The touch screen experience is in most cases very handy. Navigating the menus was usually a breeze, but there were a few outliers that may disappoint some people expecting a full smart phone-like experience. Firstly, although you can swipe photos on and off the screen to your heart's content, you cannot zoom in or out using a two-fingered method - you have to use the zoom ring to inspect photos and zoom out to enter index view.
Also, I never thought I would say this about a generous 3.3-inch screen on a camera, but only because of the similarity to smart phones does the screen seem a little small. I did not find the touch screen response as seamless as I've seen on smart phones. My swiping was on an occasion mistaken as a tap, which became a little frustrating when trying to navigate through pages of thumbnails in the playback Index view.
As for physical buttons, the MV900F offers a few helpful shortcuts. On the back panel there is a Home button and a playback button. It is a pretty simple affair. From the Home menu, you can select your shooting mode, a wireless function, or perform photo edits. But there isn't a dedicated movie button on the body, so you'll have to navigate the on-screen menu to select Movie mode, unless you're in Smart Auto. In that case, Smart Auto offers an on-screen video recording button. The layout of the touch screen menus can feel a little confining, spread across five pages that you must repeatedly swipe through if your destination is on page 5, for example. (The tiny page number indicators don't function like icons that you can use to jump ahead or back.)
The star of the physical buttons is called Smart Link. This button sits at the top of the back panel above the display. You assign this button a wireless function, such as e-mail or Facebook post, in the menus. This is a definite time-saver for this camera's target audience: the perpetually connected and sharing.
Setting up Wi-Fi was initially easy. All I had to do was press the WPS button on my access point. But when I tried to set up the email function on the Smart Link button, the camera asked me to repeat this process, a minor inconvenience. (My sent email, however, never did show up in my Gmail's sent folder.) The camera also has menu options for wireless auto backup to a PC or to the cloud.
In addition, you can use your Samsung Galaxy smart phone as a remote viewfinder, as long as it runs Android OS 2.2 or higher, using the phone to remotely trip the shutter and to see the preview of the photo.
As for the nuts and bolts camera capabilities of this model, it is a little bit of a mixed bag. The 5x zoom is at the bottom end of the scale, and its macro function isn't tops - it can focus as close as 5cm, or 0.2 inch, whereas some similarly priced cameras can focus as close as 1cm (.04 inch) and offer more a zoom as powerful as 16x.
The flash, as compact as it is, throws around an impressive amount of light. I was pleased with the lighting of indoor photos of rooms as deep as 15 feet. And, in Program mode, you do get a few flash mode options that should improve your shots, including two redeye reduction modes, slow sync, and fill-in flash.
The burst modes work just as promised. You can shoot at 3fps, 5fps or 10fps, all at full 16M resolution. The drawback, though, is that you are limited to just six shots in all three drive modes. On the one hand, I was expecting the 10fps mode to create lower resolution files, but I'd still like to have an even faster burst mode that could carry on well past six shots, even if it captured lower-resolution images.
The images the MV900F captures are generally of good quality. Exposures are accurate and color saturation is vivid without getting garish. But a close inspection of the images may make you marvel that what you're looking at is technically a 16-megapixel photo. That's because when viewed at 100% on a large monitor (in my case, 26 inches), the lack of sharp detail and crisp edges is obvious. This may not be the sort of thing that will jump out at the casual snapshot shooter - certainly not on the comparatively small, low-resolution screen on the camera - but it will be apparent on large prints. At 100% on-screen, these images were no sharper in the details than the 5-megapixel images shot by my old point-and-shoot. I'm comparing shots taken in mid afternoon sun at ISO 100. Of course, 5MP shots could never print as large as 16MP shots, but the simple point is that more megapixels don't necessarily get you sharper images, just bigger ones.
On the other hand, the camera's 1080p video is more impressive. The video I recorded looked quite sharp. On the Samples Page you can see both daytime and nighttime examples. The daytime video looks quite sharp, though the auto focus seems to have a little trouble when zooming the lens. The nighttime footage shows the limitations, resulting in some odd artifacts under the flood lights - but still, fairly good quality from a small camera.
What I'm waging isn't an unfair fight by blowing up these photos so big on screen. You can clearly see optical distortion at the edges of images shot at full wide angle (25mm) when viewed at zoom-to-fit size (much smaller than 100%) on a computer monitor. (See images SAM_0059 and 0060 on the Samples Page.) This would be more excusable if the lens were offering a broad zooming range, but it's only offering 5x of power.
Another type of distortion can be seen when bumping up the ISO, or light sensitivity. The test shots on our Samples Page show an increase in digital noise and softening of edges beginning at ISO 400, though probably most people wouldn't find it offensive until ISO 800 or higher. Everyone has their own tolerance.
There are no manual modes such as aperture-priority, but that may be a blessing that reduces menu clutter, depending on your shooting needs. The camera does offer a number of features that are very well-suited to casual snapshot-takers. The photo filters are well done and offer a variety of appealing effects. There are 14 in all and you can either shoot with them or apply the effect later using the Photo Edit tool. When shooting with an effect like, for example, oil painting, the camera plays an animation of the effect being applied over your image, which is entertaining to watch, and may possibly be just a time-killer to mask slow processing, which does crop up from time to time with this camera.
Similarly, the Photo Editor is well set up, and allows you to make the more mundane adjustments of brightness, contrast, and color saturation. But, you can't just jump there from the menu in playback mode if you see a photo you want to adjust. You have to press the Home button, and swipe four times to get to page 5 in order to find the Photo Editor.
The camera also offers an HDR (high dynamic range) shooting mode, which is meant to create an artistic mood or capture a high amount of detail by adjusting the exposure and saturation. On the less serious photographic end, the camera also has a picture-in-picture shooting mode and a Magic Frame function. The Magic Frames range from billboards to a newspaper and other items that your photo is inserted into; they're well designed and are a good candidate for homemade birthday cards and the like.
There is an interesting feature called Gesture Shot in which your clockwise and counterclockwise hand movements zoom the lens in or out (while viewing the flipped-up screen to monitor your results). Then you clap your hands in a vertical motion like a shark's mouth or something to trip the shutter - this last function I found very frustrating and absolutely would never use in public. I think people would mistake me thinking I could command my camera like my clap-on clap-off lamp at home.
The camera also includes a Beauty Palette mode that allows you to make your subject look like drag queens. Teen girls will get many giggles out of this stuff, but my attempts to look Innocent or Romantic or Lovely were abject failures. The Romantic effect, in fact, put a huge splotch of pink rouge on my chin. All of them applied digital eyeliner and makeup that made me look ready for my Eddie Izzard impersonation.
Bottom line - The MV900F makes a hard charge at smart phone lovers looking for more camera features. The Wi-Fi functions and photo filters are a winner, and the fold-out screen is cool, but low image quality and only 5x of zoom will disappoint more serious photo buffs. The low-resolution screen and occasional touch screen mishaps also hurt its appeal. But if you just have to share your photos now before you can reach your computer, this slim Wi-Fi enabled camera could fit the bill.
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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