Originally Posted: July 6, 2012
Last Updated: August 2, 2012
The Samsung NX210 ($899) is a compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera -- err, Smart Camera. Samsung has given the "Smart Camera" moniker to all of their Wi-Fi equipped cameras this year, and their implementation of this feature is one of the best I've seen. In addition to it's Wi-Fi capabilities (which I'll cover in-depth in the review), the NX210 also features a new 20.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, plenty of automatic and manual controls, a gorgeous OLED display, 8 frame/second continuous shooting, and Full HD video recording. As with previous NX-series cameras, the NX210 uses Samsung's proprietary NX lens mount, though adapters for other mounts are available.
The NX210 has two siblings, both of which have the same sensor and a similar feature set -- just in different bodies. The chart below compares and contrasts the three models (you may need to widen your screen so it'll fit):
As you can see by how short this chart is, there really isn't a huge difference between the three cameras. Their guts are largely identical, with the main differences being their designs, and the type of display used for composing your photos. The $200 price difference between the NX1000 and NX210 is pretty substantial, especially when you consider that you're really only getting the OLED display and slightly better build quality.
With that out of the way, we can now delve into the details of the Samsung NX210!
What's in the Box?
The NX210 is available in just one kit (priced at $899), which includes Samsung's standard 18 - 55 mm kit lens. Here's what you'll find upon opening the box:
- The 20.3 effective Megapixel Samsung NX210 camera body
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm (Mk III) Samsung i-Function lens
- BP1030 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- SEF8A compact external flash
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring Samsung Intelli-studio, RAW Converter, and PC Auto Backup
- 83 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
The NX210 comes with the third revision of Samsung's standard 18 - 55 mm OIS kit lens. This lens features their i-Function feature, which lets you adjust camera settings with the focus ring after pressing the i-Function button. While some may find this feature handy, I found operation a to be a little awkward. Image quality on my 18-55 was pretty solid, at least by kit lens standards. Samsung has eight other lenses available, including a trio of pancake lenses, 60 and 85 mm primes, and an 18 - 200 that'll cover virtually any situation that'll come up. Whichever lens you use, there will be a 1.5X crop factor to keep in mind.
Interchangeable lens cameras like the NX210 never come with memory cards. So, if you don't have one already, you'll need to pick one up. The NX210 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC media, and I'd recommend picking up an 8GB card if you'll be taking mostly still photos, and perhaps a 16 GB card if you'll be recording a lot of Full HD videos.
The NX210 uses the well-traveled BP1030 lithium-ion battery for power. Samsung has managed to cram 7.6 Wh of energy into this compact battery, and the NX210 will need it, since Wi-Fi can be quite the power eater. Let's see what kind of battery life you'll get with Wi-Fi turned off:
The strong performances from the Pentax and Sony cameras places the NX210 a bit below the group average. As I mentioned above, these numbers are calculated with Wi-Fi turned off. If you use it frequently, expect the battery to drain a lot quicker (though Samsung doesn't say by how much). That makes buying a spare battery a smart idea, with a Samsung-branded BP1030 setting you back around $50.
When you need to recharge the BP1030, just pop it into the included charger. This charger, which requires a power cable, takes 140 minutes to fully charge the battery.
The NX210 has a fairly standard set of accessories for a mirrorless ILC. Here are the most interesting accessories:
What's missing here? First, there's no AC adapter, so the NX210 will have to run on battery power only. Also, there's no electronic viewfinder, which a lot of people like to have on cameras like this.
Samsung includes two photo editors with the NX210, along with the software necessary to use the Auto Backup feature on Windows PCs. The first editor, for Windows only, is Intelli-studio, which is pretty standard fare for bundled software. It'll transfer photos to your computer, let you edit things like brightness/contrast/saturation/sharpness, remove redeye, or add special effects to a photo. A video editing feature is also available.
For your RAW editing needs, there's Samsung RAW Converter, which is a slightly re-badged version of SilkyPix Developer Studio 4.0. While a very capable editor, the clunky interface and sometimes sluggish performance doesn't place SilkyPix very high on my list of RAW editors. Thankfully, you can use Adobe Photoshop's Camera Raw feature instead, assuming that you have the latest version of the plug-in.
