Samsung MV800 review

3.5 out of 5
£249

For

Flip screen for self-portraits, responsive touchscreen, build quality

Against

Poor display quality, so-so image quality, expensive, unconventional control array

The MV800 updates Samsung’s dual screen PL and ST-series compact cameras. However, the MV, which stands for “Multi View”, opts for a single screen that’s now mounted on a flip bracket for forward-facing self-portrait framing. The question is, will the MV800 flip us over to compacts or is it just a gimmick?

Say cheese

Anyone that used the previous generation Samsung PL and ST cameras, many of which have a second small LCD screen on the front of the camera body, will know that it was nothing short of a pain to repeatedly tap the screen, fingers and toes crossed, in the hope that it’d activate.

So the MV800’s solution - a screen mounted on a bracket that can flip it above the camera to face forward - seems a sensible one. For starters it means you only need the one screen, whereby it’s possible to get full benefit of the 3in real estate. In addition to the standard shutter, there’s a second shutter button on the back of the camera to make taking a shot all the easier.

It’s not just for taking self-portraits either. As you move the screen it can be used as a waist-level finder for low-angle shots, or even used to prop the camera up in a more upward-facing position. There are certainly lots of possibilities.

The menus look colourful and are detailed in playback too. This is thanks to the 288k-pixel display. That’s very high resolution for a compact and the equivalent of 864k-dots.

Image Quality

However image playback often looks ‘washed out’ and shots lack contrast. But this isn’t the fault of the screen, it’s down to the sensor’s limitations. The inclusion of a 16.1-megapixel CCD sensor seems a rather high-resolution option to choose for such a small sensor size. All those pixels on that small surface area are detrimental to the final signal and, therefore, image quality suffers because of it. The low ISO 80-200 settings aren’t so bad, though processing is aggressive and there are lots of artefacts - often seen as worm-like distortions around subject edges. It’s high ISO settings where the camera really can’t cope though, as this is where shots look ‘thin’ and lack definition. Close-up inspection shows softness and a lack of detail too.

If you’re not a total camera geek, on the other hand, then you won’t think images look too bad at all. They’re acceptable for the most part, just don’t go shooting handheld in low light.

The MV800’s 5x optical zoom ranges from a wide 26mm to a reasonable 130mm at the top-end, so there’s plenty of scope and the wide-angle setting is ideal for those self-portrait moments.

Hands on touchscreen

Using the MV800 is a very hands-on experience - and we mean that quite literally. Other than the power and shutter buttons on the top of the camera the rear has only a duo of Home and Playback buttons. Everything else is managed through the camera’s touchsceen which is now far more sensitive than previous Samsung models.

It’s sensitive to make it easy enough to use, but it’s still not as responsive as the likes of the Galaxy S Smartphone range. Considering many potential customers for the MV800 are likely to have a touchscreen Smartphone that they’re used to, this compact camera could have benefited from a touch-sensitivity that wasn’t just good, but great.

The MV800 doesn’t quite manage this though thus far no consumer camera has. We do like the Samsung’s ability to drag-and-drop menu icon placement in order to customise the menu screen though.

Not only is the screen quality decent but the whole camera’s build quality feels sturdy too. From the screen-holding bracket to the main body – the metal finish is sturdy and yet the camera’s slim build ensures it’s small and elegant and well.

Creative controls

Control-wise and the MV800 is all about the point-and-shoot user. There are stacks of shooting modes to pick from. You can go basic and pop the camera in to smart auto or smart movie and let it take the reins, use program (P) to assert your control over a handful of settings such as ISO sensitivity, or choose from a whole range of scene modes including live panorama and 3D mode. It doesn’t end there either, as “fun” modes such as funny face distort images in amusing fashions, while magic frame opens up a variety of backgrounds with small openings to place your subject, while photo/movie filter modes provide a variety of in-camera effects including soft focus, half tone dot and many more.

All these modes are great for mucking around with, and may be suited to kids and teens looking for a laugh, but the MV800’s £249 RRP may position it a little too high up the price scale to make it widely accessible.

Verdict

Samsung’s MV800 is a quirky and well-built compact camera. Although the flip out screen may be a little gimmicky, as it’s not something that you’ll be using all the time, its screen resolution makes it a pleasure to use as a ‘normal’ compact too. The touchscreen interface is a nice idea and the responsiveness is way beyond previous generation models. Sadly, it’s not ‘Smartphone standard’ and that’s what many potential customers will have come to anticipate, if not expect.

But it’s the flat, over-processed image quality that’s the MV800’s downfall. It’s a major thorn in the side, as the quality just isn’t good enough overall, particularly at high ISO settings, to warrant the £249 asking price.

Gimmicky or not, the build quality’s decent and the screen’s pretty top-notch too. Get a lower-resolution, better-performing sensor in there and take the touchscreen to the next level and Samsung would have a winner here. But with those two major elements short of the mark the MV800 is just a bit underwhelming when considering other similar-price compacts.