Samsung Galaxy NX Image Quality

Note: Since its imaging pipeline is shared with the Samsung NX300 (same sensor and image processor), we've given the Galaxy NX a lighter treatment than we normally would here. See the Samsung NX300 review for more in-depth image quality test results.

Color: The Samsung Galaxy NX's default mean saturation at base ISO is lower than most cameras. Mean saturation is 105.8% or only 5.8% oversaturated, which is lower than the average of about 10% oversaturation from most cameras. Dark reds and blues are pumped moderately, while dark greens and browns are pushed just slightly. Yellows are undersaturated, while most other colors are pretty close to accurate. There are only minor shifts in hue, such as small shifts in cyan toward blue and orange toward yellow. The NX's average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is only 3.71 at base ISO, which is much better than average.  The Galaxy NX does pretty well with skin tones under sunlight, showing a healthy-looking pinkish tint, though darker tones can be a little orange. Overall, color performance is realistic and accurate, though some may consider default saturation a bit muted.

Auto WB:
Reddish cast
Incandescent WB:
Strong orange cast
Manual WB:
Very good
2,600 Kelvin WB:
Good, slightly green

Incandescent: Indoors, under typical incandescent lighting, Auto white balanced produced a reddish cast, the Incandescent setting resulted in a strong orange cast, while the 2,600 Kelvin setting which should match our lights was just slightly greenish. Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best, with very good, neutral results.

Range (wide): Good
Range (tele): Slightly dim
Coverage (wide)
Coverage (tele)
Normal Flash, +0.3EV
Slow Sync, 0EV

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right in the top row) shows a well-exposed target area at the rated wide-angle distance of 10.3 feet at ISO 100 and maximum kit lens aperture. Results at the rated telephoto distance of 6.4 feet are a little dim at ISO 100.

Flash coverage was pretty good a wide angle, just a touch narrow, but better than many cameras. At full telephoto, flash coverage was more even as it usually is.

Normal flash mode required +0.3 EV flash exposure compensation for a bright scene, which is a bit better than average for the cameras we've tested (most cameras need about +0.7 EV compensation for this scene), and the NX used a fairly fast 1/00s shutter speed, which should help avoid any subject motion blur for typical portraits. Slow sync mode produced a very bright exposure at 1/6s without any flash exposure compensation, along with a warm orange cast from the ambient lighting. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.

ISO 100: 1 fc
ISO 100: 1/16 fc
ISO 25,600: 1 fc
ISO 25,600: 1/16 fc

Low Light: The Galaxy NX was able to capture bright, clean images at the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle, about 4 stops down from typical city street lighting at night), even at its lowest ISO setting. Auto white balance performed well, producing a slightly cool color balance.

At its top ISO of 25,600, noise is much too high for it to be usable for anything other than small web images even at 1 foot-candle, and images took on a greenish tint.

Still, pretty good performance here, but we'd avoid ISOs higher than 6,400 except in emergencies.

The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to about the 1/3 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though, which is poor for a CSC. The Galaxy NX was however able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled, when the subject was in range.

Horizontal: ~2,500 lines
Vertical: ~2,500 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,500 lines per picture height horizontally and to about 2,500 lines vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred at about 3,600 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, and not before the limit of our chart (4,000 lines) horizontally.

Also notice the red horizontal line in our vertical resolution crop, an artifact from the NX's on-chip phase-detect AF pixels. We saw similar artifacts from the NX300.

Sunlit: The thumbnails and associated histograms at right compare "sunlit" exposures using Aperture Priority with no exposure compensation, Aperture Priority with exposure adjusted to provide a reasonably bright face (+0.7 EV in this case), Full Auto, Smart Range+ and HDR modes. Mouse over the links to the right to compare.

Aperture Priority, f/8 at ISO 100. As you can see, the default exposure is quite dim, with very dark shadows and midtones. Applying +0.7 EV exposure compensation produced a much better exposure overall, but as seen in the histogram, quite a few highlights are blown (in the shirt and flowers), while deep shadows remain dark and clipped.

Full Auto. In fully automatic mode, the Galaxy NX did a pretty good job, producing a pleasant exposure without requiring any exposure compensation, using an aperture of f/2.8, a fast shutter speed of 1/400s and selecting an ISO of 200. And as you can see from the histogram, the camera managed to preserve most highlights even though shadows and midtones were boosted.

