Samsung NX10 Review
|Full model name:||Samsung NX10|
(23.7mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 3200|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.8 x 3.4 x 1.6 in.
(122 x 86 x 41 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Samsung NX10 specifications|
4.0 out of 5.0
Samsung NX10 Overview
Reviewed by Shawn Barnett and Zig Weidelich
Overview by Mike Tomkins
Review Date: 04/26/2010
The Samsung NX10 is a 14.6-megapixel digital camera with interchangeable lenses, designed to deliver SLR-like image quality, but still function more like a traditional digicam. As such, there is no optical viewfinder, and the SLR's big, noisy mirror box has been removed, allowing for a smaller camera overall.
On the plus side, this change means a significant saving in weight and size -- especially the thickness -- of the camera body, and can mean smaller and lighter lenses as well. Samsung's NX10 uses a Live View display, which is more familiar to digital camera users. This Live View display can be viewed either on a 3.0-inch AMOLED display on the Samsung NX10's rear panel, or a 921,000 dot electronic viewfinder of unspecified size. The Samsung NX10 includes a sensor to detect when the photographer's eye is against the viewfinder, and automatically enables / disables either display when the other is being used, saving power.
Focusing is also performed on data streamed from the image sensor, with the company saying that the Samsung NX10's contrast detection autofocus is "one of the fastest ... in its class on the market." AF speed is achieved courtesy of a newly developed DRIMe II Pro image processing engine, which also allows for 720p high definition video recording at thirty frames per second, using H.264 compression in an .MP4 container. The image sensor itself is a 14.6 megapixel APS-C CMOS type that yields a maximum resolution of 4,592 x 3,056 pixels. Samsung has not described the chip in detail, but it seems likely to be related to the Samsung-developed 14.6 megapixel APS-C CMOS imager in Pentax's K-7 digital SLR. (We compare the two below, so you can judge for yourself.)
ISO sensitivity for the Samsung NX10 ranges from a low of 100 to a high of 3,200. The image sensor is one of the most important differentiators from Micro Four Thirds. Olympus and Panasonic's format is based around the same 4/3" type image sensor as the regular Four Thirds system, with a diagonal of 22.5mm. By contrast, the Samsung NX system uses a significantly larger image sensor with a diagonal of 28.1mm. Read on to see if this gave Samsung's design an advantage in terms of ISO sensitivity and noise levels.
Samsung has foregone in-body image stabilization for the NX10, instead adopting the more traditional lens-based system -- which means only lenses that include the function will offer stabilization. Lenses currently available for the Samsung NX mount include both 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 optically stabilized zooms and an unstabilized 30mm f/2.0 pancake. As you'd expect of an interchangeable lens camera, the Samsung NX10 also includes a dust reduction system, with the system adopted by Samsung using supersonic vibrations to combat dust. The Samsung NX10 includes both a built-in popup flash and external hot shoe, as well as high-definition HDMI video output which includes AnyNet+ functionality (Samsung's name for Consumer Electronics Control, which provides for remote control of certain functions via the video cable from an attached display's remote).
The Samsung NX10 began shipping April 2010, priced at US$699.99 with the NX 18-55mm OISkit lens.
Samsung NX10 User Report
by Shawn Barnett
With the 18-55mm kit lens, the Samsung NX10 weighs 21.5 ounces (1.3 pounds, 610g) with card and battery, and without the lens it weighs 14.5 ounces (0.9 pounds, 411g). For comparison, with the 30mm pancake lens -- as pictured at right -- the Samsung NX10 weighs 17.4 ounces (1.09 pounds, 493g) with card and battery, while the E-P1 with its 17mm pancake lens weighs 16.01 ounces (1.0 pound, 454g) with card and battery.
Look and feel. The Samsung NX10 manages to look like an SLR, like the Panasonic G1, without being quite as large. While the G1 has a larger grip, the NX10's grip is small, yet still functional. Because it's smaller, it cuts a more narrow profile, much like its other rival, the flatter Olympus E-P1. The Samsung NX10 still has a viewfinder hump, but that's not as tall overall as the E-P2 is with either of its optional optical viewfinders. As such, the Samsung NX10 splits the difference between its two SLD rivals.
The Samsung NX10's body is dense and hefty, with a rock-solid feel. The finish is also very good, with a refined texture. What the grip lacks in depth, it makes up for with width: just enough for the pads of your fingertips to find a comfortable home as you press the camera into your palm. Your thumb, likewise, finds a perfect home on the rear, where a textured rubber grip sits to assist your hold on the camera. It's all just right for the size and weight of the camera. With the 30mm lens mounted, the weight is set a little to the left of center, but that's understandable, and really helps push the camera snugly into your palm. Mount a heavier lens, and the effect increases; you shouldn't shoot one of these one-handed too often anyway, so it's not a problem.
The shutter button has a nice forward cant to it, resting as it does out on an overhang that protrudes further than the grip itself. Just right of that is an AF-assist lamp that glows a very bright green and projects quite a long distance. Straight below that is the Depth-of-field preview button, a nice touch. And of course the lens release button appears right of the lens, where it is on most SLRs. Three small holes appear beneath the NX10 logo for the microphone. There is no external mic jack, which limits the NX10's usefulness for movie making.
From the top, you see the flash popup button with seven holes for the speaker. The flash doesn't pop up very high, but exposure is well-controlled. The hot shoe has a slide-in plastic cover. The NX10's Mode dial has just the right balance of tension and slack that it is more likely to either stay put or quickly click to the next setting, rather than resting in-between. The Power switch that surrounds the shutter button is difficult to activate, but is less likely to activate accidentally. I like the Control dial and use it often when in semi-auto modes. The last two controls are odd. The green dot button works the same as it did on the Samsung and Pentax SLRs, recentering most settings, including Program shift or EV setting. Think of it as a quick way of getting back to zero without a lot of fuss. The button behind it controls Drive mode. Both buttons also zoom in and out, as the blue icons indicate. It's a little unusual at first, but it's pretty obvious zooming in on the image with the front, and out with the back.
The Menu button is rather lonely high and left of the viewfinder, but that's also easy to learn too. The diopter correction wheel is big and burly, easily accommodating my -3 vision, but the dial's still tough to turn. The rest of the controls are right of the OLED, and manage to stay out of the way of your thumb when you're holding the Samsung NX10, but remain within easy reach.
Hitting the OK button in most capture modes brings up the AF option box. From here you can zoom in the AF-area box up to 3x, and move the AF box around the screen. It's pretty quick to dial in a change and get back to shooting, so kudos to Samsung.
Menus. Kudos, too, for the well-designed Menu and Function menu. The main menu (shown to the right)is very much like everyone else's menu. Following the leadership of some other recent designs, you move up and down each menu page with the up and down arrows, and move between tabs at any time with the left and right arrows. No matter where you are on each list vertically, you can always go to the next menu page; and the Samsung NX10 has the courtesy to remember which vertical item you had selected last.
The Function menu (left) is a list of icons that pop up along the bottom of the screen, items you're likely to change more often: Photo Size, Quality, AF Area, Flash, Color Space, Smart Range, and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). The main adjustment takes place in the center of the screen, with the appearance of the dial portholes on old cameras.
Doors. Left and right of the Samsung NX10 are doors. The right door slides to the rear and opens outward to reveal the SD card slot. SD cards slide in with the label facing toward the front of the camera, somewhat awkwardly.
On the left is a large plastic door that opens via a small thumb notch to reveal a DC-in port, a miniHDMI-out port, a remote control socket, and a dual USB/AVI port.
LCD? Here's where we normally talk about the Liquid Crystal Display on most cameras, but instead the Samsung NX10 has an Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AMOLED) display. Samsung claims that the 640x480 display refreshes 3,000 times faster than an LCD, and has a 1,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. To be sure, it's a beautiful display, but it's also about comparable in sunlight to Olympus's own HyperCrystal LCD technology. There's also a strange softness that's hard to quantify. While text appears sharp on this bright display, images from the sensor always seem a little soft, especially when compared to the 640x480 displays on the Canon T2i and Nikon D90, which are the definition of crisp. Likewise, the VGA EVF (electronic viewfinder) is not as sharp as it should be.
Worse, the live image is drawn just like the video image, which means it suffers from pronounced, almost nauseating, Jello-effect. Even the slightest left-to-right movements are wonky, sometimes bending straight vertical lines more than once as you frame an image. More on this later.
Flash. The Samsung NX10 flash exposure system works better than the Olympus E-PL1, throttling back well for near portraits, while the E-PL1 tends to blow out faces even further out. The Samsung NX10's flash range is excellent, good from about six feet to 12 feet in our standard ISO 100 testing, but it also continued to look reasonably good out to 16 feet at wide-angle. At telephoto, though, with the 18-55mm kit lens, the flash was slightly dim at six feet and got dimmer, yet it really wasn't a bad performer at all, especially considering its size.
