DCRP Review: Samsung NV3
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The Samsung NV3 ($350) is one of three new models in the Korean mega-company's new "NV" series of digital cameras. The NV3 is the ultra-compact of the bunch, offering a stylish metal body, a 7 Megapixel CCD, a 3X zoom lens, and a 2.5" LCD display. The NV3 isn't just a camera, though. It's also a PMP -- portable media player -- and it can play MP3 music files as well as videos (that must be converted into a special format). In other words, this isn't your typical ultra-compact camera.
Ultimately all the bells and whistles in the world don't matter if the camera's photo quality isn't up to snuff. How does the NV3 compete in the crowded ultra-compact field? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The NV3 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
Like so many camera manufacturers, Samsung builds memory into the camera rather than putting a memory card in the box. On the NV3 there's just 15MB of onboard memory, which holds a paltry four images at the highest quality setting. What that means is that you'll need to buy a memory card right away, which increases the initial purchase price of the camera. If you're just taking pictures I'd say that a 512MB card is a good starter size. If you're going to be watching movies or listening to music then you should be looking at a 2GB card. A high speed card seems to be a good idea, as I did notice a performance improvement compared with regular cards.
The NV3 uses the same SLB-0837 lithium-ion battery as a few of Samsung's other cameras. This battery packs 3.1 Wh into its compact form, which is about average for an ultra-compact camera. Unfortunately Samsung doesn't use the CIPA standard for their battery life numbers, so it's hard to compare it to the competition (which does test with the CIPA standard). With that in mind, have a look at this:
As you can see, the NV3's battery life numbers are below average (assuming that Samsung's testing method is close to what everyone else is using). Samsung says that the battery will last for about 135 minutes while viewing videos, and 240 minutes while listening to music.
Like all ultra-compact cameras, the NV3's batteries are expensive ($40), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when it runs out of juice. Since the NV3's battery life isn't the greatest, it's probably a good idea to buy a spare.
The NV3 has a rather unique way of charging its battery. All you need to do is plug the USB cable into the bottom of the camera and then connect it to your computer. A special adapter also lets you use a standard power plug, and you can also use the optional camera dock that I'll mention in a moment. Whichever way you use, it takes about 150 minutes to fully charge the SLB-0837.
As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the NV3, so there's no lens cap to worry about. As you can see, it's a pretty stylin' little camera.
Being a "portable media player" in addition to a camera, it's not surprising that the NV3 includes headphones. They're a little bulky, but they do the job.
There are just a few accessories for the NV3. First up there's a camera cradle known as the SCC-NV3 (price not available). The cradle/dock offers USB/power and A/V out ports. About the only other accessories I can find are a headphone adapter (which lets you use regular headphones instead of the bundled ones) and a camera case.
Samsung includes their Digimax Reader software with the NV3. 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 DM has the usual thumbnail view, 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 Converter is also included, and this is what you'll use to convert videos into the SDC format used by the NV3. Just select the videos you wish to convert (they can be MPEG, AVI, MOV, WMV or ASF format), choose the settings you want, and hit convert. Converting the videos takes a while, so go grab a cup of coffee while you're waiting.
Like Digimax Master, the Converter software is Windows only, so Mac users cannot put videos on the camera.
While the NV series of cameras are new and improved, the manual is not. Expect a cluttered layout and lots of "notes" on each page. The information you're looking for is there -- it's finding it that's the problem.
Look and Feel
The NV3 is a stylish, compact camera that is a major step up from Samsung's previous cameras. Gone is the cheesy plastic body: the NV3 feels like it's been cut out of a block of metal. The camera is very well put together, feeling solid in your hands. The NV3 has a nice matte black finish and a blue ring around the lens that will surely catch people's eyes.
The controls are a bit unusual, and take some getting used to. There are two silver discs on the top of the camera that are both speakers and "finger rests", though they can easily be mistaken for buttons. The labeling for the buttons on the back of the camera is confusing, as well.
Now let's see how the NV3 compares to other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight: