Overall performance is extremely good. The camera starts up very quickly in just over 1.5 seconds, and shuts down again even more quickly. Shooting speed is fast as well, with a shot-to-shot time in single shot mode of just over 1.5 seconds per frame. In standard continuous shooting mode this speeds up to 1.2 seconds per shot, but in this mode the camera checks focus before every frame. There is also a high-speed burst mode that shoots three frames in approximately 1.5 seconds, and a motion capture mode that shoots 20 frames at 7fps, but only at 1024 x 768 resolution. The autofocus system is both versatile and fast, finding focus in well under half a second, although it slows down a little and can sometimes hunt around at telephoto settings. Low light performance is excellent though, focusing quickly even in very low light, and the AF assist lamp means it can focus in total darkness at a range of a couple of metres. Flash range, exposure and coverage is also very good, with a quick flash recharge time of about four seconds.
Image quality is also much better than one might expect from such a low priced camera. The excellent f/2.8-5.6 Schneider Kreuznach lens takes a lot of the credit, providing a very high level of sharp detail and outstanding corner sharpness. It does exhibit some barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the zoom range, but this disappears at at even slightly longer settings, and there isn’t a trace of pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. The NV8 has a larger 1/1.75-inch sensor, and as a result contrast, dynamic range and colour reproduction are all first rate. However even with this larger sensor the camera does have some problems with image noise. The noise reduction system is quite heavy-handed, smudging fine detail in shadow areas even at 200 ISO, but even so it can’t prevent mid-tone colour noise occurring at all ISO settings from 200 upwards, and predictably the 1600 and 3200 ISO settings produce very poor image quality. Nonetheless, the NV8 reliably produces very good photos in most circumstances, and is especially good for casual social photography, where the excellent low-light focusing and flash performance are a big advantage.
For what is practically a budget price the Samsung NV8 provides a level of quality on a par with premium-range cameras from any of the other manufacturers. It has a lot of style, excellent build quality, fast performance and a range of useful and entertaining features, made more accessible by the clever Smart Touch control system. It lacks a little in the picture quality department due to its image noise problems, but makes up for this somewhat with good low-light performance.
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