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Photographic tests

White balance

The NV10 has five white balance presets (daylight, cloudy, fluorescent H & L, tungsten) in addition to the default auto mode. There is also a custom (measured) manual white balance option. In our tests the auto white balance system worked perfectly outdoors and in bright mixed light. It also deals with fluorescent light very well. The only 'problem' area is incandescent (tungsten) lighting, where the auto WB and the tungsten preset both produce very warm color casts. If you prefer a more neutral tone you'll need to switch to the custom/manual mode.

Auto White Balance Fluo Preset Auto White Balance Incandescent preset
Fluorescent light - Auto white balance Average,
Preset white balance Average
Incandescent light - Auto white balance poor,
Preset white balance poor

Flash

The small built-in flash unit has a range of around 0.1m - 3.2m (4 inches to 10.5 feet) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.4m - 1.8m (1.6 to 7 feet) at the long end, which is a bit underpowered compared to some competitors, but perfectly OK for social snaps. We found flash exposures to be a little hit and miss, with close shots at the wide end of the lens sometimes overexposed and shots at the long end of the zoom a little underexposed (though this is easily fixed in post-processing).

There is also a slight warm tone to flash shots (which is actually no bad thing).

Click here for flash test chart

Skin tone -
Warm tone, slight underexposure.

Macro

As is common to most compact digital cameras the NV10's macro mode is most effective at the wide end of the zoom, where you can get as close as 4cm, capturing an area just under 5.5cm (2.1 inches) across. At the long end of the zoom the performance is less impressive - 50cm subject distance capturing an area just under 14cm wide. There is inevitably some distortion and corner softness when shooting very close up at the wide end, much less so at the long end. Focus is a bit slow in macro mode, but no worse than most competitors. If you find the 80cm closest focus distance in non macro mode too limiting (we did) you can switch to 'Auto Macro' mode (which frees up the entire 4cm to infinity range), though again this does slow down focusing a little.

Movie mode

The NV10 can capture movies at up to 640x480 pixels (VGA) at 30 fps. Movies are saved as AVI MPEG-4 files using the DiVX codec. This means they're small, but you do need to install the decoder on your PC to view them. This is supplied for Windows but Mac users need to find and download it themselves.

The DiVX movies are very small (it's a very efficient compression), and quality is okay, though nothing special (they're a bit soft and look very compressed). You can zoom whilst shooting, though this tends to cause the focus to fail briefly. You can also, unusually, pause recording. There are some rudimentary in-camera movie editing controls.

To download a movie (with pause) saved in QuickTime format click here

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 25 fps
File size: 3.6 MB, 11.04 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

Resolution

Resolution is surprisingly good - certainly well on a par with other 10MP cameras we've tested and a lot better than most 7 or 8MP models. They're not the cleanest results we've ever seen (a bit over-sharpened) but in terms of sheer detail there's nothing to complain about here.

Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1750 LPH
Extinction resolution 2100 LPH *

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1700 LPH
Extinction resolution 2150 LPH *

Distortion and other image quality issues

The Z1000 exhibits moderate distortion at the wide end of the zoom - 1.1% barrel distortion (click here for test chart) - on the low side of average for this type of camera. There is no measurable distortion at all at the long end of the zoom (click here for test chart).

General comments

On a positive note the NV10 produces consistently sharp results and at ISO 100 and 200 the output is bright, punchy sharp and very clean, with no real noise problems - certainly nothing you'd worry about in prints or viewed on even the largest screen. Exposure is generally very good, though not infallible, and focus spot on most of the time (we did experience a few occasions when the focus failed entirely, saying it was in focus when it was obviously not). All but 1 or 2 shots in 100 also had perfect white balance.

But there are, inevitably, problems. The biggest - and to be honest the NV10's most serious flaws - are the excessively high saturation and contrast levels (which can't be changed). In dull conditions the steep tone curve and high saturation are great for adding a bit of punch to gray, lifeless scenes, but once the sun comes out the result is often clipped highlights or (more commonly) clipped shadows - or both, and a camera that is quite sensitive to exposure errors. Primary colors (especially reds, yellows and greens) aren't just loud; they are the visual equivalent of being shouted at through a megaphone. The high saturation (particularly the reds) sometimes leads to channel clipping, causing subtle tonal information to fill in with flat color. I found that virtually all the pictures I took in bright light needed work with Photoshop's HIghlight/Shadow controls to flatten out the tones a little (though there's little you can do with the clipped reds and yellows). I'm not sure if Samsung chose to use such a harsh tone curve to mask noise or to produce punchy 'consumer friendly' results, but for those of us who like a more subtle approach - or want to post-process - a menu for turning down the contrast and saturation would have been most welcome.

As the example here shows there is actually a lot more detail in the shadows than a first glance at the out of camera JPEGs suggest.

The image on the left has had the contrast adjusted with a quick application of Photoshop's HIghlight/ Shadow tool (slightly overdone for emphasis) - lifting the shadows reveals a little more noise but a lot more detail.

Out of camera result After highlight/shadow and saturation adjustments.

Elsewhere there's little else to get too worked up about; there's a little purple fringing around the boundaries of overexposed areas, the aforementioned focus and exposure errors in the occasional shot and a touch of flare when shooting into the light. It's also obvious that the lens is being seriously pushed to provide a sharp 10MP image, hough unless you're producing poster prints you won't be troubled by the slight edge softness.

Noise

With tiny, high pixel count chips noise is always going to be an issue, and to a large degree this is more a test of the effectiveness (both measurable and visible) of a camera's noise reduction system. Designers have to balance the desire to produce smooth, clean results with the need to retain as much detail as possible (if you blur away the noise, you blur away image detail too). The NV10's measured noise is slightly higher at low ISO settings than some of its competitors (the noise reduction seems lighter), and there is mild, but visible noise at ISO 100 and 200 - though it's certainly nothing that you would see in a print. ISO 400 and up are noisy, with strong chroma noise 'blotchiness' despite increasingly aggressive noise reduction. It's worth noting also that the low black noise measurements are more a reflection of Samsung's high contrast processing than its noise reduction or sensor characteristics - (clipping shadows is an excellent way to get rid of noise - and all other shadow detail). We found that in real world shooting the high contrast, high saturation and high noise levels made any shots over ISO 200 look pretty messy, and wouldn't recommend using them unless you really have to.

ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1000
100% Crops

Low contrast detail

What the crops and graph above don't show is the effect of noise reduction on low contrast fine detail such as hair, fur or foliage. An inevitable side effect of noise removal is that this kind of detail is also blurred or smeared, resulting in a loss of 'texture'. In a new test the crops below show the effect of the noise reduction on such texture (fur) as you move up the ISO range.

100% Crops
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1000 ASR MODE (ISO 200)

Compared to many cameras the NV10 appears to use a fairly light touch with noise reduction at ISO 100 and 200, meaning you're not losing too much of the low contrast detail and texture that is often sacrificed for a 'smooth' result. By the time you get to ISO 400 the noise reduction has really started to take its toll, and ISO 800 and 100 are noisy and free of detail. I've included the ASR mode just out of interest; the exif says it's ISO 200, but obviously the noise levels are very high. Interestingly the amount of luminance information appears to be roughly the same as the ISO 400 result, but the chroma (color) information is very noisy and has had heavy NR applied.

Noise graph

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity and red/green/blue channels is on the vertical axis.

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