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DCRP Review: Samsung NV7 OPS  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 1, 2007
Last Updated: April 30, 2012

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The Samsung NV7 OPS ($349) is the top-of-the-line model in the Korean manufacturer's line of premium digital cameras. It packs a 7 Megapixel CCD, 7X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, full manual controls, and a very unique user interface.

That unique interface is called Smart Touch, which I first saw on the NV10 that I reviewed last year. Instead of having buttons for specific purposes all over the camera, the NV7 has 13 "Smart Buttons" around the LCD. The function these buttons perform depend on what icon is above it. If I want to change the ISO sensitivity, I first press the second button from the right below the LCD. This brings up the available ISO settings, and I use the buttons on the right to select one.

In playback mode these buttons work as a sort of "scroll wheel" -- just run your fingers across the button buttons to move between photos. Sometimes the buttons are too sensitive (like when browsing photos) and sometimes not sensitive enough (like when using playback zoom), which is frustrating.

Back when I reviewed the NV10 I created a video that demonstrated how the Smart Touch system worked. Since the interface hasn't changed since then, I offer it to you again as a visual example of how you operate the NV7.

How does the feature-packed, well-built Samsung NV7 OPS perform? Find out now in our review!

Since the two cameras have much in common, portions of the NV10 review will be reused here.

What's in the Box?

The NV7 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

  • The 7.2 effective Megapixel Samsung NV7 OPS digital camera
  • SLB-0837 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
  • 80 page camera manual (printed)

As is the case with many cameras these days, the NV7 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box. You'll find just 19MB of memory on this camera, which holds just five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and I recommend picking up a 512MB or 1GB card to start. The camera supports both SD and MultiMedia memory cards, though not the newer and higher capacity SDHC format. The camera performs a little better with a high speed memory card, so it's worth spending a little more money for one.

The NV7 uses the same SLB-0837 lithium-ion battery as the NV10. This battery has 3.1 Wh of energy, which isn't very much these days. Samsung doesn't officially use the CIPA standard for their battery tests, but their methodology is almost identical. Here's how much battery life you can get out of it, with a comparison to other cameras in its class:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot A710 IS * 360 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Canon PowerShot G7 * 220 shots NB-2LH
Casio Exilim EX-V7 240 shots NP-50
Kodak EasyShare C875 250 shots 2 x 2100 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix L5 * 250 shots 2 x 2000 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix P5000 250 shots EN-EL5
Olympus Stylus 750 * 190 shots LI-42B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 * 390 shots 2 x Unknown NiMH
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 * 270 shots CGA-S007
Samsung NV7 OPS */** 150 shots SLB-0837
Samsung NV11 ** 220 shots SLB-1137

* Has image stabilization
** Number not obtained using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

You don't need to have a graduate degree in math do see that the NV7's battery life is well below average. If you buy the NV7, buy an extra battery. Speaking of batteries, I must now launch into my speech about proprietary batteries like the one used here. They're expensive (about $40 a pop) and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when they die, as you could with a camera that uses AA batteries.

Like the NV10, the NV7 OPS 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. 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 do it, it'll take 150 minutes to fully charge the SLB-0837.

The NV7 includes a lens cap with retaining strap, so that big ol' 7X zoom lens will be protected from the elements.

There are just three accessories of note for the NV7 OPS. The first is a camera cradle, the SCC-NV1, which lets you charge the battery and connect to a TV at the same time. Next up we have a wireless remote control, which I believe is called the SRC-A3. And finally, there is a hard shell camera case -- the SCP-NV1. If you're wondering why I don't have links to pricing, it's because I can't find these things for sale in the U.S.

Samsung includes their Digimax Master software with the NV7. 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, 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.

Samsung's camera manuals have never been great, and the NV7's continues the tradition. You'll find what you're looking for -- it will just take a lot of looking.

Look and Feel

All four of the Samsung NV cameras have a similar, stunning design. They have a sleek black matte body that seems as if it was cut from a solid block of metal. The NV7 is probably the must unusual-looking of the group, with its bulbous lens protruding from an otherwise slender frame. Build quality is superb in almost all areas, with the battery/memory card compartment being the only minor weak point.

While the camera can be held and operated with one hand, Samsung has placed a finger rest on the top-left of the camera, which helps you steady the camera a bit more.

Now let's take a look at how the NV7 OPS compares to other cameras in its class:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot A710 IS 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.6 in. 15.8 cu in. 210 g
Canon PowerShot G7 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in. 20 cu in. 320 g
Casio Exilim EX-V7 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 150 g
Kodak EasyShare C875 3.6 x 2.5 x 1.4 in. 12.6 cu in. 177 g
Nikon Coolpix L5 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.8 in. 15.6 cu in. 170 g
Nikon Coolpix P5000 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 in. 15.6 cu in. 200 g
Olympus Stylus 750 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8 cu in. 120 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.3 in. 12.7 cu in. 184 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 15.1 cu in. 232 g
Samsung NV11 4.2 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 9.5 cu in. 195 g
Samsung NV7 OPS 4.2 x 2.5 x 1.4 in. 14.7 cu in. 142 g

The NV7 is a small camera with a very big snout. In the midzoom range as a whole, it's about average in terms of size and weight. It's not a "jeans pocket camera" for sure, but it will fix into a jacket pocket with ease.

It's tour time now -- let's start with the front of the NV7 OPS.

The biggest selling point on the NV7 is its F2.8-4.0, 7X optical zoom lens. The focal range of the lens is 6.3 - 44.7 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 270 mm. While the lens barrel is threaded, conversion lenses are not supported on the camera.

Behind the lens, deep within the recesses of the camera body, lies the NV7's optical image stabilization system. The camera's CCD sensor is mounted on a movable platform, and when gyroscopes in the NV7 detect "camera shake" (caused by the tiny movements of your hands), the Optical Picture Stabilization system swings into action. It actually moves the CCD to compensate for this motion, hopefully resulting in a sharper photo. It won't freeze a moving subject, nor will it work at really slow shutter speeds, but it will let you use shutter speeds that would be blurry on an unstabilized camera.

There are two OPS modes on the camera. Mode 1 activates the image stabilizer only when a photo is actually taken, while Mode 2 has it on as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release, which helps with composition. In general, you're more likely to get a sharp photo if you use Mode 1.

For some bizarre reason (I'm guessing to conserve battery life), the OPS system is off by default, so you'll have to activate it each time you turn on the camera. Also, you cannot use the OPS system at all in movie mode.

Want to see how well it works? Have a look at this:

Image stabilization off

Image stabilization on

Both of these photos were taken at the same shutter speed: 1/13th of a second. As you can see, the OPS system (in mode 1) worked as promised. I can't give you the usual image stabilization sample movie since, well, you can't use OPS in movie mode. There's also a digital image stabilization feature on the camera, and I'll cover that a bit later.

Back to the tour now. Directly above the lens is the NV7's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The working range of the flash is pretty good: 0.8 - 5.8 m at wide-angle and 2.0 - 4.0 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to the NV7.

Other items of note on the front of the camera include the self-timer lamp, remote control receiver, and microphone on the left side, and the AF-assist lamp on the right. The AF-assist lamp is used by the camera as a focusing aid in low light situations.

The LCD on the back of the camera is 2.5" LCD model with 230,000 pixels. The screen is bright, sharp, and easy to see outdoors (relatively speaking). I was not, however, impressed with the screen's low light visibility: it can be very hard to see your subject when your lighting is less than ideal.

The screen is surrounded by the Smart Touch buttons that I told you about back at the start of the review. One of those buttons is dedicated to either turning on the Optical Picture Stabilization or backing out of menus. Another button is used for entering playback mode.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the camera. Some people require them, some people don't care, so whether this is a problem is up to you.

The only other thing to mention on the back of the NV7 is the zoom controller, found at the upper-right of the photo. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.5 seconds, which isn't bad considering that this is a 7X zoom. I counted eleven steps in the zoom range.

That button-looking thing on the left side of the photo is both a finger rest and a speaker.

To the right of that are the power and shutter release buttons. Next to that is the mode dial, which has these options:

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 modes; aperture range is F2.8 - F10.1; shutter speed range is 15 - 1/1500 sec;
Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) A digital anti-shake feature; see below for more
Special effect mode Add virtual frames to your photos, create an animated GIF, or combine up to four photos into one.
Scene mode You pick the situation and the camera uses the right settings. Choose from night scene, portrait, children, landscape, close-up, text, sunset, dawn, backlight, firework, and beach & snow
Movie mode More on this later
Photo gallery mode Fancy playback mode that lets you create photo albums

As you can see, the NV7 has a full set of manual exposure controls. Aperture priority mode lets you choose the aperture, and the camera picks the proper shutter speed. Shutter priority mode is the exact opposite. In full manual mode you'll set both the shutter speed and aperture yourself.

Earlier I told you about the NV7's optical picture stabilization system. The camera also features Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction digital image stabilization system, whose inner workings aren't entirely clear. Yes, the ASR system boosts the ISO sensitivity, but there's obviously more going on than just that due to the processing that occurs after the photo is taken. It's pretty hard to test ASR, since it's not something you can just turn on and off in any shooting mode, but I tried, and came up with this:

ASR off

I <heart> the Wilderness Lodge
ASR on

I took the above photo toward the telephoto end of the lens. What's interesting here is that the ASR worked -- and the camera used a slower shutter speed (1/10 sec) than in the blurry shot (1/13 sec). What you can't see here is that there's an increase is noise, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. You can use ASR and OPS at the same time, though I would stick with the latter since it does not reduce photo quality. Oh, and one more thing: ASR noticeably increases your shot-to-shot times.

Zoe had no idea what she was getting into when I adopted her

The special effects mode lets you combine photos, create animated GIFs, or add virtual frames around your pictures.

Nothing to see here, except for the NV7's huge nose.

Here's the opposite side of the NV7, with the lens fully extended.

On the bottom of the NV7 you'll find a metal tripod mount, the dock connector, and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over the battery/memory compartment is flimsy compared to the rest of the camera. You should be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The dock connector is where you'll attach in the USB cable (which can plug into a computer or into a power outlet via the included adapter) and the A/V cable. The NV7 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

The included SLB-0837 battery is shown at right.

Using the Samsung NV7 OPS

Record Mode

It takes the NV7 about three seconds to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking photos. That's on the slow side.

No histogram to be found

Autofocus speeds were generally very snappy. The camera typically took between 0.2 - 0.4 seconds to lock focus at the wide end of the lens, which longer (but not unreasonable) delays at the telephoto end. Low light focusing performance was above average.

I did not find shutter speed to be a problem, even at the slow shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot speeds were very good, with a delay of a little over one second between shots. The only exception to this is when you're using the ASR feature, as this may add a 2-4 second delay between shots.

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 NV7. They include:

Resolution Quality # Images on 19MB onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)

3072 x 2304

Super fine 5 268
Fine 9 508
Normal 14 720
2688 x 2016
Super fine 6 344
Fine 12 640
Normal 17 900
1920 x 1440
Super fine 12 628
Fine 21 1108
Normal 28 1484
1024 x 768
Super fine 32 1648
Fine 47 2432
Normal 56 2848

See why you want to buy a memory card right away? Despite being the flagship camera of the NV-series, the NV7 OPS does not support the RAW image format.

Images are named SNB1####.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 mentioned at the start of this review, the NV7 has a rather unconventional user interface (to say the least).There are two rows of icons (options) on the bottom of the screen (one of which is hidden by default), and there's 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:

  • Color tone (Cool - warm) - only available in the auto modes
  • Brightness (Dark - bright) - only available in the auto modes
  • 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 (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync, flash off)
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Drive (Single, continuous, high speed, motion capture, AE bracketing) - see below
  • Metering (Multi, spot, center)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000)
  • Sharpness (Soft, normal, vivid)
  • Effect (Normal, black & white, sepia, blue, red, green, negative, custom) - only available in special effect mode; that last option lets you manually adjust the levels of red, green, and blue in your photo
  • Quality (see above chart)
  • 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
  • Shooting mode (Aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual) - only shown when mode dial is set to A/S/M
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent H, fluorescent L, tungsten, custom, color temperature) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • AE Lock (on/off)
Adjusting color tone (available in auto mode only) Adjusting exposure compensation

The color tone, brightness, and exposure compensation 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.

Manual focus

There are several focus modes on the NV7. Here I just want to mention the manual focus mode, saving the macro options for later. In manual focus mode you'll use the button 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.

There are several continuous shooting modes on the NV7. In regular continuous mode, the camera will keep shooting at 0.6 frames/second until you run out of memory. The frame rate is extra 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 2.2 frames/second. Unfortunately, the LCD is blacked out while the camera is shooting, making it impossible to track a moving subject. The last of the continuous modes is called multi capture. This takes up to twenty 1024 x 768 photos in a row at nearly 8 frames/second, though once again the LCD is blacked out during shooting. All things considered, the NV7's continuous modes are disappointing.

The camera also offers an auto exposure bracketing feature, 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.

Setting white balance by color temperature

The NV7 offers a nice set of white balance controls. You've got your usual presets (auto, sunlight, etc), plus the ability to use a white or gray card as the "white point" for shooting under more unusual lighting. If that's still not enough, you can also manually set the color temperature, from 3000K to 10000K. This is a feature rarely found on cameras in this price range.

