Samsung NX30 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic saturation levels with excellent overall hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100 200 400
800 1,600 3,200
6,400 12,800 25,600
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to see results across the ISO range, and click on the links for larger images.

Saturation. The Samsung NX30 produces images with colors that are less saturated than most cameras at default settings. The NX30 pushes dark blues, reds, dark green and browns a bit while undersaturating yellows and cyans slightly. Default saturation is 107.6% (or 7.6% oversaturated) at base ISO, which is a bit lower than the typical 110% mean saturation we normally see. Saturation falls gradually as ISO rises, reaching as low as 98.6% at ISO 12,800, though it rebounds slightly to 99.7% at ISO 25,600. You can of course tweak saturation to your liking, or choose a different color mode. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Samsung NX30 did fairly well with Caucasian skin tones, though it rendered lighter tones a touch warmer than we'd prefer and darker skin tones had a slightly orange push. 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 NX30 shifts cyan toward blue, red toward orange and orange toward yellow a bit, but other shifts in color were very minor; even the cyan to blue shift we normally see is very small. Mean "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.88 after correction for saturation, which is excellent, much better than average, and remains better than average across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
The Samsung NX30's Manual white balance setting worked well indoors, but other settings produced moderate to strong color casts. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV
2,600 Kelvin
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is a too cool with the Auto setting, with a bluish cast. The Incandescent setting resulted in a fairly strong orange cast, while the 2,600 Kelvin setting produced a strong green tint. Manual white balance produced very good results, though. The Samsung NX30 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation, which is the average amount required for this shot. (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.)

Outdoors, daylight
Somewhat cool colors with slightly high contrast under harsh lighting. Much better than average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
Auto Exposure
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Samsung NX30 produced somewhat warm skintones with both Auto and Manual white balances in our "Sunlit" Portrait test above left. The NX30 required no exposure compensation to keep facial tones bright on the mannequin, which much better than average for this shot (most cameras require about +0.7 EV). Default contrast is a little high, though, so quite a few highlights in her shirt and flowers are blown, though there weren't many lost shadows. The NX30 did a good job with our Far-field shot, producing just a slightly dim exposure, though colors are somewhat cool. The Samsung NX30 preserved all but the brightest highlights here, though it did generate some very dark shadows. The dark shadows in the leaves for example are quite clean but become abruptly posterized at the lowest light levels. Still, that shouldn't be a problem unless you're trying to recover very underexposed shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, about 2,500 lines of strong detail in JPEGs, slightly higher from ACR converted RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
ACR processed SRW
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
ACR processed SRW

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart at the highest quality setting reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to about 2,550 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,500 lines in the vertical direction. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur before the limit of our chart (4,000 lines) in the vertical direction, and at about 3,600 lines in the horizontal. There are also no signs of the PDAF sensor artifacts we saw with the NX300 and Galaxy NX. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the matching RAW file shows similar resolution, but with a lot more color moiré than in-camera JPEGs, as if often the case. 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.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very good sharpness and detail overall, with fairly minor edge-enhancement artifacts visible around high-contrast subjects. Low levels of noise suppression generally leaves excellent detail at base ISO.

Very good definition of
high-contrast elements
with less visible sharpening
artifacts than its predecessor.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast but
the NX30 does better than most here.

Sharpness. The Samsung NX30 captures sharp, detailed images with slightly less obvious edge enhancement artifacts than the NX20. Yes, sharpening halos are still visible around high-contrast subjects such as the text and border in the crop above left, but they aren't quite a strong as its predecessor. Overall, excellent results here. 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 relatively minor noise suppression in the darkest areas of the model's hair, as most individual strands of hair are well defined except in very low contrast areas. Overall, detail is very good for an APS-C sensor at base ISO, especially one with 20 megapixels of resolution. Excellent results here as well. 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.

Aliasing Artifacts. There are however what look to be aliasing artifacts and "jaggies" in areas of fine vertical detail and high local contrast, such as in the strands of hair on the model's forehead at lower ISOs (see ISO 100 crop at right). We've seen similar artifacts in images from previous models, especially Canon consumer SLRs, so they're not that unusual. The aberrations are very subtle to be sure, but they're something to be aware of if you plan to make very large prints of similar subject matter. They also appear in RAW files processed with Adobe Camera Raw, a further indication that the NX30's low pass (anti-aliasing) filter isn't very strong.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Samsung NX30 produces sharp, detailed in-camera JPEGs. Let's see how Adobe Camera Raw performs with the same image:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

Samsung appears to have discontinued Samsung Raw Converter 4 which was a rebadged version of SilkyPix, now that they are bundling Adobe Lightroom with their new NX models. Adobe Camera Raw uses the same conversion algorithms, so we used it for our RAW conversion above.

The Adobe Camera Raw conversion (which was sharpened in Photoshop also using USM of 300% with a radius of 0.3) reveals better detail than the camera JPEG, particularly in our difficult red-leaf fabric swatch. The ACR conversion also shows a touch more noise, though noise levels are actually quite low at base ISO. At lower ISOs, the Samsung NX30 generally does a great job at capturing the excellent detail offered by its 20-megapixel sensor in its JPEGs, but like many cameras, it struggles with our red-leaf fabric, likely treating the fine thread pattern as noise and this blurring it out.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good detail vs noise tradeoff to ISO 3,200, though chroma noise can be a little high.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

ISOs 100 through 400 are very clean and detailed, with just a slight uptick in luminance noise as ISO rises. At ISO 800, noise reduction is a bit stronger which softens the image slightly, but fine detail is still very good, though some chroma noise can be seen in darker areas. Naturally, noise is higher at ISO 1,600 so the image processor is working harder blurring away some fine detail in the process, but a lot is still intact, however chroma noise is a little more evident in the form of some yellow and magenta blotches. At ISO 3,200, a larger drop in fine or low-contrast detail occurs with stronger noise processing, while blotchy chroma noise starts to become somewhat objectionable in darker areas, though overall image quality is still fairly good for this sensitivity. ISO 6,400 shows more luminance noise as well as stronger chroma noise, though there is some fine detail left. ISO 12,800 is darker with very strong luminance and chrominance noise, though there's still some detail intact. ISO 25,600 is very noisy, leaving the mannequin's hair and skin with obvious blotches of magenta and yellow chroma noise, with very little fine detail and faded colors as well.

Overall, it appears as though Samsung has tweaked the NX30's default noise reduction processing, trying to find a better balance between the aggressive chroma noise reduction we saw from the NX300 which hurt detail in the red channel, and leaving the more objectionable chroma noise handling seen in prior generation models like the NX20. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

A note about focus for this shot: We 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). For the Samsung NX30, we used the very sharp 60mm f/2.8 Macro ED SSA NX. 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.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very high resolution with good detail, but somewhat high default contrast and limited dynamic range. Good low-light performance, though Auto white balance struggled.

0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Samsung NX30 struggled a bit with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test, as do a lot of cameras. Quite a few highlights are clipped in the white shirt and flowers, while some shadows are still quite dark, though noise in shadows is actually pretty good (apart from the posterization mentioned in very deep shadows). We preferred the default (0 EV) exposure overall, because the ones with exposure compensation were too bright. The bottom line though, is that the NX30 struggled in harsh lighting, producing either a slightly dim face with better highlight retention in the shirt, or a well-exposed face with more blown highlights in her shirt and flowers.

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.)

Face Detection
Just like most point & shoot cameras these days, the Samsung NX30 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

Interestingly, face detection didn't seem to affect the exposure. Full Auto mode (right) is however dimmer, employing a larger aperture than we normally use for this shot (f/2.8 vs f/8), a faster shutter speed (1/320s vs 1/25s) as well as boosting ISO to 200.

Dynamic Range Expansion settings
The Samsung NX30 now offers two dynamic range expansion options: Smart Range + and HDR. Smart Range+ is works similar to Canon's Highlight Tone Priority, preserving highlights at the expense of noisier shadows. The HDR mode captures two different exposures and merges them for greater tonal range than what is possible in a single exposure. Note that there is no control over the strength of these settings.

Dynamic Range Expansion: Outdoor Portrait
Dynamic
Range:


Off


Smart Range+


HDR


As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, Smart Range+ worked as expected, reducing and thus preserving highlights without boosting midtones though shadows are boosted somewhat. But because it boosted ISO to 200 there's slightly more noise.

The HDR setting works differently by combining two exposures, but the resulting image here looks rather unnatural. (HDR modes in general are not meant for portraits, though. We take them because lighting is better controlled in the lab versus our Far-field shots below.) Note that the HDR image is noticeably cropped as a result of the alignment process.

