Still pictures have abundant detail and excellent color accuracy.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Samsung NV-7 bridges gap between still camera and camcorder

Sept. 9, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   When good digital cameras became affordable a few years ago, buyers sometimes got a bargain -- a still camera that also took movies.
   But those early cameras were still cameras first and movie cameras last. The movies they took -- as I learned from experiences taking video with my Sony DSC F707 digital still camera -- usually were too tiny and jumpy to show anyone.
   But in the seven years since I turned up my nose at the videos I got from a still camera, camera design has improved so much that a decent still camera can now be a good video camera, too.
   The camera I've been using is the Samsung NV7 OPS. If you shop around, you can find the NV7 for as little as $260 -- a surprisingly low price for a camera with a 7-megapixel photo sensor, 7 power (7X) optical zoom lens, built-in optical image stabilization and full-size, 30-frames-per-second video capability.
   Like many other new hand-size cameras, the NV7 has a big viewing screen on the back -- it's 2.5 inches in diagonal but looks even bigger if you're used to smaller LCD screens. The camera's made from metal alloy, not plastic, so it feels "expensive" in your hands. The lens comes from Schneider, a European manufacturer with a long reputation for quality.
   Major settings, such as a choice between picture-taking and video modes, are operated by turning a dial. But minor controls are hard to master at first. Once you learn how they work, using buttons on the edge of a grid, you'll probably have no trouble with them.
   Still pictures have abundant detail and excellent color accuracy. But I noticed a purple fringe around some objects when I looked very closely at outlines -- not enough to worry about, perhaps, but something that might get in the way if you print photos at large sizes.
   I was also disappointed in the amount of sharpening Samsung applies in the still-photo "auto" mode. Samsung warns in the user manual that auto mode might not work well for pictures you plan to edit, and the reason was clear as soon as I took my first shots: In auto mode, photos were so over-sharpened that I wasn't able to enlarge them or enhance them without ugly edges and highlights. I used "Program" mode (with sharpening off) from then on.
   Videos were outstanding. The camera mutes all audio recording while you are zooming, but that's all I can complain about. Pausing the video won't split the video file, a very nice feature. I was able to get more than two hours of VGA quality video on a tiny 2 GB SD memory card.
   The video portion of the camera uses DiVX video encoding. If you can't play the resulting files, get the free DiVX software for Windows from www.divx.com/divx/windows or get it for Macs from www.divx.com/divx/mac. You don't need to buy DiVX software; just download and install the playback drivers.