There are currently two main thrusts of digital camera development, both of which are designed to counter the looming threat of multi-megapixel mobile phones. One is the increasing number of impressive digital SLR cameras, such as the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 and the Nikon D80, the other is the ever more stylish selection of slim compact cameras available.
The NV3 is firmly located in the latter camp, but it's not lacking in features. It boasts a very healthy 7 megapixels, which is about all you could really want on this kind of camera, plus the host of natty extras that is often the trademark of Samsung's devices.
There are quite a few slimline cameras out there -- see the entire Casio range, for example -- but this is one of the better looking ones. It has a lot in common with the Fujifilm FinePix Z1, in that it's compact and classy with a touch of retro about it that's thankfully more to do with timeless elegance than any ill-conceived idea of reintroducing Art Nouveau to the digital age.
The NV3 is a very modern device with a touch of old-school quality about it -- something that Samsung has tried in the recent past with the likes of the chunky Digimax L85, but does a better job of it here. The majority of the camera is dressed in smart matte black, with some silver on the bottom and top edges, but it's the curvaceous finish that grabs your attention. There are a couple of areas where you feel Samsung has gone slightly over the top, in particularly the two circles on the top edge which cover the speakers, but apart from that there's little to complain about.
The controls are well laid out, too, with most of the options being selected by a smart dial that sits slap-bang in the centre. The other important controls are located on the back of the device, and include a standard five-way selector switch and a zoom control that needs a vertical movement to move in and out rather than the horizontal system on many compacts.
The 64mm (2.5-inch) screen is impressive, well capable of allowing good framing and playback of images even in direct sunlight. Storage is courtesy of SD cards -- although you don't get one in the box, so you'll need to budget for your card separately. Charging is via Samsung's rather annoying proprietary connection, as is data transfer to your computer or printer.
The whole package is very neat and does a great job of treading the fine line between a compact design and being too small to use, and between solidity and unnecessary weight.
The headline feature here is the 7-megapixel resolution. There may be some new 10-megapixel cameras appearing, but 7 megapixels offers amazing levels of detail and the ability to print your images out extra large. At the same time it is straying into the area where digital noise becomes a problem because of the increased number of pixels on the incredibly small CCD.
The lens is less impressive, at least on paper, as it offers fairly standard 3x optical zoom range, which is fair enough considering the dimensions. It operates smoothly though, and the thumb control is easy to locate and activate. The ASR shake reduction also proves invaluable, and in conjunction with the ability to ramp the ISO up to 1000 -- the equivalent of putting fast film in a film camera -- it allows you to shoot in relatively low light without having to resort to using the flash.