When your local pub starts advertising 'Credit Crunch Lunches' (it's true!), you know times are hard. But maybe you're not quite ready to give up on life's little luxuries just yet? Maybe you still hanker after a state-of-the-art metal-bodied 14.7-megapixel touch-screen compact with an HD movie mode? Co-incidentally, that's just what Samsung's £170 NV100HD has to offer.
Samsung's compacts haven't always been the prettiest, but this one's a big step forward. It comes in four different colours, and the red version is particularly striking. The matte metal finish looks and feels classy, and round the back the ugly black buttons of Samsung's Smart Touch control system -- used on the NV24HD, for example -- are gone. The NV100HD uses a new Smart Touch 2.0 system that uses a touch-sensitive 3-inch screen instead. And it's quite a screen. 460,000 pixels make it super-sharp, and it's really bright and vibrant too.
Because all the adjustments are made using the touch-screen, the back of the camera is really clean, with just four buttons -- two for zooming, one to activate the menus and one for playback mode.
Smart Touch 2.0 is a big improvement, too. The previous system used a barmy triangulation system for displaying and activating menu choices via buttons which were far too light. This one's a lot more conventional and easier to operate.
Round the front you get a wideangle 3.6x zoom equivalent to a focal range of 28-102mm, while on the top is a power button, shutter release and mode dial. There are a couple more nice surprises here, including a Manual mode where you can adjust the shutter speed and aperture yourself and a 1280 x 720 HD movie mode.
Gadget fans will be impressed by the face-detection, blink-detection and smile-detection features, and if your portrait subjects have got faces like emery boards, the Beauty Shot function can smooth them over automatically.
The NV100HD's zoom is quite slow, but the AF is excellent and rivals the speed of Sony's CyberShot compacts, previously clear leaders compared to the rest.
While the NV100HD is smart, it can't work miracles. Spec-hungry punters will gobble up the 14.7-megapixel resolution, but it's just too much in a sensor this size. The colours are great, but even at ISO 100 the camera's noise reduction system is smoothing over some fine textures, and by maximum ISO it looks like your pictures have been printed on blotting paper.
The HD movie mode's a disappointment too. The resolution's not bad (better than VGA, anyway), but if you insist on walking about while you're shooting, the camera's footage is so jerky it's almost unwatchable.
The touch-screen interface can be a bit of a pain, too. It's all right if you've got delicate little fingers and a patient disposition, but fat-thumbed fumblers will find it's a bit slow, vague and error-prone.
Yes, there's too much noise reduction, the movie mode's not great and the interface can be awkward, but these are all par for the course with super-slim, super-sexy compacts. What's striking about the Samsung is its elegance, its neatness and, most of all, its price. Why would you need to pay more?
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis