As a new kid on the digital camera block, a degree of creativity is required from Samsung; otherwise, its hopes of tempting consumers away from the recognised names, such as Sony, Canon, Nikon and so forth, are slim. To that end, back in the 2009, Samsung brought forth its ST550, the first point-and-shoot camera to feature LCD screens on both front and back. This, we noted at the time, would be a boon for anyone fond of the bit of self-portraiture. Samsung has kept on refining its self-portrait-friendly camera, but the world has moved on quite a bit since then.
Nowadays, any smartphone worth its weight in silicon and Gorilla glass comes with a forward-facing camera. Although these cameras are often inferior in both quality and megapixel count compared to their rear-mounted cousins, they're often sufficient for the task at hand. And, as a bonus, we almost always carry a mobile phone with us. All of this goes toward negating the DV300F's chief selling point.
The 1.5-inch 61,000-pixel screen on the front of the DV300F blends in seamlessly with the faux-machined aluminium finish. So much so that Samsung felt compelled to put a removable orange sticker frame around the screen to let you know that it's there. On the top edge of the camera, next to the power button and zoom toggle/shutter button, is a switch for the front-facing LCD screen. A small door on the camera's right-hand side hides a single port that's responsible for A/V out, USB data transfer and charging.
Feeding the 16.1-megapixel CCD image sensor's thirst for vision is a 5x optical-zoom lens that's 25mm at its widest in 35mm-equivalent speak. On the underside of the unit is the tripod mount and a door that hides the camera's battery and microSD card slot. The latter may help to save a few nanometres and the odd gram, but it makes transferring photos onto other devices a hassle. Oddly, for an AU$159 camera, the DV300F includes Wi-Fi, allowing you to upload photos to phones, PCs, social media and the cloud. Given that reliable, speedy and easily accessible Wi-Fi are mostly restricted to homes and workplaces, it all seems a little unnecessary. We'd plump for a lower price or improved image quality any day.
Unlike the ST550 and its direct successors, the screen at the back of the DV300F is not of the touchscreen variety. It does, however, boast an adequate 460,000 pixels and measures 3 inches diagonally. Next to the screen are the camera's main controls, with a five-way pad in centre. This allows for quick access to the macro, info display, timer (annoyingly, the timer reverts to off after use) and flash functions. Above it is a Home button, which is the only way to switch between photo modes, such as Smart Auto, Program, Scene and Panorama, as well as access photo-editing and camera settings. If you want to fiddle with features, such as exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, focus, image size and quality, autofocus mode and so forth, you'll need to head a few millimetres across to the Menu button.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed may be improved with a higher-speed microSD card. During our testing with the unit's included 2GB card, the camera ran out of buffer space after eight shots, resulting in a 10-or-so-second wait for each subsequent shot.
On average, a fully charged battery was good for around 160 photos and a few videos, although it should be pointed out that we spent a great amount of time diving around the camera's menus and testing out battery-intensive features, such as Wi-Fi.
Left to its own devices, in both Smart Auto and Program modes, the DV300F likes to overexpose daytime scenes and under-do things when there's less light around. In terms of colour, the DV300F prefers slightly muted tones, except for green, which is generally a little punchier. Scaled down to resolutions that are used by today's phones, tablets and computers, the DV300F's photos are perfectly usable, reasonably sharp and detailed.
A 100 per cent crop (inset) of a photo from the DV300F.
If you're a regular photo cropper, the DV300F should be left off your list, as photos viewed at 100 per cent are hazy and indistinct. Most will only notice this trait in low-light photos, which aren't at all grainy, but do suffer from an obvious lack of detail. Even more disappointing is that the loss of detail occurs at an early stage on the ISO sensitivity scale. At ISO 400, images are already murkier, albeit not frighteningly so. At ISO 800, details are obviously being smoothed over, while ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 produce images that are distinctly impressionist in nature. Mind you, Monet and others loved punchy, vibrant colours, but the DV300F at ISO 1600 and 3200 has lost any appetite for such things.
Click for a larger version of the ISO comparison chart.
Optical image stabilisation provides an extra degree of stability in low-light situations. Given the camera's price point, the 5x optical zoom lens is more than acceptable in its results. The DV300F is able to capture 1280x720 video at 30fps. Motion is nice and smooth, but detail and sharpness are lacking, as artefacts cling gamely to the edges of all objects. The video sample shown below is indicative of the camera's ability to capture motion, but is several times blockier than video viewed fresh from the camera.
Exposure: 1/15, f/2.5, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/20, f/2.5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/125, f/4.1, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/30, f/2.5, ISO 240
Pleasant aesthetics, a low price and the front-mounted LCD screen are the main drawcards for the Samsung DV300F. We'd recommend spending a tad extra to get a whole lot more elsewhere, and relying on your smartphone for self-portraits.