Samsung NV15 Review
The stylish new NV15 displays Samsung's inspired engineering, with its sleek, textured aluminum case. This model is very lightweight and was a pleasure to use. Samsung has certainly packed a lot of features into this durable, diminutive camera, continuing to offer point-and-shoot simplicity when using the NV15's various Scene and Auto modes. This model is also updated with Advanced Shake Reduction and Face Detection technologies. So, you have a camera that is simple enough for beginners, yet still offers something for the more technical users to enjoy tinkering with.
From the respective of a pocket-sized camera, the NV15 has wonderful ergonomics. The NV15 is comfortable to hold and unlike many of the smaller cameras has a sculpted hand-grip for easier handling. By far, the most original feature is the "Smart Touch" user interface. The unmarked buttons arrayed around the LCD do not have labels and their function changes depending on the camera's mode setting. Then again, the straightforward Mode dial simplifies selection from the preset shooting and Scene modes make it easier to shoot in tricky conditions.
The sharp 2.5-inch LCD is used to compose shots and navigate menus. The LCD has better than average resolution, bucking the trend to use coarser LCD panels on less expensive cameras. The LCD is not usable when the camera is connected to a TV screen, a feature that is available with many other models. The LCD was bright enough to use in direct sunlight and has 3 user settings for different lighting environments.
Shooting performance is similar to previous NV cameras, average for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured measured about 2.2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing the image, measured 4/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. The NV15 did quite well when capturing a sequence of images, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without lash and 2.2 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance and battery strength. These tests were performed using a SanDisk 1GB SD memory card, SHQ quality, Program Auto mode, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Of course times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, photographer response, media, etc.
We were surprised to discover the image quality was only fair for the NV15. Even when set at ISO 80 most of our samples in Program Mode appeared quite grainy as evidenced in the blue sky of our Sample pictures. The camera performed better when used in one of the Scene modes - take a look at the duck photo in our Sample Photos and zoom in on the feathers. The 7.3 - 21.9mm, 3x optical zoom lens has a typical range for a compact camera with a 35mm film equivalent of 34 - 104mm. This lens offers a typical range, sufficient for shooting either landscape or large group shots as well as singling out a person or object from a group for a close-up portrait. It also does very well in the macro setting, allowing you to focus as close as 1.6-inches from the lens.
You won't have to worry about transferring your images to your computer. The NV15 is "plug and play" with both Windows and Macintosh computers with USB connections. Windows Photo Gallery - the software included with Windows Vista - worked perfectly to import and edit the images. Samsung also supplies their own Master software for Windows on the software CD. I love that Samsung simplified the power adaptor/computer connection cable by using one USB cable for both. Connect the NV15 to any PictBridge compatible printer and you're ready to print without the aid of a computer.
The Bottom line - At a MSRP of $299, the NV15 is a bit expensive. While it's stylish and offers some very helpful features and exposure modes, it's slower performance and poor image quality results really disappointed us. The dark, textured-aluminum case is striking and durable, and the NV15 worked flawlessly with both Windows Vista and Macintosh OS X computers. Therefore, we feel if you are in the market for a durable and compact 10-megapixel digicam, be sure to look at each offering from the various manufactures out there.
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