Samsung created the NV series of digital cameras to fulfill its need for stylish, high-end shooters. They can be easily recognised by their sleek black designs, blue-ringed lenses, and, in every case but last year's NV3, their unusual interface. Sitting among these quirky, attractive cameras is the compact NV10, a 10-megapixel shooter that measures just 18mm thick and weighs just over 170g. It's available online for around £170.
Like almost every other NV-series camera, the NV10 uses Samsung's unique Smart Touch interface. Rather than using a conventional joypad or a touch screen, Smart Touch uses a series of touch-sensor buttons along the bottom and right side of the camera's 64mm (2.5-inch) screen to control its various functions. Slide your finger along the sensors to navigate the camera's gridlike menu system. Once the cursor is over your choice, press down on the sensor button to confirm it.
With its rows of unmarked buttons, Smart Touch might seem intimidating at first, but it's surprisingly intuitive for accessing the camera's various commands. While its menus are easily navigated with the touch sensors, though, other options aren't quite so easy. Any action that needs navigating with a slider, whether it's browsing your old photos or adjusting manual focus, becomes painfully awkward with the NV10.
Since the camera doesn't have specific directional buttons, you must either repeatedly stroke the sensors in a given direction or stroke once and awkwardly hold your finger carefully over a sensor. Smart Touch also tends to be unforgiving to large-fingered users; big digits often accidentally brush against several of the camera's sensors at a time, causing them to misfire.
The NV10 uses a 35mm-to-105mm equivalent, 3x zoom lens that, while functional, isn't particularly wide or powerful. Some of its sibling cameras offer stronger 5x and 7x zoom lenses, though the 7x lens-equipped NV7 OPS and NV5 can capture 7-megapixel instead of 10-megapixel stills. While it doesn't use any mechanical or optical antishake system, the NV10 does offer Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction, an ISO-boosting fast-shutter shooting mode that can help reduce blur when shooting zoomed-in or under low light.
Casual snapshooters will be pleased by the NV10's generous shooting options. Besides the standard automatic mode and the previously mentioned ASR mode, the NV10 offers 11 different shooting presets for portraits, parties, landscapes, and other common photographic situations. The camera also provides both program and manual control modes, letting users adjust sensitivity up to ISO 1,000, white balance, and aperture and shutter speed.
Curiously, the NV10 doesn't feature aperture- or shutter-priority modes, so you'll have to adjust both settings individually. An onscreen exposure meter can help make sure your manual shots get properly exposed, but it's not quite as useful as priority settings would have been.
Though not particularly fast in any given category, the NV10 performed decently in our tests. After a 3-second wait from power-on to first shot, we could fire off a new photo every 2.1 seconds thereafter with the flash turned off. With the onboard flash enabled, that wait increased only slightly to 2.3 seconds.
The shutter feels responsive, lagging just 0.7 seconds with our
high-contrast target and 1 second with our low-contrast target. Burst
mode disappointed, taking just six full-resolution photos in 8.8
seconds for a rate of 0.7 frames per second (fps).
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||
||Time to first shot||
||Shutter lag (typical)||
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Despite some notable flaws, photos taken on the NV10 generally look good. Pictures appear crisp and full of detail, with vivid colour reproduction. Fine textures such as fur, fabric and text come out very clearly, with few artefacts. Noise stays manageable at low sensitivity levels, though shots taken at ISO 400 develop a distinct grain that can be easily seen on computer monitors and is accompanied by a minor loss of fine detail.
At ISO 800 and above, that grain becomes a prominent fuzz that obscures fine details and muddles colours. Fringing also tended to find its way into some photos, with pinkish auras developing on nearly every contrasting edge.
Though its Smart Touch interface takes some getting used to, the Samsung NV10 is a good compact camera. Its responsive shutter, manual controls and attractive images make it a fine choice for casual photographers who want plenty of options without a much bulk. If you're willing to spend a little more, though, consider instead the Samsung NV11. The NV10's bigger, slightly heavier brother boasts a more powerful zoom and both aperture- and shutter-priority modes, two much-appreciated improvements over this model.
Additional editing by Nick Hide