Samsung NX10 Review

 
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Samsung NX10 Optics

Samsung NX Lenses

The Samsung NX10 features an all-new, proprietary lens mount, dubbed "NX". Samsung's NX format is very similar to Micro Four Thirds in concept, eliminating the mirror box to save weight and size, and using Live View display to frame images. Since the sensor is APS-C sized, the lens mount is a little bigger than Micro Four Thirds, but smaller than most APS-C SLRs because the distance from flange to sensor is shorter in an SLD (Single Lens Direct-view) compared to an SLR (Single Lens Reflex). Lenses are mounted to the body using a bayonet system. A small button on the front of the camera releases the lens from its mount, so it can be turned and removed.

As of this writing in early 2010, there are only three NX lenses available: the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS optically stabilized zooms, and an unstabilized 30mm f/2.0 pancake. Five other lenses have also been announced: a compact 20-50mm f/34.5-5.6, a 20mm f/2.8 wide-angle pancake, an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OIS zoom, a 60mm f/2.8 macro and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 non OIS model. Availability and pricing of the new lenses is not known at this time.

One important point relates to backwards compatibility. Samsung has released several digital SLRs in the past, through a cooperation with Pentax, and both companies as well as a number of third parties have sold numerous lenses using Pentax's K-mount. Rivals Olympus and Panasonic offer an adapter which allows photographers to use standard Four Thirds lenses on their Micro Four Thirds bodies, sharing lenses between both systems - albeit with some limitations. Samsung plans to offer an adapter that will allow NX cameras to accept K-mount lenses, but we don't have details on its availability, price, or any limitations.

As you'd expect of an interchangeable lens camera, especially one that leaves the shutter open most of the time to facilitate Live View, the Samsung NX10 also includes a dust reduction system, with the system adopted by Samsung using supersonic vibrations to combat dust. Sensor cleaning can be initiated manually, or can be programmed to run at each start-up.

 

Lens Test Results

18-55mm Zoom
Very good performance with the 18-55mm OIS kit lens.

18mm @ f/8 55mm @ f/8

The Samsung NX10 is available bundled with the Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 NX OIS lens, the first NX mount zoom lens. This lens possesses a very typical optical zoom ratio of about 3x, with a 35mm equivalent focal range is about 28-85mm because of the NX10's approximately 1.5x "crop factor." Results were quite good at 18mm, with strong detail across most of the frame and only minor softness in the corners (at f/8). Coma distortion in the trees was low, but there was a moderate amount of chromatic aberration visible along high contrast elements near the edges of the image. Results were even better at the 55mm setting, with very good sharpness across the frame and almost no chromatic aberration. Overall, very good results for a kit lens, and the built-in image stabilization should come in handy for low-light shooting. The Samsung NX10 does not offer a digital zoom mode.

 

30mm f/2 Pancake
Excellent results with the 30mm f/2 "Pancake" lens.

30mm f/2 lens @ f/8 18-55mm @ 29mm, f/8

Also available at this time is the 30mm f/2 NX lens. It performs a bit better than the kit lens at roughly the same focal length and f/8, with excellent sharpness across the frame, less geometric distortion, and negligible amounts of chromatic aberration. We used it for most of our studio shots where we examine image quality and sensor performance. Compare the 30mm prime to the 18-55mm kit lens in the shots above. Note that the 30mm f/2 NX lens is not optically stabilized.

Macro
18-55mm: A larger than average area (for an SLD* kit lens), with very good detail in the center. Flash was partially blocked by the lens.

Macro with
18-55mm kit lens
Macro with Flash

As with zoom performance, the Samsung NX10's macro performance will depend entirely on the lens in use. However with the 18-55mm kit lens set to 55mm, the Samsung NX10 captured a larger than average minimum area measuring 3.62 x 2.41 inches (92 x 61 millimeters). Resolution and detail were good in the center, however corners were quite soft, and the softness extended fairly far into the frame. (Most lenses have some softening in the corners at macro distances.) The built-in flash did a good job throttling down, but the lens casts a shadow along the bottom resulting in an uneven exposure. You'll need to use external lighting at closest focusing distance. Overall, a slightly disappointing result here, especially given how much corner softness there is for the lower-than-average amount of magnification.

