- Flip-screen is ideal for self/group portraits
- Smartphone-like controls easy to master
- Lots of easy-to-use creative tools and effects
- No built-in social networking integration
- Flip-screen doesn't swivel
- Much better value at £150 than £200
- Review Price: £199.99
- 5x optical zoom (26-130mm)
- 180-degree flip out monitor
- 14 digital effects filters
- 720p HD movie recording
The MV800 arrives at a time when the compact market finds itself under massive pressure from the growth of the smart phone market. With more and more people using smart-phones and, just as importantly, having access to an increasing number of dedicated photo apps, it’s no wonder that the ultra-compact market has been shrinking in the past couple of years.
In this respect, the Samsung MV800 is well placed to lead the fightback, boasting not only a smart-phone like user experience through its touch-screen operation and tile-led interface, but also plenty of app-like shooting modes that can be used to jazz your images up, without the need for a computer or any fancy image editing software.
Does this, along with the flip-screen design make the MV800 an ideal companion for self-portraits and social gatherings where the photographer wants to be in the picture too? Or does it simply feel a bit gimmicky and ultimately fall flat?
Let’s take a closer look and find out…
The Samsung MV800 employs a CCD sensor that offers 16.1-megapixels of effective resolution. While Samsung doesn’t list the physical size of the sensor, it’s pretty much a nailed-on certainty that it’ll be of the 1/2.3inch variety. In addition to the full 16MP, you can also choose to shoot at 14MP, 10MP, 5MP and 3MP in the native 4:3 aspect, with 12MP and 2MP available at 16:9.
The front of the camera is adorned with a 5x Schneider zoom that offers a 35mm focal range equivalent of 26-130mm, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 at 26mm rising to f/5.9 at 130mm. The camera sports dual Image Stabilisation that uses a combination of sensor shift and ISO raising to ensure images are kept free of blur. Speaking of sensitivity, this extends from a baseline ISO 100 up to a maximum ISO 3200.
Despite being a point-and-shoot compact for casual snappers, the MV800 comes packed with all kinds of shooting modes and features, some of which are quite unique, useful and fun and some of which are…well a bit silly and gimmicky, to be perfectly honest.
Regular shooting modes are limited to Smart Auto, six Scene modes and a Program mode that offers a bit of control over some basic shooting parameters. Staying briefly with the other ‘sensible’ shooting modes, there’s a Touch Shot that enables you to select a point of focus and take a picture simply by touching the screen, a Self Shot mode for self-portraits, a Night Shot that allows you to control the shutter speed and aperture for long exposures (over one second), a Dual IS mode for sharper results at slower shutter speeds, a Close Up macro mode and a 3D picture mode (3D viewing device sold separately).
Other useful shooting modes include a Picture in Picture mode, a Background Blur mode that uses simplified slider controls to enhance the blur of out-of-focus areas, a Beauty Shot mode that allows you to smooth away skin imperfections and enhance skin tones (again using slider controls), and a Live Panorama mode that allows you to create 180-degree panoramas by sweeping the camera in a predetermined direction.
Slightly lower down on the scale of usefulness is a Pose Guide mode that serves up an on-screen outline of a classic model pose for you to arrange your subject into, an Intelligent Portrait mode that takes three shots for the price of one, and a Face Zoom feature that automatically zooms in when it detects a face to get a slightly tighter crop of your subject.
Down in the bargain bucket of deliberately silly/slightly gimmicky shooting modes you’ll find an unbelievably cheesy Magic Frame mode (ever wanted to superimpose your face over an oversized pastel moon setting over the sea? Well, now’s your chance), a make-your-own My Photo Frame mode (oh, the possibilities…), and a Funny Face mode that’s funny because it’s so rubbish rather than funny because the effects are funny.
And of course, capping all of this off is a generous selection of 13 individual still image and 11 movie digital effects filters including the likes of Miniaturisation, Old Film, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Cartoon, Oil Painting and Cross (starburst) Filter to name but a few. In terms of regular video capabilities the MV800 maxes out at 720p HD at 30fps, with further options to record at QVGA and VGA quality. Sound is recorded in mono.
The big talking point here, of course, is the flip-up screen. This rotates through 180-degrees, allowing you to stand in front of the camera and see what’s in-frame. Of course, you can also use it to take low- or high-angled shots with an on-board gyroscope ensuring that the image is always displayed the right way up.
The MV800 is extremely small and easily slots into a trouser pocket, which means there’s no reason to leave it behind. It’s nicely put together with a metal faceplate and a screen covered with toughened glass. It’s not a super tough scratch-resistant brand such as Gorilla Glass though, so it would be wise to invest in a screen protector. A quick Google search reveals that there are already some available on Amazon and the like.
As with most small ultracompacts, there’s no finger or thumb grips although, sensibly, Samsung has left the area where your thumb sits free of any physical buttons so you’re unlikely to press anything by accident. Indeed, this being a touch-screen camera, physical buttons are few and far between anyway, with the Home and a Playback buttons on the back complimented by the main On/Off button and Zoom control/Shutter button on the top. Another shutter button is located under the screen for use when the screen is fully flipped up and thereby covering the main shutter button.
The top level of the camera menu is laid out in tiles, much like a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Pressing one of these tiles ‘launches’ the shooting mode attached to it, which is nice and simple. Should you wish to get more involved or change more specific settings, you’ll need to use the touch-screen as a scroll wheel to cycle through the various options and this can a bit trickier to get the hang of.
All in all though, despite a bit of lag from the interface, we have few complaints as the MV800 is one of the more sensitive and intuitive touch-screen cameras we’ve used in recent months. We also like how the My Screen tool allows you to customise the shooting screen with your most regularly used settings too.
Start-up time from being switched off to having a shot ready is around four and a half seconds. The screen itself actually springs to life in around two seconds, but from here it takes, on average, a further two and half for the focus box to turn green. Things do speed up considerably after the MV800 is up and running, although AF performance still isn’t about to set any records, with the average time for the camera to achieve focus in normal daylight conditions hovering around the half-second mark.
Combined with approximately half a second of shutter lag, this means that you can expect the camera to actually record an image about one second after pointing the camera at it. Continuous shooting speed isn’t about to win any prizes either, with a maximum 1.4fps available. While this might all sound a terribly slow, it does need bearing in mind that these kinds of speeds (or lack thereof) are fairly common in point-and-shoot ultra-compacts like the MV800. In most casual shooting situations it really shouldn’t be a problem. That said, if having a camera with lightning-fast reflexes is a top priority then the MV800 certainly isn’t the right camera for you.
One thing that the MV800 does lack, and which we’d really like to see in a future release, is some kind of Wi-Fi ability, along with the ability to upload images directly to popular social networking sites. Samsung already offer these functions via the SH100 we reviewed a few months ago, and it would seem like a logical progression for the MV800 too. After all, the MV800 is clearly targeted at young sociable users who are likely to want to share their images with all their friends.
One final thing to bear in mind is that the MV800 takes microSD cards, which can be a bit fiddly and often require a dedicated card reader for uploading to laptops. You can, however, plug the camera directly into a computer using the supplied USB to micro-USB cord and transfer images in this way too.
As with the SH100, image quality on the MV800 is generally pretty good. Of course, once you start examining images at 100% and the limitations of the small sensor do become apparent especially at higher sensitivity settings, but viewed at regular monitor sizes (or at smaller print sizes) the MV800 produces bright, natural looking images that we suspect the vast majority of users will be more than happy with.
Metering is generally pretty accurate, although the small sensor does limit dynamic range. During testing we found that the camera tends to favour shadows and mid-tones so expect to lose some highlight detail when faced with a high-contrast situation. Automatic white balance isn’t a problem though, delivering consistently accurate results. You can, of course, tweak WB settings should you want to change the colour temperature or set it up for specific conditions.