As is usually the case these days (much to my dismay), the NX210's documentation is split into two parts. In the box you'll find a fairly length "basic operation" manual, which will get you up and running. This manual is quite cluttered and confusing, though. The rest of the documentation is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. It's much easier reading, and the "concepts in photography" at the beginning is a nice touch. Instructions for using the bundled software is installed onto your computer.
Design & Features
The Samsung NX210 is one of the more compact ILCs on the market. That said, it's very much like the Sony NEX models in that any size advantage it might have is lost the minute you attach a non-pancake lens. The body is made of a mix of metal and plastic, and it feels pretty solid. While the right hand grip is good-sized, it's textured grip is slippery -- real rubber would've been a lot better than whatever Samsung used here. Otherwise, controls are well-placed -- though a bit tight -- with plenty of direct buttons available.
The NX210 has a small body, but most of Samsung's lenses quickly make it much more of a handful
Now, here's a look at how the NX210 compares to other interchangeable lens cameras in terms of size and weight:
The NX210 is the second smallest camera in the group, with only the Nikon J1 "ahead" of it. Of course, the reason the Nikon is so compact is that it uses a 1" sensor, rather than the APS-C sensor found on the NX210. As I said a few paragraphs up, none of these cameras are made for jeans pockets, unless you've got a pancake lens on them. With the kit lens attached, the NX210 will be most comfortable over your shoulder or in a small camera bag.
Okay, let's take a tour of the NX210 now, using our tabbed interface:
The first thing to see on the front of the NX210 is its lens mount. The mount supports all Samsung NX lenses (of which there are currently nine) with a 1.5X crop factor. Since there's no image stabilization built into the camera body, you'll want to look for lenses with "OIS" in their name in order to get that feature. To release an attached lens, just press the button to the right of the mount.
As I mentioned earlier, an adapter is available from Samsung that lets you Pentax K-mount lenses on the NX210 (manual focus only), and third party manufacturers make adapters for other mounts, as well.
In the center of the mount is the NX's 20.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, which is used on all three of Samsung's 2012 ILCs. This sensor is APS-C size, which is as large as you'll find on a mirrorless camera. The NX210 uses an ultrasonic system to remove dust from the sensor when it's powered on and off, though you'll need to turn this feature on in order to use it.
While the NX210 does not have a built-in flash, Samsung does include a compact external flash in the box. This flash has a guide number of 8 meters, and is turned on and off by raising or lowering it. If you want something more powerful, then you can use one of the external flashes I listed in the accessory section.
The only other thing to see on the front of the NX210 is its AF-assist lamp, located right next to the grip. It's very easy to block with your fingers, so keep an eye on them.
The big thing to see on the back of the NX210 is its beautiful 3-inch AMOLED display. AMOLED displays are known for their brilliant colors, wide viewing angles, and impressive contrast. Something less fortunate that they're known for is mediocre outdoor visibility, and that's the case here. With 614,000 pixels at its disposal, the screen on the NX210 is exceptionally sharp, rivaling the quality of 921k pixel LCDs.
Unlike the original NX100, the NX210 does not support an electronic viewfinder.
Everything else in this view is either a button or dial. Starting at the top-right, we find buttons for movie recording, exposure compensation, and opening the main and shortcut menus.
Next up is the four-way controller, which has the camera's rear dial wrapped around it. The four-way controller handles the usual tasks (menus, image playback) and also has direct buttons for adjusting the drive setting, ISO, AF mode, focus point selection, and what's shown on the display. The dial is used for both manual exposure setting adjustment as well as image playback and menu navigation.
Under the four-way controller / dial combo are buttons for entering playback mode and deleting a photo. The function of the delete button can be customized, and I'll tell you what options you can put there later in the tour.
I'll start my look at the top of the NX210 by discussing the hot shoe. The NX210 works best with the three Samsung-branded flashes that I've mentioned in this review (which includes the one that comes in the box), as they'll take advantage of the camera's metering system. If you're using a third party flash, odds are that you'll have to adjust everything manually. Since it appears that there's no high speed x-sync option on the NX210, the fastest shutter speed you can use is 1/180 sec. Wireless flash control is not supported.
Those two little holes that straddle the hot shoe make up the stereo microphone. Further to the right we have the NX210's speaker, with another control dial next to it. This deal is also used for adjusting the exposure manually, and it's also what you'll turn when you want to zoom into a photo in playback mode.
Above the top dial is the shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around that. At the far right of the photo is the mode dial, whose contents I will discuss after the tour.
The only thing to see here are the two items on the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. There's the i-Function button, which lets you adjust camera settings with the focus ring (more on that later), as well as the requisite AF/MF switch.
The lens is at full wide-angle in this shot.
The right side of the NX210 is where you'll find its I/O ports. They include a micro USB port for connecting to a PC as well as a mini-HDMI port for hooking into an HDTV. Both of these are protected by a plastic door of decent quality.
The 18 - 55 mm kit lens is at full telephoto here.
On the bottom of the NX210 we find a metal tripod mount, which is neither centered nor in-line with the lens. Next door to that is the battery/memory card compartment, protected by a decent quality cover (with a lock). As you can tell from the photo, you won't be able to open this door while the camera is on a tripod.
You can see the SLB10A battery at the lower-right of the photo.
Live view, completely with a histogram (an electronic level is also available)
(Excuse the lousy quality of these captures: they are photos rather than the usual frame grabs)
The NX210 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, which means that you'll compose all of your photos on its OLED display. The live view experience is quite good, with all the benefits of the OLED display plus a very fast refresh rate, though I should point out (again) that the display can be hard to see outdoors. In low light, the screen brightens up nicely, so you can still see your subject. While composing photos you'll have access to a live histogram, grid lines, frame enlargement (for manual focusing), and a two-axis electronic level.
In aperture priority mode you can use the i-Function feature to change the aperture or exposure compensation
Now I'd like to talk about some camera features accessed via buttons on the camera and, in this case, the lens. Most of Samsung's lenses have an i-Function button, which allows you to adjust camera settings by rotating the focus ring on the lens. The available functions vary depending on the shooting mode, and you can further customize what options are available, if you wish. In Program mode, pressing the i-Function button lets you adjust exposure compensation. In the "priority modes", you can select the aperture or shutter speed, as well as exposure compensation. In the not-really-necessary lens priority mode, you can select from various scene modes and special effects. While I rarely used the i-Function feature myself, I'm sure some folks will appreciate it.
By pressing the Function (Fn) button on the back of the camera, you'll open up a shortcut menu where you can adjust virtually all major camera functions. You can pick the setting you want to adjust with either the four-way controller or the dial that surrounds it, and adjust it by using the top dial (or pressing the OK button and going to a sub-menu).
The camera displays a screen with a description of the mode you select when you turn the dial
Let's move on to the mode dial now, which is chock full of options. They include:
If you're looking for a point-and-shoot experience, Samsung has you covered. Most people will find the scene-selecting Smart Auto mode to be just what the doctor ordered. Want to select the scene mode yourself? There's a mode for that, too. If you want special effects or some pretty elaborate digital frames, check out Magic mode. And, if for some reason you really want to use the i-Function feature on your lens, there's the lens priority mode.
The only scene mode I want to mention is the panorama feature, which works in both 2D and 3D. As on other cameras, this feature works by panning the camera from side-to-side. The panorama is literally stitched together in real-time (which looks pretty cool), and the results are pretty good. In the photo above, the camera had a little trouble with some stuff on the pier on the left, but it handled the bridge very well.
Fine-tuning white balance
The NX210 has plenty of manual controls, as well. In addition to the usual controls for aperture and shutter speed, you can also adjust the white balance by color temperature, or by using a white or gray card. You can also fine-tune white balance, as shown in the screenshot above. Bracketing for exposure, white balance, and "Picture Wizard" setting is also available. And, as you'd expect, the NX210 supports the RAW image format.
|Main Wi-Fi menu||The on-screen keyboard|
That brings us to what makes the NX210 a "Smart Camera": it's Wi-Fi feature. Samsung easily has the best Wi-Fi implementation of any camera manufacturer, and it's a pleasure to use (most of the time). There are seven things you can do with the camera's Wi-Fi system:
- MobileLink: Download photos from the camera using an app on your Android-based smartphone
- Remote Viewfinder: Use your Android-based Smartphone as a live viewfinder (with this app), the the ability to set the resolution, flash, and self-timer settings; after a photo is taken, you can choose to download the photo to your phone
- Social Sharing: send photos and videos to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, or Photobucket using any Wi-Fi network (even those that require a login)
- E-mail: Send a photo or photos using any available Wi-Fi network
- SkyDrive: upload photos to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service
- Auto Backup: send photos to your Windows-based PC without the need for a USB cable
- TV Link: allows you to view your photos on a Samsung Smart TV (which has Wi-Fi)
|Remote viewfinder lets you set the image size, flash, and drive settings, in addition to actually taking pictures||MobileLink is used strictly for downloading photos to your Android smartphone|
The two features that work with your Android-based smartphone work quite well. Once the camera and phone connect to each other (which takes about 20 seconds), you're ready to roll. The live view on the phone is good quality, with a good refresh rate. The other features all worked as advertised, though "typing" using the four-way controller is a bit difficult. I'm normally not a fan of touchscreen cameras, but it would've worked well on the NX210, especially with its slick, smartphone-like user interface.
Now it's time to go through the NX210's menu system, and touch on its most important options. In case you haven't noticed, the NX210 has a beautiful user interface that is arguably better looking than anything else on the market. Thankfully, it works as well as it looks. It's easy to navigate, and a description of each option is available if you have the Help Guide Display feature turned on. Here are some of the major options related to still shooting:
- Image quality: choose from Super Fine, Fine, or Normal quality JPEGs, RAW, or a combination of the two; while Samsung doesn't publish an average file size for those, I found that super fine JPEGs were usually around 7MB, while RAW images were around 38MB
- ISO sensitivity: select from a range of 100 - 12800, or use Auto mode (whose range can be defined)
- Picture Wizard: sets of color, saturation, sharpness, and contrast parameters; choose from several presets, or take advantage of three custom spots; by using the "P Wiz" bracketing feature you can try a bunch of these in one shot
- Selective color: always a fun feature, choose which color is emphasized (red, green, blue, yellow), with the rest of the image turning black and white
- AF area: select from multi-point, selection, face detection, or self-portrait AF; this last option will make the camera beep when your face is located in the center of the frame
- MF assist: choose from 5X or 8X zoom when manual focusing, or display a guide which goes up as your subject becomes properly focused
- Drive mode: choose from single-shot, low and high speed continuous, burst mode, self-timer (totally customizable), and AE/WB/Picture Wizard bracketing; more on the burst modes later in the review
- Smart Range: reduces highlight clipping and brightens shadows; see examples later in review
- ISO customizing: select the ISO steps as well as the range used in Auto ISO mode
- Direct manual focus (DMF): lets you manually focus after the AF system runs
- Distortion correct: reduces barrel distortion on most Samsung lenses
- iFn customizing: select what options can be changed using the i-Function button found on most Samsung lenses
- Key mapping: select what the custom button does; choose from optical preview, one-touch white balance, one-touch RAW+JPEG, reset, and AE lock
Believe it or not, the only feature I want to expand on is Smart Range (I'll save the burst modes for the next page). This feature aims to improve overall image contrast, reducing highlight clipping and brightening shadows. In order to do this, the camera will boost the ISO to 200, but that's no big deal on this large-sensored camera. Let's see if Smart Range does any good:
|Smart Range off (default)
View Full Size Image
|Smart Range on
View Full Size Image
While Smart Range doesn't do anything for shadow detail (quite the opposite, in fact), it did noticeably reduce the amount of highlight clipping. You'll notice this on the floor on the left side, and in the sky as well (it's a lot more blue with Smart Range turned on). It's probably worth using Smart Range if you're in a situation that invites a lot of highlight clipping.
