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Samsung's NV (New Vision) series of compact digital cameras was a major turning point for the company, or at least for its position in the digital camera market. The company's previous Digimax series to didn't sell well, mainly because many of them were just so appallingly ugly. While usually technically competent and always reasonably priced, for the most part they looked like cheap badly made rubbish, and sold accordingly. The NV series, with its emphasis on quality, style and bold design ideas, showed a new commitment to digital photography from the South Korean industrial giant, and it was rewarded with much better sales figures, last year pushing its way into second place in the European compact camera market, slightly behind Panasonic, but ahead of market veterans such as Canon and Kodak. In some territories it is now the market leader.
It looks like Samsung may now be phasing out the NV series in favour of newer ranges, so the NV9 that I'm reviewing today may be one of the last few models. It's a shame to see a good series come to an end, but at least it goes out on a high note, because the NV9 is a great little camera. It's an ultra-compact model featuring a 10.2-megapixel 1/ 2.33-inch sensor, internal 5x zoom lens with optical image stabilisation and a 2.7-inch 230k monitor.
The body is all aluminium, with the distinctive round-ended rectilinear style that has been a theme of the NV series. It is available in silver or the handsome matt black finish shown here. The internal lens design gives it a very compact and pocket-friendly shape with no protruding parts, measuring just 95 x 59.9 x 18.8mm and weighing approximately 160g including battery and memory card. The build quality is excellent, and the NV9 both looks and feels a lot more expensive than its £145 price tag would suggest.
Like other models in the series it has an illuminated power button, a rotary mode dial and a raised finger grip on the front, while the strap lug doubles as a thumb rest, but the most striking design element is the pair of small analogue clock dials on the top plate. These provide a visual indication of the remaining battery power and memory capacity, but they are really just a cosmetic affectation, since there is a numeric frame counter and a three-bar battery gauge on the monitor display. They do make an interesting conversation piece though, which is probably the point.