Samsung NV9 Digital Camera Review

Samsung swing both ways with a sleek, stylish, futuristic body and cool vintage, retro dials.

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Samsung NV9: Specification

  • Samsung NV9 Zoom: 5x optical
  • Resolution: 10.2Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.33in
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Image size: 3648×2736
  • File type:
  • Sensitivity: (lowest to highest)
  • Storage: JPEG
  • Focus types: Multi AF, centre AF, face detection AF
  • Normal focusing: 80cm-infinity
  • Close focusing: 5cm-80cm (macro), 3cm (super macro)
  • Metering types: Multi, spot, centre-weighted, face detection AE
  • Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 1-1/1500sec
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD
  • Interface: USB2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 95×59.9×21.3mm
  • Weight: 139.4g

£149 will give you a 5x optical zoom, 10Mp sensor and 3cm macro. It also has an innovative design. The Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd costs the same, has the same resolution and also shares an internal 5x zoom and 3cm macro. It’s styled the same but lacks the fancy dashboard.

Alternatively the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 costs £9 more, has a 4x external optical zoom,  10Mp and 5cm macro. It does have a Leica branded lens fitted to the front for superior optical quality.

Samsung NV9
The lens has a 5x optical zoom on the inside.
Samsung NV9
The retro dials sat on the top give the NV9 a distinctive look. The mini dashboard is flanked by the modern looking power button and comparably boring shutter release.
Samsung NV9
The command dial dominates a large portion of the top plate and hosts several modes including the new beauty mode.
Samsung NV9
The 2.7in LCD screen has a bright and easy to understand menu system. Icons glow when they’re selected for easier navigation. 

Samsung NV9: Features
Initial thoughts of the camera were that it’s just another compact using Minolta’s design from about six years ago. With the lens sat in the top left corner and a 5x optical zoom, this design usually employs a periscope design with a mirror directly behind the lens and the sensor sat either on the bottom or the side of the camera and the zoom moves up and down or side to side. This design allows a larger zoom on a thin body.

My initial thoughts were soon washed away when I saw the retro battery and memory capacity dials on the top looking like a dashboard, these clocks will show you how much power and memory you have available. I was surprised to see the memory clock shoot straight round to full status when the camera is activated but this is a reference to the amount of space left and not the amount of space used. When an empty card is inserted, the clock will say it is full of space. when the card is full, it’s empty of space and will go to ‘E’.

It seems a backwards way of doing it but after a while you get used to it.

In contrast, the power button to the left of the dials has a trendy modern blue light ringed around it which glows softly while the camera is powered up. The shutter release button sits on the other side of the dials and a larger-than-it-really-should-be mode dial occupies the right side overhanging slightly for easier grip.

One of a few cameras designed as a multimedia package, the NV9 is doing what mobile phones have been doing for the last few years. You don’t just get a camera on this, you also get an .mp3 player, a .pmp player for playing videos, a text viewer and the other usual features found such as video & voice recorder, camera and Samsung also say it can be used as a portable disk.

This is in actual fact, a reference to the memory card. You can use store information onto the card or internal memory which means that every camera in the world can be used as a portable disk if they share these features.

These multimedia features are accessed using the command dial on the top plate and you can change the camera features here as well. As well as auto and scene modes, there’s also program and a new beauty shot mode. Program does the same as auto but frees up more options on the quick access menu when you press the function (fn) button.

The beauty shot is one of a few new systems found on the NV9. It’s designed to analyse an image and eradicate any imperfections on the skin.

It works to a degree using what looks like similar techniques in noise reduction and cloning. It doesn’t get rid of large spots or off colour marks as it thinks they’re moles or freckles which you may not necessarily want removing. The amount of retouching that the camera does can be amended by going into the menu system while in beauty mode and changing the retouching and face tone levels. It still has trouble with larger spots or discoloured blemishes but on the whole works OK.

A 2.7in LCD screen is just on the underside of large with more cameras coming out boasting 3in screens these days but the screen the NV9 comes with is bright enough. It occupies most of the rear with only a small portion being allocated to actually using the camera.

