With matte black finishes, prominent, blue-ringed lenses, and unusual touch sensor controls, Samsung's style-minded NV cameras are pretty hard to miss. Sitting at the top of the NV heap is the NV11, a 7.7-ounce, 10-megapixel camera that strikes just the right middle ground between the high-resolution, 3x zoom-equipped NV10, and the much bulkier 7-megapixel, 7x zoom-equipped NV5 and NV7 OPS.
The NV11 completely forgoes conventional controls and instead uses Samsung's Smart Touch interface, found on every NV-series camera except last year's MP3-playing . Instead of a joy pad or touch screen, the NV11 uses a series of touch sensor buttons along the bottom and right of its 2.7-inch screen to navigate its various menus and settings. Slide a finger along the sensors to page through the camera's grid-like menu system. Once the cursor is over your menu selection, just press the touch sensor down like a button to confirm it. With its rows of unmarked button/sensors, Smart Touch may seem intimidating at first. After a bit of practice, however, it becomes very intuitive, and makes accessing any of the camera's myriad settings quite easy.
Smart Touch isn't perfect, however, and it suffers from two major flaws. First, the sensor buttons sit too close to each other, and large-fingered users will find themselves often accidentally hitting the sensor next to the one they wanted to touch. Second, while the sensors make navigating a menu grid quite easy, they're extremely awkward for paging through dozens of photos, or any other action that requires a menu slider. When looking at photos, navigating a zoomed-in picture, or adjusting manual focus, you must either stroke the touch sensor repeatedly in one direction, or stroke it once and keep your finger pressed on the last sensor to keep the cursor scrolling.
Besides its 10-megapixel sensor and 38 to 190mm-equivalent, f/2.8-4.4 5x optical Schneider zoom lens, the NV11 comes loaded with several high-end camera features. The camera offers full manual exposure controls, with Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. As mentioned earlier, you can easily access manual focus in any of those modes and change your focus distance by sliding your finger over the touch sensor. While it doesn't have any manual or optical image stabilization, the NV11 offers Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction to help reduce blur by boosting ISO sensitivity and shutter speed when shooting zoomed in or under low light.
The NV11 also offers several snapshot-friendly features, for those who don't want to play with the camera's manual controls. You can choose from 11 preset scene modes, including the standard portrait, night, and landscape settings. Face-detection auto focus and auto exposure finds subjects' faces and adjusts focus and exposure settings accordingly. Face detection can be extremely valuable when taking family photos or portraits where the subjects are off-center or when they're not the closest foreground objects in frame.
Though it performed OK in our lab tests, the NV11 suffered from some minor quirks. After taking 2.4 seconds to start up and capture its first image, the camera could fire off a new shot every 2.3 seconds with the flash turned off. With the onboard flash enabled, that time increased to 2.7 seconds. The shutter lagged only 0.6 second with our high-contrast target and 1.2 seconds with our low-contrast target, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. Despite these otherwise respectable times, the shutter tends to feel unresponsive right after you turn on the camera. Often if you press the shutter release down while the camera is starting up, it won't register and the camera won't shoot. It's best to wait a second or two after you press the power button before you hit the shutter release, and even then you should press it halfway to get the camera to focus first before pressing all the way to capture a photo. It's a relatively minor nitpick that only seems to appear when you turn on the camera, but it can sometimes prove irritating. Finally, burst mode disappointed us, taking a mere seven full-resolution photos in 10.4 seconds for a rate of 0.7 frame per second.