Samsung NX200 20.3MP ILC Camera

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Product: Samsung NX200 20.3 MP ILC Camera
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: ~$579.99 at time of publication (Shop Here)

 

Introduction:

Samsung is one of the world's foremost electronics manufacturers with products ranging from drill ships, construction equipment to home appliances.  Being involved in the computer industry, I would say that they are most well known for their TVs and computer monitors - until recently when their mobile phone division is taking the world by storm.  Aside from a few issues with quality control their products are generally regarded as being of a high quality, and let's face it - no one can "hit one out of the park" every time.  Digital imaging is one area, however, that they have failed to thrive in. Despite numerous attempts to break into the market with something "new and innovative" they have been constantly eclipsed by the titans of optics, Nikon and Canon. Their brand name while not totally obscure has been relegated to "niche" status in the world of imaging.  

Box Front
Box Front
Box Back
Box Back

 


The NX200 is the latest effort from a company that refuses to be content with its "niche" status.

Bundle

Sporting an APS-C sized sensor in an ultra thin body, this camera attempts to play with the entry level SLRs while at the same time catering to the higher sales volumes of the point and shoot crowd. This particular market segment is becoming increasingly crowed as amateur photographers make the move to cameras with larger sensors in order to capture better images in lower light. Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, and now Samsung have chosen this demographic to wage war in.  Ultimately this is great news for the consumer as healthy competition results in good products at low prices. Does the NX200 have what it takes to play in this market?

Lens Retracted
Lens Retracted
Lens Extended
Lens Extended

 


Specifications:

 

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Specs

 

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Design:

No so long ago if you wanted good quality images from a digital camera you were pretty much limited to a digital SLR (DSLR). The point and shoot cameras while being compact and cheap, produced poor images due to their small sensors, especially at higher ISOs. DSLRs used a much larger sensor, accompanied by a mirror and pentaprism as a view finder. Many people including myself felt caught between two worlds, wanting good image quality, but in a more pocketable format.

Then in August of 2008 Olympus and Panasonic introduced the micro four thirds format. This new standard attempted to marry aspects from both the DSLR and the compact segments. The new cameras employed a larger DSLR-like four thirds sensor but removed the mirror and pentaprism assembly allowing the body to conform to a much slimmer profile.

 

 

 

Since 2008, Olympus and Panasonic have release several cameras based off of this new format with a good deal of success. While the new format did lose the gorgeous optical viewfinder this sacrifice allowed it to be smaller, have a better live view and it paved the way for good quality video.

Players like Samsung and Sony, not wanting to be left out have each devised their own similar approaches.  I do applaud Samsung's move to the NX standard format as it allows a larger-than-four-thirds sensor to be built into a very small camera body.  The APS-C sensor in this camera is the same size as in Canon's Txi series of cameras as well as Nikon Dx000 series cameras.  There is hope that the larger sensor will provide better low light and noise control, but with the increased pixel count on this sensor, I don't expect it to perform on par with a D300s.

Cap On
APS-C Sensor

 

Like the micro four thirds system, Samsung's NX series drops the mirror and pentaprism in favor a thinner body. However instead of using a four thirds sized sensor, it is equipped with the larger APS-C size usually only found in DSLRs.

This should give Samsung a leg up on the competition when it comes to high ISO sensitivities, but at the cost of a slightly larger body size. The larger sensor also necessitates larger lenses.  One of the notable differences between the NX200 camera we're looking at today and the NX10 that Daniel looked at a while back is that the NX 200 drops all sort of viewfinder.  The live view is only through the camera back and while this can pose some problems in very bright sunlight, it does allow the body to be a bit thinner.

 

Size:

Front View

From a front view, my D300S is noticeably larger than the NX200 and this is no surprise.  The top view is much slimmer as well and it's really amazing how much thinner a camera can be once you drop the mirror, pentaprism and a viewfinder.  Without a lens, the NX200 can easily fit into a pocket or a purse, but if you add a zoom lens you lose this slim format.  If you use a nice pancake lens, you will still get a great slim camera with a lot of crop power thanks to the 20.3 Mega Pixel sensor.

Top View

As you can see below, the NX 200 is not a lot bigger than a small compact camera - such as the HP SB360 that I won a few years ago in Las Vegas.

All Three


 

Handling:

While one of the goals of mirror-less cameras is to make them smaller, this is not always a good thing when it comes to handling and comfort.  There is something to be said about a nice DSLR with some bulk.  It fits your hand and has room for contours, thumb and finger rests that make it comfortable and easy to control, hold steady and bring up to your eye for quick shooting.  The NX200 is small.  As you noticed on the previous page, it isn't a lot larger than a compact camera.  This makes it a bit more difficult to control, but the good news is that all of the buttons and the finger wheel are all within reach.

Top

Construction:

While the NX10 felt cheap due to its plastic construction, the NX200 feels a lot more solid thanks largely to the metal body used in construction.  The camera is a bit more boxy and not as ergonomic (in a rounded way) as some previous NX cameras from Samsung, but the overall design and build make it feel like a little tank.  The soft-feel painted outer layer give it a good grip and it doesn't feel like you'll drop it easily.

Display:

Just like other cameras in its class, Samsung chose to equip the NX200 with a 3" LCD with approximately 640K dots. This translates into a real world resolution of 640x480 which may sound low until you remember that it's only a 3" screen - on an ILC camera. The key difference between Samsung and some of its competitors is that the NX200 uses a nice AMOLED screen. The AMOLED should give this display an edge in terms of picture quality and power consumption with the downside of being a bit harder to see in direct sunlight.  Unfortunately, there is not a viewfinder available as a hot-shoe add-on so you're on your own with the rear screen.

On Screen Options

Ports Input/Outputs:

On the side of the camera there is a sturdy flap covering the camera's input/outputs.  For convenient viewing on a television there is a mini-HDMI output as well as a micro-USB port. There really aren't a lot of options behind door number one and if you want things like a remote trigger release or an external microphone input you'll be looking for a different camera.

 

Storage:

The NX200 uses a proprietary 1030mah battery which - according to the manual - should be good for 320 photos or 160 minutes of video.  Of course this is heavily dependent the amount of flash and focusing required.  From my experience the battery does run out fairly quickly especially compared to a regular DSLR.  Unfortunately, there is not additional battery included with the camera and because it is proprietary, you'll either need to purchase another one or stop shooting and recharge your battery when it runs out.

Battery & SD

Battery:

Also located alongside the battery is the slot for the SD-Card.  The NX200 can handle SD, SDHC and SDXC cards up to 128GB.  This means that you won't have to worry about getting enough storage for your images for a while.  We tested the camera with a couple of 16GB cards and had no issues.  If shooting RAW+SuperFine JPEG, you get about 220 images on a card and at this point the battery is about empty so it matches up quite nicely.

 

Menus:

Like most cameras of its class the menus are fairly simple and straightforward.

 

Photo Options:

The three photography menus cover the various basic elements of photo taking. Most of these parameters are much more easily accessible through a combination of buttons and the command dial. If you are using the menu button to access these parameters then I suggesting checking out the manual so you can save yourself some time in the field.

Camera Settings - 1
Camera Settings - 1
Camera Settings - 2
Camera Settings - 2
Camera Settings - 3
Camera Settings - 3

 

 

Movie Options:

The Movie menu has options that include movie resolution.  320x240, 640x480, 1280x720 and 1920x1080 are all selectable in 30fps modes.  There is an additional option for 1280x720 to record at 60fps.  Quality can be selected between normal and high quality as well.  I don't know why anyone would want poor quality video, but I guess if you want to save a bit of space, there is that option.

There is a "Multi-Motion" option that allows you to record video at 1x, 5x, 10x or 20x.  Think of this as a quick and easy time-lapse option.   If you choose to record video 480p and lower, you will have the additional option to record at 0.5x and 0.25x.  This allows you to shoot slow motion video and is equivalent of in-camera 60fps and 120fps recording with playback at 30fps.  It's not super slow-motion, but it's a fun and interesting effect.

Movie Settings
Movie Settings
Movie Resolution
Movie Resolution
Movie Speed
Movie Speed

 

User Options:

The user menu has a few interesting options.  ISO Customizing  sets the granularity at which you can control camera sensitivity.  You can choose between 1/3 or 1 EV.  You can also set how high the ISO will adjust when choosing "Auto" mode. You will also find the option of turning the AF Lamp on or off. This is handy in museums or performance settings where it is prohibited to have a flash or AF assist activated. You can also customize button functions on the camera and can specify functions such as One Touch White Balance, Optical Preview, One Touch RAW+, Reset or AEL.

User Settings - 1
User Settings - 1
User Settings - 2
User Settings - 2

 


Setup Options:

The last three menus deal with general setup options. Here you can change display brightness and color, display timeouts, and sounds. This is also where you adjust your AV output options, and upgrade your firmware. 

Settings - 1
Settings - 1
Settings - 2
Settings - 2
Settings - 3
Settings - 3

 

As stated before there are not a lot of menu options but they are well laid out and simple to understand even without the help of the manual. 


 

Controls: 

The control layout is virtually identical to what can be found on most entry level DSLRs. Immediately behind the shutter/on/off switch there is a single control wheel. This used in combination with the buttons on the back, provides fairly quick access to most common settings. It still took some time for me to get used to the single control wheel after using two but I never found the layout clumsy or uncomfortable.  With a little practice it could be a fairly fast system.

Top Controls

On of the small gripes that I have with the control wheel is in its stiffness or lack thereof.  It simply seemed a bit loose and occasionally would skip back a notch. I much prefer the stiffness of the wheels on the Nikon.

 Rear Controls

The mode dial provides fast access to the main shooting modes of the camera. 

  • Manual
  • Shutter Priority
  • Aperture Priority
  • Program - Mostly just a visual twist on aperture priority mode.
  • Smart - Attempt to select an appropriate scene mode.
  • Video - Dedicated Video mode (redundant)
  • Scene - Select from the menu the type of scene you are shooting.
  • Panorama - Stitches multiple photos in-camera.
  • Magic - Select camera effects such as frames or filters
  • Lens Priority - Select camera settings with iFunction on Lens (think Program)


Most of these are pretty standard on cameras nowadays. Coming from the DSLR world, I found myself using aperture priority most often.

 

The ISO button brings up a list of available sensitivities. The control wheel or D-Pad can be used to select the level.  Ranges from 100 to 12800 are available as well as an auto option.  Thankfully there is an option in the camera menu to limit the Auto ISO range and keep it where noise is acceptable. 

The D-Pad also gives quick access to release mode, LCD display and auto-focus modes.  Release mode options include: Single, Continuous (High), Continuous (Low), Burst, Timer, Auto Exposure Bracketing, White Balance Bracketing, and Picture Wizard Bracketing. 

White balance is crucial to a good picture. Unfortunately it is also a tricky thing for a camera to get right on its own. It helps if you are able to give the camera a hint as to correct setting.  White balance is available in the Fn menu or by customizing it to a button or even on the iFn button on the lens.  There are a few options available for white balance.
  • Auto WB - The camera automatically selects the optimal white balance settings.
  • Daylight - For shooting outdoors on a clear day.
  • Cloudy - For shooting outdoors on a cloudy day.
  • Fluorescent White - Daylight, fluorescent lamp, suitable especially for the white fluorescent light with the color temperature of about 4200K
  • Fluorescent NW - Daylight, fluorescent lamp, suitable especially for the daylight fluorescent lighting with the color temperature of about 5,000K
  • Fluorescent Daylight - Daylight, fluorescent lamp, suitable especially for the daylight-like fluorescent lighting with the color temperature of about 6,500K
  • Tungsten - For shooting under halogen lamps and standard, incandescent bulbs.
  • Flash WB - Suitable when using the built-in flash light.
  • Custom Set - To create a custom white ballance setting.
  • Color Temp - To set the color temperature manually.

  iFn Lens

Auto focus in DSLRs has typically been done using phase detection. This method is fast, accurate and doesn't require a lot of processing power. In the mirror-less camera  world that method has been replaced with contrast detection. Contrast detection used to be quite slow but it has definitely improved over the years. One of the advantages to contrast detection is that because it uses the main imaging sensor, it is not limited by fixed AF points like a traditional DSLR.

The auto focus mode can be adjusted by the right button on the D-Pad. The three modes are Single, Continuous or Manual. 

 

   

AF Area:

In addition to the mode there are also several auto focus areas that you can select from. 

  • Single area - In this mode you select the area that you want in focus manually. When in single area AF mode, the center button of the d-pad activates a screen that allows you to move the AF focus point around the screen. Rotating the control wheel adjusts the size of the AF point.
  • Multi area - The camera will try to detect the objects to focus on. When shutter button is pressed the selected focus points will light up.
  • Face detection - The camera attempts to recognize faces and prioritize focus on them.
  • Self-portrait - This is a really neat feature that is used to take pictures of yourself. The camera will give off a series of beeps indicating if your face is in or near the center of the frame.

 

Light metering is controlled in menu. From here you can select spot, center weighted or area modes of metering. For those time when you need a little extra adjustment, the AV button lets you adjust the exposure compensation.

 

Main Display / Viewfinder:

Pertinent information is displayed along the sides and bottom of the screen, unless you choose to turn it off using the "disp" button. You can also display a small histogram in the lower right corner if you wish.

 Live View - Loaded

It's worth noting that for a consumer camera the display is really top notch quality.  Colors are bright and vibrant and there is no ghosting or lagging visible while moving. The only downside is that it is almost impossible to view in bright sunlight but that issue is not unique to this camera.

 

Playback:

Image playback may be immediately accessed by the little arrow button at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Basic playback information is shown along the bottom of the screen but if you want more the "disp" button will give you more information. Pressing the "disp" button a second time will bring up a color separated histogram.

The basic controls such as zooming and panning are fairly straightforward, but I did notice that you cannot flip from picture to picture while zoomed in. This is a very hand feature that I do find myself missing.  A quick press of the "fn" button will bring up a simple editing menu where you can make minor adjustments to your photos.

The adjustments include:

  • Smart Filters
  • Red Eye Fix
  • Backlight Compensation
  • Resize
  • Rotate
  • Face Retouch
  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Vignetting
 

 

Performance:

Like Daniel Guenter, who reviewed the Samsung NX10, I am merely a photography enthusiast not an expert.  I don't have a lot of fancy color calibrated equipment.  I can give you my impressions and a few test shots for comparison.  I hope this will suffice many readers.

 

Focus:

Focus in all modes is fairly fast.  It is fast enough to be adequate, but not blistering fast - such as in a large DSLR.  The focus appeared to be quite accurate as well and there were only a few times where it didn't focus properly - and this could have been user error.

The ability to get a focus lock in low light or poor contrast situations was also not a problem. This is probably due in part to the green LED AF lamp that the NX200 uses.  I prefer an AF lamp such as on Nikon systems and these Samsung NX series to the strobe flash approach taken by some other DSLR manufacturers.

 

Just as with the NX10, face detection on this camera is somewhat of a mixed bag. Straight on it had no problems discerning that a face was present, and once a face lock was gained it was able to hold it even when the head turned slightly.  Trying to acquire an initial face lock from even a slight angle resulted in failure.  Both eyes and the mouth need to be clearly visible and somewhat symmetrical in order to acquire the lock.  If the camera fails to get a face lock it will fall back to standard multi-point AF.

When AF fails, and it will, you will need use manual AF.  Here is where the NX200 employs a nifty feature that automatically enlarges the image when you move the focus ring. This helps to get a much finer focus than is possible by just looking at the original image.  You can choose the level of enlargement from 5x to 8x as desired.

For a contrast detect focus system the NX200 performs surprisingly well.

