expecting it to be weak and ineffective, but in fact it is surprisingly powerful. The stated maximum range is 3.4m, but I would say this is a bit on the conservative side. I found that with ISO set to auto it had no real problem lighting a 5m room, although it does set the ISO to 400 to brighten the image.
This isn’t really a problem, because the NV3 has very good noise control. It has a range of ISO settings from 80 to 1000, much more than most cameras in its class, and its performance at 400 ISO is quite respectable. At 1000 ISO it produces about as much noise as most others do at 400.
As well as this, the overall image quality is very good, with excellent exposure and colour rendition especially in good light, and surprisingly good dynamic range for a 1/2.5” sensor. With 7.2MP it produces plenty of detail, however some of this is lost to the noise reduction system. The NV lens is excellent, producing virtually zero distortion at wide angle, and the stepless zoom makes accurate framing easy.
The Samsung NV3 is an odd little camera, but a good one. It is beautifully designed, extremely well made, handles comfortably and performs well photographically, although the “bonus extras” of MP3 and MPEG4 playback, and especially the text viewer, are really nothing special. However, at well under £200 it can afford a few quirks, and it’s certainly pretty enough to get away with it.