Samsung’s NX10 enters a market occupied by the Micro Four Thirds cameras made by Olympus and Panasonic. These cameras combine interchangeable lenses with a more compact form favoured by amateur users, while offering features that cater to creative shooters.
There’s not much left wanting in the NX10, with a feature set that should please its target market.
There’s a 14.6-megapixel DSLR-sized (23.4mm x 15.6mm) APS-C CMOS sensor, 3 inch (7.5cm) AMOLED screen, electronic viewfinder, 720p movie recording, pop-up flash, RAW and JPEG shooting, ISO up to 3200, dust reduction, SD and SDHC support, Face Detection, 1/4000 to 30 seconds shutter speed and a burst mode of 30 of frames per second (low-res images only). Image stablisation is handled by the NX-mount lenses.
Usability-wise, the NX10’s controls sit below the finicky menu system of the Olympus PEN 2 and above the user-friendly Lumix series. It demands some effort from the user who wants to get past auto-everything settings.
Handling the camera reminds me of Canon’s G11. It has a fairly chunky feel about it, although the NX10’s curves are more agreeable to the hold, and it feels tailored to the advanced user. For instance, scroll through settings and you’ll find among them a colour space (sRGB or Adobe RGB) option and the ability to adjust colour temperature by Kelvins; not features for beginners to grapple with.
Going the other way, the camera’s “Smart” setting, in which the camera analyses the scene and selects the best shooting mode for the situation, makes casual snapping a cinch, although it sometimes plays the wrong hand.
The picture wizard enables adjustments of image parameters with various presets plus three user-defined presets. Users without fully-featured image software, indeed those without computers at all, should find this useful.
For fans of HDR imaging, the +/-3 stops exposure bracketing drive mode is handy and the 30-frame in one second burst mode works a treat for analysing motion.
Images from the NX10 exceeded expectations. Colour handling and low light performance at ISO 3200 in particular was excellent, with image noise kept well in check.
In tricky lighting, such as an indoors backlit scene, the NX10’s auto exposure and image stabilisation rescued a shot that would have surely been lost to a photographer short on expertise.
The f2 30mm “pancake”, f3.5-f5.6 18-55mm and f4.0-f5.6 50-200mm lenses supplied for review showed some minor faults (such as barrel distortion in the zoom lens at the wide end) but, considering the asking price, there’s little room for complaint. There’s an optional K-mount adaptor for expanding the lens range. It allows for fitting Samsung DSLR GX series lenses.
The NX10’s AF worked well in most situations except, predictably, low-contrast scenes, where it often hunted for the subject.
The electronic viewfinder sometimes struggles to maintain a real-time preview as you adjust zoom length. This may be frustrating when shooting sports or other subjects that rapidly change their distance from the camera.
Apart from some jelly effect when shooting handheld, quality of the NX10’s 720p HD movie capture is consistent with oher cameras in this class, but you can’t zoom and re-focus while recording, which is just as well given the microphone picks up the noise of zoom adjustments.
If you can get past some minor usability issues, what you get with the NX10 is an appealing balance of features that will sit comfortaby with the more advanced user who wants the flexibility of this camera/lens system without the weight/size burden of a full DSLR kit.
Most impressively, Samsung has managed to offer the NX10 with very competitive pricing. Definitely worth a look, but it’s this unit’s successor that I’ll be be keeping an eye out for.