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- Review Date: 07/24/2012
- Bottom line: Samsung's inexpensive DV300F gives you a neat front LCD for self portraits, a sharp lens, and an excellent Wi-Fi experience. But this compact camera is downright sluggish.
- Pros: Inexpensive. Sharp lens. Front-facing LCD for self portraits. Excellent Wi-Fi integration. Many in-camera effects.
- Cons: Waxy images at middling ISO settings. Sluggish performance. Short zoom range. HD video capture limited to 720p. No HDMI output.
At first look, the Samsung DV300F's ($199.99 list) front LCD makes it stand out from the crowd, but the camera's most impressive feature is its Wi-Fi sharing capability. It allows you to transfer photos to your smartphone, post directly to social sharing sites, or transfer them to a PC—all without wires. Despite this neat feature, the 16-megapixel camera struggles with image quality at even modest ISO settings, has a limited zoom range, and is rather slow, preventing us from wholeheartedly recommending it, especially when our Editors' Choice point-and-shoot camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 ($249.99, 4.5 stars) is just $50 more.
Design and Features
The DV300F is pretty petite, even for a compact camera, measuring just 2.2 by 3.7 by 0.8 inches and weighing 3.5 ounces. It's only a little bit smaller than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 ($199.99, 3 stars), a 10x zooming camera that measures 2.4 by 3.9 by 0.9 inches and weighs about 4.8 ounces. The DV300F's lens only offers 5x zoom, covering a 25-125mm (35mm equivalent) field of view. Going as wide as 25mm is actually quite useful, especially when framing two people at arm's length in Self Shot mode.
The front LCD is a mere 1.5 inches in size and is nearly invisible when inactive. It isn't the most color accurate display and the viewing angle is limited, but it serves its purpose for self portraits—you can grab a shot of yourself and, if you'd like, a friend at arm's length without having to guess if your picture is framed properly. The rear LCD is 3 inches in size with a 460k-dot resolution. It's bright and sharp, but does suffer from a tight viewing angle when tilting the camera up or down. The Nikon Coolpix P310 ($329.95, 4 stars) features a sharper 920k-dot LCD that you can see much more easily wherever you hold the camera.
Not geared towards enthusiast shooters, the DV300F has only a few physical control buttons. Physical shooting controls are available to manipulate the flash, macro focusing mode, and the self timer—but nothing else. To adjust other settings you'll need to use the overlay menu, launched via the Menu button. On the top of the camera you'll find the standard zoom control and shutter release, as well as the Power button and the Front LCD button, which turns the secondary display on or off.
To dive into the camera's more creative functions you'll need to press the Home button. It launches an interface inspired by smartphones, with large colorful icons for each shooting mode, art filter, scene mode, or Wi-Fi function. There's a lot to explore—including filters that make it possible to change the look of your photos and add virtual frames, distort faces in a funhouse mirror fashion, and more.
So far, Samsung has done the best job at implementing Wi-Fi in cameras, and the DV300F has some impressive wireless features. You can transfer photos from the camera to your Android or iOS device, and even use your phone as a viewfinder and to trigger the camera's shutter. Photos can be wirelessly transmitted to your Windows PC or to the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud service, and you can push photos and videos to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, and Photobucket. It's also possible to email shots or to view them on your Samsung Wi-Fi-equipped HDTV. And all of the Wi-Fi features work as advertised and are fairly easy to set up. The only bad thing about the camera's Wi-Fi is its operating range—I was only able to get about forty feet away before I lost my connection. But the Wi-Fi features here really put other connected cameras, like the Canon PowerShot Elph 320 HS ($279.99, 3.5 stars) to shame, especially when you consider the DV300F's low price.
Performance and Conclusions
The DV300F is not a camera that is built with speed in mind. It takes a full 2.1 seconds to start and shoot, makes you wait 1.5 seconds between shots, and records a lengthy 0.5-second shutter lag. The similarly sized and priced Panasonic SZ7 also has a 2-second startup speed, but records only a 0.2-second shutter lag and can fire off shots continuously with only a half second between each photo.
I used Imatest to test the camera's image quality. In terms of sharpness, it did quite well, scoring 1,983 lines per picture height, which is a lot better than the 1,800 lines that mark a sharp image. This is a very good result, but the Sony WX150 did score a bit higher, notching 2,125 lines on the same test.
Where the DV300F really struggles is with image quality at higher ISO settings, so it's not well suited for low-light shooting. In tests, it actually did quite well numerically, keeping noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 800. But close examination of the images reveals that there is quite a bit of in-camera noise reduction in play here. The camera's base ISO is 80 and everything looks great there, but by the time you bump it up to ISO 200 detail starts to be smeared away—and it's completely gone by ISO 800. This won't be a huge deal if you plan on sharing photos on Facebook, but will be noticeable if you want to make prints from higher ISO files. The camera does have a relatively fast f/2.5 lens on the wide end, which lets in twice the light as the more common f/3.3 lenses found on other point-and-shoots, which will help keep the ISO lower, but not as low as you can with the Nikon Coolpix P310. That camera's lens is f/1.8 on the wide end of its zoom, twice as fast as that of the DV300F, and it does an excellent job with both noise control and detail through ISO 800.
The camera records 720p30 video in MP4 format, but the quality is not good. Footage looks grainy when zoomed all the way out, though it does improve a bit as you zoom in. The sound of the lens moving is only barely audible on the soundtrack. The only connector on the camera is a micro USB port that is used for wired data transfer and charging—there's no dedicated battery charger included. The camera only supports microSD; you can't use industry standard SD memory cards.
On features, the Samsung DV300F is a very cool camera. But it comes with one fatal flaw. If image detail was just a little bit better at higher ISOs it would be an easy camera to recommend, especially at its under-$200 price. If you're mainly interested in wirelessly sharing photos on social networking sites and are a self portrait maven, the DV300F is the best you'll find. But if you can live without Wi-Fi and are more concerned with capturing better images at mid to high ISO settings, look no further than our Editors' Choice Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150—it's only $50 more.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.