Samsung currently offers two flash units for the NX10, the SEF 42A and the SEF 20A. The SEF 42A is a larger unit that has a guide number of 42, covers a range of 28-105mm, includes an AF illuminator, and uses 4 AA batteries, retailing for around $299. The SEF 20A is smaller, has a guide number of 20, uses two AA batteries, and retails for $149 -- if you can find it. The pinout on the hot shoe seems different enough that I don't think Pentax flashes will work with the Samsung NX10.
Lenses. As of this writing in early 2010, the Samsung NX10 has three lens options, including the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS, the 50-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS, and the 30mm f/2 pancake lens. Combined, the two zooms cover a range from 27.7-308mm equivalent, or about 11x. The 30mm is very close to the Samsung NX10 sensor's diagonal measurement of 28.1mm, making it a relatively "normal lens," equivalent to a 46mm lens on a 35mm camera. For most purposes, I prefer this small, flat lens, but I also enjoyed using the zooms.
Sensor. One advantage the Samsung NX10 has over some of its rivals is its slightly larger sensor. It uses essentially the same size sensor used in most APS-C SLRs, like the Nikon D5000 and Canon T2i. It's actually slightly smaller than the former, and a little bigger than the latter. Judging by noise at higher ISO settings, it seems Samsung spent some of the advantage of a larger sensor on greater resolution, as Panasonic and Olympus's sensors appear sharper overall at high ISO. Nevertheless, the NX10's CMOS sensor turns out good quality images. We think its likely the same sensor that we've already seen in the Pentax K7.
Metering. Metering options are standard: spot, center-weighted, and matrix. Overall the Samsung NX10 did fine in most situations. In the lab, the "meter was reasonably accurate and consistent throughout the Low-light shots."
Exposure modes. The Samsung NX10 has a small mode dial with fewer settings than average, though more than its SLD rivals. Full Manual, Program, and semi-auto modes are present, as are Night, Portrait, and Landscape Scene modes. The nine additional Scene modes are available on the SCENE setting, and Movie mode also has its place on the dial. Smart Auto, the final setting, analyses the scene and selects from among 16 scenarios; more than the actual Scene modes available.
"Beauty Shot" is a special Scene mode that retouches faces to adjust tone and eliminate blemishes; a mode I would never use, since I'd rather do more careful work in Photoshop.
Movie mode. Able to record up to 1,280 x 720 at 30 frames-per-second, the Samsung NX10 produces decent movies, but the Jello-effect is particularly pronounced, exactly as it appears onscreen. It's a shame, but the lack of an external microphone jack will likely deter anyone looking to make quality movies with the Samsung NX10. Home movies will probably be fine, so long as you pan slowly. Audio can be set to on or off, but it's always monaural.
Other movie size options include 640x480 and 320x240, all of them 30 fps. Encoding is MP4 (H.264).
HDMI and Anynet+. Stills and video can be output to a TV via standard RCA jacks, or via the built-in miniHDMI port. Anynet+ is Samsung's version of CEC, which allows you to remote-control the NX10 via your TV remote.
Storage and battery. The Samsung NX10 uses SD and SDHC cards, with a capacity of up to 8GB "guaranteed," according to the manual. So that means it might not support higher capacity SDHC cards. Odd.
The Samsung NX10 comes with one BP1310 1,300mAh, 7.4V lithium-ion battery, which is expected to deliver about 200 minutes of Playback or 400 shots. You can get up to 130 minutes of video with a full charge. In use, I found the battery life to be good enough for a day out with the family with medium use. A day at a big amusement park, though, would require at least two batteries.
Manual. Although its one of the nicer looking manuals in recent memory, it's fairly short, and poorly written in places. The translation from Korean to English didn't go too well, let's say. It looks like a machine translation. About Smart Auto mode, it says, "Align your subject in the frame. If the camera sets a desired shot composition, it detects the scene automatically and shows the corresponding mode icon on the display." How can the camera set a desired shot composition? Perhaps they meant "sees your" desired shot composition. While I eventually understand their meaning, it's awkward, often requiring a re-read.
Comparisons. Size is a big advantage to SLDs like the Samsung NX10 over most competing SLRs. While most inexpensive SLRs are about as wide as SLDs, the Olympus and Samsung designs, and the Panasonic GF1 cut out a lot of the depth and height quotient, allowing for easier storage and a noticeably smaller profile when used with pancake lenses. Mounting the kit lens, though, erases much of the advantage, especially since the Samsung NX10 has an EVF built in. But let's let a few photographs tell the story.
Samsung NX10 vs Olympus E-PL1
Samsung NX10 vs Rebel T2i
Samsung NX10 vs Panasonic G2
Shooting with the Samsung NX10
Using the Samsung NX10 was as good an experience as I expected. Like others in this class, focus is not lighting fast, but good for most contrast-detect digicams, and generally faster than contrast-detect SLRs. The camera's build is great, and it's small enough to fit in a very small camera bag or even a large cargo pocket.
