Samsung's NV9 is so much fun that it doesn't matter how good its pictures are. Well, nearly. For around £120, this stylish 10-megapixel super-slim camera is very, very tempting. You even get a metal body and non-extending 5x zoom. And, if you don't like the pictures, you can always listen to the built-in MP3 player.
The slimline metal body is really smart. Ours came in a tough-feeling matte black finish, but you can get a silver version too. It's the solidity and build quality that grabs your attention first, followed quickly by the two analogue dials on the top that tell you what state the battery's in and how much space you've got left on the memory card. The battery indicator's great but the memory-card gauge only indicates the proportion of unused space, rather than the actual amount of free space.
Also on the top is the power button -- surrounded, when the camera's on, by the cool blue glow that's typical of Samsung -- the shutter release and a big, clearly-labelled mode dial. The 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD on the back is good, rather than great.
The controls work well and have a good feel. A 'Fn' button lets you change image size and quality, metering pattern, drive mode, ISO, white balance and EV compensation with a minimum of fuss. If you want to jazz up your pictures, there's an 'E' -- standing for 'effects' -- button too.
Even the test shots came out well, with accurate colours, little distortion and good definition. The lens appears sharp right into the corners of the frame.
At least, the lens is sharp at shorter focal lengths. The NV9's 5x zoom is one of its many selling points, but, at maximum zoom, it doesn't look very sharp. Disappointingly, the zoom action is really slow too.
The NV9 also suffers from the handling issue that affects all super-slim cameras with lenses in the top-left corner -- you have to relearn your camera-holding technique or else end up with a library full of photos of the end of your finger.
You could also moan about the labelling on the buttons, which is embossed into the chrome finish, rather than painted on in a different colour, so the light's got to be right before you can see what you're pressing.
Finally, the fact that you're getting an MP3 player built in -- and a set of headphones in the box -- is great, but does anyone really want an MP3 player in a camera? It's not the same as an iPod or an MP3 phone, both of which you might carry around with you as a matter of routine. The NV9 is just too big a lump of metal to lug around as a music player.
You can be picky about some aspects of the Samsung NV9, but that's missing the point. This is an inexpensive, superbly finished super-slim camera that does far more than you could possibly expect for the price, and with a degree of style and flair that's really rather endearing. It's not perfect but, at current prices, it's pretty close.
Edited by Charles Kloet