Samsung’s answer to Micro Four Thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus, the NX-10 was launched last week at Taronga Zoo, and GadgetGuy was on hand for its first safari among the animals.

While the NX-10 has the compact form of a traditional point and shoot camera, on the inside is a large APS-C sensor of the type found in prosumer-level digital SLRS such as the Canon 7D, which costs from $1600 (body only).

The NX10 also features the interchangeable lenses that are characteristic of digital SLR-type cameras, with three being available at launch. These include a 30mm pancake lens for wide angle shooting, a 50-200mm tele zoom and a 18-55mm standard zoom. The latter two have built-in image stablisation. A further five lenses will be available by 2011, according to Samsung.

Even though the NX-10 shares the mirror-less design of similar cameras from the Panasonic G and Olympus PEN series, Samsung is careful not to call it a Micro Four Thirds camera. Micro Four Thirds lenses cannot be used with the NX-10 and, initially at least, all NX-10 lenses will be proprietary to Samsung.

Internet rumour mills, however, are hot with reports about the development of an adaptor that will allow Pentax K-mount SLR lenses to be used by NX series cameras (auto-focus is unlikely to be supported using these lenses). The same rumour mills tip the appearance of a cheaper entry-level ‘NX series’ camera from Samsung, the NX-5.

Impressions

During our time with it, the NX-10 captured images that displayed excellent colour and accurate skin tones. We liked its shape and heft, and that fact that the kit bag – with three lenses – was around half the size and weight of a similar kit for an SLR.

The menu system was easy to navigate, and we especially enjoyed the video (720p MP4 and H.264 supported) and burst modes (30fps). The 3 inch AMOLED screen, too, was a delight; even in bright conditions and at extreme off-axis viewing angles, the scene in the screen was easy to see.

This wasn’t the case for night scenes, though, when the screen displayed mostly noise and, indeed, next to nothing of what was visible to the naked eye.

The viewfinder in the NX is electronic, engaging automatically when it senses your face against the camera and switching off the main screen. While doubtlessly neat feature to use during daylight conditions, in the dark it revealed even less of the scene to be framed than the AMOLED screen, meaning we were literally shooting blind.

The NX exhibited a larger degree of shutter lag than we expected, and some lenses were not as quick to focus as others. Generally, we found multi-point focus was faster and more accurate than spot focus.

Ergonomically, the controls on the rear of the camera are spaced to far to the right for our hands; we frequently ‘mashed’ the buttons with the length of our thumb as we gripped the camera, launching us into unexpected new settings.