Samsung NX10 Review
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Samsung NX10 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Bright, intense colors, but with pretty good hue accuracy overall.
Skin tones. Here, when adjusted for the correct white balance, the Samsung NX10 did well, producing natural-looking skin tones which were just slightly on the pinkish side conveying a healthy looking glow. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Samsung NX10 did push cyan toward blue, dark red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green, but shifts were relatively minor to moderate. With an average "delta-C" color error of only 5.79 after correction for saturation, overall hue accuracy was pretty good. Hue is "what color" the color is.
The Samsung NX10 offers nine preset "Picture Wizard" options, plus three custom options. You can adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness and color tone for any of the settings.
|Picture Wizard Options|
Mouse over the links above to see the effect of the presets on our Still Life target. You can click on a link to load the full resolution image.
Samsung NX10 lets you adjust image saturation (as well as contrast and sharpness) in nine steps. As can be seen below, the saturation adjustment was quite effective and covers a useful range, but it does impact contrast somewhat. This is not uncommon though, as it's pretty tricky not to impact contrast when adjusting saturation so much.
|Saturation Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with every other saturation setting, including the default and the two extremes. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.
|See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Very warm cast with Auto, but good color with the Incandescent and Manual settings. Average amount of positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was very warm with the Auto white balance setting. Results with the Incandescent setting were quite good; very similar to the Manual setting which was the most accurate. The Manual WB setting was just a touch cool, though. The 2,600 Kelvin setting which matches the color temperature of our lights resulted in an image with a greenish tint to it. The Samsung NX10 required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.3 EV. Overall color looks good, though the blue flowers look slightly purplish, probably due to the NX10's tendency to punch up reds a little. ((Many digital cameras reproduce the blue flowers here with more of a purplish tint, so the Samsung NX10 performs about average here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)
Vibrant colors overall, though with a tendency toward a cool cast and slightly high contrast under harsh lighting. Better than average exposure accuracy.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Samsung NX10 tended toward a cooler color balance when set to Auto white balance. We preferred the Manual white balance version for our "Sunlit" Portrait test, as the Auto version was a touch cool, with a slight magenta cast to it. The NX10 required + 0.3 EV exposure compensation to keep facial tones reasonably bright on the model. The average for this shot is +0.7 EV, so that's pretty good. Using +0.3 EV left the model's face a little dark, but there were still a few blown highlights in her shirt, pendant and flowers. The NX10 did a pretty good job with the Far-field House shot, clipping just a few highlights at default exposure. Color balance was also a bit on the cool side, though. Default contrast is on the high side, but fortunately, there's Smart Range and a contrast adjustment to help compensate. Overall, good results here, but see the Extremes section below.
Very high resolution, 1,800 to 2,000 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,800 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
2,000 lines vertical
|Strong detail to
2,000 lines horizontal
ACR processed SRW
|Strong detail to
2,000 lines vertical
ACR processed SRW
In camera JPEGs our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 2,000 lines per picture height in the vertical direction. Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur until about 2,600 to 2,800 lines. We were able to extract a bit more resolution in the horizontal direction (about 2,000 lines) by processing the NX10's SRW files using Adobe Camera Raw 5.7 beta. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Pretty good sharpness overall, though fine detail is a bit soft and there are minor edge-enhancement artifacts on some high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements with some visible
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.
Sharpness. The Samsung NX10 captures fairly sharp images overall, though some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the thicker branches, roof and trim in the crop above left. (Most noticeable on edges of white trim against the brick; note the light halo there.) Fine detail such as the smaller branches and twigs show very little edge enhancement, but they also appear a little soft. The NX10 offers 9 levels of sharpening though, so you can always tweak JPEG output to your taste. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows some moderate noise suppression artifacts in the darkest areas of the model's hair, smudging individual strands together, though quite a few strands are visible. Overall, results are still pretty good here but not quite as good as some APS-C sensors. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Samsung NX10 produces fairly sharp in-camera JPEGs, though fine detail can be a little soft. As is almost always the case, more detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs. The Samsung NX10's JPEGs are not bad straight from the camera, but as is almost always the case more detail is visible after processing in a good RAW converter. Take a look below, to see what we mean:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking on the link will load the full resolution image.
As you can see, the Samsung Raw Converter 3 conversion at the defaults resulted in an image that is quite a bit softer than the in-camera JPEG. (Normally, manufacturer provided converters produce results very similar to in-camera JPEGs at default settings, but Samsung Raw Converter 3 is a rebadged version of SilkyPix, so it probably doesn't implement the same image processing algorithms as the camera.) The bundled RAW converter has quite a few features and presets, but we found the best results by using the defaults in the editor itself, and then applying unsharp masking of 250% with a radius of 0.3 when generating the output JPEG. (There's no interactive preview doing it that way, but it produces very good results.) The Adobe Camera Raw conversion also contains more fine detail than the camera JPEG, though color rendering and contrast is a bit different. The ACR version also shows a bit more noise. We used ACR 5.7 beta since the previous version did not support the NX10, so conversion results may improve with future versions of Adobe Camera Raw. (The released version of ACR 5.7 also doesn't list the Samsung NX10 as officially supported.)
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise with good detail up to ISO 800, high noise at higher ISOs.
Default High ISO Noise Reduction
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200|
The Samsung NX10's images are quite clean at ISO 100, and ISO 200 is almost as clean. There is however some noticeable detail loss due to noise reduction in areas of very low contrast already at ISO 100, such as certain areas of the green fabric in the model's jacket. We start to see some noise "grain" ISO 400, but fine detail is still pretty good, with just a hint of chroma noise creeping into the shadows. The grain structure is more noticeable at ISO 800, but the camera doesn't smudge as much detail away as some others at this ISO, giving the image more of a film grain look. ISO 1,600, there is a noticeable increase in chroma noise, but the grain is still fairly tight, leaving some fine detail intact. At ISO 3,200, fine detail takes a bigger hit with the noise grain obscuring much of it, giving it a stippled appearance. There's actually less chroma noise at ISO 3,200 due to default high ISO noise reduction, though color balance and saturation suffers a bit. Overall, good results considering the size of the camera, but noise is higher than APS-C benchmarks such as the Nikon D90 and Pentax K-x. Unfortunately, the Samsung NX10 offers very little control over noise reduction -- just On/Off at ISO 3,200, with the default being On. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.
A note about focus for this shot: We usually shoot this image at f/4, using one of three very sharp reference lenses (70mm Sigma f/2.8 macro for most cameras, 60mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro for Nikon bodies without a drive motor, Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 for Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds bodies). Unfortunately, Samsung doesn't have an NX prime lens with sufficient focal length for this shot, so we had to use the kit 18-55mm lens here. Luckily, it's pretty sharp at telephoto. To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. If you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us about it; we already know it. :-) The focus target position will simply have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.
As mentioned above, the Samsung NX10's default noise reduction can be a little heavy-handed depending on the subject, even at base ISO. To make matters worse there are no NR adjustments offered, except at ISO 3,200. We didn't take RAW shots of our Indoor Portrait scene above, but we have some from our Still Life target below. Also look for our RAW crops page once the full review is posted.
|In-Camera JPEG, ISO 100
|Converted RAW, ISO 100
The above crops compare an in-camera JPEG to a dcraw converted RAW file. Both shots were taken at ISO 100, and the converted RAW has no noise reduction applied. Notice how the leaf pattern has a lot more detail in the converted RAW file. A lot of digital cameras struggle with reproducing fine detail in the red fabric's leaf pattern at higher ISOs, but we were a little surprised to see this happening to this extent in a camera with an APS-C sensor at the base ISO.
|In-Camera JPEG, ISO 100
|Converted RAW, ISO 100
We also noticed quite a few hot or dead pixels at ISO 100 that weren't properly substituted in areas close to a high contrast transition such as in the text of a bottle label, or along the edges of the color patches in the above crops. They aren't as apparent at higher ISOs, being obscured by noise. This is reminiscent of the "Phantom Pixel" issue we saw with earlier generation Pentax SLRs. This shouldn't be an issue for most prints, but it is something to be aware of. Unfortunately, the Samsung NX10 does not offer built-in hot/dead pixel remapping, at least not user controllable via a menu option.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but somewhat high default contrast. Good low-light performance.
|0 EV||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
Sunlight. The Samsung NX10 struggled a bit with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test, as do a lot of cameras. Some strong highlights were clipped in the white shirt, flowers and pendant, but not as many as most consumer cameras. Shadow detail is pretty good, albeit a bit noisy. We preferred the +0.7 EV exposure overall, because the exposure of the skin tone in the face was better than +0.3 EV, without blowing out nearly as many highlights as with +1.0 EV. +0.5 EV would have probably been ideal. Depending on the photographer, you could lean one way or the other. Advanced users will want to shoot darker, to hold highlight detail. For those NX10 owners that are going to want to just print an image, the +1.0 image would probably produce the best-looking print with little or no tweaking. The bottom line though, is that the NX10 struggled in harsh lighting, producing ether a slightly dim face with good highlight retention in the shirt, or an overexposed face with a lot of blown highlights.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)
As mentioned previously, the camera's contrast adjustment wasn't much help in taming blown highlights in this harsh lighting.
|Contrast set to lowest,
|Contrast set to lowest,
At its lowest contrast setting, the Samsung NX10 didn't do much better at preserving highlight detail. (It may look like it helped in the Sunlit Portrait shot above, but the better highlight retention is because of the lower exposure used in our Contrast series than the image we picked for best exposure of the face. You can see what we mean by looking at the Far-field House shot on the right, which still has about the same amount of highlights clipped as the default contrast.) However, at the lowest contrast setting midtones and shadows were boosted quite a bit.
|Contrast Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with every other contrast setting, including the default and two extremes. It's pretty hard to evaluate small differences in contrast on small thumbnails like these, click on any thumbnail to go to the full-size image. It's nice that Samsung offers such a wide range of settings, but as mentioned previously, the NX10's contrast adjustment helps very little with strong highlights here, working mostly in the midtones and shadows. There is also some impact on saturation too, most noticeable in the facial tones and flowers.
|Outdoor Portrait Smart Range Example|
|Off, ISO 100, 0 EV||On, ISO 200, 0 EV|
(Levels adjusted equally in Photoshop to show noise)
Smart Range is Samsung's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. It works similar to Canon's Highlight Tone Priority, preserving highlights at the expense of noisier shadows. The above shots aren't the best examples because very few highlights were blown at 0 EV to begin with. (See below for a better example.) However, we can see some of the brighter highlights have been tamed with it enabled. Smart Range doesn't seem to affect levels in the shadows much, but because it uses ISO 200 there is more noise visible. The NX10 attempts to compensate by applying stronger noise reduction than it usually does at ISO 200, which leads to additional loss of detail and some blotchiness in the shadows.
|Far Field Smart Range Example|
|Off, ISO 100, 0 EV||On, ISO 200, 0 EV|
This is a better example of Smart Range at work, because more highlights were clipped in our Far Field House shot at the default exposure than our Outdoor Portrait shot. Here we can clearly see better highlight retention in the white trim with it enabled, though shadows are still quite dark with less detail because of the higher ISO and increased noise reduction. (Notice the loss of detail in the grout lines, lamp, etc.)
|Off at 0 EV||On at 0 EV|
Like most Point & Shoot cameras these days (and some DSLRs in Live View mode), the Samsung NX10 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. The NX10 does it automatically in Portrait and Beauty Shot scene modes, or when Face Detection AF mode is selected. As you can see from the examples above, it really works, as the image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face without having to use exposure compensation. While the face is just slightly overexposed, the exposure is much better than when no exposure compensation was used. A very good performance under very difficult lighting such as this.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. The Samsung NX10 performed fairly well in our low light test. Exposure metering worked well in low light, producing bright images down to the lowest light level we test at (1/16 fc) at all ISO settings, though we did notice a slight change in brightness as light levels changed. Noise is well controlled up to ISO 400, though at higher ISOs there are moderate amounts of fine luminance noise and blotchy chroma noise. Auto white balance did a good job here, producing fairly neutral color balance, though there's a greenish tint to images in the upper left hand corner at higher ISOs. There is just a hint of some horizontal banding at very high ISOs, but that's not uncommon these days.
The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to between the 1/4 and 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted with the 18-55mm kit lens. That isn't as good as most digital SLRs, but good for a camera using contrast-detect autofocus. The NX10 was able to focus in complete darkness with its built-in focus assist lamp enabled.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The NX10 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of most SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the NX10's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots, (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
ISO 100 images look smooth and buttery at 16x20. Not obnoxiously sharp, not jaggy, but quite nice. This is also the only size where the dead pixels we noted earlier seem to appear, and only if you're looking closely.
ISO 200 shots also look good at this size, very little difference is detectable.
ISO 400 shots look a little better at 13x19 inches, with only the dreaded red leaf swatch looking a little softer. Some chroma noise also starts to appear in the shadows.
ISO 800 images also look good at 13x19 inches, with very little loss of detail, and only slightly more chroma noise in the shadows.
ISO 1,600 images are a bit too noisy for 13x19, though, requiring a reduction to 11x14 inches. Chroma noise is still noticeable, but becomes less so at 8x10.
ISO 3,200 shots are surprisingly usable at 8x10, though certain types of detail come out looking a little flat in places, more like a Normal Rockwell painting than a photograph. Reduce the print size to 5x7, and that impression goes away, surprisingly.
Overall, the Samsung NX10's images print very well, reducing the impact of some of the issues we've mentioned, including the dead pixels. Those shooting in RAW might want to watch out for those, however, as they tend to take on a strong color.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung NX10 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung NX10 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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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.