At a Glance
Samsung NV3 Compact Camera
The stylish NV3 has built-in speakers and earbuds for listening to music, but battery life and image quality are subpar.
The Samsung NV3 ($250 as of February 15, 2007) is more than an inexpensive 7-megapixel camera--it's an elegant-looking multimedia device. Unfortunately, its fashionable appearance turns out to be its best characteristic.
The NV3 is pleasant to use, and Samsung's inclusion of an MP3 player, a video player, and a text reader certainly makes it novel, though in the end these features seem tacked on. This is the first camera I've seen with built-in stereo speakers; as you might expect, they sound extremely tinny. The included earbuds, however, sound quite good, but because the NV3's earphone jack is smaller than standard, you can't use the headphones of your choice. Nor can you play music and take photos simultaneously: To play .MOV or .AVI files on it, you must first run them through a Windows-only conversion app on your computer. (The NV3 lacks Mac-compatible software of any kind.) The two videos I converted looked fine, but I'm not convinced the feature is worth investing in SD Cards so you can watch video on the device.
The NV3 is quite eye-catching, with a brushed-chrome-and-black-metal finish on its thin-profile case, and a bright, 2.5-inch LCD. Its controls consist of three small dedicated buttons and a standard four-way thumb button; the relatively large zoom button operates smoothly and comfortably. In fact, everything about this camera feels smooth and durable. The menu system could be better organized, but it is certainly workable once you get to know it. There is no help system, however. The NV3 includes auto-exposure bracketing and a novel Effects button for applying sepia tones and other looks while photos are still in the camera; a menu lets you add digital frames and make various composite photos.
But image quality isn't a strong point of the NV3. In our tests, the camera earned below-average scores in all categories, compared to other recently tested point-and-shoots. Among other things, it scored poorly on image distortion and on color accuracy. Most of my informal shots looked bluer than they should have, though they tended to be well exposed and looked sharp. Fortunately, one of the NV3's controls lets you tune the camera's red-green-blue balance. The battery life of the camera's lithium-ion battery was a paltry 190 shots per charge, significantly below the category average of 270 shots.
One small bonus with this quirky camera is its PC connector--the USB cable can be plugged into a small power adapter for charging the camera (no need for a separate cable). So, you can charge the camera by plugging it into your notebook--a rare feature.
If you're looking for a good $250 digital camera, you have bunches to choose from--and many candidates offer better image quality than the NV3 does. On the other hand, its novel multimedia capabilities come at no significant price premium, giving it an odd sort of attraction.