Samsung NX3000 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.
Saturation. The Samsung NX3000 produces images with colors that are a little less saturated than most cameras at default settings. The NX3000 pushes dark blues, reds, dark green and browns a bit while undersaturating yellows and cyans slightly. Default saturation is 107.8% (or 7.8% oversaturated) at base ISO, which is a bit lower than the typical 110% mean saturation we normally see. Saturation falls gradually as ISO rises to 1600, but then starts to go up, peaking at 110.5% 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 NX3000 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 NX3000 shifts cyan toward blue, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green 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 3.97 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
Pretty good color balance with Auto and Manual settings. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is quite good with the Auto setting, just a hair cool, which is much better than average. The Incandescent setting resulted in a strong orange cast, though, much too warm. Manual white balance produced very good results, just a touch yellow. The Samsung NX3000 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 high contrast under harsh lighting. Better than average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Samsung NX3000 produced slightly warm skintones with Manual white balances in our "Sunlit" Portrait test, so we preferred the Auto setting above left. The NX3000 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation to keep facial tones reasonably bright on the mannequin, which is better than average for this shot (most cameras require about +0.7 EV). Default contrast is high, though, with quite a few highlights clipped in the mannequin's shirt and flowers blown, as well as some very deep shadows with color casts and posterization. The NX3000 did a good job with our Far-field shot, producing just a slightly dim exposure, though colors are somewhat cool. The Samsung NX3000 preserved all but the brightest highlights here, though it did generate some very dark shadows. The dark shadows in the leaves for example are fairly 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 2,600 lines of strong detail in JPEGs, about the same from ACR converted RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,600 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines horizontal
ACR processed SRW
Strong detail to
~2,600 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 2,600 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,600 lines in the vertical direction. Some may argue for higher, but aliasing artifacts or false colors start to interfere at this resolution. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur before the limit of our chart (4,000 lines) in both directions. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the matching RAW file shows similar resolution limits, but complete extinction actually occurred earlier at around 3,300 lines with a lot more color moiré than in-camera JPEGs. 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 sharp images, but with obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast subjects. Moderately low levels of noise suppression at base ISO.

Good definition of
high-contrast elements but with
visible sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast

Sharpness. The Samsung NX3000 captures very sharp-looking images but with obvious edge enhancement artifacts, such as the sharpening halos around the text and lines in our olive oil bottle label above left. If you plan on doing any post-processing from JPEGs, you might want to turn down in camera sharpening, and sharpen in your image editor. 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 moderately low 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, though the virtual absence of chroma noise does mean the camera is working to suppress it. Overall, detail is very good for an APS-C sensor at base ISO, especially one with 20 megapixels of resolution. 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.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Samsung NX3000 produces oversharpened but 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 bundles Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with the NX3000, and 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 where a lot of cameras seem to interpret the fine thread pattern as noise. The ACR conversion also does better in other areas while at the same time showing lower sharpening haloes, but it also shows a touch more noise using default settings. At lower ISOs, the Samsung NX3000 generally does a good 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.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good performance up to ISO 3200.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

ISOs 100 through 800 are very clean and detailed, with just a slight uptick in luminance noise as ISO rises. High default sharpening does however give the mannequin's skin a bit of a peppered look at ISO 400 and 800. Naturally, noise is higher at ISO 1600 so the image processor works harder blurring away some fine detail in the process, but this stronger NR helps reduce the peppered effect. At ISO 3200, a larger drop in fine or low-contrast detail occurs with stronger noise processing, though chroma noise is still held in check and overall image quality is not bad for this sensitivity. ISO 6400 is a lot softer though chroma noise is still fairly low. ISO 12,800 is darker with stronger blurring, more noticeable NR and sharpening artifacts as well as some chrominance noise in the form of magenta blotches. ISO 25,600 is very noisy with lots of noise reduction artifacts, blurring and obvious blotches of magenta.

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 NX3000, 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 high default contrast and limited dynamic range. Good low-light performance, though autofocus struggled.

0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Samsung NX3000 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 not too bad (apart from the posterization and color casts mentioned in very deep shadows). We preferred the +0.3 EV exposure overall, because +0.7 had too many clipped highlights and the default 0 EV exposure was too dim, though some may prefer the +0.7 EV for its brighter face. The bottom line is that the NX3000 struggled in this harsh lighting.

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 NX3000 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

Here, we can see Face Detection made quite a difference in exposure, producing much brighter exposures in both in Aperture Priority and full Auto mode. In Aperture Priority the camera was forced to f/8 and ISO 100 resulting in a slow shutter speed of 1/15s, and in full Auto mode the camera chose f/2.8, ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/160s.

Dynamic Range Expansion settings
The Samsung NX3000 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 three 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+'s effect was very subtle with this subject, and because it boosted ISO to 200 there's slightly more noise.

The HDR setting works differently by combining three exposures (up from two on prior models), 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.)

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

Here, you can see Smart Range+ and HDR at work with our Far-field shot. Again, Smart Range+ had very little effect and HDR mode had a much more dramatic effect bringing out a lot of shadow detail and brightening the overall exposure without blowing highlights. But as is often the case, watch out for ghosting when there's movement between frames, as can be seen in some of the leaves in the HDR image above. There's also some subtle vertical streaking in the blue sky, which is an odd side-effect.

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.

DxOMark has not yet tested the Samsung NX3000 at the time of writing, but we will update this section with their dynamic range test results after they become available.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
Minimum NR
ISO
100

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8
ISO
3200

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8
ISO
25600

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Samsung NX3000 performed reasonably well in our low light test, though see below about autofocus. The NX3000'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 3200, though the maximum ISO of 25,600 is quite noisy and not recommended except for small prints or images.

Auto white balance did a good job here at higher light levels, producing fairly neutral if slightly cool color balance at ISOs 100 and 3200, 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 though we did spot a few hot pixels here and there.

The Samsung NX3000's autofocus system was only able to focus down to just below the one foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is very poor. And the NX3000's focus assist lamp didn't seem to help at all in our test.

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 NX3000 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.)

Bundled Flash Test Results

Exposure and Range
Limited flash range with narrow coverage. About average exposure compensation required.

Coverage
16mm

Coverage. Flash coverage from the Samsung NX3000's bundled flash is uneven at wide angle (16mm), 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.

Normal Flash
+0.7 EV, f/4, 1/100s
Slow-Sync Flash
0 EV, f/4, 1/6s

Exposure. Our Indoor Portrait test scene is bright with +0.7 EV exposure compensation, matching the average for this shot, and the camera selected a fairly fast shutter speed of 1/100s, which is good. 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

4.7 feet, f/5.6, ISO 100

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Samsung NX3000's SEF8A bundled flash is rated at a Guide Number of 8 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 4.7 feet at f/5.6 and ISO 100. In the shot above, the NX3000's bundled flash produced a slightly dim target so we'd say Samsung's Guide Number rating is a bit optimistic.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung NX3000 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 NX3000 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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