The setup menu is more traditional than the record menu, with four tabs worth of options. They include:

  • OSD settings [record mode] (Full, basic, hide, LCD save)
  • OSD settings [playback mode] (Full, basic, hide)
  • File numbering (Series, reset)
  • Language (way too many to list)
  • 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
  • Copy to card
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • USB (Computer, printer)
  • Reset - back to defaults

I've had enough of menus, so let's talk about the NV7's photo quality now.

The NV7 did a nice job with our macro test subject. The subject is sharp, though I do see a bit of noise in parts of the photo. Colors look good, though the red is not that saturated in real life.

There are two macro modes on the camera (three if you count auto macro). In regular macro mode, the minimum focus distances are 10 cm at wide-angle and 60 cm at telephoto, which is nothing to write home about. If you move the lens to the full wide-angle position the super macro option opens up, which reduces the minimum distance to just 1 cm.

The night test shot results are a mixed bag. On the positive side, the camera took in plenty of light, as it should with its manual shutter speed control. Purple fringing is well controlled. Noise, however, is quite noticeable, even at this ISO setting (100), which is the lowest available. Noise reduction artifacting is evident as well: note the loss of detail on the US Bank building and the mottled sky.

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

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1000

Lots to talk about here. First of all, I don't know what's up with that pink color cast that only appears in the ISO 200 shot. As far as noise goes, things go downhill rapidly. Details really start to go at ISO 200, and once you hit ISO 400 you can forget about it -- nothing from there on up is useable.

We'll see how the NV7 performed at high ISOs in better lighting in a bit.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the NV7's 7X zoom lens. I did not find vignetting (dark corners) or blurry edges to be a problem.

As you can see, the NV7 has a redeye problem. A big redeye problem. And yes, I always take these test photos with redeye reduction turned on. While your mileage may vary, there's a good chance that you'll have to deal with this annoyance too.

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 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1000

Things are good but not great at ISO 100. We can already see a little bit of noise and noise reduction artifacting here, which doesn't bode well for higher ISOs. Despite this, you should be able to get nice mid to large sized prints at this setting. ISO 200 shows more noise reduction artifacting, reducing your print sizes a bit. Things get substantially worse at ISO 400, with significant detail loss, so this is for small prints only. At ISO 800 and 1000 the color saturation drops through the floor, and details vanish turn into blocks of noise.

The closest competitor to the NV7 that I've reviewed is probably the Canon PowerShot A710 IS, which has much lower noise levels at all ISO settings when compared to this camera.

Overall I was a bit disappointed with the photo quality on the NV7 OPS. While photos were well-exposed with pleasing, saturated colors, there is way too much noise and noise reduction artifacting compared to other cameras in this class -- even at ISO 100. The noise reduction is especially annoying, as it destroys details and leaves solid areas (like sky or water) looking mottled. For this reason you want to keep the ISO as close to 100 as possible, as things get worse quickly as the sensitivity goes up. None of this matters if you're sticking to small prints, but if you're planning on doing larger prints (8 x 10 or above) or viewing at 100% on screen, you will do better looking at another camera.

As usual, I urge you to take a look at our photo gallery, printing the pictures if you can. Then you'll be able to decide for yourself if the NV7's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The NV7 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 hold about 50 minutes -- thank you 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 NV7 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.

For some bizarre reason, you cannot use the OPS system during filming (the Nikon S10, which also uses CCD-shift image stabilization, was the same way).

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. The sound cuts out early on my computer, though this may just be a Mac thing. Anyhow, enjoy:

Click to play movie (5.1 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, DiVX format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The NV7'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 the scrolling is wayyyyy too slow (kind of the opposite of moving through photos).

The camera lets you rotate, resize, and crop photos easily. You can also apply the same digital filters that you could in record mode. A motion GIF feature lets you take a bunch of photos and turn them into a single animated GIF, with a frame rate of 2 or 5 fps.

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 the 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 NV7 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.

How Does it Compare?

The Samsung NV7 OPS is a camera that offers a lot of bang for the buck, but is ultimately a let down due to its below average image quality, poor battery life, and frustrating user interface. While I like its design and feature set quite a bit, the bottom line is that there are better cameras out there for the money.

