Samsung has been spending a lot of time in phones, tablets, and home audio, and now it’s time to see what the company is doing with cameras, as we go exclusively one on one with the NX30.
The next camera to be launched by Samsung certainly comes with its fair share of specs, and aims to encourage anyone who wants a more capable mirrorless to give Samsung a go, packing in a 20.3 megapixel sensor, ISO range up to 25600, up to 247 focus points, up to 9 frames per second shooting in either RAW or JPEG, Full HD video support, creative modes, optical image stabilisation, a flash, hot-shoe for external flashes, and more.
A 3 inch Super AMOLED touchscreen is also included that can be positioned at various angles, and a 100 percent field of view viewfinder is built into the camera with the ability to work top down, too.
From the first play, Samsung has certainly put some effort in with the design, taking the familiar protruded grip on a camera body, but slimming down everything else.
The work here is very noticeable, and while you can still hold the camera comfortably in the palm of your hand, cradling with your fingers, the other other way of holding — gripping with the right hand and hoping for the best — feels very firm and stable, which should bode well for beginners.
Stick the camera in your hand, though, and your thumb and forefinger will make their way around the controls.
Where your forefinger goes, there’s the shutter button sitting atop a power switch, surrounded by a control wheel, and two buttons acting for metering choice and WiFi. Behind this are your mode wheels, with the big one letting you jump easily between manual and auto modes, and shooting speeds.
Then you have a neat selection of buttons and a flat control wheel with a directional pad underneath next to the screen, which pulls out and can be articulated in various directions. And even though there are buttons on the side, Samsung has provided an OLED touchscreen to use here, too.
Samsung’s “I-Function” concept is here too, making it possible to change shutter speed and aperture, not to mention ISO, while simple holding the lens.
So you have a few options at your disposal, but the real question is, how does it play?
Not bad would be where we’ll start from, and move from there, as the NX30 feels more like a tightening of the design and technology the company has been using in its cameras.
Provided the camera is paired with a decent lens, the image quality appears to be pretty good, with sharp details, solid colour recreation, and a good assortment of controls for the modes on offer.
Up close on JPEG mode, there’s a fair amount of clarity, though we suspect the firmware will be tightened the closer the camera gets to full production, which will likely deliver just that extra hint of sharpness photographers will pixel peep for.
Out of the box, we’re a little surprised to see the 18-55 from the NX300 paired here, which seems a little under-classed for this camera, and is basically like including a bottleneck in the box.
Testing it, you’ll get decent shots from that lens, but it would be more in the owner’s interest to match the NX30 with something a little more substantial, such as the 85mm f/1.4, the 60mm f/2.8 macro, or the new 16-50 f/2-2.8, the latter two we tested on this trip.
Not only does the lens quality feel better suited to the NX30 for images, but also the build, which is far less plastic on these bigger lenses, and makes you feel like you’re holding something substantial.
On the mode side of things, there’s your typical assortment of manual modes, such as Aperture, Shutter speed, Program, and Manual, as well as scene and auto detection modes, plus a WiFi mode if needed to share between devices.
Two custom modes are also available, and while these are great for pairing specific colour settings, they also allow you to set specific settings for starting points when you switch into the mode, with the inclusion of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and focus type. Drive speed, however, is handled by the wheel on the top of the camera, so regardless of what mode you setup, you can always switch into single or burst modes.
One thing that we do like is the inclusion of a viewfinder, with an electronic viewfinder built into the NX30 body to make it more usable in situations demanding of one.
The viewfinder here also comes with a neat trick. Not just one though, with two tricks available to the photographer.
The first one is that it extends out of the camera, so you don’t have to press the body against your face, and leave greasy marks on the screen.
The second is even more useful. When the viewfinder is pulled out all the way, it can be pushed closed to 90 degrees up, turning it into a top down viewfinder, too.
An electronic viewfinder with top-down access is normally something you have to pay extra for in a mirrorless camera, so having it built into the body will be a win for some people.
Also on the winning side is a new wireless feature called “Tap N Go,” which takes advantage of WiFi and NFC to let compatible devices literally tap the side of the camera when you’re viewing an image, and have it transfer right away to the smartphone for easy sharing.
It’s not a full size image that transfers, but a slightly cut down version, because you’ll be sharing it online, but this helps to make it easy for on-to-go sharing with your mates. Videos can also be quickly shared, so you don’t have to wait until you get home to that laptop get that video on YouTube, provided your phone has some data and reception.
The technology is compatible with any Android phone or tablet supporting NFC (Near-Field Communication), because it needs the Samsung Mobile Camera app to make it work to begin with. Once you have it and NFC is switched on, it’s simply a matter of tapping the phone to the side of the camera while you’re viewing an image to make the picture do a little spinning animation and then initiate an immediate transfer to the smartphone.
In our preproduction model, this worked around 70 percent of the time, so when the camera goes full release, it should be perfected, and what a great concept it is, too, making it virtually painless to get pictures online quickly, basically filling in the gap for where we’d normally expect Android on one of Samsung’s cameras.
To the company’s credit, it does make an Android-based mirrorless interchangeable, the Galaxy NX, but somewhere between limited local availability and what we’ve heard is poor battery life, there’s still work to be done in this area, so Tap N Go is a good workaround for the time being.
Phones can also be used as a remote viewfinder thanks to the wireless technology, or just shared to let you transfer images from the camera, with selections being made on either the smartphone or the camera, no WiFi SD card needed.
Oh, and as far as battery life goes, we managed around 300 shots on a full battery while using the Tap N Go feature for around 50 images. That’s not bad, and suggests to us that 400 shots per battery charge cycle is possible, too, provided you don’t care about sharing on the go.
It’s nice to see that you won’t need a battery charger carried with you on trip with the NX30, either, with Samsung integrating the charger directly with the body, so you just plug the camera in using the same microUSB plug most phones take. Easy.
More interchangeable lens cameras need this feature, and we shouldn’t have to have external chargers on most cameras anymore.
Overall, it’s not a bad camera by a long shot, and we’re keen to give it a good flogging for low-light shooting when the review cameras come in, something we missed in our test.
Some things do need some work, though it’s a pre-production model, so we’re willing to give some of the software bugs the benefit of the doubt before this camera hits full release. We would like to see 4K shooting capability on the video side of things, though, something that would be nice given Panasonic’s GH4 is shipping with it, and Samsung makes more 4K Ultra HD screens than anyone else out there.
GadgetGuy did check with Samsung’s global head of digital imaging on this, but no firm response was given as to if or when the NX30 would receive this technology, let alone of the NX30 was capable of supporting it. Here’s hoping.
For now, expect to see the camera available in the next couple of months in Australia, with an expected price between $1100 and $1400.
High resolution images can be found on the next page (page 3) of this article.
Leigh D. Stark travelled to Bali, Indonesia as a guest of Samsung Australia.
Full-size image gallery
To see our test images full size, click on the image. Each will open in a new window, but please note, the images are large and may consume large quantities of data on mobile devices.
Images come from a pre-production Samsung NX30.
Leigh D. Stark travelled to Bali, Indonesia as a guest of Samsung Australia.