Samsung NX20 Review

 
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Samsung NX20 Video Recording

Most DSLRs offer HD video recording these days, and the Samsung NX20 is no exception. The Samsung NX20's video system is quite capable on the video side, with very flexible exposure options, considerable customizability in the "look" of its video, and both slow-motion and fast-motion recording options. Its native audio recording options are rather limited, but the built-in stereo microphone does a good job of picking up ambient audio, and an optional external microphone adds more audio recording flexibility and features. Here's a quick rundown of its video capabilities, along with our usual selection of sample videos at the bottom.

Samsung NX20 Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (30p), 1,920 x 810 (24p) , 1,280 x 720 (30p), and 640 x 480 (30p), 320 x 240 (30p, max 30-second clips for online sharing) recording
  • MP4 file format with H.264/MPEG-4 video encoding, AAC stereo audio
  • High Quality or Normal compression levels
  • TTL (through the lens) multi-zone, center-weighted and spot metering using the main image sensor
  • Video ISO sensitivity to 3,200
  • All still-mode white balance options are available in video mode
  • Continuous AF or Manual Focus available; there's an option for Single AF in the menu, but we couldn't access it in video mode
  • Manual focus assist via 5x, 7x, or a thermometer-bar indicator showing relative sharpness
  • True PASM exposure control in movie mode, settings can be changed before or during recording (but control sounds are very obvious in the soundtrack if settings are changed during recording with internal mic)
  • Recording can be paused/resumed by pressing the rear-panel OK button
  • Multi Motion option lets you record for playback at 1/4, 1/2, normal, 5x, 10x, and 20x speeds
  • EV adjustment (exposure compensation, +/- 3EV) can be selected prior to but not during recording
  • "Picture Wizard" offers 9 preset creative modes, plus 3 separate user-controlled custom ones
  • All Picture Wizard modes can be tweaked to adjust color (hue), saturation, sharpness and contrast
  • Built-in stereo microphone, no external mic jack on body though optional hot-shoe mic offers monitor jack
  • Mic can be turned on or off, but volume control is automatic-only
  • Self-timer works in video mode to begin recording, recording must be ended manually, though. Self-timer duration can be set in still-capture modes; settings there apply to video recording as well.
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and saving it as a new file
  • Single frames can be selected from movie files and saved as separate JPEG files
  • Playback can be controlled via the rear dial, for normal, 2x/4x/8x fast-forward, reverse, and 2x/4x/8x fast-reverse viewing
  • No spec for it, but rolling shutter seems better than average (see rolling shutter section at the end of this page for examples)
  • Fader lets you fade video in at start of recording and/or out at the end, taking 2-3 seconds for the fade
  • Lens-based image stabilization (OIS) can be turned on or off for video recording
  • Video duration limited to 25 minutes maximum, with 4GB file limit

 

Samsung NX20 Video Speeds & Feeds: Image size, frame rate, and file format

The Samsung NX20 offers five different video resolutions, and two frame rates, in combinations as shown below:

Samsung NX20 Video Options
H.264/MPEG-4 Format (.MP4 files)
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

30 frames per second
(progressive)

1,920 x 810

2.35:1

24 frames per second
(progressive)

1,280 x 720

16:9

30 frames per second
(progressive)

640 x 480

4:3

30 frames per second
(progressive)

320 x 240

4:3

30 frames per second
(progressive)
(30 second max duration)

All of the NX20's video modes are progressive scan, meaning that every video line is scanned, one after the other, for every frame. Compared to interlaced scanning, progressive scan video is better for viewing videos on a computer screen: Interlaced works fine for HD TVs, but some computer video players that de-interlace poorly will produce bad "tearing" of moving objects.

The 24 frames/second mode is popular with some people, as they feel it gives a more "movie like" look to their videos, because 24fps is the frame rate for cinema. To avoid choppy-looking video with 24fps in bright light, though, use manual shutter speed control ("S" exposure mode) to set a shutter speed no faster than 1/50 second. Bright sunlight might make this difficult, but selecting a slower shutter speed when you can will produce much smoother-looking movies. (The caution about using slower shutter speeds when you're able applies to 30fps as well. Very fast shutter speeds result in video where motion appears as a disjointed set of static images. It's an effect that's been put to good use in some Hollywood productions, but tends to look unnatural for routine home footage.) On the Samsung NX20, 24 fps recording is only available in a 1,920 x 810 format, which has a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. When you play this video back on an HDTV, the video will be centered vertically on the screen, with black bands top and bottom.

The low-resolution 320 x 240 video mode is intended for internet sharing. Maximum recording time in this mode is 30 seconds, presumably to limit file sizes for emailing or sharing online.

Multi-motion mode lets you record either slow-motion or fast-motion videos, but the level of slow-motion available depends on the resolution you've selected. Fast-motion playback means that the video is recorded at slower frame rates than normal, so the 5, 10, and 20x recording options are available at any resolution setting. Slow-motion playback means that the video must be recorded at higher frame rates, so slow-motion is only available at lower resolutions. You can record 1/2x slow-motion video at resolutions of 1,280 x 720 and below, and 1/4x slow-motion at resolutions of 640 x 480 or 320 x 240.

The Samsung NX20 saves its video files in the .MP4 format, using H.264/MPEG-4 encoding. Pretty much any computer or editing program made within the last 5 years should be able to play its files with little problem, although the full 1,920 x 1,080 resolution files may strain older systems.

