Samsung Digimax V700 Review
At the time of this review, the Digimax V700 is the highest resolution model that
Samsung has to offer, with a 7-megapixel imager mated to a Schneider 3x optical
zoom lens. You can choose from a wide variety of exposure modes; from the
typical "Auto"matic and Program point-n-shoot modes for newbies, to pre-programmed
scene specific modes and special effects for the creative, and the
more versatile Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual modes for those
who like more control.
I was pleased with the V700's ergonomics. Although it is compact, the round shape allows it to sit comfortably in your hands. Controls are well placed and functional, with the Zoom control, Shutter release, and Navigation buttons easily accessible to your thumb and index finger. I especially liked the control dial mounted around the shutter release, it allows quick adjustments to shutter speeds, aperture values and manual focus distance when using the A/S/M modes. The large 2.0-inch LCD works great outdoors in bright sunlight, however it fails to "gain up" in dim lighting. You can opt to use the zoom-coupled optical viewfinder, which comes in handy when trying to follow fast moving subjects or conserve precious battery life. I found the Menu system easy to navigate and the "Low Light!" message displayed in dim lighting will help beginners achieve better images with less camera shake by telling them to use the flash.
The Schneider-Kreuznach 3x optical zoom lens produced relatively sharp images throughout its 38 - 113mm (equivalent) range. I noticed moderate barrel distortion present at wide angle as well as slight pincushion at the telephoto end of the zoom range. The lens was neither smooth nor quiet when zooming through its focal range. The movement is not continuous, there are 7 steps between wide angle and telephoto; this is about average and is sufficient for most indoor and outdoor shot composition.
The V700's shooting performance was average for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 4 seconds. Shutter lag when pre-focused was about 1/10 of a second and 7/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot time averaged approx. 2.4 seconds between frames without using the flash and from 3 to 5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. Its Continuous Shooting mode was disappointing. I was only able to capture 3 frames in approx. 3.3 seconds. The LCD goes blank when shooting in this mode, this is when you'll be glad it has an optical viewfinder. All tests were done using a Delkin Devices 1GB SD card, with the LCD on, quality/size set at 7M/Super Fine, image review off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary dependent on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Movie mode allows you to capture VGA (640x480) sized MPEG-4 movies with sound at either 30 or 15 frames per second. It also features various colors effects as well as a Stabilizer that helps reduce camera shake. Overall, our movie samples were sharp, with average amounts of compression noise. Like most digicams that record sound with video, the zoom can be preset before recording, but not used during.
The overall image quality of the 7M/Super Fine mode was not what we have come to expect from these 7-megapixel digicams. Outdoors the camera does OK, most of our samples had good color balance and saturation. I noticed average amounts of noise in high/low contrast areas as well as visible traces of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) around highlights. Indoors you will have to work with the flash range of about 9 feet. It has enough power to illuminate individuals or small groups, but lacks the power for large open rooms. I found that it does however excel at portrait photography. Our portrait samples were sharp, well exposed and showed accurate skin tones. The autofocus system works very well outdoors and thanks to the focus-assist illuminator, it can also properly focus in most low-light conditions. However I did have some trouble indoors, even in a typical "normal" incandescent lit living room, it often would not lock focus, producing blurry images.
The V700 is powered by a single SLB-1137 3.7V 1130mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery pack, and Samsung claims you can capture up to 280 shots with a full charge. We had no problems capturing our sample images (about 120 shots) and concluding our other test with extensive use of the LCD, before the battery was exhausted. Samsung includes an AC charger that charges the battery out of the camera, so you can charge a pack while you use another. We recommend you purchase at least one spare pack and keep it charged at all times; missing a photo op due to a dead battery can be very aggravating.
Bottom line - the Samsung Digimax V700 was a mixed bag. While it offers a great deal of versatility in exposure modes, an audio-only record feature, and great portrait capabilities, the average image quality and sluggish performance really dampens this model. It offers a good value for around $379, but if you need a 7-megapixel digicam we suggest you look at the Casio EX-Z750, Nikon 7600, or Sony P150.
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