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DCRP Review: Samsung NV11  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 31, 2007
Last updated: April 30, 2012

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The NV11 ($329) is the latest and greatest in Samsung's high-end NV-series of digital cameras. It builds on the NV10 (introduced in 2006), adding a more powerful zoom lens (5X vs. 3X) and a larger LCD (2.7" vs. 2.5"), while improving battery life by over 20%. Everything else is more-or-less these same: the NV11 (which is built like a brick) has a 10MP CCD, full manual controls, VGA and Samsung's unique Smart Touch interface (more on that later).

The "old" NV10 was an interesting camera that ultimately disappointed me with its lackluster image quality. Does the NV11 do a better job? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The NV11 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Samsung NV11 digital camera
  • SLB-1137D lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Wrist strap
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • AC-to-USB converter
  • CD-ROM featuring Digimax Master and drivers
  • 13 page starter manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)

As with most cameras these days, the NV11 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The camera has 20MB of memory, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and I'd start with a 1GB or 2GB card if I were you. The camera uses Secure Digital, SDHC, and MMC memory card formats, and it's worth spending the extra dollars on a high speed card.

The NV11 uses a new, more powerful battery than the NV10 before it. The SLB-1137D lithium-ion battery has 4.1 Wh of energy, up from 3.1 Wh on the SLB-0837. As you'd expect, the camera's battery life numbers get a bump -- and here they are:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot A720 IS 400 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Casio Exilim EX-V8 240 shots NP-50
Fuji FinePix F480 150 shots NP-40N
GE E850 210 shots GB-40
HP Photosmart Mz67 260 shots 2 x unknown NiMH
Kodak EasyShare Z1275 320 shots 2 x unknown NiMH
Olympus Stylus 820 180 shots LI-42B
Samsung NV10 180 shots SLB-0837
Samsung NV11 ** 220 shots SLB-1137D
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 250 shots NP-FD1

** Number not officially obtained using the CIPA standard, though same procedure is followed

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

I wanted to put the Samsung S1050 in that chart, but I don't have battery life numbers for it. The group average is around 240 shots per charge, which puts the NV11 about 10% below average. As such, it's probably worth buying a spare battery.

Speaking of batteries, I must now launch into my speech about proprietary batteries like the one used here. They're quite expensive, and when they run out of juice, you're out of luck (unlike with AA-based cameras, where off-the-shelf batteries are an option). As you can see in the above table, there are a few options for those of you who want a AA-powered camera.

Like the NV10 before it, the NV11 has a rather unique way of charging its battery. All you need to do is plug the included USB cable into the bottom of the camera and then connect it to your computer. You can also use a standard power plug via an included USB-to-power adapter. Whichever way you do it, it'll take 150 minutes to fully charge the battery.

As with most compact cameras, the NV11 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to worry about.

There are just two accessories available for the Samsung NV11. First, there's a wireless remote control known as the SRC-A3 ($15), which lets you control most camera functions from up to 15 feet away. The other accessory is the SCP-A19 leather camera case ($20).

Digimax Master for Windows

Samsung includes their Digimax Master software with the NV11. While not the most attractive or powerful software on the market, it gets the job done. Digimax Master is for Windows only -- there is no Mac software included with the camera (iPhoto will work fine, though).

The main screen of Digimax Master has the usual thumbnail view (with adjustable thumbnail sizes), and from this screen you can rotate, print, and e-mail photos. As you'd expect these days, the thumbnail size can be adjusted.

Double-clicking on an image opens the edit window. If you're editing a JPEG you'll find all kinds of tools on the left side of the screen, including an "auto enhance" option. There are also tools available for putting type (or drawings) on top of a photo.

Digimax Biz Reader for Windows

Something else you'll find in the box with the camera is Samsung's Digimax Biz Reader software (which is, again, Windows-only). This automatically detects business cards that you've taken in the "biz" scene mode, and attempts to extract the data from them automatically. From my experience, it didn't work terribly well -- virtually every card I shot required manual data editing.

The manual situation on the NV11 is not good. Samsung includes a very brief (13 page) manual in the box that covers the very basics. If you want more details, you'll have to open up the full manual, which is in PDF format on the included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals are pretty lousy, as well.

Look and Feel

The NV11 looks almost exactly like its predecessor, with the main difference being its larger lens and LCD. Like the other NV-series cameras, the NV11 feels like its been cut from a solid block of metal. Every part on this camera is well put together -- even the door over the battery/memory card compartment.

