Samsung NX10 Review
Look and Feel
The NX10 is a compact, SLR-style interchangeable lens camera. It's not as small as the Olympus E-PL1, Panasonic GF1, or Sony NEX models, but it's still very portable. The camera body appears to be made entirely of a very solid plastic, giving it a high quality feel, though the two plastic doors for the battery and memory card compartments feel a little flimsy. While the right hand grip is on the small side, I found that I could comfortably hold the camera (at least with the smaller lenses) with my pointer finger on top, the middle finger on the grip, and thumb on the back of the camera. The grip has a rubberized finish, which is a nice touch.
The NX10 has more than its share of buttons, and since many of them server more than one function, things can get a little confusing. Most of them are well placed, save for the continuous shooting and "green" buttons on the top of the camera. All of the buttons on the camera could be a bit larger, as well.
The NX10 in black and silver. Images courtesy of Samsung
In the U.S., the NX-10 will come only in black. However, in some other countries you'll be able to pick it up in "noble silver", as well.
Alright, now let's take a look how the NX10 compares to other ILCs and small D-SLRs in terms of size and weight -- body only, of course.
As you can see, the NX10 is one of the smaller interchangeable lens cameras out there. While the Sony NEX-3 is the smallest in the group, its size advantage diminishes once you attach one of its large lenses. I did find that I could transport the NX10 with its pancake or 18 - 55 mm lenses in my coat pocket (with the latter being a tight fit), and it will travel in a small bag or on your shoulder with ease.
|The NX10 (right) next to the similar-looking Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2|
Alright, let's begin our tour of the NX10 now, shall we?
Here's the front of the NX10, without a lens attached. As I mentioned, the NX10 uses a totally new lens mount, known as the -- get ready -- Samsung NX mount. This mount supports current and feature NX lenses, plus Pentax K-mount and numerous other lens types via optional adapters. The only lenses that will support autofocus will be the NX lenses, though. Regardless of what lens you're using, there's a 1.5X crop factor to keep in mind. Also, since the NX10 doesn't have image stabilization built into the camera body, you'll need to buy lenses that offer this feature (and two of the three initial NX lenses do). To release an attached lens, simply press the button located to the right of the mount.
Sensor size comparison, image courtesy of Samsung
Looking through the lens mount, you can see the NX10's 14.6 Megapixel CMOS sensor. This sensor is APS-C size, which makes it larger than the Live MOS sensor used in Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the same size as the sensor in the Sony NEX-3/5 cameras (and regular entry-level D-SLRs). The advantage of the larger sensor is better image quality and less noise at high sensitivities -- at least in theory.
Since the sensor does not have a mirror to protect it from dust, the NX10 is going to need a strong dust reduction system. The NX10 uses a fairly typical system for keeping dust away: first, there's an anti-static coating on the CMOS sensor to keep dust from gathering in the first place. If that's not enough, there's an ultrasonic dust removal system that vibrates at 60,000 Hz to literally shake dust off the sensor at startup and shutdown (though this feature is off by default). During my time with the NX10, I did not find dust to be a problem.
Directly above the lens mount is the NX10's pop-up flash. This flash, which is released electronically, has a guide number of 11 meters at ISO 100. That's the same as on the Panasonic DMC-G2 and G10, and stronger than the flashes in the smaller interchangeable lens cameras. If you want a more powerful flash, you can attach one via the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment.
To the lower-left of the lens mount is the camera's depth-of-field preview button. This button can also be redefined to activate the custom white balance feature.
There are two last things to see on the front of the NX10. On the left, near the grip, is the camera's AF-assist lamp. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer, as well. Over on the opposite side of the photo, right under the NX10 logo, is the camera's microphone (monaural).
On the back of the camera is a 3-inch AMOLED display with 614,000 pixels. The AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic LED) screen offers several benefits over traditional LCDs, including improved contrast, a much wider viewing angle, faster response time, and lower power consumption. The screen is certainly beautiful, looking almost as sharp as the 921k pixel screens that are fairly common on D-SLRs these days. The downside of AMOLED screens is that visibility in bright sunlight isn't the greatest.
|The "view" in live view. Sorry these are so lousy -- the NX10 does not output video in record mode||Zoomed-in while in manual focus mode|
As with all interchangeable lens cameras, taking pictures on the NX10 is a live view only affair. You can compose photos on the AMOLED display, or with the electronic viewfinder that you'll see in a moment. The NX10's live view mode offers you a real-time preview of exposure and white balance, a live histogram, a fast 15/35-point autofocus system (in normal and close-up mode, respectively), face detection, and frame enlargement for easy manual focusing (though it's fixed at one position). The view on the AMOLED display is bright, sharp, and fluid, though low light visibility is not great.