The zoom is an up and down rocker switch type and four buttons surround the D-pad. One of these  buttons accesses effects which are in fact colour modes such as vivid and cool but also has nicer ones than are normally seen such as forest, retro, calm and classic. The normal setting can also have its parameters adjusted such as sharpness, contrast and saturation.

The fn button accesses the options on screen which will expand when in program mode. As well as being able to change the resolution and picture quality, you’ll also be able to adjust the metering, drive, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation.

The final two buttons at the bottom of the camera are for playing back images you’ve already taken and activating the image stabiliser.

Samsung NV9
The different film effects available on the NV9. Some are common, others not so.

What I like about the image stabiliser is that you can actually see it working on the screen. Not many manufacturers do this so it’s quite refreshing to have a steady frame on the screen which helps with peace of mind.

Pressing the centre button of the menu D-pad will enter the main menu which is laid out similar to how Kodak plan their menu systems but this seems to work better. I think it’s maybe the icons glowing slightly when they’re selected making it look flashy and futuristic.

An interesting feature in the menu is the recycle bin. It’s a delete folder that temporarily stores any images you’ve deleted. It then allows you to restore them if you delete by accident. This is another similarity with Kodak as deleted images can also be recalled on the Easyshare M1093IS.

If you explore the menu system, you’ll come across a mode called ACB which stands fro Auto Contrast Balance. It’s an unusual name but is essentially Samsung’s version of dynamic range compensation. This is where the dark areas of the image, such as shadows are burnt in to give extra light and increase the dynamic range.

Along with Casio, Samsung have released a model that features a “beauty” mode. It works by taking the photograph then smoothing skin and removeing blemishes and small spots. It doesn’t work on large spots and if your skin colour has a wide range of tone then some may not be touched in. It’s a process that can be performed in editing suites where you’ll have more control.

Samsung NV9
Without beauty mode I’m unhappy, mottled and have the same receding hairline as other mortals.
Samsung NV9
Switched on and it boosts dynamic range to fill in shadows, uses a basic patch tool to clone out blemishes and smooths the skin.

Samsung NV9: Build and handling
The exterior is made of that weird substance that feels like metal but could be plastic. When tapped, it sounds like plastic but the solid noise it makes when I put it down on a desk suggests something more sturdy. Either way it’s good build quality and the menu is also easy to get around. The buttons could be a bit more responsive as I have to keep my finger held down on them for an awkwardly long time.

Of course for those of you who aren’t in a rush then this shouldn’t be too much of a problem but even switching the mode dial around to different settings takes too long for me.

Moving around the camera and the battery door has a sliding lock to prevent it from opening by accident which is a good idea. The locking mechanism also has a large thumbpad to slide so it’s not difficult to open. The door is a little flimsy but not as bad as on other makes and the memory card is also housed in the same area.

I really like the screen on the NV9 I think it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen on a compact. It’s bright and clear with very little motion blur and doesn’t suffer from purple banding when a window or open door is in the frame.

Samsung NV9: Performance
Start up time and being ready to take a photograph is just under two seconds while finding focus takes around half that.

Continuous shooting mode has three options excluding the single shot mode. You can take your pictures sequentially in the standard mode or choose either motion capture or bracketing. The motion capture will take a massive 30 images in five seconds but this is in the lowest VGA mode which equates to around 300,000 pixels.

Continuous shooting manages eight shots in ten seconds which pleasantly surprised me as it’s not much slower than higher specification cameras.

Shutter lag is remarkably slow which backs up my theory that this isn’t a camera to be rushed. Results came back at around 0.2sec which is more than double the time taken for other compacts in this classification.

Samsung NV9
Primary blue really has impact while red and yellow pale in comparison.

In the colour chart image, blues are really punched out almost to a sickly amount. None of the other colours compete except maybe the orange tile just above primary blue. The skin tone tile looks too pale on the chart but I’ve been fooled with that in the past so we’ll wait to see the portrait shots.

The mono tones look quite well balanced but the earthy colours are more faded than I’m used to seeing.

When I took the landscape shot with the NV9, I managed to battle through the intense cold and see that the resulting shot looked pretty good on the rear screen. I’ve fallen in this trap before on cameras as recent as the Ricoh R10 where the screen gives a better result than the actual picture so I continued with caution.

