Samsung NX10 Mini-DSLR Compact Camera

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Product: Samsung NX10 Mini-DSLR Camera
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: ~$699 Street

 

Introduction:

Samsung is one of the world's foremost electronics manufacturers with products ranging from drill ships to home appliances.  Being involved in the computer industry, I would say that they are most well known for their TVs and computer monitors. Aside from a few issues with quality control their products are generally regarded as being of a high quality. 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.

NX10

The NX10 is the latest effort from a company that refuses to be content with its "niche" status.

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 seek to leave the confines of their tiny sensors in hopes of better photos at higher ISOs. 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 NX10 have what it takes to play in this market?

 

Samsung NX10

 


 

Specifications:

 

 

Image sensor

Type

CMOS

 

Sensor size

23.4 x 15.6 mm

 

Effective Pixel

Approx. 14.6 Megapixels

 

Total Pixel

Approx. 14.6 Megapixels

 

Color Filter

RGB primary color filter

Lens

Mount

Samsung NX Mount

 

Usable Lens

Samsung Lenses for Samsung NX Mount

Image Stabilization

Type

Lens Shift (depends on Lens)

Dust Reduction

Type

Super sonic drive

Display

Type

AMOLED

 

Size

3.0"

 

Resolution

VGA (640 x 480) 614 k dots (PenTile)

 

Field of View

Approx. 100 %

Viewfinder

Type

EVF

 

Resolution

VGA (640 x 480) 921 k dots equiv.

 

Field of View

Approx. 100 %

 

Magnification

Approx. 0.86x (APS-C, 50 mm, - 1 m - 1)

 

Eyepoint

Approx. 20.2 mm

 

Diopter Adjustment

Approx. - 4.0 ~ + 2.0 m - 1

Focusing

Type

Contrast AF

 

Focusing point

Selection : 1 point (Free selection)

Multi : Normal 15 points, Close Up 35 points

Face Detection : Max. 10 faces

 

Modes

Single AF, Continuous AF, MF

 

AF-assist lamp

Yes (Green LED)

Shutter

Type

Electronically controlled vertical - run focal plane shutter

 

Speed

Auto : 1 / 4000 s ~ 30 s

Manual : 1 / 4000 s ~ 30 s (1 / 3 EV or 1 / 2 EV step)

Bulb (Limit time : 8 min)

Exposure

Metering System

Metering : Multi, Center - weighted, Spot Metering range : EV 0 ~ 18 (ISO 100 • 30 mm F2.0)

 

Compensation

± 3 EV (1 / 2 EV, 1 / 3 EV step)

 

AE Lock

AEL button

 

ISO Equivalent

Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (1 EV step)

Drive Modes

Modes

Single, Continuous, Burst, Self - timer, Bracket (AE, WB, PW)

 

Continuous

JPEG : 3 fps up to 10 shots

Burst mode : 30 fps, 30 shots by 1 released

RAW : 3 fps up to 3 shots

 

Bracket

Auto Exposure Bracket (± 3 EV), White Balance Bracket (± 3 step), Picture Wizard Bracket (Selectable 3 modes)

 

Self-timer

2 - 30 s (1 s step)

 

Remote controller

Wired : SR9NX01 (Optional)

Flash

Type

TTL Auto Pop - up flash

 

Modes

Smart Flash, Auto, Auto + Red - eye reduction, Fill - in, Fill - in + Red - eye reduction, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, OFF

 

Guide Number

11 (at ISO 100)

 

Angle of View Coverage

28 mm wide - angle (Equivalent to 35 mm)

 

Sync. Speed

Less than 1 / 180 s

 

Flash Compensation

- 2 - + 2 EV (0.5 EV step)

 

External Flash

Samsung External Flash available (SEF-42A, SEF-20A : Optional)

 

Synchro (Flash attachment)

Hot Shoe

White Balance

Modes

Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent (W, N, D), Tungsten, Flash, Custom, K (Manual)

 

Micro adjustment

Each 7 steps in Amber / Blue / Green / Magenta axis

Picture Wizard

Modes

Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Custom (1 - 3)

 

Parameter

Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Color tone

Shooting

Modes

Smart Auto, Program, Shutter Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual, Night, Portrait, Landscape, Scene, Movie

 

Scene Mode

Beauty shot, Children, Close Up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach & Snow

 

Image Size

JPEG (3 : 2): 14 M (4592 x 3056), 10 M (3872 x 2592), 6 M (3008 x 2000), 2 M (1920 x 1280), 1.4 M (1472 x 976) : Burst mode only

JPEG (16 : 9) : 12 M (4592 x 2584), 8 M (3872 x 2176), 5 M (3008 x 1688), 2 M (1920 x 1080)

RAW : 14 M (4592 x 3056)

 

Quality

Super fine , Fine, Normal

 

RAW Format

SRW

 

Color Space

sRGB, Adobe RGB

Movie

Format

MP4 (H.264)

 

Compression

Movie : H.264

Sound : AAC

 

Movie Clip

With Audio or without Audio (user selectable, recording time : 25 min)

 

Image Size

1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240

 

Frame rate

30 fps

 

Sound

Mono Sound

 

Movie Editing

Still Image Capture, Time Trimming

Image Play

Type

Single image, Thumbnails (3 / 9 / 20 images), Slide show, Movie

 

Highlight Warning

Available

 

Editing

Red eye fix, Back light comp., Photo Style Selector, Resize, Rotate, Face Retouch

 

Photo Style Selector

Soft, Vivid, Forest, Autumn, Misty, Gloomy, Classic

Storage

Media

SD, SDHC

 

File format

RAW (SRW), JPEG (EXIF 2.21), DCF, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0

 

Capacity (1GB)

14 M : RAW 35

14 M : Super Fine 142, Fine 278, Normal 408

10 M : Super Fine 197, Fine 382, Normal 724

6 M : Super Fine 322, Fine 615, Normal 1128

2 M : Super Fine 738, Fine 1334, Normal 2238

Burst (1.4 M) : Super Fine 1201, Fine 2092, Normal 3320

12 M (W) : Super Fine 168, Fine 328, Normal 630

8 M (W) : Super Fine 234, Fine 454, Normal 860

5 M(W) : Super Fine 381, Fine 727, Normal 1334

2M (W) : Super Fine 872, Fine 1573, Normal 2638

Movie : 1280 x 720 : High Quality 15 min, Normal 22 min

640 x 480 : High Quality 44 min, Normal 66 min

320 x 240 : High Quality 145 min, Normal 210 min (1)

Languages

 

16 (Korean, English, Danish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Czech, French, Portuguese, Polish, Finnish, Russian, Simplified / Traditional Chinese)

Direct Printing

 

PictBridge

Interface

Digital Output Connector

USB 2.0 (HI - SPEED)

 

Video Output

NTSC, PAL (user selectable)

HDMI 1.3 : (1080 i, 720 P, 576 P / 480 P)

 

External Release

Yes

 

DC Power Input Connector

DC 9.0 V, 1.5 A (100 ~ 240 V)

Power Source

Type

Rechargeable battery : BP1310 (1300 mAh)

Charger : BC1310

AC Adaptor : AD9NX01 (Optional) (2)

 

Battery Life

200 min / 400 shots (CIPA Standard)

Physical Specification

Dimensions (WxHxD)

123 x 87 x 39.8 mm (excluding the projecting parts of the camera)

 

Weight

353 g (without batteries and card)

 

Operating Temperature

0 ~ 40 ºC

 

Operating Humidity

5 ~ 85 %

Software

Application

Samsung Master, Samsung RAW Converter 3.1, Adobe Reader, QuickTime Player 7.6

System Requirement in general

For Windows

PC with processor better than Pentium III 500 MHz (Pentium 800 MHz recommended)

Windows 2000 / XP / Vista

Minimum 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)

250 MB of available hard disk space (1 GB recommended)

USB port

CD - ROM drive

1024 x 768 pixels, 16 - bit color display compatible monitor (24 - bit color display recommended)

Microsoft Direct X 9.0c or later

 

For Macintosh

Power Mac G3 or later

Mac OS 10.4 or later

Minimum 256 MB RAM (Over 512 MB recommended)

110 MB of available hard-disk space

USB port

CD - ROM drive

System Requirements for Samsung Raw Converter 3.1 and QuickTime Player 7.6

For Windows

Pentium 4, 3.2 GHz or later is recommended

Windows XP service pack 2 / Vista 32 bit (64 - bit OS is unsupported)

Minimum 1 GB RAM

1024 x 768 pixels, 24 - bit color display compatible monitor

nVIDIA Geforce 7600GT or later / ATI X1600 series or later

Minimum 64 MB Graphic Memory

 


 

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'm not sure why Samsung elected to design an entirely new system instead of licensing the popular micro four thirds approach.  Perhaps the licensing costs were too punative or maybe they simply believed that a unique approach would give them a leg up over the competition. Whatever the case, the NX10 represents Samsung's answer to the micro four thirds standard.

Samsung NX10 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 equiped 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.

 

Size:

NX10 vs D60

 

 

From a front on perspective the NX10 doesn't seem that much smaller than the diminutive D60. However a top or bottom view illustrates that the loss of the mirror does indeed result in a slightly smaller camera. The body alone is small enough that one could put it in a large pocket, but after adding the kit zoom this is no longer an option. If you are looking for portability you will have to buy it with a non zoom pancake lens.

NX10 vs. D60 Top Down

 

 

Despite being marginally smaller than the smallest DSLR it still dwarfs my old Fuji F50 point and shoot.

F50 vs. NX10 vs. D60

 


 

Handling:

Smaller is not necessarily better when handling is concerned.  The shape of the body and its weighting plays a big role in how comfortable a camera is to hold and shoot. Once I got used to the smaller grip on the NX10 I have to say that it felt pretty good in my rather average size hands. I could see it getting a bit uncomfortable though for those with larger mitts.

Smaller is Better?

 

Construction:

The NX10 employs a standard all plastic body just like the vast majority of consumer cameras. That doesn't mean that it feels cheep though.  Just the opposite. It feels solid and has good build quality as well as being decently balanced.

 

Display:

NX10 Display

 

Like other cameras in its class Samsung chose to equip the NX10 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. The key difference between Samsung and some of its competitors is that the NX10 uses a new technology called AMOLED. 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.  Luckily for the consumer there is a viewfinder included for just such situations.

 

ViewFinder:

Normally an SLR would get its viewfinder through a mirror and pentaprism assembly but as we've explained before those elements have been nixed in this breed. Many other manufacturers have been content to just say goodbye to the viewfinder or offer it as an add-on. Samsung however considered it important enough to include one in the body which is what gives it a sort of SLRish hump in the middle. This is an electronic viewfinder which actually features the same 640x480 resolution as the main display. The viewfinder displays the exact same information as the main display except it is not susceptible to glare from bright lights.

Viewfinder

 

The viewfinder is triggered by a small sensor which blanks the main screen and activates the viewfinder when you eye gets close enough. Usually this works just fine, but I did notice that when using my right eye in portrait mode it wouldn't always activate. I wish Samsung would put an option in the menus to force the viewfinder to be active all the time.  This would cater more to users who are more used to the DSLR.

 



Input/Outputs:

Inputs/OutputsOn the side of the camera there is a sturdy flap covering the camera's input/outputs. A dc power port is available if you wish to bypass the battery, perhaps for studio work. For convenient viewing on a television there is an HDMI output as well as a standard composite output. Composite video signals are such low quality and resolution though so you wouldn't want to use this options unless it is an emergency. Besides the standard usb port for connecting to your computer there is a port to connect a remote trigger. 

 

Storage:

StorageThe other side of the body finds a ubiquitous SD card reader. The slot takes both SD and SDHC cards so capacity shouldn't be an issue. SD media is super cheap right now so it makes sense to get at least an 8GB card. Just beware that there are a wide range of card speeds out there and that a slow card will significantly impact your burst shooting once the tiny buffer on the camera fills up. 



Battery:

BatteryThe NX10 uses a proprietary 1300mah battery which - according to the manual - should be good for 200 - 400 photos.  Of course this is heavily dependant of judicious use of the flash. From my experience the battery does run out fairly quickly especially compared to a regular DSLR.  However Samsung was kind enough to include an extra battery to help mitigate this shortcoming. 

 


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 suggest a perusal of the manual is in order.

 Photo Size
Photo Size
AF Priority
AF Priority
Bracket Set
Bracket Set

 

User Options:

The user menu has a few interesting options.  EV Step sets the granularity at which you can control exposure compensation.  You can choose between 1/3 or 1/2 EV. Here 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.

EV Step

 

It's nice that Samsung included noise reduction options in the menus but your choices are limited to on or off.

Noise Reduction

 

There are a few simple options here to enable grid lines or histogram.

User Display

 

 

I was very excited when I saw the key mapping menu in the user options. Usually key mapping is something reserved for higher models. Unfortunately there are not very many options to choose from. Two of the camera's buttons may be mapped and the options are very limited. Hopefully Samsung will expand on this good idea in future cameras or firmware upgrades. 

 Key Mapping Front Key Mapping Back

 

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.

 Options Options 2
 Options 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:

ControlsThe 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.

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.

 

 


 

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.
  • Scene - Select from the menu the type of scene you are shooting.
  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Night
  • Movie

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

 

ISO SettingsThe ISO button brings up a list of available sensitivities. The control wheel or dpad can be used to select the level.  Ranges from 100 to 3200 are available as well as an auto option. I would have liked to have seen an option for limiting the maximum ISO that is used in auto mode as some of the higher sensitivities have significant noise levels. 

 

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. The white balance button on the dpad brings up a total of ten options.  




 

  • 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.

 

AF Mode 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 top button on the d-pad. The three modes are static, constant 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.

 

Metering Light metering is controlled by the left button on the d-pad. 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. Pushing and holding this button will turn the light meter blue at which point you can turn the control dial to adjust the exposure.

Metering

 

Drive Modes:

Drive Mode One key advantage of DSLRs over their more compact brethren is the speed at which consecutive photos may be taken. The NX10 supports several drive modes.

Single, continuous, burst, and timer are fairly self explanatory, however there are also several bracketing modes which can be very useful. Auto exposure bracketing takes three shots at different exposures. This is especially useful for HDR pictures.  The order as well as the EV spacing of the images can be adjusted. In addition to the exposure bracketing, you can also bracket white balance and program.  Program bracketing means the camera will take the same image in several different program modes. Kind of neat eh?

 

 

Main Display / Viewfinder:

Whether you are looking at the main display or through the viewfinder, you will see the same layout. 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. 


Display Default


Display High Detail

Display Blank

 

Whether you are looking at the main display or through the viewfinder, you will see the same layout. 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.

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. The viewfinder helps to mitigate this issue and while not looking quite as nice as the main screen, is still very adequate to the task.

 

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.


Playback

Playback w/Stats

Playback w/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...

  • Red eye correction
  • Backlighting
  • Color
  • Cropping / Rotating
  • Face Retouching

 

 

Performance:

I am a photography enthusiast not an expert, nor do I have a lot of fancy color calibrated equipment. I can give you my impressions and test shots but that is all.

 

Focus:

Focus in all modes is fairly fast. Not as fast as a DSLR but fast enough not to be annoying. It also is fairly effective. The fast majority of focus errors were a result of not selecting the right focus point rather than a poor focus lock.

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 friendly green AF lamp that the NX10 has. I much prefer an AF lamp to the strobe flash approach taken by some other DSLR manufacturers.

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 did turn slightly. However trying to acquire an initial face lock from even a slight angle resulted in failure. If the camera fails to get a face lock it will fall back to standard multi-point AF.


Face Detect OK

Face Detect Fail

 

The bottom line is that face detection will work OK in a photoshoot environment but it won't work at a party where the subject is not staged.

 

Manual Focus Zoom When AF fails, and it will, you will need use manual AF. Here is where the NX10 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. I found myself wishing that more cameras would implement this feature.

 

For a contrast detect focus system the NX10 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 NX10 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 : 3 fps up to 10 shots - RAW : 3 fps up to 3 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 but falls short of most DSLRs. The situation gets even worse if you try to shoot Raw+JPEG as you will only get one, maybe two shots off before the camera has to buffer.

 

Exposure:

The NX10 is fairly conservative with its exposure, tending more to the darker side unlike Nikon which tends to be a bit overexposed. I did find myself reaching for the exposure compensation button from time to time, but not frequently enough to be annoying. Most of the trick in getting exposure right is selecting the right metering mode for the situation.

 

White Balance:

White balance is very hard for a camera to get right. I shot two pictures one with 3500K lighting and one with 2700K lighting. Both of these color temperatures are fairly warm.  Unfortunately the NX10 didn't pick up on the color temperature very well, resulting in a warmish brown tinge to the picture.  You can mitigate this by shooting in raw mode or by manually adjusting the white balance when in an odd lighting environment. 



 

Flash:

The small popup flash built into the body should be only used close to your subject, but when used properly it can be effective. It meters well so as not to overexpose your subject.


 



Image Quality (JPEG):

The NX10 packs a whopping 14.6 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 pitting the NX10 against a Nikon D60.  The D60 is an entry level DSLR that utilizes the same sensor size, but with a mirror assembly instead. Even though the D60 was supplanted by the D3000 it remains an excellent starter camera.

 

Both the D60 and the NX10 are using standard kit lenses @ 35mm. 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. The D60 also tends to overexpose a bit so a -1/3 EV exposure compensation was applied.

Noise:

 

NX10 ISO 100

NX10 ISO 200

NX10 ISO 400

 

 

D60 ISO 100

D60 ISO 200

D60 ISO 400

NX10 ISO 800

NX10 ISO 1600

NX10 ISO 3200

 

 

D60 ISO 800

D60 ISO 1600

D60 ISO 3200

 

Surprisingly enough the higher resolution of the NX10 does not seem to put it at a disadvantage when it comes to noise. It is very clean all the way up to ISO800 where noise begins to be evident. ISO 1600 is still usable, but ISO 3200 should probably be avoided unless it is an emergency.

 

Detail:


NX10 ISO 100
 
 
D60 ISO 100
 
 

NX10 ISO 200

 
D60 ISO 200

   


NX10 ISO 400
 
 
D60 ISO 400
 
 

NX10 ISO 800
 
 
D60 ISO 800
 
 

NX10 ISO 1600
 
 
D60 ISO 1600
 
 
 

NX10 ISO 3200
 
 
D60 ISO 3200

 

Again the NX10 performs admirably in preserving details. Even at higher ISOs the noise reduction technique is balanced and not overpowering. After viewing these results I was a bit surprised that Samsung didn't try to push this sensor further just for the sake of upping their spec sheet. Most Samsung point and shoot cameras produce far worse results at their highest ISO levels.

 

Image Quality (RAW):

A good jpeg engine can make up for a bad sensor so to really find out how good this sensor is we need to shoot in raw mode.

The NX10 packs a whopping 14.6 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 pitting the NX10 against a Nikon D60.  The D60 is an entry level DSLR that utilizes the same sensor size, but with a mirror assembly instead. Even though the D60 was supplanted by the D3000 it remains an excellent starter camera.

