Samsung NV3 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Samsung NV3
Resolution: 7.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.5"
Lens: 3.00x zoom
(38-114mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 80-1000
Shutter: 15-1/2000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
(95 x 57 x 18 mm)
Weight: 5.7 oz (163 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 10/2006
Manufacturer: Samsung
Full specs: Samsung NV3 specifications
7.20
Megapixels
3.00x zoom
1/2.5"
size sensor
image of Samsung NV3
Front side of Samsung NV3 digital camera Back side of Samsung NV3 digital camera Top side of Samsung NV3 digital camera Left side of Samsung NV3 digital camera Right side of Samsung NV3 digital camera
Imaging Resource rating

3.0 out of 5.0

Samsung NV3 Overview

by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 11/05/06

The Samsung NV3 combines a 7.2 megapixel CCD sensor with a Samsung SHD-branded 3x optical zoom lens with a fairly standard 38 to 114mm equivalent focal range. To compose shots, the slim NV3 skips any optical viewfinder in favor of its large 2.5 inch LCD display. Images are stored on Secure Digital/MultiMediaCards, or in 16MB of internal memory.

But the Samsung NV3 is more than a camera. It can play movies and MP3 files, too via Samsung's exclusive Digimax Converter software. This desktop application converts MPEG, AVI, MOV, WMV, and ASF files for viewing on the NV3. For music on-the-go, it also plays MP3 and WAV audio files. And it allows you to view subtitles, adjust the screen size, and crop and stretch the image to fit the screen as desired. You can listen to your entertainment using the included ear buds, or on the dual stereo speakers discreetly located on the top panel of the camera. You can even listen to music while taking photos (though you are limited to 3 megapixel images).

When you do take pictures in either a normal 4:3 or 16:9 wide aspect ratio, the Samsung NV3 has 11 Scene modes to master difficult situations without mastering the intricacies of photography.

The Samsung NV3 also includes Advanced Shake Reduction technology with a clever Wise Shot option that gives you the choice of two images, the anti-shake version and a fill-flash version.

The Samsung NV3 also offers a Movie mode, capturing clips at up to 720 x 480 resolution with audio, at a frame rate of up to 30 frames per second using MPEG4 compression, which offers higher quality, and better compression than the Motion JPEG compression used in most cameras.

You can make a USB cable connection between the camera and your computer using the included USB cable or the optional dock. The Samsung NV3 can print directly to any PictBridge compatible printer using its USB cable. Power is supplied by a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. List pricing for the Samsung NV3 is set at $349.99.

 

Samsung NV3 User Report

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Front. Simple, elegant.
(Special thanks to Vivian Rapp for the background.)

Intro. I confess, it had me from hello. The Samsung NV3 looks like the love child of a Leica and an iPod nano, educated in all the best schools; and, man, can she dance. I just couldn't get the NV3 out of my mind.

It takes pictures, sure, but it's also an MP3 player. Kind of a no-brainer when you think about it. But Samsung took that a little further, making the Samsung NV3 a Media Player and Text file reader, too. In fact, you can listen to music while shooting 3 megapixel pictures or reading text on the NV3 -- or playing a slide show.

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Back. Just as simple, just as elegant.

It has some camera smarts, too, including Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction technology and some meaty imaging controls in Program mode. The Samsung NV3 was a joy to carry and shoot with, and the controls were easily mastered.

Design. It's a very simple -- and very elegant -- design. The black aluminum shell simply makes a 180 turn at each end, wrapping all around the camera. The silver top and bottom panels are both flat (you can even stand it on its head). And, with the exception of the zoom lever, all the buttons on the Samsung NV3 are round like the lens.

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Top. The circles on each end are actually speakers. The Power button illuminates in blue, matching the rim of the lens on the front. The Mode dial extends just a bit past the back panel to make it easy to thumb. And the Shutter button is large and slightly raised. But the whole panel is so flat you can sit the camera upside down.

But that design discipline doesn't make it awkward to use. In fact, the large Mode dial extends just a hair past the edge of the back panel so it's easy to twist with your thumb (and it makes an elegant little click, too). When you click the Samsung NV3's Mode dial, a screen representation also shows you what you're doing, so you don't have to look over the top of the camera.

The navigator button was very smooth (and not the cheap four-button device some digicams use) and all the controls were easily reached with my right thumb. The Zoom lever has to be disengaged to change direction, but once you figure that out, it's no big deal.

