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Samsung NX30 Review -- Now Shooting

Preview by Eamon Hickey and
Posted: 01/02/2014
Shooter's Report by John Shafer

Updates:
: Shooter's Report Part I: A comfortable, lightweight camera with great specs and performance

07/17/2014: Shooter's Report Part II: Performance & Action Shooting
08/07/2014: Shooter's Report Part III: Final Thoughts

Samsung NX30: Connected Flagship. Samsung's NX-series of mirrorless CSC cameras welcomes a new flagship with the NX30. Like its predecessor, the NX20, this new Samsung is styled like an SLR and it sports an improved version of the older camera's 20.3-megapixel APS-C format CMOS sensor. Much else is new, including Samsung's latest connectivity features, the improved hybrid AF system from the NX300, an extendable and tiltable electronic viewfinder, and a 3.5mm jack for external microphones.

Samsung NX30 review -- three quarter left view with LCD

Although it retains a characteristic family look, Samsung has taken a fresh pencil to the NX30's design, making it a bit bigger and heavier than the NX20 (13.2 oz. without batteries compared to 12 oz. for the NX20). Among the biggest changes is the new deeper grip, which gives the camera a very secure feel in the hand. We like the NX30's general heft and handling and the pre-production model we used feels precisely and solidly made. Many of the NX30's controls have been slightly tweaked or repositioned, but the overall layout is largely the same as the NX20. One exception is a new top-deck drive mode dial, which lets you directly select single image or burst shooting as well as bracketing or the self-timer.

Samsung NX30 review -- top view

While the sensor in the Samsung NX30 continues with the 20.3-megapixel resolution we've seen in several previous NX cameras, its performance has been improved by moving to a new manufacturing process that uses copper, rather than the more common aluminum, metal interconnects. The practical result is lower noise overall, which allowed Samsung to increase the camera's maximum ISO to 25,600 and may improve dynamic range at lower ISO settings. Although not exactly an intrinsic camera feature, we'll note here that the NX30 will come bundled with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 in the U.S., rather than the Samsung Raw Converter 4.0 software that came with the NX20.

The NX30 also gets Samsung's latest AF system, a hybrid of contrast detection and on-chip phase detection, dubbed "Samsung NX AF System II" and first seen on the NX300.  The system includes 105 phase-detection AF points, with several cross-type sensors in the middle area of the frame (we're working to confirm how many), and 247 contrast-detection AF points. We couldn't subject the NX30's AF to any kind of comprehensive test -- and we had no moving targets to test with -- but in our limited use we found the system to be fast and decisive on stationary subjects. We were generally impressed with this same AF system when we reviewed it on the NX300, and have no reason to think it won't be as good or better on the NX30. Also on the performance front, the NX30's maximum shutter speed is 1/8000s, and it can shoot at a burst rate of 9 frames-per-second.

Samsung NX30 review -- three quarter shot from rear

Perhaps the most noticeable new feature on the Samsung NX30 is its pull-out, tiltable electronic viewfinder, which boasts 2.4 million dot, XGA (1024 x 768) resolution. It can tilt up as far as 80 degrees. The viewfinder did indeed appear as sharp to the eye as the specifications would suggest, but in our short indoor hands-on with it we couldn't evaluate its ability to handle bright and especially high-contrast scenes (often the Achilles heel of EVFs). The tilting function works very handily, and we think it'll be especially useful for tripod and macro shooting in bright light where the articulating monitor might not be as easy to view. That monitor is a new 3-inch Super AMOLED tilt-and-swivel touch display with 1.04 million dot resolution (288 ppi). Again, we had no bright outdoor light to test it under, but it's very crisp and vivid. Sitting above the EVF is a built-in flash with a guide number of 11 (meters) at ISO 100.

Samsung NX30 review -- three quarter right view

Samsung has been a leader in providing its dedicated cameras with features for Internet connectivity and image sharing, and the NX30 introduces the next generation of these capabilities. They include "Tag & Go" and "Photo Beam," which let users transfer images to NFC enabled smartphones and other devices with a tap. Other capabilities include remote viewing and control of the NX30 from a smartphone, the ability to broadcast images to up to four smart devices simultaneously, automatic transfer of images to a smartphone or tablet, and Dropbox and Flickr integration in selected regions.

