Compared to previous 'high end' Digimax models the V700 is a fairly stylish - and remarkably compact - camera.There's nothing 'cheap' about the largely all-metal build of the V700, and it feels more substantial than you might think. In keeping with the 'everything but the kitchen sink' feature set, the V700 is bristling with external controls, meaning you rarely need to use the extensive menu system. In a nod to Canon's 'FUNC' button, the '+/-' button (top left) gives quick access to AE compensation, ISO and white balance, (as well as allowing you to individually tweak the red, green and blue channels. Overall the design is pretty mature and well-thought out, though not without its quirks, some of which take some getting used to.
In your hand
Handling is remarkably good despite the pebble-smooth plastic finish and lack of a sizeable grip. It feels a lot more secure when you use both hands to hold the camera, especially as using it single-handedly means risking your thumb pressing some of the buttons (it's very easy to accidentally engage the self-timer).
The 3.7V Li-ion 1130mAh battery pack sits next to the SD card under a fairly sturdy spring-hinge door on the right end of the V700 (viewed from the back). A small retaining clip prevents the battery from falling out when you're changing the card. Battery life is pretty good (240-250 shots per charge using the CIPA standard), though by no means class-leading.
Right next to the battery slot is the SD card slot. The V700 is certified for use with cards up to 1GB, and a fast card is recommended for shooting extended burst mode or movie sequences.
The small flash is a little underpowered (with a maximum range of around 3.0 meters at the wide end of the zoom), but offers the usual options; red-eye reduction (using a single pre-flash), slow synch, fill-flash.
Like Sony and Panasonic, Samsung has teamed up with a famous German lens manufacturer to produce the optics for its digital cameras. The Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan offers a 3x zoom covering a range equivalent to 38-114mm, and has a maximum aperture of F2.8 at the wide end, F5.1 at the long end. The lens retracts fully into the body when not in use.
Two ports sit under a small cover (held in place by a rather flimsy bit of flexible plastic) on the rear of the camera. The DC-in is for the optional mains adaptor, and there's a combined USB 2.0/AV port (cables supplied).
The 2.0-inch screen is surprisingly good (to be fair Samsung do have a lot of experience in manufacturing LCDs). It's bright, very clear (despite the fairly low 118,000 pixel resolution) and has a high refresh rate. It's pretty useless in bright light, when glare means seeing anything on-screen is a challenge. It also doesn't 'gain up' in very low light (though to be fair it is perfectly usable in normal low light shooting situations).
The optical viewfinder is pretty standard fare for this type of camera - usable, but only if you're determined to squeeze the most life out of your battery, or are shooting in very bright direct sunlight, when the screen gets too much glare to see. Two LEDs indicate focus status (top, green) and flash status (bottom, yellow).
The top of the V700 is home to the power (on/off) button, main mode dial and shutter release. That little level on the shutter release isn't - as you may think - for zooming (though I spent the first week with the V700 trying to zoom with it). It's a 'jog switch' used to change apertures and shutter speeds in the manual and semi-automatic exposure modes.
No digital camera would be complete without a four-way controller. The V700's is used to navigate the extensive menu system as well as giving one-push access to self-timer, flash mode, macro mode and voice memo. To the left of the controller are two further buttons - one switches between the various display modes (and turns the screen off), the other switches to playback mode.
To the left of the LCD screen are three further buttons. The top one has a similar function to Canon's FUNC button - bringing up a mini menu of options for AE compensation, color and white balance and ISO/sensitivity. Below this is an AEL (exposure lock), and at the bottom (not visible in this picture) a final button that switches from manual to auto focus in record mode, and brings up the album options in playback mode.