Here are some examples of video shot with the Samsung NX20:

Samsung NX20: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 810
MP4, Progressive, 24 frames per second, (2.35:1 ratio)
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second, ISO 3200
Download Original


Samsung NX20 Video Quality

The Samsung NX20 produced good-quality video in our tests, with good detail, few motion artifacts, very few aliasing artifacts at 1,920 x 1,080, and accurate color. It's best for shooting in daylight, reasonably well-lit interiors, or shortly after the sun sets. Night scenes under typical city street-lighting came out very dark, although to the camera's credit, they show relatively little image noise. Contrast and color are good and quite natural, but the default settings render colors less brightly than on some other cameras we've tested. The NX20's color rendering is probably more accurate than some of its competitors, but many consumers prefer a slightly brighter, more saturated look in their pictures and videos. Fortunately, the custom settings available via the Picture Wizard sub-menu let you adjust color, saturation, and contrast to match your personal tastes quite easily, with a total of nine settings available for each parameter.

Compression artifacts are very well controlled in the Samsung NX20's video, even when the camera is panning or the subject is moving rapidly: While you lose detail from the inter-frame compression, the resulting video is still quite smooth-looking: Only at the most extreme levels of panning or subject motion do slight blocky artifacts appear. (Note that our comments here are based on recordings made at the HQ quality setting. Normal quality recording will almost certainly produce more compression artifacts.) At 1,920 x 1,080, we saw very little evidence of moiré or other resolution-related artifacts in the video, but some did appear at 1,280 x 720: If you look closely at the grass fronds in the background of the daytime dog/Frisbee videos below, you'll see very slight jaggies in some of them, and there are pronounced moiré patterns in the shingles of the house roof in the rolling shutter clip. The artifacts in the grass fronds are slight enough that we don't consider them to be a problem, but the moiré in the roof shingles is quite distracting. You'll get your best results with the NX20 at 1,920 x 1,080 or 1,920 x 810; at 1,280 x 720, results will depend a lot on the subject content.

As mentioned above, our nighttime videos were very dark, to the point that we don't consider the NX20 usable for street photography after dark. It should do well enough in well-lit interiors, though, and noise levels were better than average for ISO 3,200 videos from an APS-C sensor camera.

Samsung NX20 Video Focusing

  • Video AF is controlled via the AF/MF switch on the lens, the default is continuous AF
  • As noted earlier, a single-AF option appears on the menu, but we couldn't access it. As far as we can tell, Continuous AF is the only video AF option available)
  • Several focus-assist options are available in MF mode, but only prior to recording. You can adjust the focus manually during recording, but you only have the unmagnified view on the rear LCD screen to guide you. (In our view, forget about trying to focus manually during recording.)
  • The kit lens' focus motor is very quiet, but you can hear AF operation in the audio track if the surroundings are very quiet. (It's a soft "chuckling" noise.)
  • Video AF is reasonably fast, fast enough that we feel it's useful for typical movie recording. (Some competing models are so slow that AF really isn't useful when panning between subjects at significantly different distances, or for moving subjects.)

Samsung NX20 Video Exposure Control

  • The default is programmed exposure, but true PASM is available (Programmed, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and full Manual)
  • Shutter speed and aperture may be adjusted either before or during recording in ASM modes, but control actuation can be heard very clearly in the audio track if you make changes while recording
  • All three exposure metering modes (Multi-area, Center-weighted, and Spot) are available for video recording
  • Exposure compensation adjustment of +/- 3EV is available in all exposure modes but Manual, but must be set before recording begins
  • Maximum movie-mode ISO is 3,200 (two stops down from the 12,800 maximum in still capture modes)
  • The Auto-ISO limit in still capture mode doesn't affect video recording; Video-mode Auto ISO always tops out at ISO 3,200
  • The full range of Picture Wizard settings apply to movie recording. (Off, Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, and three user-configurable Custom options)
  • All Picture Wizard options let you tweak hue, saturation, sharpness and contrast, with nine settings for each
  • The AEL (auto-exposure lock) button has no effect in video mode

Samsung NX20: Aperture Control / Depth-of-Field
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second, aperture f/3.5
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second, aperture f/22
Download Original


Samsung NX20 Audio Recording

  • Very limited audio recording options with internal stereo microphone:
    • Audio can be turned on or off
    • Only automatic level (volume) control available
    • No display of audio levels during recording
    • No dedicated jack for external audio input on body
  • Optional Samsung EM10 Hot-Shoe External Microphone offers:
    • Digital interface via hot-shoe
    • Powered by camera
    • Stereo "Wide" and mono "Zoom" modes
    • Sensitivity: Wide: -36 dB, Zoom: -30 dB
    • Monitor output (3.5mm stereo jack)
    • Record/Standby status lamp
    • Removable windscreen


Samsung NX20 Video Image Stabilization

Samsung's image stabilization is lens-based, so the NX20's IS performance will naturally be a function of the lens you're using it with. Looking at the kit lens, though, we can say that its IS works pretty well. It provided good stabilization for video recording, even doing a reasonable job of stabilization while walking with the camera, and panning was quite smooth as well. If you're recording in a quiet environment, you'll likely notice a slight chattering noise on the audio track as the IS system does its job. We don't have a quantitative measure for something like this, but it's safe to say that even normal conversation would mask it pretty well.

Samsung NX20: Image Stabilization On
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second, IS enabled
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second, IS enabled
Download Original

 

Samsung NX20 Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello Effect")

Like essentially all large-sensor digital cameras, the Samsung NX20 will show some rolling shutter artifacts (also known as the "Jello effect") when the camera is moved or shaken during movie recording. There's a lot of variation between cameras in this respect, with some producing jiggling video in response to the slightest jostling of the camera, and others being quite steady. The Samsung NX20 does better than most in this area, if not quite to the level of the very best in the field. In normal usage, you aren't likely to see much of the effect in hand-held videos shot with the NX20.

Samsung NX20: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 810
MP4, Progressive, 24 frames per second, (2.35:1 ratio)
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
MP4, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

 

 

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