Size / PortabilityThe Samsung NV7 is set wide at 4.17 inches. It isn’t too tall, but just right at 2.45 inches. The main portion of its body is thin at 0.8 inches, but the wide lens barrel protrudes out to 1.4 inches – and that’s when the lens is tucked away and powered down. Overall, the camera is fairly small but its large lens won’t fit into a pocket. The NV7 looks very similar to the NV10 except that it is slightly wider – and a touch heavier too. The weight of the NV7 is an issue. It weighs 8.65 oz without the card and battery, which is twice the weight of most compact models. The hefty digital camera comes with a wrist strap, but I wouldn’t recommend dangling this model from a wrist unless you want a workout. **Handling Ability**The Samsung NV7 is compact but still leaves room for handling features. There is a slight hand grip that curls out, much in the way that knuckles do, and it has a steep edge for fingers to grip. The texture or material isn’t anything special, but it is the shape that keeps the hand from slipping. The back of the camera has a metal thumb grip toward the top. Its placement is comfortable, which is a nice change from when users have to make shooting changes. The Smart Touch design is great except for the fact that the thumb has to extend far to the left to slide over the buttons surrounding the LCD. This isn’t painful at all, but could take an extra split second longer to get back to shooting position. The handling is good in general and there is plenty of room for both hands to comfortably grip the NV7. **Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size There are few true controls on the Samsung NV7 because many of the camera and shooting changes are done with the Smart Touch interface. The Smart Touch interface is the LCD screen displays icons on a grid. There are seven buttons beneath the LCD screen and six buttons to the right of the screen. The buttons are directly below the icons on the LCD screen. When a button is pushed below the flash icon, for example, the flash options appear in a column above the icon. These options correspond to the buttons on the right side of the LCD screen. This sounds horribly complicated, but it is really very easy. Once users get the feel of the sensitive buttons, flying through menu options will be a regular occurrence. This Smart Touch interface is much faster and much more efficient than the traditional multi-selector interface that normally requires users to repetitively push a tiny button hundreds of times. More and more digital cameras are shying away from the multi-selector, with Nikon and Canon including rotary dials for faster scrolling. Samsung’s Smart Touch system works very smoothly though, perhaps more smoothly than the rotary dials. Menu**The menu system definitely looks different on the NV7 because of the Smart Touch system, not to mention the unique navigation discussed in the previous section. The shooting menu is available from the LCD screen’s live view at all times. The icons are displayed along the bottom of the screen, with the options popping up in columns above them. When an icon is scrolled over, a text word or two appears above it to name the function. There are more functions than can fit across the seven buttons, so there is a second row that is accessed with an expansion button. Here are the shooting options. The setup menu is accessed through the other menu by a wrench icon. While the shooting menu provided some live views, the playback menu has a solid background. The setup menu is organized into four tabs, and each tab shows a few options. Overall, the menus are thorough and are even somewhat fun to navigate through because of the Smart Touch interface. The setup menu is well organized, but the abundance of icons in the shooting menu can look daunting to some. **Ease of Use The Samsung NV7 OPS is easier to use than one would think. Its interface allows users to make changes without wearing out the multi-selector or developing arthritis in their thumbs and will be quite familiar to the abundance of iPod owners out there. There are several live previews in the shooting menu that help users make more informed decisions about which setting to use. Overall, the Samsung NV7 is quite intuitive.
