I’ve been using the Samsung MV800 compact camera for a couple of weeks, and I’m here to tell you a little about this neat little camera.
The Vital Statistics
First of all, the camera’s basic vital statistics:
- Image Sensor
- CCD Image Sensor
- Image sensor (effective pixel): approx. 16.15 megapixel
- Approx. 16.44 MP
- Image Stabilisation
- Dual IS (OIS + DIS)
- TTL auto focus
- Normal: 80cm – Infinity(Wide) / 150cm – infinity (Tele) , Macro: 5 – 80cm (Wide) / 100- 150cm (Tele), Auto Macro: 5cm – Infinity (Wide) / 100cm – Infinity (Tele)
- Exposure control: Programme AE
- Metering: Centre Weighted / Multi / Spot / Face Detection
- Schneider Lens f= 4.7 – 23.5mm (35mm Film Equivalent: 26 – 130mm)
- F3.3(W) – F5.9(T)
- 5x optical zoom lens
- Still Image Mode: 1 – 5X
- TFT LCD Display
- 3.0″ Display Size
- 3.0″ (7.62cm) 288000 Pixels Display
- Shutter Speed
- Auto: 1/8 – 1/2000sec / Program: 1 – 1/2000sec / Night: 16 – 1/2000sec / AEB,continuous: 1/4~1/2000sec
The MV stands for MultiView, and refers to this camera’s main feature – it has a hinged screen, a bit like you’d find on a camcorder, but hinged along the top edge of the camera. This enables you to do a few clever things. You can hold the camera down low with the screen tilted up towards you so you can take pictures near ground-level without having to get down there – a useful feature for less mobile camera users. Here’s an example I took at the Bath & West Show:
You can also do the opposite, holding the camera up above your head, upside down, with the screen tilted down towards you to take pictures over crowds (or fences if you’re a spy). The screen can also rotate through 180º to face the same way as the lens, and an alternative shutter button is uncovered, allowing easy self-portraits and arms-length group shots without having to guess at the framing. Combined with some of the other fun special effects settings, this makes for a great party camera.
The screen allows one more party piece – you can use it to stand the camera at a slight angle on a flat surface. This allows either easy group shots (say, of your group of friends on a sofa with the camera on the coffee table using the timer), or viewing of a slideshow of images by having the screen facing you. If you find the screen isn’t large enough for showing off your snaps, the camera also has a handy HDMI port, allowing you to display your photos and movies on a TV.
The MV800’s 3-inch touchscreen is sharp, and visible even in bright sunshine. It has to be bright, as the MV800 doesn’t have a viewfinder, but it felt entirely natural to me to just use the screen. You’re using the screen to set up the camera anyway, and even focus by tapping the object in the view you want to focus on, so using the screen for framing feels seamless. The lack of a viewfinder enables the camera to be very compact, at only 92 x 56.2 x 18.3mm.
The Lens and Image Quality
The Schneider lens on this camera offers the equivalent of a 26-130mm lens on a 35mm SLR in terms of field of view. I won’t go into a technical analysis of the glass, chromatic aberration, vignetting, etc – I’m sure you can find that on other sites – I’m giving more of a normal user’s perspective here. 26mm is quite wide-angled, certainly enough to fit in everyone in a room at a party without having to get them to clump together, or for taking group shots on holiday without the comical “back a bit, back a bit, SPLOOSH”. At the other end of the 5X optical zoom, the 130mm is moderate telephoto. It will let you zoom in on animals at the zoo, or on safari, or let you focus in on a distant feature on a building or in the landscape. It’s a nice range to have, and mimics the range of a lot of all-purpose SLR lenses, like Canon’s popular 24-105mm L lens. Let’s face it, if you need something with more zoom, you need to be getting an SLR. The camera does offer some digital zoom on top of the optical zoom, but my personal opinion is that you should never use digital zoom on any camera – the image quality always suffers terribly because the camera is basically duplicating pixels to make more pixels. You may as well zoom in to the photo when you view it later – at least then the original is good quality. It’s there if you need it, though.
