It’s no great secret that sales of compact cameras have been put under immense pressure in recent years thanks primarily the explosive growth in smartphones. Not only do many high-end smartphones now sport cameras that are perfectly adequate for taking Facebook-bound snapshots with, but they also offer access to a universe of dedicated photo ‘apps’ that can turn even the most mundane snap into a minor work of art. Not only this, but they also allow you to upload your images directly to social networking sites or email them straight from your phone without the need for a computer.
While other manufacturers have been mostly content to continue selling regular budget compacts in the hope that consumers will respond to the larger sensors and better lenses they offer, Samsung has opted to tread a slightly different path by releasing a number of innovative new models that deliberately look to deliver a smartphone-like user experience – albeit one with a larger sensor and better lens.
For around £150 the DV300F comes with a 1/2.3in CCD sensor with an effective output of 16.1MP and a 5x optical zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 25-125mm. Samsung doesn’t specify exactly what the image processor inside the DV300F is but sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 to 3200, which is pretty standard for a compact of this price. On the front the DV300F uses a Samsung branded lens, which we assume is an effort to keep costs down – Samsung use Schneider-Kreuznach optics on their more expensive compacts.
Other highlights include a good selection of shooting modes, an especially generous range of digital filter effects (that can be applied to movies as well as still images), 720p HD movie recording, a front-facing 1.5in LCD monitor for easy self-portraits, and a basic selection of in-camera editing options. Despite all of this though, the DV300F’s star feature is undoubtedly its built-in Wi-Fi functionality.
Samsung has been building Wi-Fi into its compacts for a while now. We first saw it on the SH100 we reviewed last year, followed soon after by the smartphone-aping MV800 with its flip-up touchscreen. It’s a clever move on the part of Samsung as Wi-Fi is a pretty useful feature to have built into a camera – especially if you’re a bright young thing moving and shaking your way through life in these ever-connected times. Given this obvious appeal we’re quite surprised that more manufacturers haven’t followed Samsung’s lead with both Wi-Fi and a smartphone-aping user experience.
Not that they would necessarily appreciate us saying so, but Samsung has taken a leaf straight out of Apple’s book by making connecting to Wi-Fi a relatively straightforward and painless process, with the DV300F doing pretty much everything for you. Simply choose a photo, video or album that you want to send/upload and the DV300F will automatically scan for available networks. The DV300F is pretty quick at finding all the available networks and also has a fairly good range – testing the camera at home we easily managed to pick up most of our neighbours’ networks too.
If there’s an open Wi-Fi network then you can join it in the press of a button. If you want to join a secured network then the camera will simply prompt you for the password. Of course, having to type out all of these various passwords (and email addresses and Facebook login credentials etc) can be a bit fiddly given you have to do it all with the D-pad on the back of the camera, but thankfully once you’ve entered everything the camera will remember what you’ve entered so that you can easily call them up again using the dropdown menu tab.
Once connected to a Wi-Fi network you then have a range of options: you can wirelessly transfer all of your images (and/or videos) to your home PC with the Auto Backup option, or you can transfer them directly to your smartphone or tablet using Samsung’s MobileLink app, which is available free from either the iTunes Store or Google Play. In addition you can also upload your images to Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service, or email them directly to a friend. If you have a smart TV compatible with TV Link technology then you can also push your images direct to your TV. Last but not least (and probably the option that’ll get used most of all by the camera’s young target audience) you can also upload your images and videos directly to a range of popular social networking sites including Facebook and YouTube.
To help you get the image you want the DV300F offers a generous range of shooting modes, all of which are fully automatic. Smart Auto is available in either stills or video mode, and is essentially an automatic scene recognition mode – and a fairly reliable one at that. Program mode, meanwhile, offers a bit more user control should you want to tinker with ISO or white balance and the like. There’s also a one-touch Panorama creation mode that automatically creates ultra-wideangle images without you having to stitch individual images together on a computer.
Given the DV300F’s target audience of young users it’s no surprise to find that it offers a more than generous selection of digital filter effects. In Samsung terminology these are called these Magic Filters and on the DV300F your find all the regular favourites such as Miniature and Toy Camera, along with a host of other options including Retro Film, Painted and Sketch effects. In addition there’s also a dedicated Beauty Portrait mode for smoothing out facial imperfections, a Picture-in-Picture mode, a Funny Face mode that’s more of a five-minute novelty than anything else, and a selection of incredibly cheesy Magic Frames you can frame your subjects with.
Along with the Samsung branded lens, one other area the DV300F looks to cut costs is with the movie mode. Unlike more expensive Samsung cameras this only stretches to 720p HD recording at either 24 or 30fps. So, if you really must have 1080p Full HD then the DV300F is probably not going to make the grade. Sound is recorded in mono with files saved in the .MP4 format.