Samsung took its time to make a decent digital camera. The early ones were awful, running short on battery juice before sunset and in the meantime offering a slow, clunky interface and average picture quality. Those days are long gone, and Samsung is now a force to be reckoned with in the compact camera sector... though it's still a year or two behind Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Sony and company.
The result is that the V70, Samsung's most innovative camera to date, is still hardly cutting edge. Instead, it borrows much from other cameras. The swivel LCD for instance, while a great idea for low- and high-angle photography, is not actually Samsung's idea at all.
Canon did that first with its Pro 70. And while the resolution of the sensor is an impressive number (seven million pixels), that's not new either and Fuji squeezes a staggering 12 million dots of colour from some of its latest compacts.
Digital cameras are increasingly homogenous and just a few manufacturers - those market leaders mentioned above - bring the occasional new or improved technology to market. There's only one thing left for Samsung to compete on. Price. Luckily the V70 is fantastic value for money. To cut a long story short, picture quality is excellent and there's a generous helping of picture taking tools and gadgetry to play with. Few beat this and seven megapixels for £280 online.
Aside from all the usual cheater modes - portrait, kids (fast shutter to freeze untrained subjects that can't sit still), landscape, backlight (useful) and beach & snow (not so useful) - you've also got full control over the camera with aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual, and exposure compensation. Helpfully the most important shooting modes are located on the main control dial, instead of being buried within the on-screen menu like too many compact digital cameras. There's even an auto-exposure lock button.
There's not much the V70 can't do. And if you really want to push its abilities, then you can invest in several accessories. The 3x optical zoom lens can be supplemented with an optional telephoto converter lens to get 5x zoom, and there are wide-angle and macro converters as well.
The V70 is bulkier than most - it's not quite compact enough to slip into your shirt pocket - but it responds well and the controls are neatly positioned. Pictures are sharp, well saturated, and there are none of the artefacts associated with cheap lenses and old sensors. The movies are exceptional for this type of camera too. Thirty framesper- second MPEG-4 videos are full of colour and detail, though there is some motion blur.
The problem with the V70 is there's nothing to really set it apart from the competition. If you're keen on macro photography, there are better options out there such as Caplio's RX. If it's a decent zoom you need, Panasonic's Lumix cameras are excellent.
Wide-angle; the Nikon Coolpix 5400 and Ricoh RX again do this well. The V70 finds a common ground between all these features, and the result is that it's little more than a reliable, everyday snapper... like a lot of other cameras.