Conclusion - Pros

  • Superb build and finish
  • Huge feature set in a very compact body
  • Extensive photographic controls & some fun features
  • Unique styling & user interface
  • Bright, punchy, fairly detailed ISO 100 images
  • Big, fairly fast (F2.8-4.0) 7x zoom
  • Reasonably fast performance
  • Accepts threaded filters & lenses
  • Big, bright screen
  • Decent flash power
  • Image stabilization and ASR system (though see below)
  • Space efficient MPEG-4 movie mode, zooming allowed, pause function (though see below)
  • Custom white balance and color temperature setting
  • Excellent value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • Excessive noise at ISO 200+, visible noise at ISO 100
  • Smearing of low contrast detail at all ISO settings (Noise Reduction)
  • Unimpressive ISO 400-1000 results; suitable only for small prints
  • Corner and (mild) edge softness
  • Excessive contrast and saturation - can't be turned down in-camera
  • Mild underexposure and tone curve results in clipped shadows
  • Focus hunting in low light and macro mode, slow telephoto focus in general
  • Some focus errors - single, fixed focus point doesn't help
  • CCD-shift image stabilization doesn't seem as effective as some competitors' lens-based alternatives
  • Very poor battery life (under 100 shots if you use the flash regularly)
  • Smart Touch interface fiddly in playback mode (even more so in dim light)
  • Compact size and complex interface make quick changes difficult when shooting
  • No histogram, no auto rotate function
  • Movies over-compressed, sound drops out
  • Poor indoor auto white balance

Overall conclusion

I don't often get excited about new compact cameras when I first see them, but last summer when I got my hands on a (very) early pre-production sample of the NV7 OPS I was genuinely pleased to see a company like Samsung taking the risks with design and functionality that the main players seem to have given up on entirely. It looked, on paper - and in the flesh - to be the perfect solution for the serious photographer wanting something small, solid and stuffed with features, and the fact that the styling gave a healthy nod to the rangefinder cameras of the 1950's was the icing on the cake.

And yet, having spent around a month with the NV7 OPS my experience can be summed up in a single word; disappointment. Not with the camera itself, which is a bold - and mostly successful - attempt to break the mold of 'me too' faceless compacts and to squeeze a ridiculous amount of functionality into the smallest possible space, but with the results it produces.

The NV7 OPS is an otherwise fantastic camera that produces mediocre - and on occasion downright poor - images, certainly when compared to the best alternatives on the market. Which is a bit like saying 'it takes 20 minutes to hit 60mph, at which point it rattles enough to loosen your teeth, but otherwise it's a fantastic sports car'. To us, at least, the end result is the defining quality of a camera, and the NV7 OPS simply doesn't deliver the goods.

Of course the NV7 is a very keenly priced camera - especially given the features on offer - and in truth the image quality issues are unlikely to be hugely important to the casual 'point and shoot' user producing 6x4-inch prints, but that's kind of not the point, is it? The NV7 OPS is a damn fine 2MP camera, but Samsung needs to look long and hard at its sensor, lens and processing before the NV7 - or its successor - offers the enthusiast photographer a serious 7MP option.

Samsung's arrival at the digital camera party is a welcome one, and anyone that can stir things up a bit with some real innovation is to be embraced with open arms. If the NV range is a taste of things to come then I say 'bring it on' - the NV7 OPS could have been a candidate for the product of the year had it produced results to match its features. It's almost good enough - on balance - to scrape a Recommended, but given the list of cons at the top of this page I can only advise caution for anyone thinking of handing over money for it, no matter how good the deal looks.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.5
Ergonomics & handling 6.5
Features 8.5
Image quality 6.0
Optics 6.5
Performance (speed) 7.5
Value 8.0

Above Average

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