At low ISO settings of 80, 100 and 200, the image is nice and sharp, certainly perfectly good enough for printing up to A4 (standard European letter paper size). At higher ISOs, as on all cameras, the noise level starts to increase. This camera seems to have quite extreme correction software in it as the noise seems to be replaced by a strange softness that makes the photo look almost like a watercolour painting when shown at 1:1 zoom on a screen. The camera automates the ISO setting in its automatic modes, but if you know what ISO does, you can control it yourself in the more manual modes. On automatic, if you turn the flash off, the image quality will decrease rapidly in low light, but that’s true of all small-aperture compacts. Having the control in a compact is a definite bonus – you can take the time to learn how to control the shutter speed, ISO and aperture in the manual modes to be more creative with your photos. Not all mid-range compacts offer that. The aperture only seemed to have two settings that I could find, which was a little limiting in terms of depth of field, but I was pleasantly surprised to be able to change it at all on a compact.
The flash is certainly powerful enough for anything you’d want to use a compact for. Moreover, it didn’t seem to bleach out features and skin tones like a lot of compacts’ flashes can – top marks there as this little camera will be going to a lot of night-time venues, I’m sure.
Key Features – Panorama Mode
Quite a few mid-range compacts now offer a panorama mode. If you’ve not seen how this works, it replaces the method of taking a series of pictures of a panoramic view and then stitching them together – I’m sure many of you have done it with either a film or digital camera at some point. This feature enables you to hold the camera where you want the panorama to start, and then move the camera around about 180º, if you stay on the spot, with a progress image being shown on the screen to help you. I’ve used a few cameras with this feature, and the MV800’s is a particularly easy-to-use example. Here’s a shot that I really like of inside the sheep pens at the Bath & West Show:
As you can see, you need not limit yourself to view of landscapes, and a good printer should be able to print one of these shots out to hang on your wall. As you can see, the lines in the photo are nice and straight, despite my purposely jigging the camera a little as I turned to test it – top marks, Samsung.
Key Features – 3D
3D is becoming increasingly common in new TVs now, and the MV800 can take 3D images which can be viewed on a 3D-enabled TV via the HDMI port on the camera. The 3D option is available for both normal pictures, and also in panorama mode.
Key Features – Macro Mode
The MV800 has a decent macro capability (the ability to take close-up images of things very close to the camera lens), allowing focusing down to only 5mm away from the lens surface. In auto mode, the camera detects that you’re trying to focus on something close up and switches into macro automatically. You can also manually choose the Macro Mode if you know you’ll be taking a few close-up shots. This features enables you to get into more creative photography with ease.
Key Features – Fun Stuff
There is a whole raft of fun features in the camera’s customisable menu system. I imagine most people will only use these features once or twice, but they may appeal to the younger market. They include Magic Frame, which enables you to take one photo, rub a hole in it with your finger and then use that as a frame for taking another photo – take a snap of a gorilla at the zoo, rub its face off, and replace it with your nearest and dearest’s – hilarious! There are also Funny Face filters that detect and distort your subject’s face in a variety of amusing ways. Another nice feature is Smart Filter, which enables you to change the look and feel of your photos by making them look like old film, popart, or a painting, to name just a few.
Key Features – Movie Mode
With Movie Mode, the MV800 can capture up to 1280 x 720 pixels at 15 fps and a fairly decent microphone. You won’t be filming the next blockbuster on it, but it will make for some very decent home movies, and you can even add some of the effects mentioned above for a bit of fun.
Key Features – Image Editor
There’s a basic image editor which allows you to crop and rotate images, as well as remove skin blemishes and so on right on the screen of the camera using your finger – very handy if you print photos straight from your camera by taking the SD card directly to a printing machine and don’t want to fiddle around with exporting the images to a computer first for touching-up.
I think with its fun features and festival and party-friendly over-crowd and self-portrait functions, this camera will appeal most to teenagers and twenty-somethings. However, it’s a capable little camera, and would make a good quality traveling companion or family snaps camera for anyone who wants something more than a budget compact. It’s worth buying just for the excellent panorama mode. It has Samsung’s great design, build quality and ease of use going for it too. The only thing that was a negative for me was the image quality in lower light looking over-processed, and a little soft when zoomed in fully. However, unless you’re planning on printing poster-sized photos for your walls, it shouldn’t be an issue for the casual snapper.
The Samsung MV800 gets a CDW 4 out of 5.