You can also compose photos on the electronic viewfinder located directly above the AMOLED display. This viewfinder displays 100% of the frame, and has a magnification of 0.86X. That magnification makes the EVF one of the smaller ones out there, with only the Lumix DMC-G10's below it. The resolution of the EVF is excellent, with 921,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. The EVF shows exactly the same things as the main LCD, including menus and playback mode. I did find that low light visibility was even worse on the EVF than it was on the main display. There's a sensor underneath the viewfinder detects when you put your eye to it, so the camera can switch from the LCD to the EVF automatically. You can adjust the focus of the EVF by using the diopter correction knob located on its left side.
To the left of the EVF is a button for entering the menu system. Moving over to the far right, we find buttons for adjusting the exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV) or the aperture (in manual mode). Below that is the AE/AF lock / image protection button.
Shortcut (function) menu
Closer to the LCD we have the Display button, which toggles the info shown on the LCD/EVF, and also displays a help screen for menu items. Under that is the Function button, which opens up a kind of shortcut menu. The items here, at least in Program mode, include:
- Photo size
- Image quality
- AF area
- Color space
- Smart Range
Since all of those are in the regular menu, I'll describe the options that need some explanation when we get to that section of the review.
Next up is the four-way controller, used for menu navigation, replaying photos, and also:
- Up - AF/MF (Single AF, continuous AF, manual focus) - you may have to flip a switch on your lens to access the last option
- Down - ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
- Left - Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
- Right - White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent white, fluorescent neutral white, fluorescent daylight, tungsten, flash, custom, color temp) - more on this later
- Center - OK + focus point selection
The last buttons on the back of the NX10 are for entering playback mode and deleting a photo. This second button is also used to select and adjust the Picture Wizard feature, which I'll get to a bit later.
There's plenty more to see on the top of the Samsung NX10. First up is the speaker, with the flash release button located above it.
Moving toward the center of the photo, you can see the camera's hot shoe. The camera will work best with one of the two Samsung flashes I mentioned earlier (the SEF20A or SEF42A), as they'll sync with the camera's metering system. The SEF42A also supports high speed flash sync and an AF-assist lamp, plus a backlit LCD display. If you're not using one of these flashes, you may need to set the exposure on both the camera and the flash manually. The maximum flash x-sync speed is 1/180 sec on the NX10. The camera does not support wireless flashes.
Next up is the NX10's mode dial, which has these options:
The NX10 has a fairly straightforward set of shooting modes. You've got your auto mode with scene selection, plenty of other scene modes that you can select from manually, and full manual exposure controls. In fact, I don't think I need to explain anything here, so let's move on!
To the upper-right of the mode dial is the command dial, with the power switch/shutter release button above it. You'll use the command dial for adjusting manual exposure settings, navigating through menus, and more.
The handy customizable self-timer
The two final buttons on the top of the NX10 are the "green button", used for resetting certain shooting settings to default, and the drive button (these are use for playback zoom, as well). The drive modes include single-shot, continuous, burst, self-timer (customizable), AE bracketing, WB bracketing, and Photo Wizard Bracketing.
Before I tell you about those three bracketing options, let me explain the differences between the "continuous" and "burst" modes, and how they performed. The "continuous" mode takes photos at full resolution, while the "burst" mode lowers the resolution to 1472 x 976 and also locks out the RAW format. The image on the AMOLED or EVF also goes black while you're shooting in "burst" mode. Here's what kind of performance you can expect in both of these modes:
At full resolution ("continuous" mode), the NX10 is capable of taking photos at over 3 frames/second. Unfortunately, the buffer fills very quickly, especially when a RAW image is involved. When shooting JPEGs, the camera doesn't stop after 16 shots, it just slows down considerably. The image on the AMOLED keeps up well with the action in this mode. The "burst" mode does allow for faster shooting, though the resolution is low, and you can't actually see what you're taking a picture once the burst sequence begins.
Now, about those bracketing modes! You can bracket for exposure, white balance, or Photo Wizard setting. For the first two, the camera takes three photos in a row, each with a different exposure or white balance setting. The exposure interval can be up to ±3EV, while the white balance can be bracketed in the amber/blue or magenta/green direction by up to three steps (Samsung doesn't say what a step is equivalent to). For Photo Wizard bracketing, you can select as many "Wizards" as you want, and the camera will save an image for each. I'll tell you what those Wizards are all about when we get to the menu section of the review.
The first things I want to point out here are the two switches on the 18 - 55 mm kit lens (which is at full wide-angle here, by the way). The top one turns the image stabilizer on and off, while the one on the bottom switches between auto and manual focus. Further to the right, under a plastic door of average quality, are the NX10's I/O ports. The ports include DC-in (for the optional AC adapter), HDMI, remote control, and USB + A/V out. Remember that both the HDMI and A/V cables are optional accessories!
On the opposite side of the NX10 is its SD/SDHC memory card slot, which is protected by a somewhat-flimsy plastic door.
The lens is at full telephoto in this shot.
Our tour of the NX10 ends with a view of the bottom of the camera. Here you can see a metal tripod mount, as well as the battery compartment. The door over the battery compartment is of average quality, and includes a locking mechanism. You can spot the included BP1310 li-ion battery in the lower-right of the above photo.