The camera can be held and operated with just one hand, though I typically used my left hand to help keep the camera steady. While the right hand grip isn't terribly large, it fits the NV11 well.

Okay, now let's take a look at how the camera compares to the competition in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot A720 IS 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.7 in. 16.8 cu in. 200 g
Casio Exilim EX-V8 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 149 g
Fujifilm FinePix F480 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
GE E850 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.4 cu in. 155 g
HP Photosmart Mz67 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.7 in. 16.6 cu in. 220 g
Kodak EasyShare Z1275 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in. 10.5 cu in. 161 g
Olympus Stylus 820 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 125 g
Samsung NV10 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.4 cu in. 149 g
Samsung NV11 4.2 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 9.5 cu in. 195 g
Samsung S1050 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.0 in. 9.8 cu in. 204 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 160 g

As you can see in the chart, the NV11 is one of the chunkier cameras in its class, due mostly to its large nose (relatively speaking). It's also quite a bit heavier, but I think most people won't mind, as this camera's build quality is a step above the competition.

Alright, let's start our tour of the camera now, beginning with the front of the camera.

As I mentioned at the start of the review, the NV11 has a new, more powerful zoom lens than its predecessor. The lens here is an F2.8-4.4, 5X zoom model that carries the Schneider-Kreuznach label. The focal range of the lens is 7.8 - 39 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 190 mm. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses aren't supported.

Directly above the lens is the NV11's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash is relatively powerful, with a working range of 0.3 - 4.9 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 3.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). You cannot attach an external flash to the NV11.

Other items on the front of the camera include the self-timer lamp (red light above the grip), remote control (to its right), AF-assist lamp (upper-right of the lens), and the microphone (lower-right of the lens). The camera uses the AF-assist lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations.

You won't see too many cameras whose backsides look like this. The thirteen buttons used by the Smart Touch system make the NV11 and its siblings "one-of-a-kind". The interface is unlike any you've used before (at least on a digital camera), and I commend Samsung for trying something new. This movie shows you the system in action -- it's taken from the NV10, but nothing's really changed:

The Smart Touch interface is certainly innovative. It's also very frustrating at times. Sometimes the buttons aren't responsive, while other times they're just the opposite. Shooting options that are usually buttons on the camera can be buried deep in the NV11's menu system. While it's not something that I'd want to use on a daily basis, there are some people who really like it. The bottom line here is that you really need to try it out before making your purchasing decision.

The LCD itself is 2.7" in size, up from 2.5" on the NV10. The screen has 230,000 pixels, though it doesn't seem as sharp as it should be considering that fact. Outdoor visibility was pretty good, while low light viewing was just average. The screen brightens automatically in dim light, but not by as much as I'd like.

As you probably noticed, the NV11 lacks an optical viewfinder. This bothers some folks, while others don't care. It's up to you to decide if this is no-big-deal or a deal-breaker.

Now I want to talk about the unique Smart Touch user interface found on the NV11. It uses the thirteen buttons that surround the LCD in a unique way, and I hope this sample movie does a good job of explaining how it works:

The camera has detected the two faces on the right... ... and locked focus on one of them

One of those "smart buttons" activates the NV11's face recognition system (it also serves as the "back out of a menu" button). The camera will detected up to 8 faces, and will lock focus on the closest one. I wasn't terribly impressed with Samsung's implementation of this feature. At most, it located two of the six faces in our test scene -- the cameras that do this best (Canon, Fuji) usually find five of them. One other thing to note is that the feature is off by default, so you'll have to hit that button each time you want to use face detection.

The last two items on the back of the NV11 are the playback mode button and the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.6 seconds. I counted eleven steps in the camera's 5X zoom range.

Now onto the top of the NV11. At the center of the photo we have the power button, with the microphone and shutter release next to it.

At the far right we find the camera's mode dial, which has these options (going counterclockwise):

Option Function
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, most menu options locked up
Program mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
A/S/M mode Aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual exposure modes; more below
Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) A digital anti-shake feature; see below for more
Special effect mode Create animated GIFs, combine several photos into one, or add virtual frames to your photos
Scene mode You pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from night, portrait, children, landscape, business card, close-up, text, sunset, dawn, backlight, fireworks, beach & snow
Movie mode More on this later
Photo gallery mode Basically a mode for viewing slideshows with music and transitions

As you can see, the NV11 has full manual exposure controls. You can manually adjust the aperture, the shutter speed, or both. The aperture range is F2.8 - F11, while the shutter speed range is 15 - 1/2000 sec. You manipulate these values by moving a slider with the Smart Touch buttons, as I illustrated in the earlier demo.