The NV7's design shares much in common with the other three cameras in Samsung's NV-series. It's very solidly built, as if it was cut form a solid block of metal. It's not quite as stylish as the NV3 or NV10/11, with its lens housing protruding from an otherwise slim body. Holding the camera is easy, and the speaker even doubles as a rest for your left thumb. As its name hints at, the NV7 has both a 7 Megapixel CCD and a 7X optical zoom lens. While it has a nice telephoto end of 270 mm, I think a lot of folks would've preferred had the focal range started at something lower than 38 mm. The NV7 is Samsung's first camera to have optical image stabilization (they chose the CCD-shift type), and it works well here. There's also a digital image stabilization feature which works well, though it will reduce the quality of the photos you take (which aren't great to begin with) and increase shot-to-shot times. The back of the camera features a large and sharp 2.5" LCD display which is easy to see outdoors and hard to see in low light conditions. There is no optical viewfinder.

Thirteen buttons that make up Samsung's unique Smart Touch user interface surround the LCD. While it's interesting and can be occasionally a time saver, I believe Samsung tried to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place -- that is, the typical clutter of buttons on a camera's body. On the positive side, the interface lets you get to less commonly used options without having to dig through a hierarchical menu system. Still, for some items it takes longer than it should to perform a task (like deleting a photo). Other times it was downright frustrating, like when you're going from photo-to-photo (too quickly) or tried to view an enlarged image in playback mode (too slowly). If you're interested in the NV7 -- and I can't stress this enough -- try out the interface before you buy the camera.

The NV7 has both automatic and manual controls. On the point-and-shoot side you get a full auto mode, plus numerous scene modes. There are some fun special effects that may appeal to beginners, as well. Users can also create photo albums and display slideshows with music and transitions. In terms of manual controls, the NV7 has them all, from exposure to focus to white balance. The NV7's white balance controls are especially strong for a camera in its price range, with the ability to not only use a white or gray card for custom WB, but to also manually set the color temperature. The NV7 has a nice movie mode, and its use of the DiVX codec means smaller files and longer record times than on most other cameras. You can use the optical zoom during filming (though the sound recording will stop while you do so), but the image stabilization is, for some reason, not available.

Camera performance was good in some areas, and not-so-good in others. The NV7's three second startup time is nothing to write home about, though it has decent focus speeds, even in low light. Shutter lag was not an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal, as long as you're not using the ASR feature. If you are, expect 2-4 second waits between shots. The NV7 has several continuous shooting modes, none of which are impressive. One's too slow, while the fast ones black out the LCD during shooting, which makes it kind of hard to track a moving subject. Battery life on the NV7 is well below average.

Like the NV10, the NV7's image quality is its weak point. The good news it that photos are well-exposed, with pleasing colors and well-controlled purple fringing. The bad news is that images start out with both visible noise and noise reduction artifacting, and go downhill rapidly from there. The NV7's closest competitor, the Canon PowerShot A710 IS, produces much better photos in all situations. Redeye was also a big problem, as it was on the other NV-series cameras.

The Samsung NV7 OPS is a camera with a lot of nice features that ultimately is as let down for reasons I listed earlier. If you are intrigued by its design and features and will be sticking to small prints then it may be worth a look (just buy a spare battery). But you'll probably be better off choosing something else entirely. Something that will take better photos, have a more traditional user interface, and last longer on a set of batteries.

What I liked:

  • Good value for the money
  • Very stylish design, one of a kind; great build quality, save for the battery/memory compartment cover
  • Optical image stabilization (though see issues below)
  • Large, high resolution 2.5" LCD display (though see issues below)
  • Unique user interface (though see below)
  • Full manual controls, including ability to set white balance by color temperature (a rarity in this price range)
  • Powerful flash
  • AF-assist lamp, very good low light focusing
  • Fun special effects, plenty of scene modes
  • Nice movie mode; optical zoom can be used during recording (though sound recording stops)
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Optional remote control

What I didn't care for:

  • Images are noisy and plagued by noise reduction artifacts, even at low ISOs
  • Redeye a big problem
  • User interface can be frustrating; sometimes too sensitive, other times not sensitive enough; simple tasks take to long to accomplish
  • Poor battery life
  • Low light LCD visibility could be better
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Optical image stabilization cannot be used in movie mode
  • Unimpressive continuous shooting modes
  • Using ASR (advanced shake reduction) feature slows down shot-to-shot speeds dramatically; not really necessary with OPS present
  • No Mac software included

Some other cameras in the NV7's class worth a look include the Canon PowerShot A710 and G7, Casio Exilim EX-V7, Kodak EasyShare C875, Nikon Coolpix L5 and P5000, Olympus Stylus 750, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 and DMC-TZ3, and the Samsung NV11 (I guess).

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the NV7 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of the NV7 at Digital Photography Review, PhotographyBlog, and CNET Asia.

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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