Samsung NX30 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • Very good image quality at low to moderately high ISOs
  • Improved sensor and revised default NR provides a better balance between chroma noise and detail compared to predecessor
  • Excellent hue accuracy in JPEGs when using manual white balance
  • Decent kit lens optical quality
  • No sign of PDAF sensor artifacts as seen from NX300 and Galaxy NX
  • Blazing fast autofocus using single-shot center-area AF mode
  • Very fast full-resolution burst mode, almost 9fps for JPEGs or RAW
  • Super high-speed burst mode can shoot up to 30fps (but at reduced 5-megapixel resolution)
  • In-camera HDR (only 2-shot though, with no control)
  • Focus peaking (for stills)
  • Built-in pop-up flash with good performance; can act as wireless commander
  • Decent battery life for a CSC
  • Good build quality
  • DSLR-style ergonomics with fuller hand grip
  • Dedicated drive mode dial
  • 2 custom user settings on mode dial
  • Up to 1080p60 video with PASM exposure control
  • Good video quality
  • Standard external mic jack
  • Built-in Wi-Fi & NFC for remote control and image/video sharing
  • Extendable, tilting EVF is bright and sharp; great for video recording
  • 3-inch AMOLED articulating touchscreen is crisp and bright with good touch sensitivity
  • Bundled with Adobe Lightroom 5
  • Slow buffer clearing even with fast UHS-I card
  • Buffer depths when shooting RAW files could be better
  • Mediocre dynamic range for an APS-C sensor
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance struggle indoors
  • RAW files converted with Adobe LR or PS can look significantly different from camera JPEGs, with a slight blue/red shift sometimes visible
  • Hybrid AF system still can't compete with traditional DSLRs for tracking and fast-moving subjects during stills shooting
  • EVF feels cramped and tunnel-like, displays a strange "RGB" or rainbow tearing effect
  • Continuous AF is the only autofocus mode available while recording movies (but can manually focus if lens has AF/MF switch)
  • Native lens selection is still fairly limited
  • Not weather-sealed
  • No headphone jack

Samsung is an extremely large company with a vast portfolio of products and services from smartphones and tablets, to TVs and home theater systems, and even appliances. However, in the photographic world, more traditional players like Canon, Nikon and Sony tend to get the lion's share of attention, especially among customers. Samsung NX-mount cameras, however, shouldn't be overlooked, as they offer a lot of performance and great image quality at some very wallet-friendly prices, and the Samsung NX30 is no exception. Despite the 'flagship' moniker, Samsung's newest high-end NX camera packs a punch with its performance, at a very affordable street price more in line with upper entry-level to lower mid-level DSLRs.

With a slightly larger design than the previous NX20 model, the new NX30's deeper grip makes for a more comfortable and secure grip in the hand. Unlike the rather svelte and minimal exterior design of the similarly-sized Android-powered Galaxy NX, the Samsung NX30 maintains a more traditional, physical control-based design with over a dozen buttons, a full PASM mode dial, a dedicated drive mode dial, and front and rear dials for making adjustments to settings like aperture and shutter speed. If you're downsizing from a DSLR, or rather "ditching the DSLR," the learning curve with external controls and operability on the NX30 should be minimal. And, the tilting EVF provides some nice flexibility and ease of use whether you're shooting straight-on, at low angles, or simply prefer a top-down viewfinder shooting position.

On paper, the Samsung NX30's specs are very impressive, and in-use, the camera lives up to our high expectations for the most part. Image quality was very good at low ISOs and all the way to moderately high ISOs around 1600-3200, and while at higher ISOs noise does become an issue, the NX30's improved sensor and revised noise reduction algorithm do a better job of balancing noise removal and detail retention than its predecessor. Colors also look great, but our reviewer found there's sometimes a slight red/blue color shift when converting RAW files. Dynamic range, lastly, is decent and pretty much on-par with the NX20, but not outstanding compared to other APS-C cameras, such as the Nikon D5300. Overall, the NX30 offers good dynamic range in its RAW files, about what you'd see from current Micro Four Thirds cameras, but not as good as some other similarly-priced APS-C models.

The Samsung NX30 features on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in blazingly fast single-shot AF speeds. However, like most other mirrorless cameras today, the NX30 is still at a disadvantage compared to many DSLRs with underwhelming continuous AF performance. For fast-moving action such as sports, or like mountain biking as our reviewer John experienced, the NX30's Hybrid AF system just couldn't keep up. However, for just about everything else, the NX30's AF system was spot-on.

Burst shooting performance is another one of the NX30's hallmark features at around 9fps for full-res JPEGs or RAW images, and the buffer size is also not bad for JPEG shooters. In our lab stress-test, the buffer was just over 20 frames, but in real-world shooting, our reviewer managed over 40 frames. However, if you're a RAW shooter, buffer capacity could be a better as we managed only about a dozen frames before the camera slowed down. Buffer clearing was also on the slow side, particularly with RAW files.

All in all, though, the Samsung NX30 is a strong contender for those looking for a relatively compact, high-performance camera at a great value. While the NX-mount lens lineup is a little lacking at the moment, which might dissuade some more advanced users who need specialized lenses like fast f/2.8 tele zooms or long super tele wildlife lenses, the Samsung NX30 and available native lenses are more than capable for capturing everything from general lifestyle, portrait and travel photos, to even a good amount of action and sports (so long as you pre-focus and don't rely on continuous AF). In a sea of cameras from other "big names," the Samsung NX30 is a worthy competitor and deserves consideration.

Given it's a great feature-packed kit with excellent overall image quality and performance at a very competitive price, the Samsung NX30 an easy choice for a Dave's Pick.

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