Samsung NX210 Review
The Samsung NX210 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that holds up well against the competition, and really separates itself from the rest of the pack with its excellent Wi-Fi features. The NX210 is one of the more compact models out there, but as with Nikon and Sony's models, the size advantage quickly disappears once a zoom lens is attached. The camera is well designed, with sensibly placed controls and solid build quality. Holding it with one hand is easy, though I wish Samsung used something a little "stickier" on the grip. It supports Samsung's relatively small selection of NX-mount lenses (with a 1.5X crop factor), and can also use Pentax K-mount lenses via an optional adapter (they'll be manual focus only). The NX210 has an 20 Megapixel APS-C size sensor -- making it one of the highest resolution mirrorless cameras on the market. On the back of the camera is an absolutely gorgeous 3-inch AMOLED display. Don't let its 614,000 pixel count fool you -- this thing looks just as sharp as the 921k pixel displays, and it offers better color, contrast, and viewing angles, too. The one real downside to the display is that it can be a bit difficult to see outdoors. The NX210 doesn't have a built-in flash, so you'll have to carry the small external flash that Samsung includes (or something larger) if you plan on using one.
The NX210 has an impressive feature set, and presents it to you with a beautiful user interface that's a perfect match for its OLED display. On the point-and-shoot side, you'll find a scene-selecting Smart Auto mode, plenty of "Smart Filters" (special effects), and a real-time sweep panorama feature. Those just starting out will appreciate the help screens available for every menu option. There's a big selection of manual controls too, including those for exposure, white balance (fine-tuning and bracketing), and focus. There's a custom button on the back of the camera (in addition to the i-Function button on the lens), plus a time-saving shortcut menu. A feature called Smart Range (detecting a trend here?) will reduce the amount of highlight clipping in a photo, though it does nothing for shadow detail. Every mirrorless camera in 2012 requires a Full HD movie mode, and the NX210 delivers. You can record video at 1080/30p with stereo sound, continuous autofocus, and image stabilization, for around 25 minutes. Movie recording can be fully automatic, or you can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO manually.
The feature that makes the NX210 one of Samsung's "Smart Cameras" is Wi-Fi. I haven't used every Wi-Fi camera on the planet, but the Wi-Fi implementation on the NX210 is the best I've used. There are really two ways to use it -- via an open network, or through your Android-based smartphone. If you're connecting through a network, you can e-mail photos, send them to social networking sites or Microsoft's cloud service, or back them up to your PC. The Android apps (MobileLink and Remote Viewfinder) offer new and useful ways to use your camera.
While it's generally very snappy, the NX210 does have some performance issues that should be noted. The camera starts up in about 1.2 seconds, and focusing performance is pretty good. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were relatively brief (with the exception being if you shoot several RAW images in a row). The NX210's burst mode can shoot quickly enough, though it takes the camera a whopping seven seconds to write a RAW image to the memory card (this shouldn't affect performance in most situations, though). The image on the OLED display lags behind the action, so subject tracking can be difficult. The most frustrating part of the continuous shooting experience are the long delays that occur after you've taken a burst of RAW or RAW+JPEG images. You will not be able to adjust any settings or enter the menu system until the camera has saved all the photos to the memory card, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. The NX210 is definitely not a great choice if you plan on using the burst mode frequently. Battery life was slightly below average, and I'd highly recommend getting a spare battery, especially if you're using Wi-Fi frequently.
The Samsung NX210 definitely keeps up with the competition in terms of image quality. Photos were well-exposed on most occasions, with just a slight tendency to underexpose, and highlight clipping wasn't a major issue. Colors were pleasant in most situations (with a pair of my test scenes being the exception), and photos were fairly sharp. The NX210 captures plenty of detail, with noise not becoming an issue until ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light. Once you reach those points, you'll be able to squeeze better color and detail out of your photos by shooting RAW. Purple fringing wasn't a problem, and neither was redeye (with the included external flash).
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the Samsung NX210. The healthy set of auto and manual controls, beautiful OLED display and UI combination, good photo quality, and best-in-class Wi-Fi features make the NX210 well worth looking at -- though it's a bit more expensive than it should be. The only people who I'd steer toward another camera are those who take a lot of photos in burst mode, as that feature is lacking on the NX210. If that's not you, then the NX210 (as well as it's SLR-styled sibling, the NX20) should definitely be considered.
What I liked:
- Very good image quality
- Compact, well-designed, solidly built body
- Gorgeous 3-inch AMOLED display
- Excellent Wi-Fi implementation
- Attractive, easy-to-use interface with help screens for every option
- Full manual exposure controls, plus white balance fine-tuning/bracketing, and RAW support
- Smart Auto selects the right scene mode for you; plenty of special effects available
- Real-time panorama stitching
- Smart Range feature reduces highlight clipping
- Redeye not a problem
- i-Function button (on select lenses) lets you quickly adjust settings with the focus ring
- Records Full HD video with stereo sound, continuous AF, and image stabilization; full manual controls available, as well
- Optional GPS receiver
What I didn't care for:
- Burst mode woes: camera locked up while saving to memory card, display lags behind the action, small amount of buffer memory
- OLED display can be difficult to see outdoors
- A bit pricey
- Camera's small size becomes moot when a zoom lens is attached
- Colors were flat on occasion (RAW seemed to take care of that, though)
- No built-in flash means that external flash must travel with you
- Electronic viewfinder would've been nice
- Can't access memory card or battery while using tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the NX210 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our NX210 photo gallery to see how the image quality looks!