Samsung Digimax V4 Review
The Digimax V4 is a very compact and lightweight camera. It will fit easily into pants pockets and purses or you can carry it comfortably in your hand without fatigue. This camera is styled very similarly to Sony's "P" series Cyber-shot cameras and is just as easy to use. Ergonomically, we liked the layout of the controls which are highly functional and clearly labeled. Even though it is compact, the body has plenty of surface area to give you a sturdy grip. The Mode Dial allows you to quickly change the operating mode without having to access the menu system. The camera housing is high impact plastic (that looks very much like metal) and I'd rate the build quality and fit-n-finish as very good.
The EASY and Program AE modes make this camera very easy to operate so novice users can begin taking photos quickly. When you want to take more control over the creative process there are the A/S/M (aperture priority, shutter speed priority and manual) modes as well as the Portrait and Night Scene modes. You can define and store up to three different sets of shooting parameters using the MySET option. And change the ISO sensitivity, image sharpness, color effect, metering mode or white balance although it lacks a manual WB preset option. It has four still image sizes from 2272 x 1704 down to 544 x 408 including the handy 2:3 aspect ratio Large size for making "perfect" 4 x 6" photo prints without cropping. There are three levels of JPEG quality as well as an uncompressed TIFF mode that is selectable for all four image sizes. TIFF is good if you're planning on a lot of post- capture editing but it's a major space hog, only two Large TIFFs fit on the 32MB memory card. The movie mode produces smooth motion video clips at 15fps with audio. The only limit to their length is the amount of available memory but don't think it will replace your camcorder. As with most digicams that capture video with audio, the optical zoom can't be used during recording. You can preset the zoom lens before you start recording though.
Peformance wise the Digimax V4 is about in the middle of the pack with the competing, compact, four-megapixel cameras. Power on to first shot is about six seconds, two seconds of that appears to be used for charging up the flash capacitor. It's about five seconds between shots in Single frame advance mode whether the flash is on or not. The Continuous mode prompts you to select "2" or "3" frames and is only active for the next shutter press. It captures those 2 or 3 shots with a single press of the shutter button at the rate of about 2 frames per second and then takes about 12-14 seconds to process before you can shoot again. Pressing the Play button brings the last image captured onscreen in about two seconds and it's another two seconds before the image is fully loaded and "snaps" into full sharpness. Going from image to image is almost instantaneous after that to get the preview image but it does take about four seconds to load and display the full image clearly. Displaying a page of nine thumbnails in index mode takes about four seconds as well. Magnifying an image that is already loaded is instantaneous as you press the Tele zoom button and with enlargement up to 8x it's easy to check for critical focus. Note that all of these timings were calculated with Large / Superfine JPEG images. Shooting in Large / TIFF mode the camera took 26 seconds to process the image and the LCD display was frozen with "Please Wait" until it was done. Playback of TIFF images is limited to display of an embedded image and the onscreen magnifying option is not available. Most users will opt to use the speedier and much more space-efficient JPEG images which make perfectly good photo prints anyway.
Image quality on the whole is good. Outdoor pictures are well saturated and properly color balanced throughout the normal range of daytime illumination using the automatic white balance setting. We did notice a tendancy for some color casting on indoor flash pictures, usually a slight bluish tinting that's easily corrected in software. The "normal" (default) image sharpening setting produces slightly "soft" images and this isn't a bad thing as an over-sharpened image loses detail that can never be recovered. You can increase the in- camera sharpening if desired but personally I prefer to do this in software later where you have better control over the amount of sharpening that is applied. The four-megapixel Superfine JPEG images produced very good letter size (8.5 x 11 inch) photo prints on my Canon S9000 printer and absolutely brilliant 4 x 6 inch prints on my dye sub printer. The metering system handled the usual range of lighting conditions very well. Only a few pictures could have been improved by manually adjusting the exposure compensation or by using the spot metering option for heavily backlit subjects.
As advertised, the Digimax V4 is very versatile when it comes to the power source. You can use just about any type of AA cells from alkaline to lithium, NiCd or NiMH rechargeables, the one-use CR-V3 lithium or Samsung's own proprietary lithium rechargeable pack. The best performance will come from Samsung's battery pack but we did not have one to test for ourselves so we'll have to take their word for it. We did use high-capacity Maha Powerex 2200mAh NiMH AA batteries and were able to get in an afternoon's worth of shooting that included a lot of color LCD useage. One thing that I noticed was that battery meter displayed on the color LCD seems to be "tuned" for Samsung's battery pack. Even with freshly charged 2200mAh NiMH cells it went down to the halfway mark quickly when the color LCD was turned on. Switching to Play mode the meter jumps back to Full again. Even though the meter read "half" we were able to shoot lots and lots of pictures before the batteries were in need of recharging.
The bottom line - the Digimax V4 is a compact (but not tiny) camera with very versatile
battery options and good image quality. For price and performance we feel this is a good
choice for those interested in owning a "go everywhere" kind of camera. It can used by
anyone in EASY mode and there's plenty of advanced exposure and camera features to keep you
happy when you feel the need to be more creative.
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