However, those fears were soon alleviated when I saw the image on the screen and it’s not bad at all. Sure there’s a little fringing on the white bars but it’s not bad. The image could be sharper though so I’m not happy with that, especially at the edges of the frame.

There’s enough detail in the grassy area at the front and in the trees down the right of the frame to satisfy me and if I’d taken this photograph for personal use I’d be more than happy with the result.

Samsung NV9
Not a bad result in the landscape image from the NV9.
Samsung NV9
Two macro modes ensure you get the best close up.

The Samsung NV9 has two macro facilities. Normal macro focuses to a closest distance of 5cm while supermacro can squeeze an extra 2cm closer but at the loss of optical zoom. It’s not bad for a compact and the detail in the lily stamen is ample.

I’m unsure of the portrait images. When I took the shot without flash, it gave a cool tone which I expected to be balanced out if I used the flash but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Using the flash has dropped the exposure right down so it looks like night time. To be fair the skin tone is balanced but the overall image isn’t good at all.

Samsung NV9
The portrait image is distinctly cooler than I expected.
Samsung NV9
Using flash has given the opposite effect and darkened the image down.

Samsung NV9: Focus and metering
Samsung have limited the amount of overriding focus control on the NV9 and while you can adjust the parameters, it’s only between centre AF and multi focus point.

The menu system holds a few other focus aids such as face detection, blink and smile detection and self-portrait modes.

Face detection will detect up to ten individual human faces in a frame and adjust the focus and metering to expose that area perfectly. The nearest face will have a white box around it while others will have a grey box. 

Self-portrait mode simply changes the focusing to macro to cope with the close proximity of the camera. Smile shot is designed to recognise when the subject is smiling although it didn’t work for me in any of the tests.

While focus modes are in the main menu, metering modes are found within the fn menu and the usual multi, spot and centre-weighted meteringoptions are available. If this is your first camera, you may not know what these options mean and for the most ofyour photography, putting it in multi mode will suffice. This mode analyses the area of the frame and makes the best exposure based on the results.

Centre-weighted metering takes a general reading from the whole image giving priority to the centre of the frame. This mode can’t cope with bright spots in the shot such as open doors, windows or lights. Spot metering is more precise and will only take a reading from around 2-3% of the centre of the frame. It ignores everything else and can produce some interesing results and is worth playing around with.

Samsung NV9: Noise test
It’s unfortunate to see a little noise coming through at ISO200 simply because the camera has performed pretty well through the majority of tests. There’s still plenty of detail at this stage and all I can see is slight blips on the grey card at full size.

Noise gently increases from this point with detail becoming more blurry. ISO800 sees the purple blobs appear faintly while ISO1600 shows most detail in the petals disappear and purple colour start to swamp the image.

The highest setting of ISO3200 has a discoloured flower, smooth petals anda much smaller image of 3Mp. This is a trick used on many compacts to combat noise generated by the heat of neighbouring pixels. The less pixels used, the further apart they are and the less they interfere with each other. The downside is you still get noise but with a lower resolution.

Samsung NV9
The ISO80 test.
Samsung NV9
The ISO3200 test.

Samsung NV9: Verdict
The Samsung NV9 is one of the freshest cameras I’ve seen in a while for the point and shoot crowd. The retro dashboard reeks of style while the modern design will keep the gadget freaks happy.

It’s hard not to like the camera as it’s a breeze to use and feels so modern. The tests results aren’t overly positive and I think Samsung need to work on picture quality, camera responsiveness and think about how consumers wish to see the photographs. Overly saturated in the primaries? I don’t think so.

If you’re a happy snapper that goes on looks of a camera over perfomance and you’re not in a rush to take pictures, then this one is right up your street.

Samsung NV9: Plus points
Beautiful design
Good new features
Fancy menu is easy to use and looks great

Samsung NV9: Minus points
Slow shutter lag
Over saturates primary colours
Bad noise at high ISO
Slow at confirming actions





The Samsung NV9 costs around £149 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Samsung NV9.