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Samsung NV9 - Samsung NV9
Considering its relatively low price of £145 the NV9 is a pretty sophisticated camera. It has all the features we've come to expect in a modern top-range compact, including face, blink and smile detection, automatic in-camera red-eye correction, and a Beauty Shot feature that uses face detection to automatically smooth and enhance skin tones. It produces quite a pleasing result for portrait shots, although I didn't have a chance to try it on anything other than a typical white Caucasian complexion. Your mileage may vary.
Other shooting modes include a scene mode with 14 scene programs, dual stabilisation mode which adds electronic stabilisation to the optical stabilisation, and a useful Photo Help Guide, which has tips on shooting in unusual circumstances. There is also a decent movie mode, with 640 z 480 30fps video recording with mono audio. Unusually for a camera in this class the optical zoom can be used while shooting video.
Unfortunately, considering some of the excellent control systems Samsung has used on some of its cameras, the NV9 has a menu system even more complicated than an Olympus, with three different menus each with their own button.
The NV9 has a single multi-function interface socket that serves as USB connection, battery charger and headphone socket. The camera has a built-in media player that can play MP3 music as well as video files, but video has to be converted to a special format and downsized to 320 x 240 by the supplied software and then uploaded to the camera, which is quite a complex process for the computer novice. The conversion process is quite slow, with a 45-minute TV episode taking around nine minutes, but the video playback quality is quite good. I'm just not sure that I'd want to watch a whole movie on a 2.7-inch screen. The supplied headphones are unfortunately of rather mediocre quality, and the multi-purpose connector means you can substitute a better pair.
One advantage of the combined socket is that the NV9 can charge from any powered USB connector, in fact the mains adaptor has a USB-type socket on it, and the USB cable plugs into it as a charger cable. This means that whenever the camera is connected to a computer it's charging the battery, and also if you take your laptop on holiday you only need to take the one charger.