DCRP Review: Samsung Digimax V4
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 13, 2003
Last Updated: August 13, 2003

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The Digimax V4 ($449) is the first Samsung camera that I've reviewed in some time. It's a compact 4 Megapixel camera that is reminiscent of the Sony P-series cameras. One of the features that Samsung likes to brag about is the V4's ability to use 9 different types of battery sources. Samsung is stretching things a bit here, counting things like NiMn and NiCd batteries -- does anyone actually use those anymore?

Anyhow, there are tons of compact 4MP cameras out there. How does the V4 compare? Find out now.

What's in the Box?

The Digimax V4 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Digimax V4 camera
  • 32MB Secure Digital card
  • CR-V3 battery (not rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • Soft case
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Digimax Viewer, MGI PhotoSuite, and USB drivers
  • 139 page manual (printed)

As I mentioned above, Samsung claims that the V4 can use nine different kinds of batteries. These include:

  • Non rechargeable:
    • Alkaline AA
    • NiMn AA
    • NiZn AA
    • Lithium AA
    • Lithium CR-V3
  • Rechargeable:
    • NiMH AA
    • NiCd AA
    • SLB-1437 (proprietary)
    • SBP-1103 (proprietary)

The SLB-1437 is a proprietary Li-ion battery pack that you often see on compact cameras. The SBP-1103 is a CR-V3 type battery that may be more readily available. In addition to those, you can also use the included SBP-3605 (external) battery pack, which you connect via a cable. I had a heck of a time finding these batteries for sale online.

Samsung includes a 32MB SD card with the V4. It's rare that a manufacturer includes a card this large (relatively speaking), and I applaud Samsung for that. You will still want a larger card once you start taking a lot of pictures. The V4 supports both SD and MMC (MultiMediaCard) formats.

The camera has a built-in lens cover, so no lens cap is needed.

Samsung also includes a soft leather case -- A nice touch.

Accessories for the V4 include the "Digimax Premium Power Pack", which includes the SLB-1437 li-ion battery and charger, a car adapter, and an AC adapter, plus a wireless remote control. Like with the batteries, they appear to be hard to find online.

Mac users get left out in the cold with the Digimax's software bundle. Samsung includes Windows-only version of MGI PhotoSuite and Samsung's own Digimax Viewer. You will be able to connect the camera to Macs running OS 9 and above, and you can use iPhoto or another product to edit your photos.

The V4's printed manual is pretty typical of those for a digital camera. It's complete, but confusing, with lots of small print.

Look and Feel

The Digimax V4 is a compact plastic camera that looks much like Sony's Compact P-series cameras (e.g. DSC-P8). So much so, that I had to check to see if it had a Memory Stick slot (it doesn't). The build quality is decent, but it's not as sturdy as the all-metal cameras that are so popular these days.

The V4 is easy to hold and operate with one hand, and it will fit into most pockets with ease. The official dimensions of the camera are 4.2 x 2.1 x 1.5 inches (W x H x D, without protrusions), and it weighs 165 grams empty. That makes the V4 a little smaller than Sony's Compact P series models.

Okay, let's begin our tour of the camera now.

The Digimax V4 has an F2.7-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens, made by Schneider-Krueznach. The focal range of the lens is 7.7 - 23.1 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded.

To the upper-left of the lens is the V4's built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.3 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.3 - 2.0 m at telephoto. That's not great. I'm not aware of any external flash options.

Directly above the lens is an AF illuminator, which casts an orange light on the subject, assisting in the camera with focusing in low lighting. The illuminator doubles as the self-timer lamp.

The other items on the front of the camera are the flash sensor and remote control receiver.

The Digimax V4 has a high resolution 1.5" LCD display. Images on the LCD are both bright and fluid. You can adjust the LCD brightness via the menu system.

Directly above the LCD is a good-sized optical viewfinder. It does lack a diopter correction feature, though, so those without perfect vision may have trouble using it.

To the left of the LCD are three buttons:

  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/2EV increments) {record mode} / Movie playback {playback mode}
  • Manual focus {record} / Delete photo {playback}
  • Display (toggles LCD and info displayed on/off)

The exposure compensation button is also used for adjusting the aperture and shutter speed in the manual modes. You hold it down while using the four-way controller.