 

Startup time:

One of the most annoying things about compact cameras is how long the take to start up. When you have small children, that could mean a missed shot. The NX200 is quite quick. It takes just around 2 seconds from when you switch the camera on to taking a picture. A DSLR will come in under a second but the difference is small.

 

Burst Speed:

Samsung's manual says... JPEG : 7 fps up to 11 shots - RAW : 7 fps up to 8 shots - which I did confirm to be true. How fast you shoot after that depends partly on the speed of your card, and partly on how fast the camera can process the images. This is a significant step up from most compacts and is a dramatic improvement over the NX10.  However, if you are shooting RAW+JPEG you will only get about 3-4 shots and the camera will buffer.  Also, the RAW processing time on the NX200 is quite slow.  I mean, really slow.

Rear Screen  

Flash:

Samsung doesn't incorporate a flash in the body of the NX200.  Instead, they have a small pop-up hotshoe flash that will work just as well.  This flash has a pretty low guide number so you'll have to be pretty close to your subject for it to be effective.  It meters well so as not to overexpose your subject.


 

Image Quality (JPEG):

The NX200 packs a whopping 20.3 megapixels into an APS-C sized sensor. The higher megapixel count may sound nice on paper but it can lead to serious noise problems from crosstalk and interference. To help us test this, we are putting the NX200 against a Nikon D300s.  The D300s is a mid-range DSLR that utilizes the same sensor size, but with a mirror assembly instead. Even though the D300s was supplanted by the D7000 it remains an excellent mid-range camera.

Both the D300s and the NX200 are using standard kit lenses @ 50mm. The aperture is set to f.8 both for depth of field and because cheaper lenses tend to do better when stepped down a bit.

 

ISO 100
ISO 100 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)


ISO 200
ISO 200 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 400
ISO 400 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 800
ISO 800 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s) 

 

  ISO 1600
ISO 1600 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

 ISO 3200
ISO 3200 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 6400
ISO 6400 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 12800
ISO 12800 - NX200 (not available on D300s)

 

Image Quality (RAW):

The NX200 packs a whopping 20.3 megapixels into an APS-C sized sensor. The higher megapixel count may sound nice on paper but it can lead to serious noise problems from crosstalk and interference. To help us test this, we are putting the NX200 against a Nikon D300s.  The D300s is a mid-range DSLR that utilizes the same sensor size, but with a mirror assembly instead. Even though the D300s was supplanted by the D7000 it remains an excellent mid-range camera.

Both the D300s and the NX200 are using standard kit lenses @ 50mm. The aperture is set to f.8 both for depth of field and because cheaper lenses tend to do better when stepped down a bit.

 

ISO 100 
ISO 100 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

 ISO 200
ISO 200 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

 ISO 400
ISO 400 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

 ISO 800
ISO 800 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 1600
ISO 1600 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 3200
ISO 3200 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 6400
ISO 6400 - NX200 vs D300s (Hover for D300s)

 

ISO 12800
ISO 12800 - NX200 (not available on D300s)

 


 

 

Dynamic Range:

A good sensor not only has to have low noise, but also be able to capture a wide range of light levels. Using its JPEG processing engine this will probably not be an issue as the NX200 does exhibit a tolerable level of shadow and highlight details. However it does tend to clip to white fairly quickly when presented with bright highlights.

 Clip to White

Usually I expect a headroom of about 1EV in RAW files, however even though I was able to recover some detail up to -1 EV it was less than I would have expected. Perhaps Samsung is not recording as much information in their RAW files as they should, or the sensor is pushed a bit harder than it should. 


Here is what happened when trying to correct an overexposed area in Lightroom 4.1. Clipping is in red.

Clip
Regular Exposure
Adjusted
-1 EV Corrected in RAW

 

Image Stabilization:

In the NX200 image stabilization is provided by the lens. This helps to keep complexity out of the camera body but if you have a pancake lens it probably won't come with OIS. OIS is very helpful for people who don't drink coffee.  You can either use OIS or caffeine. Even for those with steady hands this will allow you to shoot at lower ISOs and thus have cleaner images.  Of course OIS doesn't help if your subject is moving.