The NX210 has a pretty nice movie mode. It allows you to record Full HD video at 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames/sec. Sound is recorded in stereo, as you'd expect, and Samsung offers an external mic for better sound quality. You can keep recording until the elapsed time reaches 25 minutes, or the file size hits 4 GB. The NX210 has the unique ability to pause a movie, so you can recompose and continue recording without creating a new file. Samsung uses the MPEG-4 format for its movies.
Several other resolutions are available, including 1920 x 810 (24 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps), and 320 x 240 (also 30 fps). For each of those you can choose between normal and high quality.
As one would expect, you can zoom in and out to your heart's content when recording movies on the NX210. The camera supports continuous autofocus (in fact, that's the only option), so it'll try to keep everything in focus as things change position in the frame. The optical image stabilizer can also be used in movie mode.
The NX210 supports full manual control over exposure while you're taking a movie -- just make sure the mode dial is set to the movie position. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or both, plus the ISO sensitivity. The mic level is not adjustable, nor is there a wind filter available. The NX210 is somewhat unique in offering a "fader" function, which works for both the beginning and end of a clip.
Also available in movie mode is what Samsung calls Multi Motion, which allows you to take movies at very slow or very fast frame rates. Choose from 1/4 or 1/2 normal speed on the slow end, or 5, 10, or 20 times on the fast end. When movies are played back at normal speed, they appear to move very quickly or very slowly, respectively.
And with that, I can offer you a pair of brief sample movies. The 18 - 55 mm lens doesn't move very smoothly, so the second one's a little jumpy.
Something I noticed is that the camera keeps recording for a second or so after you press the "red button", so keep that in mind when shooting movies.
The NX210 has a pretty nice set of playback features. The most interesting ones include:
- Smart Album: when in thumbnail view, you can sort photos by file type, date, week, or location (assuming that you've used the optional GPS)
- Smart Filter: apply special effects to a photo you've taken
- Red-eye fix: does just as it sounds
- Backlight: brightens dark areas of a photo, by quite a lot
- Face retouch: make people look prettier
- Resize/rotate/crop: naturally
- Video edit: trim unwanted footage from a clip, or save a frame as a still image
By default, the NX210 shows just basic information about your photos. However, press "up" on the four-way controller and you'll see quite a bit more, including RGB histograms.
The camera moves from photo-to-photo without delay.
Performance & Photo Quality
Camera performance is generally snappy on the NX210. It's not the fastest mirrorless camera that I've used, but it's not far behind. The table below summarizes its performance:
As you can see, the NX210 performs on-par with your typical mirrorless cameras in most respects. One thing that the chart does not mention is that you cannot enter the menus or change any settings while the camera is saving a photo to the memory card (you can take another photo, though). In the case of RAW+JPEG images, that's seven seconds, even using an extremely fast UHS-I memory card!
Okay, now let's move onto burst mode performance. There are two full resolution modes to choose from (low and high speed), plus low resolutions modes that shoot at 10, 15, or 30 frames/second. The problem with the fast "burst" modes isn't really the 5 Megapixel resolution. Rather, it's the fact that the display is blacked out during shooting, making subject tracking pretty much impossible.
Here's how the two full resolution modes performed in my tests:
I wasn't overly thrilled by the NX210's burst mode. It's not the speeds that bothered me -- they're quite good. Rather, it's the small amount of buffer memory and the lengthy amount of time that it takes to clear it. While I'm not surprised to see that you can only take 7 or 8 RAW photos sequentially, the JPEG numbers are shockingly low. While you can keep shooting (at around 1 fps) in low speed mode, you have to wait until the buffer is cleared before you can more photos in high speed mode. If you're shooting RAW, expect a 20 second wait before live view returns in low speed mode, and 30+ seconds in high speed. I should also mention that the live view on the LCD lags behind the action, so tracking a moving subject can be challenging.
Alright, enough about burst mode -- let's head into the photo quality discussion now. With the exception of the night shot, all of these were taken with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens.
Our macro test subject looks very good here. The NX210 handled our studio lights well, with some nice, saturated colors. The subject is plenty sharp, save for near the top of the "hat" (which may just be a depth-of-field issue), and plenty of detail is captured. There's no noise visible here, nor would I expect to see any.
The minimum distance to your subject depends on the lens you're using. The 18 - 55 mm kit lens has a minimum focus distance of 28 cm. If you'll be taking a lot of close-ups, then you might be interested in Samsung's F2.8, 60 mm macro lens.
I took the night shots with the Samsung F4.0-5.6, 50 - 200 mm lens (the non i-Function variety). As always, I set the exposure manually to bring in enough light, though you can certainly do the same by using Smart Auto or one of the scene modes. While there is some highlight clipping here, it's fairly minor. Colors seem really dull to me, and this becomes even more obvious when you view the RAW versions of the same shot (see below). The buildings are generally nice and sharp, though things get blurry on the right side of the frame (ahh, budget lenses). Purple fringing was not an issue here.
Now we're going to use that same night scene to see how the NX210 performed at higher sensitivities:
There's barely any difference between the photos taken at ISO 100, 200, and 400, aside from a slight glimpse of noise at the latter. There's a bit more noise as well as some very minor detail loss at ISO 800, but it's still usable for large prints. Things start going downhill at ISO 1600, with noticeable detail loss, noise, and some weird yellow spots on the US Bank building. If you're comfortable with RAW, now is the time to switch. JPEG shooters should probably stop here. Things continue to get worse at the sensitivity increases, with more of the yellow spots as well as some banding at the highest sensitivities.
The NX210 is one of those cameras where you can get a substantial increase in image quality by shooting RAW. Want proof? Have a look:
Several improvements can be seen in the RAW conversions above. Colors are a lot more pleasing, there's less detail smudging, and those weird yellow spots are gone. If you're shooting near the higher end of the sensitivity range in low light, then I'd say that RAW is a must. You won't get enough detail back to make the top end sensitivities usable for anything but a small print, but it's certainly better than the JPEGs the camera is putting out.
We'll do another RAW vs. JPEG comparison in a little bit.
There's very little in the redeye department when using the included external flash. If you do run into something more severe than what you see above, then you can remove it using the tool found in playback mode.
There's very little barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. That's because the NX210 has distortion correction turned on by default. Turn it off, and things will look quite a bit... curvier. My kit lens didn't have any problems with blurry corners or vignetting.
Now we're going to look out how the Samsung NX210 fared with our studio test scene. Since the lighting never changes, you can compare the results from this test with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Remember that the crops below only show a very small portion of the scene, so view the full size images too! And with that, let's travel through the full ISO range, from 100 to 12800:
Everything is nice and clean through ISO 800, with just a bit of noise becoming visible at ISO 1600. Detail smudging begins at ISO 3200, but it's not too bad. I'd make this the stopping or switch to RAW spot for most folks. Details get pretty soft and muddy at ISO 6400, and you should probably avoid ISO 12800 altogether.
Can those ISO 6400 and 12800 turn from mediocre to usable with a little RAW magic? Let's take a look:
At ISO 6400, the photo is improved by a decent margin. You get more detail (albeit in the form of grain) and much richer color. While there's undoubtedly an improvement at ISO 12800 as well, I still don't think that the images are usable at this setting.
Overall, I was happy with the photos produced by the Samsung NX210 and its 20 Megapixel CMOS sensor. Exposure is accurate most of the time, with a slight tendency to overexpose. The camera will clip highlights at time, though not as severely as mirrorless cameras that use smaller sensors. Colors are not overly saturated, but are generally accurate. I say "generally" because in both our night and studio tests, colors were really flat (shooting RAW got around that). The NX210's sharpness is similar to that of other mirrorless cameras: somewhere in-between "tack sharp" and "a little soft". (Now's a good point to mention that both sharpness and color saturation can be adjusted using the Picture Wizard feature.) As the previous tests illustrated, noise is kept in check until ISO 800 in low light, an2d ISO 3200 in good light. Shooting RAW and doing some post-processing will improve the quality of photos taken at those sensitivities (and higher). I did not find purple fringing to be an issue on the NX210.
Don't take my word for all of this, though. Head on over to our Samsung NX210 photo gallery. Once there, view the full size images, maybe printing a few if you can. After that, hopefully you'll be able to decide if the NX210's photo quality meets your needs.
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!