Equipment Review: Samsung NX300

samsung-nx300-camera-10

Like any other big electronic companies that comes to mind such as Panasonic and Sony, having a camera division seems like a natural progression to Samsung.

We all know what the Chaebol has achieved in a very short time. They have produced memory chips, processors, monitors and of course, the Android flagship devices, the Galaxy Phones. I would go on to say that without Samsung, perhaps Android will still play second fiddle to iOS a scenario I believe that  tech geeks would not swallow easily.

With such success stories behind them, it is of little wonder why they would also try their hand on the consumer camera scene.

Let’s get some specifications/highlights:

Construction/Handling

Have no doubt about it. This camera is made for the masses and the material is unabashedly plastic. But one thing is going for them is that like their high end Galaxy phones, the camera body didn’t feel cheap at all but the same can’t be said of the Samsung Lens. The size is also comparable to the CSCs (compact camera system) offerings of Sony NEX, Panasonic/Olympus MFT, Fujifilm X, Canon EOS M and Nikon 1. The grip is also pretty good.

The buttons are small, akin to those I see on Panasonic/Olympus MFTs. I can engage the buttons pretty confidently but bigger buttons would be better. There is a mode dial and a jog wheel to change settings but ergonomically speaking the jog wheel is placed it the most awkward of position. If I want to change the settings via the jog wheel, my finger would inevitably be hindered by the mode dial as seen below.

Rear of the Samsung NX300 with tilt enabled screen.

The tilting screen is also something that a lot of people appreciate having so one can do discreet street photography ala Twin Lens Reflex box camera. Add to the fact that the screen is touch enabled, the user friendliness of mobile phone photography is now accessible to the user. Still, having a view finder do have its merits especially when it comes to night photography where stability is of utmost importance.

Image Quality

I would not go as much as to compare it at the minute details as per resolution/light fall off charts but for what it is offering as a package, I am pleasantly surprised with the image quality. For sure it won’t be at the level of top notch DSLR systems and even some of the other CSC systems but at the price point it is commanding, it is actually given a good amount of bang for a buck.  Generally I won’t use the camera up till its maximum at ISO25600. At ISO 800 it is doing really well during indoor and low light situation but I would avoid ISO1600 onwards where the noise reduction has create pastel effects on the subjects and visible ISO noise can be seen.

Here are some image samples:

ISO800 F3.6 1/40s. Good Artificial Light WB.
Great Skin Tone. JPEG distortion correction done great for subjects close to the side of the frame. ISO 800 F3.5 1/40s
Night time shot of Lan Kwai Fong out in the streets. Hand Held. ISO 400 F3.5 1/30s. Skin tone/white balance spot on.
Stairwell. ISO 800 F3.5 1/30s. Noise creeping in at the dark corners but generally very pleasing. White Balance spot on.
Night shot of Hong Kong Streets. Hand Held ISO400 1/10s f3.5
ISO 3200. Pastel/Painted/Smudge on the faces due to noise reduction algorithm.
Motion Panorama Shot. ISO 1600 F3.5 1/123s at 35mm equivalent.
Motion Panorama Shot at 18mm(24mm) focal length. Notice how subjects are squished ever so slightly

Test shots can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/sets/72157634740812165/

I have a lot of joy shooting Panorama on the NX300 however it is good to use 35mm focal length (or 24mm on the lens barrel) instead to avoid subject being squished.

The NX300 Unique Offering No. 1 – the iFn (iFunction) Lens

The premise of the iFn is actually not new. Some cameras called it the Q button or Quick button as it allows you quick access to the common settings in the camera. What’s unique about Samsung’s iteration is the location of the button – the lens barrel. At first it was something I wouldn’t think twice of using perhaps I got used to doing all the button pushing at the back of the camera. Over time one could actually understand why it is on the lens barrel. It allows access to ISO, Exposure Value Compensation, Auto White Balance and Digital Zoom. To access to a particular setting, just press the iFn button multiple times and use the focus ring to change the settings. This is much better than doing the button pushing at the back of the camera with the tiny buttons.

That said, the number of functions available is limited compared to the Fn button at the back of the camera. Sometimes too many ways of accessing settings could actually backfire as I use the iFn first then realised that the setting I needed to change such as metering mode or Picture Wizard (colour management system) can only be accessed via the Fn button at the back making it counter intuitive in the end.


The NX300 Unique Offering No. 2 – the Wi-Fi enabled Functions

The NX300 can the poster child of what consumer photography is going to look like. I would go on to say that the Galaxy Camera would be the ultimate Social Media camera and the NX300 would be somewhere between the Galaxy Camera and ‘traditional’ photography equipment. Unlike the Galaxy Camera, the NX300 would need the use of a smartphone/tablet in order to upload photos unto the Internet to Facebook, Picasa, Youtube, Skydrive, emails, twitter etc.  However there are some notable wi-fi enabled features that may look gimmicky to some but would be a great tool to have in a camera in the future. It certainly will cause others to think of ways to incorporate usage of the smartphones into the photography eco-system.

Linking the smartphone to the camera is fairly simple. Just go into Google Play or App Store and download the Samsung Camera App. Use the NFC to link the Smartphone and the Camera. When Autoshare is enabled, any photos shot with the camera is automatically forwarded to the smartphone or tablet. The other great feature would be the Remote Viewfinder. You can set up the camera to do a self portraiture or to trigger the camera when it is out of your reach.

Self Portraiture using the Samsung Smartphone Camera App. Adjust where the camera is pointing, put in the timer and click the shutter button, all done through the App.

The NX300 Unique Offering No. 3 – the super high shutter speed of 1/6000s

Super high shutter speed = drops of water photography, sports, kids, cycling, running…so long one has good light source.

 

What Can be Improved?

If there is a design brief about a very capable consumer CSC camera, the NX300 has done very well indeed with the smartphone enabled features and Image Quality at ISO800 and below, features that will be accepted by the consumer crowd. For the more discerning however, the ISO performance is still not on par with the very best in the CSC arena and then coupled with the fact that the lens offering is still not as extensive as the competitors, the NX300 have a lot of work to convince would be supporters to switch over. The work around of course is to make use of lens adaptors and the lens choice would be extended but the caveat would be the lack of auto focus.

And then there’s the general ‘feel’ of the product. Although I do not have a huge issue with the camera itself, the competition has offerings that gave a more premium look and feel. It is also not as ergonomic, but it is better than the Sony NEX to this writer.

Since it is social media centric, having mobile broadband with the camera would be an added boost since the public Wi-Fi in Singapore is nothing to shout about and with its archaic log on procedure, the NX300 is not equipped to share pictures/video via such methods. The only way is to whip out the smartphone and use the Samsung Camera App and that uses up the Smartphone battery fairly quickly if left unchecked.

The other thing is the high shutter speed of 1/6000s. It can be a good thing for those into sports but the lack of a huge buffer when engaging multiple shots would render the camera inoperable until all the photos are saved. This would cause shots to be missed during that time.

Conclusion

Having played with some of the Chaebol’s camera offerings in the past, the Samsung NX300 has indeed surprised me. I find myself able to use it quite intuitively and coupled with the Wi-Fi enabled features, it is certainly something I can use on a daily basis. The panoramic feature is a joy to use as well just that one has to be mindful on the focal length used to ensure the image is correctly captured. The things that count against the camera is the over enthusiastic noise reduction algorithm being employed, the ISO performance and the lack of lens range at least in the Singapore context.

The NX300 is available in Singapore at $999.00 with kit lens and a flash. It is available in white, black and brown colours.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Equipment Review: Samsung NX300

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s