The special effects mode lets you create animated GIFs from a series of shots, combine up to four photos into one collage, or add virtual frames around your pictures. You can do all of these in playback mode as well.

Advanced Shake Reduction (only available in that one shooting mode) is a digital image stabilization feature whose inner workings aren't clear. It appears that the camera actually takes two exposures and somehow combines them into one photo (thanks to DP Review for the tip on this). The ISO is boosted to 200 as well, which "noises" things up a bit as well. Though it doesn't work as well as a true optical image stabilizer, ASR does help, though it can noticeably increase shot-to-shot delays. Here's an example:

ASR off

ASR on

I took both of the above photos at ISO 200, with a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second (this was a fairly telephoto shot). As you can see, the ASR system did its job, producing a nice, sharp photo. Of course, it added like 3 or 4 seconds of shot-to-shot delays, but if you're not in a rush and will be making smaller-sized prints, then it may be worth giving this feature a try.

Nothing to see here.

Here's the opposite side of the NV11, with the lens fully extended. That's a big nose!

On the bottom of the NV11 you'll find a metal tripod mount, the USB+A/V connector, and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over the battery/memory compartment is fairly sturdy. You shouldn't have a problem swapping memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The dock connector is where you'll attach in the USB cable (which doubles as the power cable, as I mentioned earlier) and the A/V cable. The NV11 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The included SLB-1137D li-ion battery is shown at right.

Using the Samsung NV11

Record Mode

The NV11 extends its large lens is ready to start taking photos in about two seconds, which is average.

No histogram to be found

The camera was fairly quick to focus in most situations. Typically, the NV11 locked focus in roughly 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle, and closer to a full second near the telephoto end of the lens. Despite having an AF-assist lamp, the camera's low light focusing performance was just fair.

There wasn't any shutter lag to speak of, except at very slow shutter speeds, where you should really be using a tripod in the first place.

Shot-to-shot speeds varied depending on your shooting mode. In most shooting modes, you'll wait just over a second before you can take another shot, with or without using the flash. If you're in ASR mode, the delay can be closer to four seconds, so it's not for fast action shooting.

There's no way to delete a photo while it's being saved to the memory card. You must enter playback mode and delete it from there.

There are a ton of image quality options available on the NV11. They include:

Resolution Quality # Images on 20MB onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)

3648 x 2736

Super fine 3 154
Fine 7 358
Normal 10 512
9M (3:2 ratio)
3648 x 2432
Super fine 4 205
Fine 8 410
Normal 11 563
3136 x 2352
Super fine 5 256
Fine 9 461
Normal 13 666
7M (16:9 ratio)
3648 x 2056
Super fine 4 205
Fine 9 461
Normal 13 666
2688 x 2016
Super fine 6 307
Fine 12 614
Normal 17 870
2240 x 1680
Super fine 9 461
Fine 16 819
Normal 23 1178
1024 x 768
Super fine 32 1638
Fine 47 2406
Normal 56 2867

As you can see, that measly 20MB of onboard memory doesn't hold very many photos, so you'll want that memory card right away!

Like all of Samsung's fixed-lens cameras, the NV11 does not support the RAW image format.

Images are named SNV1####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

Browsing the menus Making a selection

As I've mentioned several times, the NV11 has a rather unconventional user interface (to say the least).There are two rows of icons on the bottom of the screen (one of which is hidden by default), and a column of them on the right side as well. By default, the menu icons are always displayed on the LCD, which can be annoying when you're trying to frame a photo. Fear not, though -- taking a trip to the setup menu and setting the OSD setting to "hide" will take care of that problem.