It has just the right amount of heft to be stable when you press the generous, raised shutter button. But I didn't go far without the wrist strap attached. The Samsung NV3 is easy to grip, but it's still small enough that you want to be careful.

On the right side where the wrist strap attaches, a small cover hides the ear bud outlet. It's smaller than the standard size, so stick with the included buds. The Samsung NV3's volume control is the zoom toggle, and the built-in speakers are decent enough for the suggestion of stereo separation, but only in a very quiet room. Stereo becomes more apparent when holding the NV3 and watching a movie in the PMP mode.

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Bottom. An unusual, springless clasp locks the battery compartment at the far end. A metal tripod socket rests in the middle with the proprietary bus next to it.

The one design aspect I was not fond of was the proprietary USB/AV connector on the bottom of the Samsung NV3. That's the only way to charge the battery (unless you buy the optional dock), but it means putting the camera on its face (lens down) or back (LCD down). The NV3 is so nice that you don't want to scratch it up by charging this way, which makes the cradle a must-buy accessory. A USB cable comes with the Samsung NV3 to transfer images to your computer (it also plugs into the AC adapter to recharge the camera battery). So you don't really need a card reader or the dock -- but you'll want it.

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Charging. Awkward arrangement for charging (unless you buy the optional dock).

Display/Viewfinder. There's no optical viewfinder on the NV3. I did have a little trouble in full sun, but the Samsung NV3 is so small it was no big deal to slip into Playback mode and shade the viewfinder to see what I'd captured. I would have liked a histogram display, but this isn't that kind of camera.The LCD is a generous 2.5 inches, taking up two-thirds of the back panel and mounted flush to the black metal skin. It's very nicely done. You can display basic or full levels of information and enable a power-saving mode on the LCD that turns it off after 30 seconds of inactivity.

Performance. Most aspects of the Samsung NV3's performance -- whether it was starting up, shutting down, or capturing an image -- were snappy. It didn't leave me waiting very often.

The Zoom was a little less than responsive, however, stepping slowly and methodically through its range rather than zooming smoothly. I'm not a fan of Zoom levers that go up and down, rather than left and right. But that wasn't the problem. If you're zooming in and want to zoom back out to adjust the composition, you have to wait for the Samsung NV3 to stop zooming in before you can change direction. So instead of just switching direction, you move the lever from zoom in to stop, wait a beat, and then move to zoom out. You do the same thing when you move past optical zoom, which is only 3x, into digital zoom, which takes you out to 5x.

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Scene Modes. The NV3 relies on its large 2.5 inch LCD menu system to display Scene mode options.

I've been impressed with the quality of modern digital zoom on a number of recent digicams. So I have to say I found the Samsung NV3's disappointing. A 3x zoom isn't much these days, but for the photo buff moving up from a cellphone it will be a treat.

Shot-to-shot performance was a little strange. In Single shot mode, the Samsung NV3 isn't snappy, taking 1.78 seconds before it's ready to fire again. That's not a big deal because you usually want to see what you got anyway.

But in Continuous mode, it takes an odd little shortcut, speeding things up by not refreshing the LCD between shots. A barely audible "shick-shick" indicates a capture, and it's nothing like the shutter sound you get in Single-shot mode. The Samsung NV3 returns to Single-shot mode after you power it off and back on, always an annoying tendency.

I find Scene modes a little confusing because they never tell you exactly what they are doing for you. "Trust me! Really!" they seem to say. Sure, they work (I tried Macro and Night Scene), but I can do fine without them.

If I'm lazy I just set the camera to Auto and let it do all the work. If I don't like the results, I can slip into Program and use EV compensation to improve things.

The Samsung NV3's flash performance was a pleasant surprise. The tiny flash cycles in about six seconds, average for this class of camera, but can light up a room. And even at close distances, it didn't blow out the scene.

Image quality was mixed bag, though. We did get some great shots. But half the shots were disappointing for one reason or another. Resolution was generally good, especially close up, but tonal range was the weak point, with blown highlights common. And digital zoom seemed more like cellphone shot than a digicam shot. Unfortunately video quality seemed to mimic digital zoom. Take a look at the gallery shots and the Still Life and Multi Target test shots above to see for yourself.

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Lens & Flash. A very small piece of glass and a very small flash, too. The flash was surprisingly capable.

I gave the 3.7 volt, 860 mAh battery a charge when the Samsung NV3 arrived, plugging the bulky AC adapter into an outlet and the proprietary cable into the adapter and the camera connection. The full charge, which takes about 150 minutes, lasted a long time, about 200 shots, according to Samsung. I wore down before the battery, over a couple of days of constant use.

