These specifications include a large 3.0-inch touch screen on the back, 16-megapixels of resolution, a wide 5x optical zoom lens covering 26 - 130mm (35mm equivalent), HD video capture at 720p resolution, Smart Auto 2.0, Magic Frame options, and various photo and video filters for those more creative users. These features combined make the MV800 an appealing camera for the younger masses.
Like its predecessors, the MV800 is quite compact, measuring just 3.6 x 2.21 x 0.72 inches (92.0 × 56.2 × 18.3 mm). While offering a mostly metal construction, the camera weighs in at a scant 4.3 ounces (without the battery or memory card installed). These figures mean you can stuff the MV800 into the smallest of pockets; or even a stocking this Christmas. Due to its touch screen operation, there are very few buttons mounted around the MV800's body. All that remain are the power button, shutter release with the zoom controls mounted around it, and the Home and Play buttons. All camera operations and settings are handled via the newer "smart phone like" GUI (Graphical User Interface), which is very similar to the system used on the ST700. This app driven system is very similar to a modern day smart phone, with application type icons used for the different exposure options and menus. For the younger masses who are almost addicted to smart devices, the MV800's operation will come as second nature to them. The rest of use will have to get used to this operation; which didn't take too long for us.
The MV800 offers various exposure options for just about everyone; all of which are fully automatic. Smart Auto will likely be the most used option, which is an intelligent system that not only chooses the proper exposure settings for your shot, but it also analyzes the subject being framed and applies additional scene settings to help you capture more appealing photos. You also have Program mode for those who want to play with a few settings, which is still fully automatic but offers options for ISO, white balance, metering, focus, etc. Samsung has also added various "fun" options, like Photo and Movie Filter apps, Magic Frame, 3D Photo, Picture in Picture, Funny Face, Pose Guide, etc. All of these options help you capture more creative photos, which adds to the overall fun factor of the MV800.
The 3.0-inch touch screen display worked quite well during our tests. The GUI is rather responsive, as we only experienced a few delays when navigating the onscreen options. The biggest delay was usually caused while the flash would recharge, which rendered the GUI (and camera) virtually unresponsive until it finished. With 288K pixels, the display offers a nice clear view when framing or sharing your photos and videos. Colors look natural, however we did see some graininess in the live feed; especially in lower lighting. I was very glad to see that Samsung used a capacitive type display on the MV800, verses the resistive type system we saw on the ST700. The MV800's display handles much more like a smart phone, which responds to the flesh or "meat" of your finger rather than a stylus or your finger nail. I believe this allows for easier control, especially for me since I'm use to this type of touch screen system from my Android powered phone. Overall, the MV800's touch screen system performed well for a camera in this price range.
Image quality from the MV800 is up to par with other 16-megapixel point-n-shoots we've tested. While the camera can capture some very nice photos, like any ultra-compact you have some compromises in order to get a camera this small. Overall, the camera captures nice exposures in a variety of situations. Colors are pleasing, with Smart Auto producing more vibrant colors than Program mode; which is more natural. Images are also nice and sharp throughout the zoom range, with a small amount of edge softness present. Some of the downfalls we noted were increased noise (even at lower ISO settings), along with some strong exposures when shooting in certain exposure modes; like Live Panorama for example. In Live Panorama mode, we also saw some vertical banding, making most of the images we captured at a local hockey game pretty much worthless. While we can see some luminous noise present in shadow areas when critically inspecting images at 100% (aka pixel peeping), overall noise is controlled well up to about ISO 800. At that point, noise covers almost the entire image, and you start to have a decrease in fine detail; although ISO 800 images can still be used for mid-sized prints. ISO 1600 and 3200 are almost unusable, which is pretty common with ultra-compact cameras.