Since the menus aren't organized in the typical hierarchical fashion, the list below isn't really in any kind of order. And with that, here are the menu options:

  • Shooting mode (Aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual) - only shown when mode dial is set to A/S/M
  • Color tone (Cool - warm) - only available in the auto modes
  • Brightness (Dark - bright) - only available in the auto modes
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent H, fluorescent L, tungsten, custom) - this last item lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Focus type (Normal, macro, auto macro, super macro, manual) - the auto macro mode is only available in the auto and scene modes; the manual mode is only in P/A/S/M mode; see below for more
  • Flash mode (Off, auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync, redeye fix) - more on this last item later
  • Image size (see chart above)
  • Drive (Single, continuous, high speed, motion capture, AE bracketing) - see below
  • Metering (Multi, spot, center)
  • Sharpness (Soft, normal, vivid)
  • Effect (Normal, black & white, sepia, blue, red, green, negative, custom) - the last item is only available in effect mode, and it lets you manually adjust the levels of red, green, and blue
  • Quality (see chart above)
  • Self-timer/remote control (Off, 2 or 10 sec, double, remote control)
  • Voice recording (Off, recording, memo) - the former lets you record audio until the memory card is full; the latter adds a 10 sec sound clip to a photo
  • Setup - enters the setup menu described below
Adjusting color tone in auto mode Adjusting aperture in aperture priority mode

The color tone, brightness, exposure compensation, aperture, and shutter speed controls all work in the same way. A "slider" is shown on the LCD, and you move your fingers across the bottom Smart Buttons in order to make adjustments. I found it difficult to be precise when adjusting some of these settings.

Manual focus

There are several focus modes on the NV11. Here I just want to mention the manual focus mode, saving the macro options for later. In manual focus mode you'll use the bottom row of Smart Buttons as a slider again, moving the guide to the value you desire. There's no center frame enlargement available, which would've been helpful in confirming proper focus.

Now let's talk about the continuous shooting modes on the NV11. In regular continuous mode, the camera will keep shooting at a very sluggish 0.6 frames/second until you run out of memory. The frame rate is that slow because the camera re-focuses between each shot. For faster shooting you'll want to use the high speed mode, which takes three shots in a row at 1.6 frames/second. Unfortunately, the LCD is blacked out while the camera is shooting, making it impossible to track a moving subject. Next we have the motion capture continuous mode. This takes up to twenty 1024 x 768 photos in a row at around 7 frames/second, though once again the LCD is blacked out during shooting.

The fourth continuous mode is for auto exposure bracketing, which takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure (-0.5EV, 0EV, +0.5EV). If you've got the space on your memory card, then this is a great way to ensure a properly exposed photo.

The setup menu is more traditional than the record menu, though navigation is still awkward. There are four tabs worth of options, and here they are:

  • OSD settings [record mode] (Full, basic, hide, LCD save)
  • OSD settings [playback mode] (Full, basic, hide)
  • File numbering (Series, reset)
  • Language
  • Date & time (Set, format)
  • Date imprint (Off, date, date & time)
  • LCD (Dark, normal, bright)
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Auto power off (1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
  • Quick View (Off, 0.5, 1, 3 secs) - post-shot review
  • Startup image (Off, logo, user image)
  • Sound volume (Off, low, medium, high)
  • Operation sound (Off, sound 1-3)
  • Startup sound (Off, sound 1-3)
  • Shutter sound (Off, sound 1-3)
  • Format memory/card
  • Delete all
  • Copy to card
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Reset - back to defaults

Boy am I tired of menus -- let's talk about the NV11's photo quality now.

Our macro test shot turned out fairly well on the NV11. The only problem I had was that the custom white balance was poor, so I ended up using a preset (tungsten) instead. Colors are a bit washed out, but overall are pretty close to the originals. The subject is nice and sharp, with no visible noise.

There are two macro modes on the camera (three if you count auto macro). In regular and auto macro mode, the minimum focus distances are 10 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto, which are fairly average numbers. The super macro mode reduces the distance to just 1 cm, though the lens will be locked at the wide-angle position.

The night shot results are mixed. The camera took in plenty of light, thanks to its manual exposure controls. The image is quite soft, though, possible due to the heavy noise reduction needed on a 10 Megapixel camera. This won't matter too much for smaller prints, but you'll notice it on large prints and when viewed on your computer screen. Purple fringing and noise were not major issues here.

I have two ISO tests in this review. The first uses that same night scene above, with the ISO increasing in each shot. Here we go:

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

As you'd expect, the ISO 100 shot isn't much different than the ISO 80 one. There's more noise and noise reduction artifacting at ISO 200, but it's still good enough for a small or midsize print. Detail loss becomes evident at ISO 400, so this is as far as I'd recommend going in low light situations. ISO 800 and especially 1600 have substantial detail loss, and lots of "static" noise in the image.

We'll see how the NV11 performed at high ISOs in normal lighting in a bit.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the NV11's 5X zoom lens. To see what this does to your real world photos, have a look at the building on the right in this shot. I did not find vignetting (dark corners) or blurry corners to be problems on the NV11.

