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Design

Samsung cameras have been getting gradually more mature and gradually more sophisticated over the last couple of years, but they have struggled to produce models with that design 'je ne sais quoi' that makes them genuinely desirable. Some of their cameras have looked like fake Sonys, others, like the L85, simply hit too many branches when they fell from the ugly tree. Well that's all changed with the 'NV' range, where Samsung's designers finally hit their stride. The all-black metal body is a genuine head-turner, and it looks, for want of a better description, like a 'real' camera. The clean, somber minimalist design makes a refreshing change from the shiny silver virtually interchangeable models from most other manufacturers. Aside from finally giving Samsung cameras its own unique identity the NV series also introduces a touch of real innovation in the form of its new 'Smart Touch' control system - a rare attempt to put all the power of a modern camera literally at the user's fingertips.

Although the body itself is very slim - it appears to be almost identical to the NV10 - the huge lens makes for a very deep camera (2.2 inches when powered down), certainly not one you can slip into a jacket pocket. The lens and may body look strangely unbalanced and unmatched, but as a whole the NV7 OPS actually handles pretty well.

In your hand

Although it's not the easiest camera in the world to hold with one hand, the inclusion of a small grip means it is possible - though only just, as the super smooth finish tends to slip through the fingers. We found it a lot more stable in two hands (the large lens barrel supported by the left hand). The fit and finish is - like the NV10 - excellent, and the careful choice of materials and surface finishes give the NV7 something previously unheard of in a Samsung camera - a real air of luxury.

Body elements

Under a sturdy spring-hinged door on the base of the camera is the battery compartment (with retaining clip). Having such a slim battery inevitably has an impact on battery life (about 150 shots at best). The battery is charged in-camera using the supplied AC adapter (it takes about 2.5 hours) or, unusually, via USB.
Directly below the battery compartment is the SD card slot (there is also 19MB of internal storage to get you started). To the right in this shot you can also see the connection terminal, which provides USB, AV and DC-in connectivity (and is the interface for the optional docking cradle).
The 2.5 inch screen is bright and, thanks to its 230,000 pixels, very sharp. To the right of and below the screen are the 13 unmarked soft touch buttons that operate the innovative new 'Smart Touch' user interface (the on-screen icons next to the buttons show the function currently associated with that particular button). In the bottom right corner of this shot you can see the playback mode button (which really needs a more prominent label).
The top of the NV7 is home to the eight position mode dial (which includes a full manual mode), the shutter release and main power button. This is illuminated with a cool blue glow whenever the camera is powered up. Nice. The tiny zoom control is on the rear of the bodyand is a lot more usable than appearances would suggest.
The flash is well hidden under the Samsung faceplate, popping up automatically when needed (presuming you're in auto flash mode). The flash is more powerful than the NV10 (using Auto ISO it reaches 5.8m / 22 feet at the wide end of the zoom, dropping to around 16 feet (4.0m) at the long end) - but at anything over a few feet the ISO is raised pretty high, meaning noisy pictures.
The 7x optical zoom is perhaps the NV7's biggest selling point. It covers an impressive 38-270mm (equiv.) range, though I'd personally prefer it started at a slightly wider point. Samsung avoided the temptation to go for the smallest possible camera and the lens is pretty big, which allows for an impressive F2.8-F4.0 maximum aperture. In use the lens extends around XXmm beyond the fixed barrel.
As mentioned above the NV7 has a multi connector on the base plate that provides USB connectivity, AV out and DC-in (to charge the battery). It is also the connector for the optional docking cradle. As you can see there is a metal tripod bush to the left of the connector (way off center, but usable). Obviously you can't use the AV out or mains connector when the camera is mounted on a tripod.
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