The 5x optical zoom on the MV800 offers a good amount of versatility for a camera of this size. Normally you see a 3-4x zoom on a camera of this size, however Samsung was able to stuff a nice wide 5x lens, which covers a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 26 - 130mm. This will afford a wide range for your basic photographs, such as group shots indoors, wide landscapes, and close-ups of individuals or objects. What you can't cover will be far off distant subjects. While the camera does offer a 5x digital zoom option, just remember that both resolution and quality drop as you zoom in with the digital option; your best bet is to position yourself closer to the subject so you can use the optical zoom. Overall this lens compliments the MV800's 16-megapixel sensor nicely, producing sharp images in a variety of situations. We did see some edge softness as mentioned earlier, along with average amounts of chromatic aberrations (aka purple fringing) along the edges of high contrast objects.
Like many ultra-compacts, the MV800 can struggle indoors. This is mainly due to its anemic built-in flash, which boasts a maximum range of 10.5 feet at wide angle; using ISO Auto. I found the flash to be very weak, especially when manually setting the ISO in Program mode. In our M&M Man ISO series, you can see three flash examples. One was taken using Smart Auto (which according to EXIF chose ISO 160), and two using Program mode (one at ISO 80, the other at ISO 400). The Smart Auto shot looks great, while both of the Program mode examples are way underexposed. The latter we believe was a combination of the weak flash, and for some reason the camera bumped the aperture from f/5.2 in Smart Auto to f/14.8 in Program mode; which leads one to think the Auto Exposure system is struggling indoors. Either way, the MV800's flash and AE system seem to cause some concern indoors; or in any low light setting. While the camera was able to produce some good indoor flash shots using Smart Auto, we did see some instances of both underexposure and overexposure in marginal lighting; which again points to an AE issue.
The MV800's video quality is right in line with what you should expect from an ultra-compact digicam; good, but not digital camcorder quality. You can choose to record video at a maximum of 720p (1280x720), which is pretty much standard on digicams now; with many offering full HD now as well. The choices you have for video include 1280x720 HQ, 1280x720, 640x480, or 320x240. The frame rate can be set at 30 (higher quality) or 15 (lower quality) frames per second, and mono sounds is recorded. Unlike most digicams, you have full use of the optical zoom while recording video; just expect to hear the zoom motor during playback. Like the ST700, the MV800 offers Samsung's newer Smart Movie option. This mode is similar to the Smart Auto of still record mode, where the camera analyzes the scene being framed, then selects from four Scene settings (Landscape, Sunset, Clear skies, Forested areas) that best fit the subject. This is designed to help you capture more appealing video in a variety of situations, without you having to deal with complicated settings. Like we mentioned earlier, the MV800's video quality is average for a consumer point-n-shoot. You can capture pleasing video to share with friends and family, which will play back great on the camera, your PC, or a HDTV with an optional HDMI cable. Just don't expect digital camcorder or cinema type quality, and you'll be just fine. Videos are saved using the MPEG-4 video codec, with files having the .MP4 files extension. This codec allows for good quality, while helping keep file sizes to a minimum, and work great for uploading to social media sites and YouTube.
One area where the MV800 really struggles is with battery life. They claim that its tiny BP70A, 3.7V 740 mAh battery pack can power the camera for up to 200 still photos, or approx. 70 minutes of video. This is sub par for cameras in this price range, and we had a hard time getting even close to 200 photos per charge. Now the colder weather in the Midwest is sure to be part of that equation, but either way we found that the MV800's power supply leaves one wanting more. This is an instance where we highly recommend you add a spare battery pack to your purchase; about $25 from sites like Amazon.com. The only downfall to this is that the MV800 charges the battery in-camera, meaning you can't use one pack while the other is charging. You'll need to fully charge both packs before you go out shooting. There are some affordable (sub $20) aftermarket AC/DC chargers out there for the BP70A battery, however we have not tested any to see how well they work; so use at your own risk.
Bottom line - Samsung continues to create some unique and fun to use cameras. The MV800 has a lot to offer inside its sleek and stylish metal frame. The younger and social masses will love the flip-up display and "smart phone like" touch screen operation, while other users will appreciate the camera's 16-megapixels of resolution and 5x optical zoom lens. Either way, the MV800 is sure to be a popular camera this holiday season, and in to 2012 with a street price of about $249 USD or less. While the MV800 gets a thumbs up from the staff here at Steve's, remember that it does have some shortfalls.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.
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