The NV11 has two redeye reduction modes available. One uses the traditional pre-flash trick, while the other does that plus removes redeye via a software tool. I used this second method in my redeye test, and as you can see, it didn't do any good -- the redeye is pretty bad. While your results may vary, this test has proven to be fairly reliable based on reader feedback.

Time for ISO test number two. This one is taken in our studio, and the results can be compared with other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you an idea as to the noise level at each ISO setting, viewing the full size images is always a good idea.

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The first two crops are nice and clean, as expected. Noise reduction starts to become visible at ISO 200, but it's barely noticeable. Details really start to disappear at ISO 400, though a midsize print isn't out of the question. Actual noise starts to appear at ISO 800 (in addition to the NR artifacting that's already there), so this is probably as high as I'd take the NV11, and only if you'll be making small prints. The ISO 1600 shot is quite noisy, with reduced color saturation, so I'd avoid using it unless you're absolutely desperate.

Overall, the NV11's image quality was good, though it would be better if Samsung turned the noise reduction down a notch. Photos were generally well-exposed, with saturated colors. The only exception in the color department is when you're using custom white balance -- it doesn't do a very good job. There wasn't much noise to speak of at lower ISOs, though noise reduction artifacting is evident in many places. Photos have mottled solid colors, smudged details, and an overall soft look to them (this shot is a great example). Purple fringing was generally well-controlled, except in our "tunnel of doom" shot, where it was pretty strong. The issues I've raised won't be a big deal for small and midsize prints, but you may notice them at larger sizes or when viewing them at 100% on your computer screen.

As usual, I invite you to take a look at our photo gallery, printing a few of the pictures if you can. Then you'll be able to decide for yourself if the NV11's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The NV11 has a very nice movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until the memory card fills up. The onboard memory holds just under a minute of video, so you'll want a large memory card for longer movies. With a 1GB SD card you can store about 50 minutes worth, thanks to Samsung's use of the efficient DiVX codec. To extend recording time even more, you can either cut the frame rate to 15 fps, lower the resolution to 320 x 240, or both.

The NV11 is one of a small group of cameras that lets you use the optical zoom while filming. The catch is that the microphone is turned off while the zoom is operating, which is a bit awkward in real world use.

The camera has a unique feature that lets you pause recording by pressing one of the Smart Touch buttons. When you're ready to continue recording just press the button again and away you go. Everything is saved in a single movie file.

You can use many of the same digital effects in movie mode that you could in the regular still shooting mode. A trim function lets you remove unwanted sections of your movie, and you can also grab a frame from your movie and save it as a still image, if you'd like.

Below is a sample movie that I took at the highest quality setting. If you've got a Mac then you may need to download the DiVX codec. Sorry it's a little shaky, it was taken from quite a distance away.

Click to play movie (3.6 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, DiVX format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The NV11's playback mode is a little more advanced that usual. Basic features here include as slideshows (more on that in a bit), DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, image protection, and zoom and scroll are all here. The zoom and scroll feature lets you enlarge a photo and then move around in it, but scrolling with the Smart Touch buttons is wayyyyy too slow.

The camera lets you rotate, resize, and crop photos easily. You can also apply the same digital effects that you could in record mode. Finally, there's a redeye removal tool, though in my test it did no good.

Assigning a category in album view mode

The camera also has an album feature (available only with the mode dial set to Photo Gallery), which lets you organize photos into one of these preset categories: personal, family, friends, and events. It is here that you can also use an advanced slideshow feature, which has fancy transitions and your choice of background music.

As you'd expect on a camera with internal memory, there's a tool which copies photos to a memory card.

By default, the camera doesn't show much information about your photos. Go into the playback menu and turn on "full OSD info" and you'll see a bit more.

The NV11 moves between photos very quickly -- too quickly. The Smart Buttons are so sensitive that it's very easy to go rocketing past the photo you want. Thankfully you can use the #1 and #5 buttons on the bottom row to move one photo at a time, which I preferred.

How Does it Compare?

Samsung's NV11 certainly makes a bold statement when you first pick it up: it sports a stunning industrial design, and has an interface like none you've ever seen (unless, of course, you've used an earlier NV model). It's got a lot going for it, offering full manual controls and plenty of bells and whistles, though image quality could be better. If you can stomach the Smart Touch interface (I cannot), then it's worth taking a look at the NV11.

Two things that have been consistent across all of Samsung's NV-series cameras are design and build quality. The NV11 doesn't look like your typical camera: it's all black, with a glossy, blue-ringed 5X optical zoom lens protruding abruptly from the front. The camera is built very well, feeling like it's been carved out of a solid block of metal. While it's easy to hold this camera camera with one hand, it felt more comfortable using both. On the back of the camera you'll find plenty of buttons, but nearly all of them are unlabeled. This buttons make up Samsung's Smart Touch interface, which I described in detail earlier in the review. I find it awkward and difficult to use, but there are some people who really like it. You definitely need to try this camera before you buy it! The camera's LCD is 2.7 inches in size and is fairly sharp, though I've seen a lot better. The camera lacks an optical viewfinder.

The Samsung NV11 is chock full of features. Beginners will appreciate the numerous scene modes, the unique special effects, and the elaborate slideshow mode. If you're more experienced then you'll like the full set of manual controls the NV11 offers. They include controls for shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and focus. Adjusting these via the Smart Touch interface is awkward, though. It also has an Advanced Shake Reduction digital image stabilization feature, which works, though it noticeably increases shot-to-shot times. I wasn't as impressed with the NV11's face detection and redeye reduction features, though. The camera's VGA movie mode lets you use the zoom while recording (though the sound is muted while it's in operation), and the efficient DiVX codec allows for long recording times and small file sizes.

Camera performance was generally good, though the NV11 had a few week spots. Its 2 second startup time was about average, as were its focusing speeds. Low light focusing wasn't as good as I would've expected from a camera with an AF-assist lamp. Shot-to-shot delays are minimal, except when you're using the ASR feature. Continuous shooting isn't the NV11's specialty. In the normal continuous mode, the camera chugs along at just 0.6 frames/second. There are two faster modes (and only one of them shoots at full resolution), but since the LCD is blacked out during shooting, they're basically useless. Battery life was just a bit below average. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your computer.

Like most of Samsung's cameras, image quality is the NV11's weak spot. Exposure and color were generally good, though the camera's white balance system did not fair well under my studio lights. While noise isn't a problem until the ISO gets to its upper limits, the camera's heavy noise reduction starts smudging details much earlier. Images are quite soft, as well. You probably won't notice this unless you're making huge prints or viewing the photos on your computer screen, though. Purple fringing was strong in our "torture test", but wasn't much of an issue otherwise. Redeye was a big problem, and even the camera's removal tool couldn't get rid of it (maybe it's me?).

There are a few other things to point out before I wrap things up. The LCD doesn't brighten up as much as I'd like in low light conditions, which can make it difficult to see your subject. Next, the camera's 20MB of built-in memory is just too little for a 10 Megapixel camera. Finally, the full manual is only available in on the included CD-ROM, and it's quality is pretty lousy.

The Samsung NV11 is a camera that excels in terms of design and features, but has more than its share of disappointments as well. As I said at the start of this section, I recommend it if you don't mind the user interface. If you're like me, however, you may want to find a camera with a more traditional user interface (I've listed some of them below).

What I liked:

  • Stylish design, built like a brick
  • 5X zoom in a relatively small package
  • Large, high resolution 2.7" LCD display (though see issues below)
  • Unique user interface (though see below)
  • Full manual controls
  • Powerful flash
  • Advanced Shake Reduction works as advertised, if you don't mind the extra wait
  • Fun special effects, plenty of scene modes
  • Nice movie mode; optical zoom can be used during recording (though sound recording is muted)
  • Optional remote control
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Soft images with noise reduction artifacts, even at ISO 80
  • Redeye a big problem, even with in-camera removal tool
  • Poor white balance performance under artificial light
  • Awkward user interface can be frustrating; sometimes too sensitive, other times not sensitive enough; simple tasks take too long to accomplish
  • Low light LCD visibility could be better
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Mediocre continuous shooting modes; LCD blackout for the two fastest options
  • Face detection, redeye removal tools did not impressive
  • Full manual only on CD-ROM; manual quality leaves much to be desired
  • Too little built-in memory for a 10MP camera
  • No Mac software included

Some other cameras worth checking out include the Canon PowerShot A720 IS, Casio Exilim EX-V8, Fuji FinePix F480, GE E850, HP Photosmart Mz67, Kodak EasyShare Z1275, Olympus Stylus 820, Samsung S1050, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the NV11 (especially with its unusual interface) and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

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Want another opinion?

You'll find another review of the NV11 at CNET.com.