Samsung has packed an extraordinary amount of kit into a very small body on the DV300F, with two screens, built-in Wi-Fi and a 16-megapixel sensor.
All in all, it's an impressive feat of miniaturisation that leaves you wondering how so small a device will perform in the wild. Here's where you'll find out.
You can pick up the Samsung DV300F for around £150 online.
The second screen is set into the front of the chassis. It's so discreet that when not in use, you won't even know it's there. Somehow, Samsung has avoided fouling the DV300F's sleek, textured finish by having the screen show through the casing when activated through the menus. Indeed, when you first unpack the camera, there's even a small sticker frame around it to show you where it is.
Despite being well disguised, the image is bright and it clearly marks out recognised faces. If you're using the timer to fire the shutter after a delay of 2 or 10 seconds so you can run into the shot, it uses the screen to count down to zero so you know when it's going to fire.
Samsung has really gone to town with the creative shooting options. Even those that you might not use all that often are beautifully implemented. Artistic brush, for example, which applies a sketch, cartoon or ink painting effect to your picture, doesn't merely slap on a filter, but builds up the picture stroke by stroke using whichever tool is most appropriate. It saves these builds as AVI animations so you can replay them on your computer.
Magic frame applies a frame to the edge of your pictures, and Funny Face works like Photo Booth on the iPad, iPhone or Mac, first recognising a face in the picture and then warping it. The results are rarely flattering, but they are quirky and funny.
Best among them is Motion Photo, which captures a series of frames and lets you choose which part should be animated, while the rest is frozen. If you've ever used Cinemagram on a smart phone, you'll know how this works, producing results like this.
For complete control over your finished results, there's a pretty sophisticated set of editing tools built in too. They won't let you erase your ex or straighten a wonky horizon, but they're up to the job of fixing red eye, changing saturation, rotating shots and so on.
The photo editing tools really come into their own if you're unable to knock your pics into shape on your computer and want to use the built-in Wi-Fi to share your shots directly from the camera.
You can email pictures or upload them to photo sharing sites, back them up to your PC or view them on a wirelessly connected TV. There are also two options for pairing the camera with your smart phone, which can act either as a remote viewfinder or a back-up device for captured images.
I performed my tests with the DV300F set to Smart Auto, allowing it to choose the most appropriate shooting settings for each condition. Switching to Program naturally gives you far more extensive controls if you need to tweak your shot, including sensitivity (ISO 80 to 3,200), compensation (+/-2.0EV in 1/3EV steps), and white balance (which is illustrated using colour icons for each situation). You can also manually control sharpness, contrast and saturation on three sliding scales.
The 5x zoom lens is equivalent to 25-125mm in a regular 35mm camera, with a bright maximum aperture of f/2.5 at wide angle, and a respectable f/6.3 at full telephoto.
When set to auto, shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 second to 1/8 second. In Program mode you can push it to 1 second, but if you want to go further than that you'll have to use a scene mode, with 'fireworks' giving you a 2-second exposure and 'night' the maximum 16.
Image quality was generally very good, with colours reproduced well and plenty of fine detail. It also did a decent job of differentiating between very similar tones in areas dominated by just one colour.
The cottage garden below, for example, contains lots of dark hedging, but the DV300F had no trouble picking out sufficient textures to reproduce them clearly.
However, looking closely at the picket fence, there is a slight flare effect coming off to the top and right of the points, despite the image being shot with a high enough shutter speed (1/500 second) to discount the effect of camera shake.
It did occasionally make some strange decisions where aperture was concerned, picking a very wide setting when I was shooting a middle-distance landscape. This oyster farmer's boat, for example, was shot at f/2.5, giving a good, sharp rendering of the main stack of palettes at the front of the boat, but with fall-off towards the stern.
Likewise, it selected f/3 for this country lane and delivered a sharp foreground and a blurred background. The people starting to walk out of shot at the far right of the frame, for example, and even the latter portion of the white house, therefore fall outside of the area of focus.
There was some evidence of chromatic aberration in my results. This is a fringing of sharp detail and strong contrasts with a third colour -- usually pink or turquoise -- that isn't present in real life. It's caused by the lens not quite focusing all of the available light in the same spot on the sensor.
In this woodland scene it manifests in the upper-left corner, where the branches overlay the sky, and appears as a pink halo.
It didn't do so well in the geometry test below, showing slight evidence of pin-cushion distortion, with minor convergence of the upper and lower portions of the grid.
Its macro performance, however, was excellent. It very clearly picked out a small family of aphids in this flower, keeping the insects, stamen and centre of the flower in focus while quickly throwing the rest of the scene out of focus to draw the eye to the central sweet spot.
The DV300F shoots HD movies at 1,280x720 pixels, 30 frames per second, with options for stepping this down as far as 640x480 pixels at 15fps, at which point it would be suitable for web use in its raw state. Results are good, with excellent, smooth compensation for changing light levels and well suppressed zoom noise.
However, there is no option for wind noise reduction, which is a shame as when I tested it on the coast, the wind was particularly evident on the soundtrack.
On the whole, the DV300F performed well in my tests. I've criticised its choice of aperture in some instances and its minor chromatic aberration in others, but these only become an issue when examined in isolation -- something that's easier to do when a 16-megapixel frame lets you examine such a small portion of the image when zoomed to 100 per cent.
In actual fact, viewed at full screen, these imperfections largely disappear if repurposed for web use or print, in which case you need to look at how appropriate the camera is for your intended use.
The DV300F isn't a high-end pro camera. Its creative shooting modes, price and secondary front-facing screen mark it out clearly as a fun pocket gadget for family use. In that respect, it does an excellent job.
Casual photographers should be perfectly happy with the results. One would hope you'd be encouraged to photograph more with this camera than you might with a regular point-and-shoot because the built-in effects let you capture more of the fun you're having, and in creative ways.