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Samsung summer camera launch: Chelsea braggers

Samsung has previewed its new range for the second half of 2007, including the L-Series, the S85 and NV8, NV15 and NV20, as well as making an announcement concerning Chelsea FC

Following its recent announcement of the L series and budget S85, Samsung showed us the rest of its product range at a swanky Soho hotel yesterday. After a hearty breakfast we got the chance to get our greasy mitts on the new range.

First up is the i85, a successor to the twistin' turnin' media-playin' i7. We've only just pried the i7 from our friends' grasping fingers when the i85 arrives. It's an 8.1-megapixel update to the 7.2-megapixel i7, but without the novel flip screen. It does retain the 76mm (3-inch) LCD touchscreen, MP3 player, video player and audio-visual tour guide functions.

Although our i7 sample had some problems with the downloaded tour-guide content, Samsung has promised regular updates to the information so your camera can tell you where to point it, Hitchhiker's Guide-style (kind of).

The i85 packs in a roomy 450MB internal memory, face detection and an Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) system. This software algorithm takes two pictures in quick succession and combines them to get the sharpest image. The ASR algorithm has been speeded up, so the camera will process two images to create a blur-free final picture in 0.7 seconds. It's an interesting idea, and one we're keen to test. The i85 will cost you £229 from the end of August.

Next up are the new additions to the NV range. The NV8, NV15 and NV20 are styled in a curiously boxy, retro way, sporting the natty Chelsea-blue ring. All three pack 3x optical zoom and a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen. The NV8 (pictured, back) boasts 8 megapixels, and will cost £199. The NV15 takes us up to 10 megapixels for £229. The NV20 (pictured, front) is Samsung's first 12-megapixel compact camera and will go on sale at a hefty £249. All three cameras will be yours to own from September 2007, and have a two-year warranty included.

That may sound like a lot for the usual 3x zoom and 64mm screen, especially on the NV8. But there are some interesting extra features on this trio. ASR and advanced noise reduction allows you to take sensitivity up to ISO 3,200 in low light, and a new local contrast control is designed to cope with heavily backlit subjects. They also feature MPEG-4 VGA (640x480-pixel) 30fps video recording. Usefully, the NV cameras can be charged via USB.

What we really like is Samsung's Smart Touch interface. This has been around for a while, but has been refined on the new cameras. It consists of a row of buttons along the bottom and a column of buttons up the side of the screen. Lightly drag your fingers across the buttons and the screen will display the function controlled by each one. When you've pressed a button to highlight a function, you then go to the other axis to choose which setting you want.

It sounds weird, and feels very weird at first, but it is strangely intuitive, and flexible enough to knock scrolling through rigid menu hierarchies into a cocked hat. Like the rotating screen on the i7, Smart Touch may well prove to be a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, and as such is well worth having a fiddle with for yourself.

Samsung rounded out the launch with the news that Samsung Cameras is now the official camera sponsor of some pub team in Chelsea. Maybe special lenses are needed to cope with those frankly ridiculous glow-in-the-dark shirts. -Rich Trenholm