 

30mm Pancake: We haven't taken macro test shots with the 30mm lens, but with a maximum magnification of only 0.16x vs the 18-55mm's 0.22x, its minimum coverage area would be even larger. The built-in flash should have no problem clearing it though.

*SLD = Single Lens Direct-view

Geometric Distortion
18-55mm: Higher than average geometric distortion at both wide angle and telephoto.

18-55mm: Barrel distortion at 18mm is 0.9 percent
18-55mm: Pincushion distortion at 55mm is 0.6 percent

The Samsung NX10's 18-55mm kit lens produced about 0.9 percent barrel distortion at wide-angle, which is higher than average and noticeable in some of its images. At the telephoto end, there's about 0.6 percent pincushion distortion, also higher than average and quite noticeable in some images. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

 

30mm Pancake: Low geometric distortion.

30mm f/2: Barrel distortion is 0.3%

The Samsung 30mm f/2 NX Pancake lens showed about 0.3% barrel distortion, which is hardly noticeable. Excellent performance given its ultra compact size.

The camera doesn't appear to be applying any geometric distortion correction to its JPEGs, as uncorrected RAW files show the same amount of distortion.

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
18-55mm: JPEGs have moderate but not very bright chromatic aberration at wide angle; lower levels at full telephoto. The lens produced some slightly soft corners.

18-55mm OIS kit lens
Wide: upper right
C.A.: Moderate but not very bright
Softness: Minor blurring
Wide: center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp
Tele: upper right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Very slight blurring
Tele: center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration in the corners with the NX10's 18-55mm kit lens at wide angle (18mm) is moderate in terms of the number of pixels, but not very bright, so the effect is not that noticeable. At full telephoto (55mm), C.A. is lower, and even less noticeable.  In both cases, the color fringing gradually reduces in brightness and width as it approaches the center of the image, where it is almost nonexistent. Good performance here, but see below.

Corner Softness. The Samsung NX10's 18-55mm kit lens produced some soft corners in a few shots. At full wide-angle, the right hand side corners were a little softer than the left, and the slight blurring extended quite far into the frame. The center of the image was sharp with good contrast. At full telephoto, the corners were only slightly soft, while the center was sharp. A much better than average performance for a kit lens here, especially considering the lens was wide-open for these shots. (Corner sharpness generally improves when a lens is "stopped-down" a couple of f-stops below full aperture.)

 

30mm Pancake: JPEGs have very low chromatic aberration. Corners only slightly soft compared to center.

30mm f/2 lens
Wide: upper right
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Very slight blurring
Wide: center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp

Chromatic Aberration. Chromatic aberration with the 30mm /f2 pancake lens is very low, almost nonexistent.

Corner Softness. The Samsung 30mm /f2 had slightly soft corners on the right-hand side, while the center is quite sharp and contrasty. This is an excellent performance, considering this shot was taken wide open at f/2.

 

18-55mm@18mm In-Camera JPEG 18-55mm@18mm ACR converted RAW
30mm In-Camera JPEG 30mm ACR converted RAW

C.A. Correction in JPEGs. As you can see from the top set of crops above comparing an in-camera JPEG (left) to an Adobe Camera Raw converted SRW file (right) from the 18-55mm lens, the Samsung NX10 does appear to be applying chromatic aberration correction during its processing of JPEG files. In the second set of crops the 30mm lens had low levels of C.A. to begin with, so there's very little difference between the JPEGs and converted RAW crops.

The included Samsung Raw Converter 3 software does not automatically correct for lens aberrations, but does have manual correction capability for chromatic aberration, geometric distortion and shading.

 

Samsung NX10 Viewfinder

Viewfinder Test Results

Accuracy
Very good accuracy from the AMOLED monitor and electronic viewfinder.

30mm, AMOLED 30mm, EVF

The Samsung NX10's AMOLED monitor and electronic viewfinder proved to be fairly accurate, both showing about 99% coverage with the Samsung 30mm f/2.0 prime lens. Very good results here.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung NX10 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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