The manual focus button will let you use the up/down buttons on the four-way controller to focus the lens. A guide is shown on the LCD giving the current focus distance. Unlike on some cameras, the image on the LCD is not enlarged, which is useful in determining if the subject is in focus.

To the lower-right of the LCD is a button for entering playback mode. You can press it while in record mode, or when the camera is off.

Above that is the four-way switch, which is used for menus, manual settings, and:

  • Up - Voice memo (add a 10 second sound clip to a photo)
  • Right - Self-timer + Remote
  • Down - Macro (more on this later)
  • Left - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow synchro, flash off)

Above the four-way controller is the mode wheel. It has the following options:

  • Easy - point-and-shoot, basic menus
  • Program - still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
  • A/S/M
    • Aperture priority (A) mode - choose aperture from F2.8 - F11
    • Shutter priority (S) mode - choose shutter speed of 15 - 1/2000 sec
    • Manual (M) mode - choose both aperture and shutter speed (same ranges as above)
  • MySet - quickly access three sets of your favorite camera settings. A nice feature.
  • Voice recording - record audio until the memory card is full
  • Movie mode
  • Night scene
  • Portrait

To the right of the mode wheel is the zoom controller, which moves the lens quickly from wide-angle to telephoto in a little over a second. I did find the controller to be unresponsive at times.

Moving downward, we find the speaker. And finally, at the bottom-right you'll find the I/O ports. These include DC-in (for the optional AC adapter), USB, and video out (these last two share one port). They are protected by a plastic cover when they're not being used.

On the top of the Digimax, you'll find the microphone, power switch, and shutter release button.

Nothing to see here... move along...

On the other side, you'll find the battery compartment and memory card slot. As I mentioned earlier, the V4 can use a variety of batteries, many of which have totally different shapes.

The memory card slot can hold an SD or MMC card.

The included CR-V3 battery and 32MB SD card are shown at left.

The final stop on our tour is the bottom of the V4. The only thing to see here is a metal tripod mount. The mount is neither centered, nor inline with the lens.

Using the Samsung Digimax V4

Record Mode

It takes about five seconds for the V4 to extend the lens and warm up before you can start taking pictures. One thing that really annoyed me is how the camera always has the flash turned on, so the startup times will be longer if the flash has to charge.

Pressing the shutter release button halfway will lock the focus in one full second, which is pretty slow (and that's with an easy subject to focus on). In low light, the camera was equally slow at focusing, but the AF assist does help.

Shutter lag was generally short at faster shutter speeds, but it becomes much more noticeable when you use a slower speed. You probably should be using a tripod at that point anyway.

Shot-to-shot speed is about average, with a two second delay between photos (assuming you've turned the post-shot review off). You can delete a photo immediately if you turn on delete answer in the setup menu.

Now, here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the Digimax:

Resolution Compression # shots on included
32MB card
2272 x 1704
Large
TIFF 2
Super fine 12
Fine 25
Normal 38

2272 x 1504
Photo

TIFF 2
Super fine 14
Fine 29
Normal 43
1120 x 840
Medium
TIFF 8
Super fine 53
Fine 106
Normal 159
544 x 408
Small
TIFF 35
Super fine 225
Fine 451
Normal 676

In "easy mode", there are three image quality options to choose from: print, memo, and e-mail. These are the same as the photo/superfine, medium/fine, and small/normal options above.

The V4 has a TIFF mode, available at all the image sizes (which is unusual). Do note that the camera will be locked up for around 30 seconds while the TIFF is recorded to the memory card.

The Digimax uses the following file numbering system. Images are named SV40####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. File numbers are maintained as you erase and replace memory cards.

The Digimax has a pretty standard-looking hierarchical menu system. Do note that the menus in Easy mode aren't the same as theo shown above. Speaking of which, here's the full menu:

  • Size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • A/S/M - choose from aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual mode
  • Metering (Multi, spot)
  • Shooting (Single, continuous, AE bracketing)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten)
  • Effect (Normal, B&W, sRGB, sunset)
  • Sharpness (Soft, normal, vivid)

With all those other manual controls, I was surprised to see that the Digimax V4 has no manual white balance setting.

The continuous shooting mode will let you take 3 to 99 photos in a row (depending on resolution and quality) at a rate of 1 frame/sec.

AE bracketing takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value.

I was also surprised to see an sRGB color effect... I wonder what color space the camera uses by default?

In addition to that menu, there's also a setup menu available. Here are the items there:

  • File (Reset, series)
  • Power off (off, 1-10 min)
  • Language (15 choices)
  • Format card
  • Date set
  • Time set
  • Date format
  • Imprint (Off, date, date & time) - print date/time on your photos
  • Sound (on/off)
  • LCD brightness (Dark, normal, bright)
  • Video (NTSC, PAL)
  • Quick view (Del. answer, on, off) - delete answer will ask you if you want to keep the photo immediately after it is taken. Otherwise you can choose 1-3 seconds for post-shot review.

Okay, enough about all that. Let's take a look at some photo samples now.

The V4's night shot was not terribly impressive. It's quite soft, giving it an out of focus look. I don't think it's actually out of focus, as it was focused at infinity and was on a tripod. Noise levels are a little high here as well. Full manual controls allow you to take shots like this.

The macro test turned out better. Color and detail both look good. The V4 offers a regular and a "super" macro mode. Regular macro mode lets you get as close as 30 - 80 cm, while super macro mode is for 6 - 30 cm. Note that the lens is locked at the wide-angle position in super macro mode.

Much to my surprise, the V4 did a nice job with the redeye test. I think I know why, though. The self-timer lamp (I use the time for all these redeye tests) uses the AF illuminator to countdown the seconds before the shot is taken. I think that shrinks the pupils, thus reducing redeye. So a handheld shot may not be quite this nice.

The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion and just a hint of blurriness in the top-right corner. No vignetting (dark corners) can be seen.

The Digimax V4 produces photos comparable to other 4MP cameras in its class. My biggest complaint is that the colors seem a little dull. Images could also be a little sharper. Noise levels are fairly low, but you'll still see it. The same goes for purple fringing -- it's there, but not what I'd consider a "problem".

Don't just take my word for it -- have a look at the photo gallery and decide for yourself!

Movie Mode

The Digimax can record movies with sound until the memory card is full, but unfortunately, its at a resolution of 288 x 208. That's quite a bit lower than the usual 320 x 240. Movies are saved in AVI format.

You cannot use the zoom during filming.

Here's a brief sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (1.9MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The V4 has a pretty standard playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll features are all available.

The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom up to 8.3X into your photo, and then scroll around in it. This feature works as advertised.

Two other features are trimming and resizing. Trimming lets you crop an image down, while resizing lets you downsize your image to a lower resolution.

If you want some exposure information about your photo, just press the display button, and you'll get a few things. No histogram, though.

One of the biggest issues I have with this camera is the glacial speed at which it moves through photos. A low resolution image is shown right away, but it'll be nearly five more seconds before a high resolution image replaces it.

How Does it Compare

The Samsung Digimax V4 is a good, but not spectacular 4 Megapixel camera. It has a compact body, made of high-grade plastic. Photos are good, though a little dull in the color department. While I do appreciate the inclusion of an AF assist lamp, the focus speeds even in good lighting are quite slow. The camera does have a good set of manual controls, save for white balance. Some folks will like how the V4 supports both proprietary and AA batteries -- though finding the Samsung batteries may be difficult. The ability to save your favorite settings to a spot on the mode dial is a nice touch. Downsides include the aforementioned dull colors, the low resolution movie mode, unresponsive zoom controller, and the slow image viewing in playback mode. Oh, and none of the included software works on Macs. The V4 is worth a look, but take a close look at the competition.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (colors seem a little dull though)
  • Can use multiple types of batteries
  • AF illuminator
  • Many manual controls
  • Super macro mode for shots as close as 6 cm
  • Good redeye test performance
  • Can save 3 sets of settings to spot on mode wheel

What I didn't care for:

  • Colors seem unsaturated
  • Image playback is quite slow
  • AF times slower than average
  • Movie mode resolution is lower than average
  • Zoom controller can be unresponsive
  • Flash defaults to "on" when camera is turned on
  • No Mac compatible software included

Some other 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S400 and S45, Casio QV-R40, Kodak EasyShare DX6440, Kyocera Finecam L4v, Minolta DiMAGE F200, Nikon Coolpix 4300, Olympus Stylus 400, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC43, Pentax Optio 450, and the Toshiba PDR-4300.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Digimax V4 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion?

Read another review of this camera at Steve's Digicams.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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