The 5x Schneider zoom delivers pleasingly sharp results especially in the centre of the frame, however barrel distortion at the 26mm wideangle setting is quite pronounced. The built-in Image Stabilisation does an effective job of keeping blur to a minimum at longer telephoto settings and slower shutter speeds too.
Noise isn’t really a problem at lower ISO settings, with images shot at anything up to and including ISO 400 free of noise and the effects of noise control processing. ISO 800 is the cut-off point, however, where noise becomes noticeable in images, even when reduced in size and viewed on a small screen. Above this ISO 1600 is softer still but just about usable at the smallest sizes, while the top setting of ISO 3200 is best avoided altogether as is not only extremely soft but also displays a marked loss of saturation.
The Samsung MV800 isn’t the speediest camera on the market by any means. But then, it’s really not designed to be fast – it’s designed to be easy-to-use, flexible and fun. Measured solely by these three key credentials it scores well too. There are still some things we’d like to see in a future model – such as built-in Wi-Fi and direct social networking integration – but in most other ways the MV800 is step in the right direction that serves the needs of its target audience very well indeed.
The ISO test shot in full (shot outside on an overcast day).
The baseline sensitivity of ISO 80 is sharp and free of noise.
At ISO 100 the image continues to be noise free, retaining good shadow detail.
By ISO 200 the first signs of softening are visible – but only at 100% or larger.
By ISO 400 the softening effect of noise-reduction has become visble.
By ISO 800 noise has become visible even when the image is viewed at less than 100%.
ISO 1600 is both noisy and lacking in detail.
ISO 3200 is best avoided at all costs.
Used in regular Smart Auto or Program mode, the MV800 delivers pretty good results.
The small sensor does mean that its impossible to create a shallow depth of field though.
Colur is, on the whole, lifelike and neutral.
As long as you stick to ISO 400 (as in the image above) or below there isn’t really any issue with noise.
The wideangle setting of 26mm is enough to capture wide landscape scenes with.
The MV800 is small enough to take with you just about anywhere.
One of the bigger selling points about the MV800 are the 14 individual digital filter effects. Here’s the ‘Miniaturisation’ one in action.
…and here’s how the aptly-named ‘cartoon effect’ looks.
The ‘Funny Face’ mode is laughably bad, although in this particular example it’s also an improvement.
And, of course, who could possibly resist the lure of this most magic of Magic Frames?
Score in detail
Design & Features 9
Image Quality 8
Build Quality 8
|Camera type||Digital Compact|
|Megapixels (Megapixel)||16.1 Megapixel|
|Optical Zoom (Times)||5x|
|Optical focal length||26-130mm|
|Shutter speed||1 - 2000th sec|
|Auto focus||TTL auto focus|
|Max output resolution||4,608 × 3,456|
|Other resolutions||4 MP: 4,608 × 3,072 / 12 MW: 4,608 x 2,592 / 10 M: 3,648 x 2,736 / 5 M: 2,592 x 1,944 / 3 M: 1,984 x 1,488 / 2 MW: 1920 × 1080 / 1 M: 1,024 × 768|
|Focus range||80 cm - Infinity|
|Exposure control||Program, Smart Auto, Scene, 3D Photo / Live Panorama / Self Shot / Picture in Picture / Magic Frame / Funny Face / Smart Filter / Beauty Shot / Background Blur / Dual IS / Intelligent Portrait / Auto Zoom / Touch Shot / Pose Guide/ Night / Close-up Shot Smart Auto: Portrait / Night Portrait / Backlight Portrait / Macro Portrait / Backlight / Landscape / White / Action / Tripod / Night / Macro / Macro Text / Blue Sky / Sunset Sky / Macro Color / Natural Green, Scene: Landscape / Text / Sunset / Dawn / Backlight / Beach & Snow,|
|Exposure metering||Center Weighted / Multi / Spot / Face Detection|
|Exposure compensation||± 2 EV (1/3 EV Step)|
|ISO settings||100 - 3200|
|Flash modes||Auto Flash|
|Video (max res/format)||1280 x 720|