The Samsung DV300F is a pocket-sized compact that’s light enough to be carried anywhere and small enough to be slipped into a trouser pocket when it's not being used. In keeping with other Samsung cameras the mixture of curves and sharp lines give it a distinctly modern feel. The bottom of the camera is completely flat too, which rather usefully allows it to be rested on flat surfaces for self or group portraits. There’s no finger grip as such although the edge on the front of the camera where your fingers sit is slightly raised, which makes it a bit more secure, although not by much. It’s still an easy camera to use one-handed though.
Despite its modest price tag the front of the camera is treated to a classy metal finish on both the front and top, although the back is finished in mottled plastic – as is the bottom of the camera and the battery/MicroSD card hatch. Overall construction is of a good standard and the camera certainly doesn’t feel in any way cheap or plasticky. That said we did notice that some of the button labels on our review sample had rubbed off, whether this was a one-off we couldn’t say.
The DV300F comes with two LCD monitors. On the back there’s a 3in, 460k-dot TFT monitor, and while this resolution is fairly standard for a camera of this price it does provide a noticeable improvement over the 230k-dot monitors seen on some budget compacts. On the front of the camera is a 1.5in LCD panel that at first glance is indistinguishable from the rest of the faceplate. Press the F.LCD (Front LCD) button on top of the camera though and this monitor will switch on. Resolution is only 61k-dots, but it remains perfectly adequate for framing yourself when the camera is either held at arms length or resting on a tripod or flat surface. A useful tool for should you want to shoot yourself, or to join in a group shot and make sure everyone’s inside the framing area.
Physical controls are kept deliberately sparse, which makes the camera quite easy to use. In keeping with Samsung’s recent tendency to infuse its latest compacts with a smartphone-like user interface the DV300F gets a ‘Home Screen’ button which gives you access to all of the camera’s various shooting modes, filters and Wi-Fi features. Unlike the MV800 and SH100 the DV300F doesn’t offer any touchscreen functionality so you’ll need to use the D-pad to navigate your way around these home screens. Thankfully, they are neatly laid out with similar options grouped together on each home screen and presented as tiles in much the same way that apps on a smartphone are. Better still it’s possible to navigate directly from one group of options (e.g Standard Shooting modes) to another (e.g Wi-Fi Options) without having to scroll through each and every option individually.
Should you want to change your shooting settings, then the Menu button can be used to access the settings that are relevant to the exposure mode you're using the camera in. Again from here it’s a simple case if using the D-pad to access and change what you want.
Start-up is a little on the slow side at around 3.5 seconds. While the monitor switches on at around the 1.5second mark, it’s another two seconds before the camera is ready to shoot. This sluggishness is repeated in other performance areas with the DV300F a bit on the slow side generally. Processing isn’t exactly speedy and AF speed isn’t the fastest either – even in good light. Shutter lag is a bit of an issue too, with a noticeable delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter actually firing. For the most part the DV300F’s general lack of zippiness shouldn’t cause too many problems although it can be a bit frustrating at times when you find yourself waiting for the camera to catch up.
Image quality isn’t bad at all – at least at lower ISOs. Used on Smart Auto mode the DV300F is perfectly capable of delivering a punchy image with vibrant colour and good contrast – even on an overcast day with flat light. The Samsung lens is stabilised to combat image blur and while it’s quite effective at wideangle and middling focal lengths, images shot at the zoom’s maximum telephoto reach do tend to come out a bit soft. This is more likely due to the limitations of the lens rather than the image stabilisation technology itself though.
Metering is pretty accurate as is white balance, although in high-contrast scenes the camera’s limited dynamic range does mean that you are likely to suffer from blown highlight detail or dark shadow areas. At sensitivity settings of ISO 200 or lower the DV300F’s rendition of fine detail is pretty good – at least when images are viewed at regular screen sizes. Blow your images up to 100% or more though and you will be able to see the effects of JPEG processing and compression on fine detail, namely a slightly ‘painted-on’ look. At ISO 400 and above image quality does start to go downhill, with a noticeable softening of the image as the camera struggles to suppress the effects of noise. We can’t but help think that a less densely populated sensor would have helped out here. By ISO 800 images have become noticeably soft, while the top two settings of ISO 1600 and 3200 both produce very poor image quality indeed and are best avoided.
The Samsung DV300F is smart little compact that offers plenty of fun features, along with the flexibility of built-in Wi-Fi functionality. Judged solely on these terms it’s a great little compact that is sure to find favour with its target audience of young snappers looking for a fun camera. Sadly though there is a bit of a trade-off for all this, in that the DV300F is pretty slow, suffers from noticeable shutter lag and poor image quality at higher ISO settings.