Smart Range+ works similar to Canon's Highlight Tone Priority, preserving highlights at the expense of noisier shadows. It produced a better image than Aperture Priority without exposure compensation, but overall the exposure was still a bit dim, and skin tones too exaggerated. We preferred the Full Auto exposure.

HDR mode captures three different exposures and merges them for greater tonal range than what is possible in a single exposure. Here, it produced a good exposure, however the image looks a little too artificial. HDR modes in general are not meant for portraits, though, because any movement between shots can cause ghosting. We take them with our "sunlit" portrait scene because lighting is better controlled in the lab versus random outdoor shots.

Note that there is no control over the strength of Smart Range+ and HDR settings.


ISO: Noise and Detail: As expected, ISO performance is similar to the NX300 which is to say very good, if not quite as good as the best APS-C mirrorless models. 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, and there's no sign of chroma noise though subtle detail in reds is noticeably reduced. Naturally, noise is higher at ISO 1,600 so the processor is working harder blurring away more fine detail in the process, but a lot is still intact, and chroma noise is still not an issue. At ISO 3,200, a larger drop in find detail occurs with stronger noise processing, however we don't see the chroma noise that was so objectionable in previous generation Samsung APS-C models. But as a consequence, detail in our red-leaf fabric is already almost gone. ISO 6,400 shows more luminance noise as well as minor chroma noise in the shadows, thought there is some fine detail left. At 12,800, it seems Samsung has dialed back on the chroma noise reduction significantly, leaving blotches of green and red in the shadows, and luminance noise is stronger as well, giving images a stippled look. ISO 25,600 is very noisy and impressionistic, leaving obvious blotches of strong green and red chroma noise, as well as dark spots in reds. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.

Print Quality Analysis: Overall, impressively large 36 x 48 inch prints at ISOs 100 and 200; ISO 1600 capable of a nice 16 x 20; ISO 6400 prints a good 8 x 10.

ISO 100 and 200 images are excellent at 36 x 48 inches, with accurate colors and fantastic detail, which is very impressive. Even still, the Galaxy NX is capable of producing very large 40 x 60 inch prints for wall display, and while those will show some minor pixelation upon close inspection (and the 36 x 48 prints, as well, to a lesser extent), at normal, comfortable viewing distances these prints look crisp and detailed.

ISO 400 prints look very good at 30 x 40 inches, with wall display prints easily possible up to 36 x 48 inches. Colors look excellent and fine detail is impressive, but you can start to see some aggressive noise reduction in the shadow areas.

ISO 800 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print. Colors still look accurate, and the camera still has the ability to resolve lots of fine detail in most of the image, with nary a hint of noise thanks to noise reduction. Difficult areas like the low-contrast red fabric swatch of our test image have started to lose a bit of fine detail, however.

ISO 1600 is capable of a good 16 x 20 inch print. The troublesome red fabric swatch in our test target is losing more fine detail, but there's very little noise in the entire image -- even in the shadows -- and color still looks great at this ISO.

ISO 3200 prints are good at 13 x 19 inches, with some minor softness in the shadows due to the heavy default noise reduction. Colors still look good and fine detail elsewhere in the image is still strong.

ISO 6400 produces a nice 8 x 10. Noise is starting to show up more, particularly in the shadow areas and noise reduction as a whole is starting to take its toll on fine detail. However, colors are holding strong and remain pleasing to the eye.

ISO 12,800 prints are acceptable at 4 x 6, and although colors look fine, the noise reduction produces some splotchiness as it tries to combat the high ISO noise.

ISO 25,600 does not produce a usable print and is best avoided, though for less critical applications a 4 x 6 may be acceptable.

Wow. The Samsung Galaxy NX is an impressive camera when it comes to print quality and resolution. At base ISO and 200, the Galaxy NX's 20MP APS-C sensor is able to handle prints all the way up to 36 x 48 inches and wall-mountable at 40 x 60! Highly detailed with excellent color reproduction, the prints at these low ISOs are fantastic. Even at the mid-range higher ISOs, like 1600 and 3200, the Galaxy NX produces very good 16 x 20 and 13 x 19 inch prints, respectably. While noise reduction, by default, is quite aggressive, it does very well at removing practically any and all hints of grain, while leaving most of the fine detail intact (NR is most noticeable in the shadow areas). It's only at the very high ISOs levels that the noise and heavy NR take their toll on fine detail, making ISO 12,800 the maximum sensitivity with an acceptable print at 4 x 6 inches.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung Galaxy NX 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 Galaxy NX 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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