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8/10

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Samsung NV3

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the remarkable Samsung Pro815, a large £400 high-performance bridge camera with a huge 15x zoom lens and fantastic picture quality. Suffice to say I was suitably impressed, not least by the remarkable renaissance that seems to have taken place in Samsung’s camera design department recently.
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This week I’ve got another Samsung this time from the other end of the range, the £189 NV3, an extremely stylish 7.2MP pocket compact with a range of clever features designed to entertain as well as simply shoot images. Everyone who saw the camera while I was testing it commented on how good it looks, and I have to agree. The NV3 is a great piece of design, and not just for its appearance. One feature that particularly impressed me was, of all things, the charger cable and mains adapter. The cable has a USB plug on one end which can either plug into a USB-type socket on the mains adapter or into the USB 2.0 socket on your computer, so the camera can charge while you download your pictures. This means that you only have to carry one cable when you take the camera on holiday. It’s simple, but then the best design always is.

Of course the physical appearance is the first thing that will be noticed, and here the NV3 scores very highly. The body is all metal, and is finished in a very attractive smooth matt black with brushed steel details. The controls are simple and easy to understand, are clearly labelled and well laid out. The overall design has a distinctly futurist-retro look which is very “in” at the moment. It takes some styling cues from old rangefinder cameras as well, and at first I thought the two disk shapes at either end of the top plate were simply decoration, designed to resemble film winders. However they do have a function, because they hide a pair of stereo speakers.
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The NV3 is more than just a camera; it can also play MP3 music, XviD MPEG4 movies and can even be used for reading text files, although why anyone would want to do any of these things on a camera escapes me. It has to be said that the sound quality of the MP3 playback isn’t brilliant even with the supplied headphones, and the sound quality of the movie clips (or at least the sample Korean rap video provided) was fairly terrible. Although it has a 2.5 inch screen with a good resolution of 230k pixels, it is too small to comfortably watch movies on. The built-in speakers are better than some phone speakers at least, and should be more than capable of annoying your fellow train passengers.

I’ve seen cameras with added features like this before, and to be honest they’ve never really been much use. The NV3 does a better job than most, but I’d have to say that if you want to listen to MP3s or watch movies, buy a Creative Zen or something.
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Fortunately, these added extras aren’t intended to conceal a lack of photographic features, because the NV3 is very well specified. As well as a Program and Auto mode, it has 11 scene modes, including all the usual options such as portrait, landscape, night scene, fireworks, beach & snow, children and close up, as well as a text mode. The Samsung website claims that it has a text recognition feature, but I could find no mention of this in the manual or on the menu system, so it I suspect that it may in fact be an error in translation. It does have a text copying scene mode, but this is just a high-contrast macro setting.

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