Both the D60 and the NX10 are using standard kit lenses @ 35mm. 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. The D60 also tends to overexpose a bit so a -1/3 EV exposure compensation was applied.

  

NX10 ISO 100

NX10 ISO 200

NX10 ISO 400

D60 ISO 100

D60 ISO 200

D60 ISO 400

NX10 ISO 800

NX10 ISO 1600

NX10 ISO 3200

D60 ISO 800

D60 ISO 1600

D60 ISO 3200

 

Deprived of its noise reduction the NX10 sensor is pretty much on par with the D60 at least as far as noise is concerned. This means that big kudos go out to the NX10 software team for being able to reduce so much noise without significantly impacting image quality.

 

Let's see how well that JPEG engine stands up when pitted against Lightroom3.

NX10 ISO 100 Camera

NX10 ISO 100 Lightroom3

NX10 ISO 1600 Camera

NX10 ISO 1600 Lightroom3


NX10 ISO 3200 Camera

NX10 ISO 3200 Lightroom3

 

Again the in camera JPEG engine does fairly well. It is slightly more blotchy at high ISOs than Lightroom3, but it also removes more noise (I could have set LR3 to a higher noise reduction as well, but didn't want to sacrifice details).  I think that the results are very good for a camera in this market segment.

 


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 NX10 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.

 

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 Lightroom3. Clipping is in red.

 

 

Regular Exposure

-1 EV Correction in RAW

 

Image Stabilization:

In the NX10 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 like me who - when past their due date - get a little unsteady. 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 No OIS
   

1/10 OIS

1/10 No OIS
   

1/6 OIS

1/6 No OIS
   

1/3 OIS

1/3 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 D90 takes some great video, it is also very frustrating due to a lack of auto focus. Auto focus is an essential feature, especially if you have small children who move fast and don't stay in one place very long.

The NX10 is able to capture 720p 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 NX10 to be quite easy to use, except for one small thing. The camera does not auto focus continually while you use it but rather you need to press a button down below the lens to perform a focus when needed. This is not explained in the quickstart guide, only in the full manual. Once I found this out, things went much more smoothly.

As I am not a big video user, I'll leave you with two little video clips.

 

SAM_0970 by Nicao
Video Sample #1
SAM_1280 by Nicao
Video Sample #2

 

Sample Gallery

 

Conclusion:

A year ago I would have been hard pressed to find a camera in Samsung's lineup that I could recommend to a friend. However the NX10 may just be a portend of better things coming out of Samsung's camera division. While it is not as compact as some of the micro-four thirds cameras that are currently out there, it is smaller than even an entry level DSLR. Its 14.6MP 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. Its mirror-less setup also gives it 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 control wheel is prone to skipping in the wrong direction and the menus do not respond quickly enough to it.
  2. The amount extra information recoverable from RAW files seems fairly limited.
  3. It remains to be seen what caliber of lenses will be produced for the NX mount.

 

Is this camera going to replace my D90? No. Would I use the NX10 as a walk-around camera? Maybe, it is still a little large to be pocket-able even with the pancake lens. Would I recommend the NX10 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 NX10 is a good example of a good product produced at the right time. I think it has the potential to do very well and perhaps bolster Samsung's camera reputation.

Pros:

  • APS-C large sized sensor
  • Good auto focus and manual focus
  • Good noise reduction
  • Great resolution from the JPEG engine
  • Good OIS
  • Auto exposure bracketing option available
  • Excellent Build quality
  • Longer video recording time than most

 

Cons:

  • Larger than other mirror-less camera systems
  • Face detection not the greatest
  • White Balance unreliable
  • Control wheel sometimes skips and is a bit laggy
  • Clips to white fairly quickly, detail not recoverable in RAW
  • Uses a Samsung proprietary NX lens mount

  BCCRating

Silver

I'd like to thank Samsung for lending us the NX10 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.