How many times have you taken your compact camera out with you, unsure as to whether to trust those two little bars left on the battery symbol? Battery life is notorious for being temperamental on compact cameras; turn the camera on and the battery icon can flash up red, warning you it’s almost out of juice. Turn it off and on again and it’s seemingly fine.
Take the Samsung NV9 out of the box and the first things that jump out at you are two little dials on the top of the camera body, bearing a resemblance to the speedometer on your car’s dashboard. Far from being just a gimmicky addition, power up the compact and wait a couple of seconds and you can not only get an accurate reading of the battery life left, but also notice of the remaining memory space on your card or internal memory too.
It’s difficult not to be drawn to this hypnotic feature and it’s this unusual offering that neatly sums up our description of the Samsung NV9: it’s original and undeniably stylish.
Measuring a slim but comfortable 95 x 59.9 x 21.3mm the Samsung NV9 feels durable yet pretty lightweight (139.4g without battery and card). It’s available either in matte black or silver and includes a centre-positioned thread for fixing to a tripod.
When powered off an inner shield covers the 3.7-4.9 / 6.8-34.0mm lens, protecting it when it’s not in use from dust and scratches. Annoyingly, though, it’s positioned top left so during shooting it’s all too easy to get your finger in the frame and spoil your shots with a smudge.
The shutter button also suffers from odd placement, left of the shooting mode dial. Natural instinct does tend to make your forefinger sit far right of the top of the camera body, meaning you can find yourself – when concentrating on framing a shot – dabbing at the shooting mode dial instead of the shutter button, of course with very little success.
The 10.2-megapixel Samsung NV9 has a good sized LCD monitor on the rear body measuring 2.7-inches with a resolution of 230,000 pixels. Positioned to the right of this are the camera’s main function buttons, directional control pad, menu button and zoom control.
Whilst it all looks very attractive, the highly gloss metallic coating on these buttons means that it can be difficult to see which button does what, especially in low light. Of course, after a while shooting with the camera the hope is that you would have a better idea of its functionality, but it can be a little frustrating having to stare intently at the back of the camera to work out which controls you have to press.
The scene control dial at the top of the camera body acts as the main control for setting your shooting modes. As well as the option to photograph in full Auto you can also set the camera to Program, Dual IS (Image Stabilization), Beauty Shot Mode (softens skin tones), Scene Mode, Movie, Multimedia Mode (for playing MP3 files and PMP multimedia files), or viewing text in Text Viewer.
There’s also a Photo Help Guide option to assist you when conditions are a little tricky. This option suggests features for circumstances like ‘when the image is out of focus’ or ‘to counter camera shake’. Having access to these functions without having to work through complicated menu systems is a blessing, although when you change from one mode to another using the dial the camera can be a little slow to respond.
With the shooting mode dial set to your chosen scene mode the menu options alter accordingly and these can be navigated quickly and easily. When you turn the dial to Scene mode it’s annoying that you also have to then navigate through the menu button to choose between the 14 different options (including the more original Café, Backlight and Self Shot) but they’re still fairly quick to set.
Beauty Mode too requires a bit more manual input than the average shooting feature, giving you the option to hide facial imperfections. As well as being able to set the camera to ‘Face Detection’, ‘Self Portrait’, ‘Smile Shot’ or ‘Blink Detection’ (although we had trouble setting this option), you can also choose between three different levels of Face Tone to smooth out skin.
Unfortunately, with a lack of guidance on the results of these Face Tone options, both in the manual and on the CD-ROM, these are only really helpful if you’ve shot a number of different versions using all of the different levels as a case of trial and error. The same goes for the three different ‘Face Retouch’ options.
Results of portraits taken with Face Retouch active and Face Tone tweaked showed that, although the skin looks smooth (it get rids of visible pores and tames down blemishes) it also looks a little blotchy. To enhance the softness of the skin other tones that aren’t recognised as being the face (i.e glasses) are darkened and sharpened slightly.
While this stops the image looking too soft it can, unfortunately, make subjects look a little pale. When shooting other subjects though, without this Beauty Retouching feature enabled, images are satisfactory with no obvious colour casts and acceptable noise. Indoors, with flash set to on, images tended to have a slight vignette, although nothing significant enough to spoil a shot.
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