I've steeped myself in the world of Micro Four Thirds, using the cameras almost daily for a year, so I was very interested to see how the Samsung would do. Overall, I'd say they're quite similar in terms of function and form. Even the lenses are of similar sizes, including the telephoto lenses. The Samsung 50-200mm lens is almost identical in size to the Panasonic 45-200mm, for example.
The Samsung NX10's controls are just right. The only odd set of controls is the zoom buttons on the top deck, but they're easy to learn. While the Olympus Pens are designed to be retro or minimalist, and the G-series are rather utilitarian in appearance, the Samsung NX10 feels far more organic, with smooth curves and tight tolerances. My fingers naturally rest where they belong, and all the controls are within easy sight for quick adjustment. As I hold it, it's really astonishing that they made the camera so small, yet it still fits my hands so comfortably. In the ergonomics department, Samsung wins hands down. I'm still surprised that the grip is so small yet so useful, but its relative width and texture easily offset its lack of depth.
Samsung's menu system is pretty straightforward, much better than we've seen in other Samsung cameras. Though everything about the Record interface and Function menu is a little different from other cameras I've used, I still feel right at home. The interface is obvious and easy to navigate. The Menu is very much like Canon's latest SLR interface, one that's evolved quite a bit over the last 10 years, so that's no trouble at all to use or learn.
What the NX10 and its other mirrorless cousins lack is an easy way to follow action. While trying to track my son running around a water fountain park, I was frustrated not only by his weaving in and out of other park patrons, but by the NX10's inability to help me keep the telephoto lens trained on him as he traversed the grounds. An SLR's optical viewfinder shows you what's happening each time the mirror goes down, but the mirrorless camera is busy showing you what it captured, so you don't get a view that helps you track a subject and frame the next shot. In the Samsung NX10's burst mode, you can crank off up to 30 images per second, but they're only 1.4 megapixels in size. That would make tracking better, but I prefer the higher-resolution image.
Jello. One aspect that bothers me while using the Samsung NX10 is the "Jello-effect" that appears onscreen when composing images. It doesn't just affect videos, but the actual live view from the sensor. Rapid shaky movements create a very wobbly appearance onscreen, with straight lines appearing not just angled, but wavy. This is mostly noticeable as I fine-tune a composition, because I'm paying careful attention to the screen and making very minor adjustments. I have never seen a camera behave like this, not a digicam, and not an SLR. It's more noticeable, too, when there are vertical lines in an image, but even faces can appear distorted, as if you're looking through waves of water passing over glass.
EVF. When shooting in a large, well-lit stadium, I found the EVF to be particularly difficult to use. First, the eyepoint is rather low, meaning it's hard to get my eye in there with glasses so I can see the whole frame. And oddly, though you'd think the EVF would be a better place to compose images in good light, the EVF seemed dimmer than the rear AMOLED. Perhaps that's due to the AMOLED's greater overall brightness (I'm assuming the EVF uses an LCD rather than an OLED). You can however turn up the brightness of both displays (but not independently). The Samsung NX10 uses an infrared eye sensor just below the EVF to automatically switch between the two displays. This feature is not selectable.
I also found it difficult to discern focus when shooting up into a crowd of people, a situation where the difference is usually pretty obvious. Though the Samsung NX10's autofocus was usually right about which subject it picked, I'm used to getting a much clearer picture through an SLR viewfinder with a long lens. If you're familiar with how poor SLR viewfinders can be, you can imagine my frustration with the EVF on the NX10. It really wasn't better on the AMOLED, because it also appears mysteriously soft. As I mentioned, text pops, but colors and subtle detail from the sensor has a very soft edge to it, especially when you're trying to discern between slightly soft and sharp detail.
DOF preview button. I'm really glad Samsung included a Depth-of-field preview button in a fairly standard location (the front, lower right of the lens mount). It's not something I use often, but is handy to have when I need it. Note that just like SLRs with an optical viewfinder and ground glass focusing screen, darker areas of the image will blacken at smaller apertures, obscuring the level of blur and sharpness you're trying to observe.
White balance. As was the case on older Pentax models, the major problem I had with images was inconsistent Auto White Balance performance. Shooting in the stadium, I came out with some good, some quite yellow shots, while all my daylight shots were spot on. Pentax cameras were originally designed to make incandescent light look like it would look if you brought daylight-balanced film into an indoor scene. Some of that may have survived here, though I think the stadium shots might have been thrown off by the vibrant orange color of the chairs. I've tried to recover the shot by re-balancing each of the colors (RGB), but what I get always looks unnatural. I suggest shooting in RAW if you're having trouble getting the camera to balance, so you can tweak white balance later, or else manually pick a white balance setting.