1/20 OIS
1/20 OIS
1/20 NOIS
1/20 No OIS
   
1/5 OIS
1/5 OIS
1/5 NOIS
1/5 No OIS

 

Its pretty clear that the OIS is quite effective.  While not perfect it should let you shoot 2-3 stops slower than you usually would. The OIS can be configured to activate only when the shutter is pressed or to just leave it on all the time.  You will probably want to stick with the former as leaving it active all the time eats up the battery.

 

 

Movie Mode:

Movies are where the new generation of mirror-less, large sensor cameras differentiate themselves. While my D300s and D90 take great video, it is also very frustrating due to a lack of auto focus.  Auto focus is essential.  That's why there are no video cameras available for retail with only manual focus.

The NX200 is able to capture 1080p video at 30fps for up to 25 minutes.  This is pretty good considering that most of the other cameras in its class are only able to run for ~10 minutes. It also uses the H.264 codec instead of the older motion jpeg.  This should lead to better quality and smaller file sizes.

I found the movie mode on the NX200 to be quite easy to use and you can specify if you want to focus at the partial press of a shutter button or have the camera continually focus for you.  Focus is not as fast and as precise as it could be, but it still shoots great video.  Below I've included a few clips - including a 480p clip at 0.25x, a 1080p clip at normal speed and finally another clip at 20x.


 


Sample Gallery

 

 

Conclusion:

A couple of years ago, I never would have recommended a Samsung camera to a person who was serious about photography, but things have changed.  The NX200 is proof that Samsung is getting serious about photography and they have really stepped up their game with the NX200.  This camera body is not much bigger than a compact non-interchangeable lens camera (body only) and with a pancake lens, it could easily fit in your pocket, bag or backpack.  The large 20.3MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor is capable of capturing some pretty decent pictures at base ISOs while at the same time showing a very acceptable noise level at higher ISOs.  The mirror-less setup also gives it a lot more flexibility than your average DSLR when it comes to movie recording.

A few things do keep this camera out of "perfect" territory though.

  1. The amount extra information recoverable from RAW files seems fairly limited.
  2. RAW write performance is very slow.  Granted, these are large files, but with a Sandisk Extreme (45MB/s) card in the camera, I expected less wait time while the RAW buffer clears.

 

Is this camera going to replace my D90?  Quite possibly.  Would I use the NX200 as a walk-around camera?  Absolutely.  Samsung has trimmed down this camera a lot since the NX10 days.  Would I recommend the NX200 to someone considering an entry level DSLR.  Yes. I think the mirror-less cameras are going to chew out a significant hole at the bottom of the DSLR lineup.  With contrast detect AF getting faster and better, smaller sizes and comparable image quality, there is a lot to like about these cameras. The NX200 is a good example of a good product produced at the right time.  It shows that Samsung is taking this level of photography seriously and wants to compete.

Pros:

  • APS-C large sized sensor
  • Good auto focus and manual focus
  • Very good noise reduction for a 20MP sensor
  • Great resolution from the JPEG engine
  • Good OIS
  • Great feature set including, filters, frames, panorama and more.
  • Auto exposure bracketing option available
  • Auto white balance bracketing option
  • Excellent Build quality (metal body!)
  • Lots of video options including filters, effects, etc.
  • Growing selection of lenses

 

Cons:

  • No built-in flash
  • Face detection not the greatest
  • Clips to white fairly quickly, detail not recoverable in RAW
  • Uses a Samsung proprietary NX lens mount
  • No connector for external microphone
  • No external viewfinder option
  • Included Kit lens 18-55 f3.5-f5.6 feels "gritty" and sluggish to zoom

 

BCCRating

Silver

I'd like to thank Samsung for lending us the NX200 for us to review.  If you are looking for an entry-level DSLR that can shoot and focus video on-the-fly, this camera is one of the few decent choices.  Please post your thoughts and comments regarding this review in the forum at the "Comments" link below.

Please check out the Sample Gallery here for some action shots from the NX200.