Several video enhancements round out the Samsung NX30's list of features. Like most mirrorless CSC models, the camera can record Full HD video (we're confirming exact specifications) with stereo sound. Unlike many other still cameras, it also has a 3.5mm jack for an external microphone and an audio level meter that appears on the display. Even better, audio input levels can be manually adjusted. The NX30 can also stream 1920 x 1080 30p Full HD video output through its HDMI port, letting you connect it to large-screen displays, external video recorders, and other HDMI devices.

The Samsung NX30 ships from February 2014 bundled with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS III kit lens, at a suggested retail price of US$999.99.

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Samsung NX30 Shooter's Report Part I

A comfortable, lightweight camera with great specs and performance

by John Shafer | 06/09/2014

Samsung NX30 shooter's report photo This was my first opportunity to spend some quality time with a Samsung interchangeable lens camera, and I was really looking forward to it. On paper, Samsung NX cameras have a very competitive feature-set and excellent performance specs. I was excited to see how the NX30 performs compared to other mirrorless cameras I've used -- especially at action performance and image quality. Samsung sent me the NX30 in a kit with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 image-stabilized zoom lens. The camera is spec'd with a 20-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC, 9 frames per second high-speed burst, hybrid auto focus, a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), 3-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, i-Function control system, and Full HD video at 60 frames per second. It definitely looks great on paper. But do those specs measure up to a great camera in real life?

In this first part of my NX30 shooter's report, I'll share my general, first-impressions of the camera -- handling, basic elements, image quality, and standout features -- especially the built-in Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder and the i-Function controls.

The NX30 looks great on paper, but how does it handle in the real world?

Samsung NX30 Shooter's Report Part I

Samsung NX30 Shooter's Report Part II

Performance & Action Shooting

by John Shafer | 07/17/2014

Samsung NX30 shooter's report photoI'm primarily an outdoor action-sports photographer who spends a lot of time way up in the mountains, I'm always interested in small, light cameras that have great action performance. The NX30 can shoot full-resolution raw bursts as fast as nine frames per second. That's fast -- faster than the Canon EOS 7D I've been using for most of my action shooting over the past few years.

The NX30 also has a hybrid autofocus system that combines contrast-detection and phase-detection autofocus for increased accuracy and speed. My contacts at Samsung assured me that the camera's action performance was amazing, and that I would be impressed. I've had a chance to shoot a lot of mountain biking with it now, and I am prepared to pass judgment. Read on to learn how the NX30 performed in my world -- a world dominated my mountain biking and other high-speed activities of doubtful value.

The NX30 gets pushed to the limit with action and sports photography.

Read Shooter's Report Part II

Samsung NX30 Shooter's Report Part III

A worthy option: solid performance and image quality at a great value

by John Shafer | 08/07/2014

Samsung NX30 shooter's report photo I spent over a month getting to know the Samsung NX30. I took nearly 3500 pictures with it, and I pushed it hard -- probably harder than most people ever will. It's a solid all-purpose enthusiast camera with great features, a travel-friendly body, and for the most part, the performance is great. Overall, I was very pleased with what I was able to do with it. I shot high-speed action, landscapes, food porn, people photos, low light photos, and video; and the NX30 handled most everything very well.

It wasn't all perfect, though. I had some problems with the camera locking up, the color wasn't exactly to my taste, and the continuous auto focus didn't live up to my expectations. For those who want all the nitty-gritty on the auto focus, I went into it in detail in part II of my NX30 Shooter's Report. Basically, it's okay for casual use with slow-moving subjects. But for anything that's moving quickly, it can't keep up at all. Don't expect to be able to track Formula One racing, or even your kid's soccer games with the NX30. To be fair, though, it's pretty much on par with most other mirrorless cameras. As a rule, when it comes to mirrorless cameras and continuous auto focus -- don't believe the hype. You can certainly take great action photos without continuous auto focus, though. You just need to pre-focus and plan them a little more carefully.

Read Part III for John's final thoughts on Samsung's flagship mirrorless camera.

Read Shooter's Report Part III


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