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Samsung NX210 Preview

by Shawn Barnett, , and Dave Etchells
Preview Posted: 04/19/2012

Looking nearly identical to the Samsung NX200, the NX210 is designed to appeal to the stealthy street shooter and camera enthusiast, its main upgrade being the addition of a built-in Wi-i radio. Like the NX200, the Samsung NX210's no-nonsense blend of curves and hard edges appeals to the eyes as well as the hands. Whether it performs as well as looks similar to the NX200 will have to wait until we get a unit into the lab, though Samsung tells us the sensor is improved, but similar.

The Samsung NX210's grip is just right for the size, rising like a swell about to break, there are no dips top to bottom, but the soft leather texture and knurled pad for the fingertips provide ample hold. The only thing to disturb my grip is the strap lugs, which work with D-rings.

Though their noise can enter videos, they're apparently popular among camera designers and enthusiasts alike, as they seem to appear in more cameras these days.

The front vertical surfaces are all curved while the horizontal surfaces are flat and hard-edged. Typical of Samsung, it's an aggressively artistic design that also works. While the NX100 appeared very artsy and even sensual, the NX200 and NX210 look more serious.


The power switch surrounds the shutter button. This is the most logical location for a power switch, and seems to be appearing on more interchangeable-lens cameras. The Mode dial has some new and unusual icons, including one for WiFi, and is well-positioned for easy turning. The dial on the NX210 was stiff enough to prevent accidental turning while in a bag or large pocket.

Stereo microphones flank the hot shoe. Four speaker holes are nearby as well. A small top control dial is positioned about where it was on the NX210's predecessor. I'd have preferred it a little further forward, as well as a little larger, but I'm glad there's a second dial for greater control. It's labeled for zooming in and out in Playback mode, but it's also used in several modes and menus.


Much of the beauty of the Samsung NX210 is beheld in the AMOLED screen. Not only is the image on the screen quite good, the graphical interface is both impressive and well done. More importantly, the animations are fast enough that they don't get in the way.

Based on our experience with the NX200, the NX210's controls are reasonably well spaced. The main graphical adjustments are accessed by pressing the Fn button, which brings up the Smart Panel, a menu navigated via the four way and the rear wheel, and options are changed via the dial on the top deck. I'd have preferred the function button to appear where the EV or Menu button is, as it's more frequently accessed than even the Menu button. EV is in a good place, though. You hold it and turn the dial on the top deck. Very natural. And the Video Record button is far enough from the thumb grip, but is in danger of accidental activation as well.

Found on the side of the lenses, Samsung's i-Function button allows the user to quickly adjust a small range of settings in combination with the focus ring. When pressed in PASM modes, the camera toggles among shutter speed, aperture, EV, ISO, White Balance, and intelli-Zoom. Once you've reached your desired setting, turning the ring adjusts that parameter.

The NX210's 20.3 megapixel, APS-C CMOS image sensor is developed in-house. It's closely related to that seen previously in the NX200, but with some tweaks to circuitry.

The design includes on-chip A/D conversion. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 12,800 equivalents, in 1 EV or 1/3 EV steps.

Burst shooting performance has increased just slightly from the NX200. Samsung says that the NX210 can manage eight frames per second, for eight raw or 11 JPEG frames.

You can also opt for a slower 3fps rate, for a JPEG buffer depth of 15 frames. Shutter lag should be somewhere in the region of 65 milliseconds.

The NX210 accepts Samsung NX-mount lenses, and the company now offers nine different lens models, including four zooms and five primes, three of them pancakes.

Among these is a new version of the 20-50mm lens that's 30% less deep than its predecessor. 2012 model-year kit lenses now feature metal lens mounts; the NX210 kit includes an 18-55mm optic.

Samsung NX-series camera use in-lens stabilization. Autofocus performance is manufacturer-rated at around 100 milliseconds, the same as was claimed for the NX200.

The NX210 supports i-Function 2.0, which allows adjustment of even more variables with the lens ring, including Smart Filters and intelli-Zoom, the latter being a digital zoom / crop function.

On the rear panel of the NX210 is a 3.0-inch active matrix organic LED (AMOLED) panel. The VGA display has a PenTile array with each pixel comprised of only two subpixels, instead of the more typical three.

Samsung's Smart Panel function, seen previously in the NX200, is retained for the new model, and makes light work of adjusting common exposure variables.

The NX210 has a 221 segment metering system that operates on data from the main image sensor, and considers the scene as a grid of 17 x 13 distinct areas. Multi, Center-weighted, and Spot metering modes are available, and the working range is 0 to 18 EV (ISO 100, 30mm, f/2.0).