On balance, I found my time with the Samsung NX10 satisfying. It was comfortable to use, has a good complement of lenses, is easy to bring along, focuses quickly enough, and is easy to adjust.
Samsung NX10 Image Quality
No camera is without its issues, and the Samsung NX10 has a few, brought out by some of our laboratory shots. But there's nothing, apart what I've mentioned, that marred my own shots with the camera, so consider that as well. All the NX10 shots below were taken with the 30mm prime lens, the sharpest lens currently available for the new NX platform, while the other cameras used the best lens we could find for the camera in question.
First is my usual series of ISO 1,600 shots, which is a point at which a camera truly proves its mettle.
Samsung NX10 versus Pentax K7 at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX10 versus E-P1 at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX10 versus Panasonic G2 at ISO 1,600
Panasonic G2 at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX10 versus Canon T1i at ISO 1,600
Canon T1i at ISO 1,600
Samsung NX10 versus Nikon D5000 at ISO 1,600
Nikon D5000 at ISO 1,600
Detail: Samsung NX10 vs Pentax K7, Olympus E-P1, Panasonic G2, Canon T1i, and Nikon D5000
Optical quality. We were really impressed with the optical quality of the 18-55mm and 30mm lenses. Both had very sharp corners, even the zooms. If there was slight softening, it was tough to determine whether wide-angle or telephoto was worse than the other. The 30mm showed some softness too, but again it was quite impressive. There was more vignetting than anything else, with the corners appearing darker than the center.
As for chromatic aberration (C.A.), there was so little we were surprised. It turns out the camera is correcting for CA in software, for when we converted the RAW files from the kit lens at 18mm with Adobe Camera RAW we found C.A., where the JPEGs showed virtually none. With the 30mm lens, though, there was almost no C.A. in the RAWs at all.
Dead pixels. We also noticed quite a few hot or dead pixels at ISO100 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.
|In-Camera JPEG, ISO100
|Converted RAW, ISO100
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. In JPEGs printed at 16x20, though, only the spots in the letter "b" are obvious, and only if you really look.
Noise reduction. 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 NRadjustments offered, except at ISO 3,200.
|In-Camera JPEG, ISO100
|Converted RAW, ISO100
The above crops compare an in-camera JPEG to a dcraw-converted RAWfile. Both shots were taken at ISO100, 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-Csensor at the base ISO.
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.
In the Box
The Samsung NX10 ships with the following items in the box:
- Samsung NX10 body
- 18-55mm lens (if purchased as a kit)
- Body cap
- Lens caps
- Hot-shoe cover
- Lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- USB cable
- Shoulder strap
- Quick Start manual
- Warranty card
Samsung NX10 Conclusion
Samsung came out swinging with its very tight NX10, a Single-Lens Direct-view, interchangeable-lens digital camera with an APS-C sensor. The Samsung NX10 is built very well, with a tight frame, good looks, and a great fit in the hand. It also shoots pretty easily, with all the controls where you want them, and fairly snappy shutter response.
The main problems I encountered shooting were difficulty focusing on the AMOLED and also through the EVF, and I often came away dissatisfied with the white balance performance, which was too warm indoors and too cold outdoors. Optical performance was impressive, though, and all three lenses were worthy of consideration, making a very small, quite capable kit for the family photographer.
Video was just okay, with the Jello-effect remaining fairly noticeable in my movies. I think the NX10 would serve just fine for most family events, though.
Looking more deeply at our lab images, we found dead pixels, and an over-aggressive noise suppression system that tended to attack low-contrast detail, especially among reds. High ISO performance, while good, was not quite as good as the Samsung NX10's competition. Excellent printed performance redeemed the Samsung NX10 in many ways, with even the dead pixels hardly affecting prints as large as 16x20 inches. Unfortunately for enthusiasts looking at the Samsung NX10, those same dead pixels appear brighter and more colorful in RAW files, so while shooting raw eliminates the low-ISO noise suppression and Auto white balance problems, it can magnify the dead pixel issue.
I can't help feeling pretty positive about the Samsung NX10, though, because only the white balance problem affected my images, a problem easily remedied either by shooting RAW or setting white balance manually. The optics were great, the form and function were great, and the Samsung NX10 was fast and fun to shoot. Enthusiasts should take note of the noise suppression and dead pixel issues, but consumer photographers should feel just fine about the Samsung NX10, with its excellent optics and easy demeanor; just watch the white balance.