A decidedly average compact camera
- Multimedia capability, good colour balance
- Lens could have been wider, small screen, confusing controls
The NV4 is a camera that is average at all tasks, whether it’s photography, video recording or multimedia playback. It’s stylish and simple, so if these factors are important then it could be the camera for you.
Price$ 429.00 (AUD)
Samsung's NV4 is the company's attempt at an entry-level multimedia convergence device. It has a slim form factor and takes decent quality photos, but it's let down by a small screen, strange controls and an inferior lens.
The camera comes in a variety of colours (always important for the fashion-conscious), shown off thanks to a minimalist fascia. The camera's small lens and xenon flash are crammed into the top-right corner, with the rest of the body left blank. The lens is protected by a thin cover that disappears when the camera is turned on. We were able to move this cover when the camera was off — possibly exposing the lens to scratching and damage. It's not likely that this will happen with the camera in a pocket or carry case, however.
The NV4 touts itself as a multimedia camera in the same vein as the i85 and NV24HD, with the ability to play back movies and MP3s, display text documents and access Samsung's World Tour Guide program for travel planning. If you're desperate to have access to all of these features inside a single device, the NV4 might be worth considering. If you're not so desperate, perhaps your needs might be better met by multiple products — the NV4's screen is slightly smaller than average at 2.5 inches and the control scheme is slightly too complicated and unfriendly.
The NV4 sports the same 8.2-megapixel image size as the i85, but with a different lens. A 3x optical zoom is offered, with a 35mm equivalent of 38-114mm. While this is a decent zoom length, we're disappointed that it's not wider — you might have to stand back slightly if you intend on taking group shots. This isn't a telescoping lens like a traditional camera: at all times it remains completely within the body of the camera. The trade-off for this miniaturisation is lower quality materials — there's a reason why SLR cameras have such large lenses!
This combination of average sensor and average lens culminates in (oddly enough) average photographs. Pictures are decently sharp, but image noise and blurriness is evident upon close inspection.
Running a series of photos through the Imatest photograph testing software, we were able to establish how the camera fared against its peers. The tests showed a small amount of under-sharpening, with the camera biased towards soft, film-like pictures on its default settings. Chromatic aberration levels were extremely low, with Imatest reporting little to no haloing in areas of high contrast.
The NV4 fared reasonably in our image noise trials as well. Low ISO settings performed predictably well, with ISO 100 and 200 free of any interpolation or image noise. ISO 400 saw the camera start to lose significant amounts of sharpness, and images at ISO 800 were noticeably smooth, with depth and detail erased.
Unlike some of Samsung's other offerings, the NV4 had a reasonable colour balance at its default settings. Plenty of options other than automatic are available, including novelties like the Forest colour setting. Reds are especially good in the default setting, with blues and greens slightly less pronounced. Overall, colours were slightly washed out and pale, although switching to the Vivid picture mode over-compensated for this and led to a slight loss of fine colour detail. These problems were only minor, however, and wouldn't matter significantly to a casual photographer.
Start-up time is a decent 1.6 seconds, and shutter lag levels are fairly average at 0.12 seconds. Continuous shot performance was acceptable, with almost 3 seconds in between snaps when the camera was in single shot mode. Switching to the continuous shot mode improved this dramatically with shots only taking 1.3 seconds on average. However, the screen is unable to keep up with the buffer in this mode — only the first image captured is displayed, and then the screen goes blank.
Digital image stabilisation is available within the camera's menus, as well as various scene modes and 800x592 pixel video recording. The video mode was decent, but not comparable to a dedicated video camera due to occasional artefacts.
All in all, Samsung's NV4 is a solid performer: It handles all tasks without fuss, while the inclusion of multimedia support might make it a good choice for a traveller.
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