Exposure modes include Program, Aperture- and Shutter-priority, Manual, Smart Auto, Lens Priority, Magic, Scene, Movie, and WiFi. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 EV steps, plus a bulb mode. The latter has a hard limit of four minutes. +/-3.0 EV of exposure compensation is available, again in 1/3 EV steps.

There are no less than ten Smart Filter modes (Vignetting, Miniature, Fish-Eye, Sketch, De-fog, Halftone Dots, Soft Focus,Old Film1, Old Film2, and Negative), twelve Picture Wizard modes, plus 13 Magic Frame modes which place your image inside a variety of frames such as an advertising billboard or newspaper. There's also a new Selective Color filter which desaturates most of your image, while retaining one of four colors.

You can also create panoramas in-camera with the Live Panorama function.

A handy addition to the NX210 is its new dual-axis level gauge function, which will make it easier to ensure horizons are true, and verticals parallel.

The NX210 lacks a built-in flash, but ships bundled with the SEF8A external strobe. This has a guide number of eight meters at ISO 100, and 28mm coverage. X-sync is at 1/180 second or less.

The external strobe mounts in a standard hot shoe on the top deck of the NX210. The most powerful Samsung strobe currently is the ED-SEF42A, with a guide number of 42 meters.

As well as strobes, the hot shoe also accepts a proprietary, body-powered external stereo microphone.

The Samsung EM10 external mic is particularly interesting for two reasons. It has adjustable levels and a built-in headphone jack for monitoring. Even cooler, unlike most competing solutions, it requires no clumsy external cables: A/D conversion is performed by the mic itself, and data is then transferred to the camera through the hot shoe. Nice!

Another new accessory for the NX210 is the optional SR2NX02 remote shutter release, which is not backwards-compatible with the NX200. This cabled remote plugs into the NX210's USB port.

The NX210's video mode allows high-def movies to be captured at a maximum resolution of 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, aka Full HD), with a rate of 30 frames per second. The NX210's movies are recorded in MP4 format using H.264 video compression and AAC audio, in one of two quality levels.  Manual and priority exposure are possible for movie capture. As with the NX200, there are also slow motion modes, and you can apply certain Smart Filter functions in movie mode.

One of the most unusual features of the NX210, shared with both of its simultaneously-announced siblings, is built-in 802.11 ABGN WiFi Direct connectivity.

The NX210 can connect to networks, or it can serve as a node itself. Once connected, not surprisingly, you can share content on social networks such as Facebook, Picasa, and YouTube.

You can also send emails with your photos attached, directly from the camera.

Another no-brainer: you can automatically back up your photos to a PC on your local network.

Perhaps the coolest feature for our money, though, is the ability to connect to your phone or tablet, and get a live viewfinder feed on the remote device.

Connectivity options include a Micro USB 2.0 High Speed data jack which supports the previously-mentioned remote release, an HDMI 1.4a high-def video output, and external mic / flash hot shoe connectors. You can also use the NX210 with the company's WGS84 GPS module. Images tagged using this module can be viewed in Google Maps through the bundled intelli-Studio software package, and location names can be viewed on-screen in English or Korean.

Power comes courtesy of a BP1030 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, rated at 1,030mAh as hinted at by the model name. Battery life is CIPA-rated to 320 shots on a charge.

The Samsung NX210 compact system camera comes bundled with an 18-55mm kit lens, priced at around US$900. Availability in the US market is set for around mid-May 2012.

Analysis. We've all seen WiFi cameras come and go over the years, but this time may be different, for several reasons. First, WiFi itself is more ubiquitous than ever, with WiFi antennas even found recently on ski lift towers: WiFi is becoming the near-universal connectivity fabric of modern society.

What's different this time around is that these latest cameras have a whole lot more smarts to deal with WiFi interfacing, and there's also a new "WiFi Direct" protocol that makes it easy for devices to communicate with each other without the fiddling with network names, encryption types, etc, that was needed in the past. If there's an open WiFi network available, these new NX models will use that; but if not, they'll publish their own network to let a phone or computer connect to it.

Suddenly, rather than being islands unto themselves, cameras become true photo sharing hubs, able to email photos or upload to Facebook and YouTube or to a Samsung-provided cloud directly, automatically backup photos to your computer, let you use your smartphone or tablet as a remote viewfinder and shutter release, and connect to your cell phone for photo sharing even when there's no WiFi network around.

We think this is just the first ripple of a wave that's going to sweep through the camera industry in the next few years: Two or three years from now, this sort of connectivity will be expected in cameras, rather than an unusual feature. You can wait for the coming wave, or get onboard now with these latest NX models from Samsung. One way or another, the WiFi wave is coming; you heard it here first.