Samsung's NV series is known for its solid build quality and unconventional smart touch interface. If those rows of buttons have put you off in the past, the 10.2-megapixel Samsung NV24HD could change your mind. This well-built snapper costs around £160.
The NV24 is controlled by the NV series' familiar smart touch interface. The rows of buttons lining the bottom and right side of the 64mm (2.5-inch) screen may look intimidating, but give them a go: it's actually highly intuitive and does away with wading through menus.
You simply choose the setting you want to adjust by pressing the relevant button in one row, then go to the other axis and press the button for your adjustment. The absence of full-screen menus also means it's possible to preview your changes on screen as you tweak. The buttons are also touch sensitive. This means that some options, such as manual exposure, can be tweaked by brushing your fingertip lightly across the buttons.
Another clever addition is that the USB cable connects to a plug, so you can charge the camera via USB and only need one cable for both charging and image transfer. We're less impressed with the diminutive zoom paddle, unfortunately.
Unusually, the NV24 boasts two mode dials, one on each shoulder. The usual scene modes, manual and automatic options can be selected by the dial on the top right, while a second dial on the left side selects different colour modes. These include vivid, soft, cool and forest colour casts.
We didn't really get much use out of this -- giving, say, white balance its own dial may have been more useful -- but it does at least allow for quick changes into black and white or oversaturated colour.
Attention to detail in the interface continues with the icons on slider scales showing what the effects of your changes will be. When adjusting the shutter speed slider to a faster speed, the icon -- a little man -- is crisp and sharp, only to blur as you make the shutter slower. We're not sure what's going on with the flat grey menu background, however; it might look cool with the classy black body, but combined with our dull silver model, the effect was too Soviet.
Optical image stabilisation and face detection -- which can find, focus and expose for up to nine faces -- are included. The maximum sensitivity is ISO 3,200, but as always, you should handle this kind of ISO speed with caution.
What we're really excited about is the NV24's titular feature: 24mm focal length, equivalent to a 35mm camera. This means images will be wider than the average compact camera, which are usually in the region of 35mm. The NV24 is even wider than cameras with a still decent 28mm wide angle. The lens also extends to a 3.6x optical zoom.
Another titular feature is the HD element of the NV24. HD stills are common place now and a slight fudge when HD resolution is a fraction of the average camera's capability. But actual high-definition video is much rarer, and the NV24 shoots 1,280x720-pixel footage at 30 frames per second.
Detail is crisp and despite the width of the frame, there's little trace of barrel distortion. This bulging effect can blight wider lenses, but it's under control here. The lens also shows no sign of vignetting with no loss of colour or focus in the corners.
The automatic mode is highly competent, coping well with exposure and metering. High contrast scenes failed to trouble the NV24 with minimal loss of detail in blown-out highlights. The manual exposure slider made playing with shutter speed a joy, the visual representation and on-screen preview even better for fast adjustment than the dials on a dSLR.
In low light, the autofocus struggled and we did get some red eye as the flash is quite close to the lens. But noise is controlled well, with decent enough performance at ISO 400 and below.
The Samsung NV24HD is an unshowy but enormously clever compact. Even if you're not sure about the smart touch controls, the ingenious manual controls make it easy and, more importantly, fun to experiment with your photography.
With its quirky interface and wide-angle lens, the NV24 reminds us of the excellent Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500, which is undeniably a sexier camera -- but also more expensive. It might take you a few minutes to get used to the NV24HD, but you won't regret it for a second.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday