DCRP

Samsung NX10 Review

Using the Samsung NX10

Record Mode

The Samsung NX10 is ready to start taking photos as soon as the power switch is flipped. That is, if you have the sensor cleaning system turned off, which is the default setting. If you have startup cleaning on, you'll have to wait nearly three seconds before the camera is ready.

Samsung has done a very nice job with the autofocus performance on the NX10. I don't have the equipment to do a precise comparison, but the camera seems to focus as quickly as the Panasonic G-series cameras, which have been the benchmark for AF performance in this class. With the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, the camera locked focus in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 0.8 seconds (and rarely a bit longer) at telephoto. The camera focuses well in low light, typically in less than a second, due in large part to its AF-assist lamp.

As you'd expect from a camera like this, there was no shutter lag to report.

Shot-to-shot speeds were excellent. You can take photos as fast as you can compose them, regardless if you're using the flash. If you're taking RAW photos, you can take another right away, though there may be a brief delay if you try to enter the menu system or playback mode.

There is no way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.

Now let's take a look the the image size and quality options available on the NX10:

Resolution Quality Approx. File Size # images on 4GB
memory card (optional)
14M
4592 x 3056
RAW + Super Fine 35.7 MB 112
RAW + Fine 32.3 MB 124
RAW + Normal 31.3 MB 128
RAW 28.6 MB 140
Super Fine 7.0 MB 568
Fine 3.6 MB

1112

Normal 2.5 MB 1632

12M (16:9)
4592 x 2584

RAW + Super Fine 33.3 MB 120
RAW + Fine 30.3 MB 132
RAW + Normal 28.6 MB 140
Super Fine 6.0 MB 672
Fine 3.0 MB 1312
Normal 1.6 MB 2520
10M
3872 x 2592
RAW + Super Fine 31.3 MB 128
RAW + Fine 29.4 MB 136
RAW + Normal 27.8 MB 144
Super Fine 5.1 MB 788
Fine 2.6 MB 1528
Normal 1.4 MB 2896
8M (16:9)
3872 x 2176
RAW + Super Fine 29.4 MB 136
RAW + Fine 27.8 MB 144
RAW + Normal 27.0 MB 148
Super Fine 4.3 MB 936
Fine 2.2 MB 1816
Normal 1.2 MB 3440
6M
3008 x 2000
RAW + Super Fine 27.8 MB 144
RAW + Fine 26.3 MB 152
RAW + Normal 25.6 MB 156
Super Fine 3.1 MB 1288
Fine 1.6 MB 2460
Normal 900 KB 4512

5M (16:9)
3008 x 1688

RAW + Super Fine 26.3 MB 152
RAW + Fine 25.6 MB 156
RAW + Normal 25.0 MB 160
Super Fine 2.6 MB 1524
Fine 1.4 MB 2908
Normal 700 KB 5336
2M
1920 x 1280
RAW + Super Fine 24.4 MB 164
RAW + Fine 23.8 MB 168
RAW + Normal 23.3 MB 172
Super Fine 1.4 MB 2952
Fine 700 KB 5336
Normal 400 KB 8952
2M (16:9)
1920 x 1080
RAW + Super Fine 23.8 MB 168
RAW + Fine 23.3 MB 172
RAW + Normal 23.3 MB 172
Super Fine 1.1 MB 3488
Fine 600 KB 6292
Normal 400 KB 10552
Burst
1472 x 976
Super Fine 800 KB 4804
Fine 500 KB 8368
Normal 300 KB 13280

That was quite a table! I would take the file sizes with a pound (or two) of salt, as the numbers provided by the manual seemed a little "off" to me. Anyhow, you can take a RAW image alone, or with a JPEG of the size of your choosing. The "burst" resolution is only available when using the 10 frame/second shooting mode that I mentioned earlier.


The help screen for one of the setup menu options

The NX10 has a plain-looking, but functional menu system. The menu looks nice and sharp on the AMOLED display, and you can navigate through it without much trouble. The menu is divided into seven tabs, covering shooting, custom, and setup options. If you're confused about a certain option, you can press the Display button to view a help screen. And now, keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the complete list of menu items on the camera (and apologies for the poor quality of the menu captures):

Shooting Menu 1
  • Photo size (see above chart)
  • Quality (see above chart)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent white, fluorescent neutral white, fluorescent daylight, tungsten, flash, custom, color temp) - see below
  • Picture Wizard (Standard, vivid, portrait, landscape, forest, retro, cool, calm, classic) - see below
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)

Shooting Menu 2

  • AF mode (Single, continuous, manual) - first one locks focus when shutter release is halfway-pressed; second one keeps focusing
  • AF area (Selection area, multi AF, face detection, self-portrait) - see below
  • AF priority (on/off) - whether AF lock is required for shutter release
  • MF assist (on/off) - I'm assuming this is frame enlargement in manual focus
  • Drive (Single, continuous, burst, self-timer, AE bracketing, WB bracketing, Picture Wizard bracketing) - described earlier
  • Flash (Fill, fill w/redeye reduction, 1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain)

Shooting Menu 3

  • Bracket set
    • AE bracket set
      • Bracket order (-/0/+, +/0/-, 0/-/+, 0/+/-)
      • Bracket area (-3EV to +3EV, 1/3EV increments)
    • WB bracket set (AB ±3, AB ±2, AB ±1, MG ±3, MG ±2, MG ±1) - those are amber/blue and magenta/green, by the way
    • Photo Wizard bracket set - select which Wizards you want included
  • Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Smart Range (on/off) - see below
  • OIS (Mode 1, 2) - first one only applies image stabilization when shutter release is pressed; second one always has the system running, though this will put a strain on your battery

User Setup (Custom) Menu

  • EV step (1/3, 1/2 EV)
  • Noise reduction
    • High ISO NR (on/off) - for ISO 3200 only, which is bizarre
    • Long term NR (on/off) - for exposures longer than 1 sec
  • AF lamp (on/off)
  • User display
    • Icons (on/off) - whether current settings are shown on sides of frame
    • Grid line (Off, 2 x 2, 3 x 3, +, X)
    • Histogram (on/off)
  • Key Mapping
    • AE lock button (AE lock, AF lock, AE/AF lock)
    • Preview button (DOF, one touch white balance)
Setup Menu 1
  • Format
  • Reset
  • File name (Standard, date)
  • File number (Series, reset)
  • Folder type (Standard, date)
  • Language

Setup Menu 2

  • Quickview (Off, 1, 3, 5 sec, hold) - post-shot review
  • Display adjust - adjust the AMOLED display and EVF separately
    • Brightness (1-5)
    • Auto brightness (on/off)
    • Color - can be set in the amber/blue and green/magenta directions
  • Display save (Off, 0.5, 1, 3, 5, 10 mins) - amount of time before display turns off
  • Power save (0.5, 1, 3, 5, 10, 30 mins) - amount of time before camera turns off
  • Date & Time
    • Type - date format
    • Date
    • Time zone
    • Time
    • Imprint (on/off) - print the date on your photos
  • Sound
    • System volume (Off, low, medium, high)
    • AF sound (on/off)
    • Button sound (on/off)

Setup Menu 3

  • Display select (Auto, main display, EVF) - whether the eye sensor for display/EVF switching is on
  • Sensor cleaning
    • Clean now
    • Startup action (on/off) - when on, startup time jumps to almost 3 seconds
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) - control the camera from your HDTV's remote control
  • HDMI size (Auto, 1080i, 720p, 480p/576p) - the 576p option is for PAL countries
  • Firmware update

Fine-tuning white balance Setting the color temperature

I've got four things to talk about before we can continue to the photo tests. First, let me tell you about the numerous white balance options on the NX10. There's an auto mode, the usual presets, and the ability to use a white or grey card to custom WB. Each of those settings can be fine-tuned, using the screen you can see above. If you wish, you can also set the color temperature manually. Still not enough? Then you can use the white balance bracketing feature that I mentioned earlier.


Editing the standard Picture Wizard

If you've used a digital SLR before, then you've probably encountered a feature like Picture Wizard before. It goes by many names -- Picture Style, Creative Style, Picture Mode, Film Mode -- but it always works about the same. These styles (wizards in this case) contain image parameters which you can easily adjust. There are numerous presets, each of which can have the color, saturation, sharpness, and contrast adjusted. I don't like how the values are at zero for each preset, so you can't really tell what differentiates them. As I mentioned earlier, the Picture Wizard bracketing feature lets you take one photo and see the results in as many Wizard styles as you'd like.

What about the AF area options? Selection AF allows you to select an area of the frame on which to focus, with 143 spots to choose from. The size of the focus point can also be adjusted, with four sizes available. The multi AF mode normally selects one or more of 15 possible focus points for you, though in the closeup scene mode, it will have 35 zones at its disposal (not sure why you can't always have that many). That brings us to face detection. The NX10 works just like a point-and-shoot camera in this regard, and is able to find up to 10 faces in a scene, making sure they're properly focused. This feature worked well, quickly detecting 5 of the 6 faces in our test scene. The last AF area option is called self-portrait AF, which shortens the AF range, and makes the camera "beep" when it has detected your face or faces.

Smart Range off (ISO 100)
View Full Size Image
Smart Range on (ISO 200)
View Full Size Image

The last item of note is called Smart Range, which aims to reduce highlight clipping. It does this by boosting the ISO to 200, which Olympus does for a similar feature on their Micro Four Thirds cameras. Above you can see this feature in action, doing a very effective job at reducing the highlight clipping on the right side of the tunnel (sorry the composition is off, I don't take this photo on a tripod). Do note that using Smart Range may decrease camera performance.

Alright, that does it for menus -- let's hit the photo tests now. With the exception of the night shot, which was taken with the F4.0-5.6, 50 - 200 mm lens, all of these were taken with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. And since someone is bound to ask, the camera was running firmware version 1.15.

I have no complaints about how the NX10 handled our macro test scene. The subject has the "smooth" look that you commonly see on cameras in this class, the colors are nice and saturated, and noise is nonexistent.

As always, the minimum distance to your subject will depend on the lens you're using. For the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, it's 28 cm, while that number drops to 25 cm with the 30 mm pancake lens. Samsung will have a dedicated 60 mm macro lens for the NX system cameras sometime later this year.

The night scene (taken with the 50 - 200 mm NX lens) turned out nicely, as well. The camera brought in just enough light, as it should given its manual shutter speed control. If you want to take a photo like this without using manual controls, the Smart Auto mode should be able to select the correct scene mode for you (and if it doesn't, the night scene mode is two spots away on the mode dial). The photo is quite sharp, from one side of the frame to the other. Highlight clipping is relatively low, as is purple fringing. Noise levels are low, as well.

Now, let's use that same night scene to see how the NX10 performs at higher sensitivities:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

There's really no difference between the first two crops. You can start to see some noise at ISO 400 -- which is earlier than I'd expect to see on an SLR or ILC -- but it shouldn't make a different unless you're making billboard-sized prints. Details start to disappear at ISO 800, so at this point you'll have to consider reducing your print sizes, or shooting RAW. There's more detail loss and lots of visible noise at ISO 1600, so I'd avoid it in low light, at least for JPEGs. The ISO 3200 setting is best left alone.

Let's see if we can't take those ISO 800 and 1600 photos and make them look better by using the RAW image format and doing a little post-processing!

ISO 800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Samsung RAW Converter)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Samsung RAW Converter)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

I don't think anyone's going to dispute the results of this test. Namely, that a quick trip through a RAW converter (I used Samsung's here), noise reduction software, and the unsharp mask filter makes a much more usable photo. Since you can't really tweak the noise reduction on the NX10, you'll definitely want to shoot RAW for best results at high sensitivities.

I'll have another ISO test for you in a few paragraphs.

As you can see, there was very little redeye in our flash test photo. That's courtesy of a preflash system, which shrinks the pupils of your subject, which often (but not always) reduces this phenomenon. Should some redeye get past this first line of defense, you can also remove it digitally in playback mode.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. You can see what this looks like in the right world by checking out the high rise on the right side of this photo. While I didn't find vignetting to be a problem with this lens, it was pretty soft on the right side of the frame (example), but strangely, not on the left. The pancake and 50 - 200 mm lenses didn't have any noticeable corner blurring.

Now it's time for our studio ISO test. I've taken this test scene with the same lighting for several years, so the results can be compared from review to review. So, now's the time to open up the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 review to see how it compares against the NX10! The test below illustrates the right side blurring problem that I just mentioned -- notice how much sharper the left side is. Keeping in mind that you need to view the full size images as well as the crops, let's see how the NX10 performs at high sensitivities in normal lighting!


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The ISO 100 - 400 shots are all very clean (save for the right side blurriness), as they should be. Noise becomes apparent at ISO 800, though it shouldn't keep you from making midsize or large prints. Noise becomes more pronounced at ISO 1600, though it's still good for small and midsize prints, and perhaps larger if you're using the RAW format (we'll see about that below). At ISO 3200 we get a drop in color saturation and more detail loss, so you'll definitely want to shoot RAW at that setting, or just avoid it entirely.

Let's see if we can't clean up those ISO 1600 and 3200 photos with some post-processing, shall we?

ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera


RAW -> JPEG conversion (Samsung RAW Converter)


RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera


RAW -> JPEG conversion (Samsung RAW Converter)


RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

At both ISO 1600 and 3200, we get much better image quality by shooting RAW and using noise reduction/sharpening filters. There's some strange magenta-colored fringing that shows up in the RAW conversions (just above the "M" on the salsa bottle), which may be caused by the Samsung RAW Converter. The bottom line here is that you'll need to shoot RAW in order to get the most out of the camera, at least at high sensitivities.

With one exception, I was happy with the photos produced by the Samsung NX10. Thankfully, the biggest flaw is the camera's love of underexposing photos by 1/3 stop. I bracketed nearly all of my photos to make sure I'd always have that +0.3 EV photo, and doing so paid off. If I owned the NX10, I'd probably just increase the exposure compensation by +1/3 EV and leave it there. Aside from that, the news is good. Colors are nice and saturated. Image sharpness is typical of a large sensor camera: not too sharp, not too soft (though my kit lens was soft on the right side, as I mentioned). The NX10 does clip highlights, though it's not as bad as Micro Four Thirds cameras, in my opinion. If you get into a situation where clipped highlights are likely, then you might want to turn on Smart Range. As for noise, the NX10 is definitely not as clean as the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, especially in JPEGs. If you'll be making large prints or shooting at the highest sensitivities, then you definitely want to use the RAW format. Purple fringing will depend a lot on what lens you're using, and I didn't find it to be a problem with the three NX lenses I used.

Now, have a look at my Samsung NX10 photo gallery. View the photos at full size, maybe printing a few if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the NX10's photo quality meets your needs!

Movie Mode

As with its main competitors. the Samsung NX10 has the ability to record HD videos. The camera can record video at 1280 x 720 (30 fps) with monaural sound until the file size hits 4GB, or the recording time reaches 25 minutes. Believe it or not, you'll reach the time limit first.

Two lower resolutions are also available, and they're the usual 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 sizes. For all three movie resolutions, you can select from high or normal quality settings.

As you'd expect, you can operate the zoom lens while recording a movie. The camera doesn't really offer true continuous autofocus, though -- you have to press the depth-of-field preview button in order to reactive the AF system. One thing you can use for sure is the image stabilizer, should your attached lens offer it.

The camera can record videos in Program mode, or you can switch to Aperture Priority mode to adjust the depth-of-field. Other features include a wind filter, fade in/out function, and the ability to pause a movie in the middle of recording.

Movies are saved in MP4 format, using the H.264 codec. The quality is decent, though not spectacular. There are some jaggies in the movies, and the camera doesn't save the last 0.5 second worth of video, for some reason.

Here are two sample movies for you, both taken at the 720p/HQ setting:


View converted movie (11.6 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, MP4/H.264 format)


View converted movie (11.4 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, MP4/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

 

The NX10 has a decent playback mode by D-SLR/ILC standards. Basic features include slideshows (complete with special effects and music), image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and playback zoom (AKA zoom & scroll). This last feature lets you enlarge an image and then scroll around, though there's no way to jump from photo-to-photo while maintaining the current zoom and position.


The "date view" in playback mode is of limited use

Images can be viewed one at a time, as thumbnails, and filtered by date, week, or file type (still/movie). The date filtering is a nice idea, but there's no way to jump quickly from day to day.


Function menu in playback mode

Press the function button and you'll find more editing options. Here you can:

  • Remove redeye
  • Adjust backlight (brighten an image)
  • Resize/rotate an image (you can trim a photo by using the playback zoom feature)
  • Change a Picture Style (similar to the Photo Wizard feature, just not customizable)
  • Retouch faces

Video editing features include trimming as well as the ability to save a frame of a movie as a still image.

The default image playback screen doesn't show very much information, but if you press the Display button you'll get a lot more, including an RGB histogram.

The NX10 moves through photos instantly.

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