Navigation using the few control buttons and the clear LCD menus was pretty straightforward except for Program mode. For a good while, I was confused why White Balance, ISO, and Color options weren't listed on the LCD menus accessed from the Menu OK button along with Image Size, Quality, Metering, Shooting, Sharpness, Auto Focus, Display, Setup, and MyCam Preferences.

It turns out that in Program mode, pressing the +/- button, which gets you EV compensation, also accesses White Balance and Color control. When you press the button, the NV3's Left and Right keys change the EV setting. But if you press the Up/Down keys, you move from EV to White Balance, ISO, and then Color. The Left/Right keys modify those settings when each mode is set.

Auto White Balance did a good job even under fluorescent lighting, and tungsten lighting was surprisingly excellent; very few cameras perform as well as the Samsung NV3. Specific White Balance settings, including Custom, also did a good job of rendering variously lit scenes naturally.

Shooting. The Samsung NV3 is a very easy camera to shoot with and would make a nice upgrade from a cellphone. It's easy to slip into a pocket, the battery lasts a long time and it can play music, movies, and scroll text, too. It just can't make phone calls.

There are a few features for the more advanced amateur, like those White Balance, ISO, and RGB color settings. And being able to shoot in a 16:9 aspect ratio is a delight, too. But I suspect the advanced amateur isn't going to be very happy with the Samsung NV3's image quality.

One large nuisance was the Rotate feature. It only rotates the image in the LCD display. It doesn't rotate the image file itself. So as soon as you scroll on to the next image, the rotation is lost.

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MP3 Player. Playing a little Regina Carter.

I really did get a kick out of the built-in MP3 player. Now I'm going to wish every camera had headphones and a playlist. Samsung suggests you can't use the MP3/PMP/Text features of the NV3 without their software to convert your files to the right format, but there's no magic involved. Which is a good thing for Mac and Linux users, because the Samsung software is Windows only.Just create three folders in the root directory of your SD card, naming them MP3, PMP, and Text. Copy any .mp3 file to the MP3 directory, any MPEG-4 AVI file to PMP and any .txt file to Text.

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Text Reader. Checking over the draft of this review. Word wrapping is not very standard, often wrapping in the middle of a word, but it does work.

When you switch the Samsung NV3's Mode dial to its MP3 setting, you get two buttons: Resume or Open. Select Open to see your music, scroll to whatever you want to hear and press OK to start the show. Do the same for your movies in PMP and your documents in Text. The proprietary connector on the bottom of the camera is perhaps discreetly placed, but a nuisance. To charge the battery or use the AV cable, you have to lay the Samsung NV3 either on its back (risking a scratch to the LCD) or its front (risking a scratch to its front surface). You really can't stand it up on its top panel because the cables pull it down. The solution is to buy the dock, but we really have to wonder, given the headache, why the dock isn't included.


 

In the Box

The Samsung NV3 ships with the following items in the box:

  • Samsung NV3 digicam
  • Camera strap
  • Software CD
  • Rechargeable battery SLB-0837
  • AD adapter SAC-45 with USB cable SUC-C2 for proprietary NV3 port
  • AV cable
  • Earphones

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Larger capacity SD/MMC card. These days, a 512MB or 1GB card is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
  • Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection.

 

Conclusion

Samsung has designed a striking digicam that evokes both the retro look of a Leica rangefinder and the modernism of an iPod nano. They've packed the Samsung NV3 with an MP3 player that can playback multimedia and text files, too. And they've put all that fun into an easily navigated menu system that relies on just a few buttons.

The Samsung NV3's image and video quality were a disappointment, though. And the proprietary connector on the bottom of the camera made battery charging and AV playback awkward. Same problem transferring images with the USB cable attached to the connector on the bottom.

In short, the Samsung NV3 is a stunning camera design with only average photographic performance. We wish more cameras were designed with this kind of elegance and style, but until the NV-series can deliver images of the quality suggested by that gorgeous exterior, we'll reserve Dave's Pick status for the cameras with imaging beauty on the inside as well as outside. Still, if you're looking for timeless design in an MP3/multimedia player that isn't an Apple iPod, then the Samsung NV3 might just be for you. After all, an iPod can't actually capture pictures and video, and it doesn't come with built-in speakers. So while the Samsung NV3 doesn't get a Dave's Pick for its average image quality, it is a seriously cool gadget whose design belongs in the Smithsonian.

 

Samsung NV3

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