Auto Mode The mode dial is littered with white icons except for the Auto mode’s text, which has a green background. The Auto mode tries to make things real simple for users by disabling most shooting options. Here is what’s left to be changed (if desired): macro, flash, image size, image stabilization, and controls for color and brightness. The color and brightness controls are on sliding scales that move when the thumb moves across the buttons on the bottom of the LCD screen. The color moves from cool to warm and the brightness from dark to bright. The color adjustment is a replacement for white balance and the brightness scale is a simple version of exposure compensation. I used the Auto mode to take several pictures of static and moving subjects. The pictures of digital cameras and other non-moving objects turned out just fine. Pictures of people walking didn’t turn out very well. Even with the image stabilization activated, there were plenty of blurry pictures. While there's limited light in areas of the convention center, we expected the optical stabilization to assist the slower shutter speeds a bit better. Movie Mode**The movie mode is also conveniently located on the mode dial and has more options than most compact digital cameras. The size can be chosen to 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels, and the frame rate set to 30 or 15 fps. Color effects can be chosen along with the same white balance and exposure compensation options that are available while shooting still images. The auto focus system can work normally or be set to macro for shooting videos close to subjects. It works fairly well, but has a noticeable lag when zooming. The auto focus system catches up quickly though. Perhaps one of the best aspects of the movie mode is that the 7x optical zoom lens is fully functional. While this is happening more and more in compact cameras, the trick is to keep the lenses quiet. Samsung mastered that in the NV7 because the 7x lens moves throughout its range without a peep – or whir or click or anything. This is great news, but its audio isn’t that great. The monaural audio that is recorded sounds a bit muffled; however this could be the result of the general buzz at the convention center. The quiet 7x lens is nicely complemented by the optical image stabilization system. The icon doesn’t appear on the screen and users can’t change the mode, but the NV7 automatically employs the system continuously in the movie mode – which is the best way to do it. All videos come out very smooth. Videos can be edited for the big screen within the camera too. The NV7’s playback mode has a simple trimming function that cuts a clip into two files. The Samsung NV7’s movie mode is quite impressive with its many shooting options, silent zoom lens, and steady image stabilization system. **Drive / Burst Mode**The camera’s shooting mode can be set to Single, Continuous, Continuous High-Speed, Motion Capture or Auto Exposure Bracketing. The Continuous mode is incredibly slow. It takes about a second and a half between shots, but it can take pictures until the memory is full – albeit a bit sporadic. It doesn’t shoot evenly but seems to stutter here and there. The High-Speed burst mode snaps along at just faster than 2 fps, but stops after only 3 pictures. It took 6-7 seconds to write the images to the internal memory too! The Motion Capture mode is similar to Sony’s Multi-Burst 16 mode in that it can snap a lot of pictures, but it does so at a low resolution. The Samsung NV7’s Motion Capture mode takes 10 pictures a second at the 1-megapixel size. They can be played back like a movie in the playback mode. The Auto Exposure Bracketing shoots 3 frames like the burst mode and changes the exposure level for each shot, but it is unclear if the exposure interval can be adjusted at all. I sure couldn’t find it. The NV7 also has a self-timer that snaps pictures after a 2 or 10-second delay. There is also a double self-timer that takes a picture after 10 seconds, then another after 2 more seconds. Finally, the camera can sync with an optional remote control and take pictures when a button is pressed. **Playback Mode The playback mode is accessed by one of the only on-camera buttons; it is located at the intersection between the Smart Touch buttons on the right side of the screen and the bottom. Once in the playback mode, the following menu options appear on the screen. There is hardly any text in the playback menu and the icons don’t appear with text when scrolled over like in the shooting menu. An Edit option also appears on the screen and when selected, it opens a different menu. Pictures can be viewed one by one or as nine-image thumbnails. Above are the editing effects that can be applied to images. The Trimming feature applies to both still and video files. Pictures can be magnified up to 8x and file information can be displayed or hidden. The playback menu is missing a function to create print orders, and users can’t even access the PictBridge menu item until the camera is connected to a printer. There is a "photo gallery" playback mode on the mode dial that is much like Kodak’s Favorites mode. The Samsung NV7 displays photos from here and can play fancy slide shows with the same selectable intervals, loops, and transitions as the other slide show. This mode, however, also lets users select music from a collection of three soundtracks. The background music isn’t a work of art, but takes two or three measures of simple music and plays it over and over again. The "photo gallery" playback mode does keep pictures very accessible and allows users to start a slide show in seconds. Custom Image Presets**The Samsung NV7 has 12 scene modes: Night Scene, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Text Recognition, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, and Advanced Shake Reduction. The first 11 modes are found by entering the Scene position on the mode dial and scrolling across the top of the LCD screen. When scrolling through, the screen shows a sample picture and text title from each mode. This is very helpful. There really aren’t any great scene modes that allow for indoor shooting so Samsung included an Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) mode on the mode dial. This mode activates the optical image stabilization system and uses high ISO sensitivity and fast shutter speeds to reduce blur. The mode seemed to work well too, as it did just that. The NV7’s Text Recognition mode shoots documents, then allows users to extract the text using the included software. I did not get to test this feature, but can’t wait to try it out upon full review.
**Manual Control Options The Samsung NV7 has a full palette of control ranging from manual to priority modes to the automatic and scene modes. There are plenty of adjustments with the white balance, ISO, focus, and other parameters too. Read on for more details on the camera’s controls. Focus***Auto Focus
The through-the-lens auto focus system operates on contrast detection and didn't seem to do too well shooting plain shiny surfaces and other low contrast subjects. The auto focus system can focus as close as 1-10 cm in the super macro mode, and the macro mode extends the focus to 10-80 cm in wide and 60 cm to 2 meters in telephoto. Normally, the Schneider-Kreuznach lens can focus from 80 cm in wide and 2 meters in telephoto to infinity. In case users don’t want to jog between macro and normal focus modes all the time, there is an auto macro setting that bridges the two. The auto focus system works fairly well, but takes about a quarter of a second, most of the time. This slight shutter lag is a bit annoying. **Manual Focus
In the auto focus menu, the NV7’s manual focus option is hidden. When selected, users can move the focal point across a sliding horizontal bar. On one end of the bar is ∞ and on the other end is 1 cm. A line shows you the whereabouts of the focal point. The resolution on the LCD screen is good enough that manual focus is possible, but there is no magnified view like on many compact models. *ISO**The Samsung NV7’s ISO offerings are more expansive than in most models. This digital camera has Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1000 settings. When a picture that used the top ISO setting was magnified, the subject’s edges looked frayed and furry. There is some noise in the picture, but that happens with all digital cameras at higher ISO sensitivities. The NV7 takes advantage of its ISO settings by offering an Advanced Shake Reduction mode. This employs the higher ISO settings while activating the image stabilization system and bumping up the shutter speeds to move quickly. **White Balance In the on-screen shooting menu is the white balance mode with its several settings: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent H, Fluorescent L, Tungsten, and Custom. The presets can be adjusted by a Kelvin temperature scale from 3000-10000 degrees; this is located in the same menu. The Custom white balance setting is simple to set, thanks to on-screen directions and a small frame in which to capture true white. There is a live view when scrolling through the options, which is helpful in choosing the correct one. ****Exposure The Samsung NV7 does not show any histograms so users can monitor the exposure continuously, but it does allow plenty of control otherwise. Photographers can adjust the shutter speed and aperture in the manual modes, and the exposure compensation can be set in the program and many of the scene modes. In the Auto mode, there is a simplified version. The exposure compensation is very simple to adjust anyway. You just move a sliding bar from 0 to +2 or -2 in 1/3 increments. The Auto mode just dumbs this down to a scale with Dark on one end and Bright on the other. There is an auto exposure bracketing mode grouped with the burst modes, but there didn’t seem to be any way to set it. Metering The NV7 has standard metering modes. The Multi is the default and averages the exposure from the entire frame. The Center mode measures the lighting toward the center, and the Spot mode samples from a much smaller area in the middle. Shutter Speed
With a mechanical and electronic shutter, the Samsung NV7 can snap as fast as 1/1500th of a second. The shutter goes as slow as one second in the auto mode, 4 seconds in the night mode, and 15 seconds in the manual and shutter speed priority modes. The fireworks scene mode has a fixed shutter speed of four seconds. Users can scroll over the options on a horizontal bar that reads "Slow" on the left and "Fast" on the right and has the tagged and numbered look of a retro shutter speed dial. Aperture The aperture options can be scrolled through in much the same way as the shutter speed, with "close" on one end of the scale and "open" on the other end. The Schneider-Kreuznach lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at its widest and f/4.0 when using its full 7x optical zoom. The minimum aperture reaches f/7.3 at the 38mm focal length.
Picture Quality****/ Size Options**The NV7 carries with it a 1/2.5-inch CCD with 7.2 effective megapixels. The camera can create JPEG images from 3072 x 2304, 2688 x 2016, 1920 x 1440, and 1024 x 768 pixels in SuperFine, Fine, and Normal compression. Pictures can be resized in the playback menu to image sizes smaller than the currently chosen size, of course. **Picture Effects Mode**There are several effects available on the Samsung NV7 in both recording and playback modes. In the recording mode, there is a Sharpness setting that can be selected to Soft, Normal, and Vivid options. The other recording effects are available from a separate mode, the Effects mode, found on the dial. From this mode, the following effects can be applied: Photo Frame, GIF, and Composite. The Photo Frame mode has about a dozen different frames – some with a heart shaped cutout, a circular cutout that looks like the one the MGM lion peers out of, and even face cutouts around an animated bride and groom. There are the traditional rectangular frames too, of course. The GIF effect lets users create a tiny animation measuring 320 x 240 or 400 x 300 pixels that moves at 2 or 5 frames per second. These can be output to Web sites and such. The Composite picture effect shows four layouts that let users snap up to 4 pictures and lay them out onto a single file. In the playback mode, the following effects can be applied: Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, and Negative. The effects are interesting, and are more fun than useful.
**Connectivity***Software*The Samsung NV7 comes with Digimax Master Software that allows users to view and edit their pictures and movies. The software can also extract text from the Text Recognition scene mode and create Word documents from it like a scanner. *Jacks, ports, plugs*There is only one jack on the bottom of the camera and it connects to a cable that has many functions. From that port, the NV7 has USB 2.0, AV-out, and DC-in functionality. In the setup menu, the audio can be set to output at European or North American standards (PAL or NTSC). *Direct Print Options*Users can choose whether to imprint pictures with the date or date and time within the setup menu. But creating a print order doesn’t happen on this camera. The Samsung NV7 has a PictBridge option in the playback mode, but selecting it doesn’t do anything unless connected to a compatible printer. *Battery*The Samsung NV7 comes with a skinny SLB-0837 rechargeable battery that outputs 860 mAh. The battery can be charged in the camera with the included DC-in cable or in an optional camera cradle. There is a battery indicator on the screen, but is seems to stay full for a long time, then go from half full to completely empty in about three minutes. When it finally runs out of juice, it doesn’t give much warning. It blinks a "Low Battery" message two or three times before shutting down. *Memory*The NV7 has 19 MB of internal memory, which won’t even store a dozen full-resolution pictures. Users will want to stock up on some form of memory. The camera accepts SD or MMC cards up to 2 GB. **Other features***Voice Recording Mode* – Within the shooting menu is a recording feature that can either allow voice memos to be captured with pictures or activate a voice recording mode. The voice memo function records up to 10 seconds of audio after every picture that is taken. The voice recording mode records only monaural audio up to an hour.
ValueConsidering this digital camera’s retro style, long zoom lens, 7.2 megapixels, Smart Touch interface, and optical picture stabilization technology, the $399 price tag seems close to a fair price. If I was on The*Price is Right*, I would have lost because I would have guessed fifty bucks cheaper. The Samsung NV7 does have all that technology along with manual controls, but the pictures aren’t crystal clear and gorgeous. To me, the specs sound cool but the final production model will have to produce far superior image to justify the $399 price tag. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – Consumers in this category may wonder what all the manual control is about, but the Auto mode and the menu interface are still so simple to use they may not care. *Budget Consumers* – Looking for a digital camera? If you have arthritis or are simply tired of banging on the traditional multi-selector, the Samsung NV7 would be a good value for you. But if you’re looking for a manually-controlled compact digital camera, you can find one that takes better pictures for $399. *Gadget Freaks* – With the optical picture stabilization, text recognition extraction to documents, and Smart Touch interface, the NV7 will be the new hit with gadget freaks. *Manual Control Freaks* – These consumers should be perfectly content with the Samsung NV7 with its manual, priority, and program modes. There are plenty of manual controls and even a few rarities such as Kelvin color temperature adjustments and a decent manual focus mode. *Pros / Serious Hobbyists* – Photographers in this category will look past the glitz and glam of the screen interface and 7x lens and will wonder why there is shutter lag and blurry images on a hefty retro camera in 2006.
Samsung priced the NV7 at $399 and I can take plenty of guesses why. Perhaps it’s the 7.2-megapixel image sensor. Perhaps it is the high-resolution 2.5-inch LCD screen with the groundbreaking Smart Touch interface. Maybe it is the 7x optical zoom lens pinned onto the 0.8-inch thick body. Perhaps it is the optical picture stabilization system that is so effective it even warrants the end of the camera’s title, Samsung NV7 OPS. The camera has many great qualities, but most have to do with its raw specs. The camera also has plenty of great components, but those didn’t translate into beautiful pictures on the display model we examined. Many of the pictures looked blurry, noisy, or distorted from various recording factors. So while the Samsung NV7 OPS looks like the next big thing on paper, if there isn’t a firmware fix or some other alterations to the internal components prior to shipping, its pictures won’t pan out to be as gorgeous as its specifications.
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