Dynamic Range Expansion: Far-field
Dynamic Range:
Off
HDR

Here, you can see Smart Range+ and HDR at work with our Far-field shot. Smart Range+ boosted shadows and midtones but unfortunately blew some highlights that weren't blown before. Details are also a little less crisp due to the higher ISO. HDR mode had a more dramatic effect bringing out a lot of shadow detail and brightening the overall exposure without blowing highlights. Interestingly, we don't see any ghosting from movement within the frame between the two exposures. When investigating this with the NX300, we concluded Samsung's HDR mode actually does attempt to process movement out, similar to Sony's Anti Motion Blur technology. It's not always 100% successful though, so ghosting is still possible but is less likely or noticeable.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon NX30's dynamic range to its predecessor, the N20, and also to Nikon's similarly priced D5300 APS-C DSLR. You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Samsungs NX30's dynamic range is very similar to the NX20's, ranging from about 12.4 EV at base ISO, down to about 5.9 EV at maximum ISO. Compared to the Nikon D5300, though, the NX30 offers about 1.5 EV less dynamic range at base ISO (12.4 vs 13.9 EV), and the Nikon D5300 continues to offer significantly higher dynamic range across the ISO range except at highest ISO (but do note that DxOMark has detected some noise reduction applied in both the Samsungs' highest ISO RAW files). Bottom line, 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 better APS-C models. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Samsung NX30 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
Minimum NR
ISO
100
Click to see NX30LL001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL001007.JPG
30s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL001007XNR.JPG
30s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see NX30LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
25600
Click to see NX30LL256003.JPG
1/125s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL256007.JPG
1/8s, f2.8
Click to see NX30LL256007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Samsung NX30 performed reasonably well in our low light test. The NX30's slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds captured bright images at the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle) at ISO 100. Noise is of course low at ISO 100 and is well-controlled at ISO 3,200, though ISO 25,600 is quite noisy and not recommended.

Auto white balance did a good job here at higher light levels, producing fairly neutral if slightly cool color balance at ISOs 100 and 3,200, though ISO 25,600's high noise shifted midtones and darker areas strongly toward green.

We didn't notice any significant horizontal banding (pattern noise), heat blooming or hot pixels.

The Samsung NX30's autofocus system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is not bad for an APS-C CSC. And the NX30 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 larger sensors, compact system cameras like the Samsung NX30 tend to do better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. (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.)

Built-in Flash Test Results

Exposure and Range
Good flash range but with narrow coverage. Less than average exposure compensation required.

18mm
Normal Flash
+0.3 EV, 1/100s
Slow-Sync Flash
0 EV, 1/8s

Coverage. Flash coverage from the Samsung NX30's built-in flash is uneven at wide angle (18mm), leaving corners and a couple of bands across the center of our flash test image a little dim. Narrow coverage at wide angle isn't unusual, though, and some of the corner fall-off is from the lens itself. We no longer test coverage at telephoto, as wide angle is always worst-case.

Exposure. Our Indoor Portrait test scene is bright with +0.3 EV exposure compensation, while the average for this shot is +0.7 EV. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced an overly bright image at the default exposure setting, with a strong pinkish cast from the ambient room lighting from the longer 1/8s exposure.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Click to see NX30FL_MFR091M0200.JPG
9.1 feet
ISO 200

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Samsung NX30's built-in flash is rated at a Guide Number of 11 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 9.1 feet at f/5.6 and ISO 200. In the shot above, the NX30 produced a bright target so we'd say Samsung's Guide Number rating is credible.

Output Quality

Print Quality

Very good 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISOs 100 and 200 yield very nice printed images up to a large 30 x 40 inches. Depth, color reproduction and fine detail are all excellent here, and wall display prints are possible up to 40 x 60 inches.

ISO 400 prints are terrific at 24 x 36 inches. Fine detail is excellent and there is no sign of noise in sight.

ISO 800 produces a gorgeous 20 x 30 inch print, quite a large size for this ISO. There is still virtually no sign of noise even in the flatter areas of our target, and the only apparent issue is the very typical loss of contrast in our target red swatch of fabric, which most cameras struggle with as ISO starts to rise.

ISO 1,600 images begin to show moderate signs of ISO strain, and warrant a reduction in size to 13 x 19 inches in order to achieve good-looking prints. This is still a fairly good size for this ISO.

ISO 3,200 shows aggressive noise reduction becoming apparent in printed images, and there's a bit of a washed out look from the noise processing and JPEG rendering here. 13 x 19's are usable for less critical applications, but we'll tag 11 x 14's with our "good" seal for printing at this ISO.

ISO 6,400 prints a nice 8 x 10. All contrast is now lost in our tricky red swatch, but it's otherwise a good print with nice detail.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6 inch print. There is minor noise visible in a few areas, but still a worthwhile print for such a high ISO.

ISO 25,600 prints are not usable and this setting is best avoided when possible.

The Samsung NX30 does a fine job in the print quality department indeed. For an APS-C sensor size, these print sizes rank up there with most of the better cameras in its class. Due to the high resolution 20MP sensor, prints at lower ISOs are possible at 30 x 40 inches with no visible signs of pixelation seen in cameras with resolutions of 16MP and below, which is a good thing to keep in mind if these really large print sizes matter to your work. After about ISO 1,600, noise reduction starts to take its toll, but no worse than in most APS-C cameras, and looks far better than some. In fact, Samsung's noise reduction algorithms tend to smooth images as the noise reduction ramps up, rather than creating splotchiness like some of the other manufacturers. The smoothness eventually becomes washed out looking, but for some prints this is still acceptable, even sometimes larger than the sizes mentioned above.

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 NX30 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung NX30 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!



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate