Steve's Conclusion

By

Steve's SnapShot
samsung_nx10_front.jpg
  • 14-megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor
  • Samsung NX lens mount system
  • Super sonic dust reduction system
  • 921k dot EVF with 20.2mm Eyepoint
  • 3.0-inch AMOLED screen with 614k dots
  • 720p HD video recording with manual aperture control
  • Built-in, pop-up flash unit
  • 15-point Contrast AF system
  • Smart Auto and 12 scene modes
  • Li-ion power source
  • SD/SDHC card memory slot
  • HDMI output

Pros
  • Superb shooting performance
  • Excellent build quality
  • Loads of fine tuning options
  • Vast array of useful exposure modes
  • Awesome 3.0-inch AMOLED display
  • High-quality EVF
  • Captures nice HD video
  • Powerful built-in flash
  • Captures beautiful 14-megapixel images
  • Smart Auto performs Very well in various situations 
  • Acceptable noise levels from ISO 100 - 1600
Cons
  • ISO 3200 shows a good amount of noise
  • Awkward position of Green and Drive mode buttons
  • Only three lens options currently (as of 6/2010)
  • Contrast when using the Standard (default) Picture Wizard setting is a bit too strong which can increase the visibility of noise
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = Just 1 second
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.2
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.4 seconds, depending on flash output
  • Continuous mode =  3.1fps @ 14M
  • Burst mode = 33.3fps @ 1.4M (max 30 frames @ 1472x976 resolution)
  • All tests taken using a high-speed SDHC card, Program mode, flash off, review on, and all other settings at default unless noted

Bottom Line
We were very impressed by the Samsung NX10. This is an awesome EVIL camera that is sure to please most any user, with excellent image quality, fast performance, and loads of useful exposure options.
Pick This Up If...
You are in the market for an EVIL camera that provides close to dSLR performance and quality, packaged into a more compact frame.
Samsung's first entry in the "EVIL" (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) world, the NX10 is an impressive unit that boasts some features that were unmatched in a camera of this size until recently (with the introduction of Sony's NEX cameras). In direct competition with the extremely popular micro four thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, the Samsung NX10 boasts all of the versatility and portability found on those models, with one slight advantage; the NX10 uses an APS-C sized image sensor, which is noticeably larger than the mFT sensor. This is the same sized (23.4mmc15.6mm) imager found on the vast majority of dSLRs on the market today. The camera also uses Samsung's own NX lens mount system, and currently they offer three lens choices for this camera: the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens, 30mm "pancake" F2.0, and the 50-200mm F4.0-5.6 OIS. Other key features can be seen to the right.

This unit offers all of the controls one would find on a dSLR, along with many that are found on simple point-n-shoot cameras. The first being Smart Auto. This fully automatic exposure mode turns the NX10 into one of the easiest to use cameras on the market, with intelligent scene recognition, and auto exposure control. Whether you're shooting a monumental statue on vacation, of your kids running around the yard, Smart Auto will help you capture great photos. For those who have more photog experience, the NX10 offers as much control over the exposure process as you can handle. This includes the docile Program AE mode (Auto but with access to more advanced settings), Aperture priority (you control the aperture while the camera selects the corresponding shutter speed), Shutter speed priority (the exact opposite of Aperture priority), and full Manual mode (you control everything). Like a point-n-shoot, the NX10 does also offer various scene mode setting that will help you capture usable photos in specific shooting conditions.

The overall design of the NX10 is fabulous. While this camera is quite compact when compared to even the smaller entry-level dSLRs on the market today, I found holding and using this camera to be very pleasing. The slightly enlarged hand grip on the right hand side allows for a firm hold on the camera, without adding to much bulk at the same time. Just about all of the controls have been placed in a comfortable manner, with the exception of two buttons: the "Green" and Drive mode buttons. They required me to stretch my finger back a bit too far (which was uncomfortable) or I had to reposition my hand to access them. I think they would have been better served sitting a few mm forwards or to the left (directly behind the control wheel). The rest of the controls were easy to access with my fingertips, and also well labeled.

For framing your photos/video, or viewing them, you have the choice of two very fine displays. The first is an eye-level EVF, that is truly one of the nicest unit's I've used. It offers a great deal of resolution at 921k dots, 100% frame coverage, a comfortable eye piece, 20.2mm eyepoint, excellent magnification (0.86x), and an eye-start sensor. These features combined offer a pleasurable experience when using the EVF, giving a nice large view when peering inside the viewfinder. The eye-start sensor makes switching from the Rear display to the EVF effortless, with not need to press any buttons: you simply bring your face up to the viewfinder and it switches the feed automatically.  Next we have the large 3.0-inch AMOLED screen. Replacing the LCD screens of old, AMOLED units produce a much "richer" looking live image, with increased contrast and more accurate color representation. They are also much more responsive than your typical LCD.  Again, like the EVF, the NX10's rear display was very enjoyable in most lighting situations. There are only a few angles which reflected bright lights, however the live image is bright enough that this never caused any framing problems; even when shooting in harsh sunlight. The menu system on the NX10 is logically organized, which allowed for easy navigation and changed to camera settings. It was also pleasing to the eyes, with colorful icons, and neat functions for changing settings. This camera offers a great deal of customization, with all kinds of fine tuning available. Samsung took their time building this GUI for sure, as it's top notch in my opinion.

The NX10 is a very robust camera, probably the fastest EVIL model I've tested thus far. From power-on till the first image was captured measured just  1second. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous when pre-focused, and averaged 4/10 of a second including autofocus time. Rapid shooting in single shot mode allowed me capture images every 1.2 seconds without the flash, and about 1.4 seconds with the flash on. You can also choose from two sequential modes; Continuous and Burst. Using continuous mode, I was able to capture 16  14M/SuperFine JPEGs in 5.1 seconds; supporting their claim of 3.0fps. However, I surpassed their claim of only 10 JPEGs at that rate, as I achieved 16. Burst mode lowers the resolution to 1.4M (1472x976), and captures 30 frames in a single set. During our tests, it did so in just 9/10 of a second (33.3fps), which again surpassed their claim of 30fps. Switching over to RAW mode didn't slow the camera down at all. The only real decrease you will notice is in frame depth. You'll only be able to capture up to 3 frames in Continuous mode, and your shot-to-shot times may fall after about 4-5 frames, and it takes the camera much longer to process these huge 26MB or larger files. I did notice that the NX10 does flush the buffer quite fast when using high-spped cards. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Extreme (Class 10, 30MB/s) 4GB SDHC memory card, 30mm F2.0 lens, Program mode, ISO Auto, Preview on, 14M SuperFine JPEG image quality, and all other settings a default unless noted. Times may vary depending on camera settings, media, and lighting conditions.

The NX10's image quality results surpassed my expectations. This camera produces beautiful photos in a variety of lighting conditions. In bright outdoor lighting, the NX10 produced pleasing exposures that show vivid colors and good sharpness. Contrast is a bit strong, which the majority of users will enjoy due to it helping photos "pop" a bit more. However, the sacrifice is loss of some details, and it can also bring out more noise in low contrast areas. Thankfully, one can either shoot in RAW mode, or tone down the sharpness and contrast by fine tuning any of the Picture Wizard modes.

The kit lens worked well for typical snap shots, and there was very little distortion present, which helped the camera produce sharp results throughout the entire zoom range. When shooting in lower lighting, the camera continued to impress me. Thanks to the large APS-C sized imager found in this camera, it excels in low light situations, especially with a faster lens like the 30mm F2.0 pancake unit. Even when shooting without the flash, the camera would capture nice photos with acceptable noise levels when you consider the conditions you are shooting in. The flash is also quite powerful for a built-in unit, and performed well during our tests.

Noise levels are relativley low throughout the sensitivity range, in my opinion,  ISO 100-800 look awesome, and even ISO 1600 is very usable for mid to large sized prints (depending on the amount of light of course). There is some slight detail loss due to heavy NR algorithms, however you can only really see this under critical inspection (what some call "pixel peeping"). ISO 3200 does show a good amount of noise, however it looks comparable to most EVIL cameras currently on the market, and blows away any consumer point-n-shoot. I felt confident keeping the ISO set at 800-1600 while shooting some snapshots during a baseball game; which will probably never be printed at anything larger than a 4x6. This adds to the overall appeal of this camera, and again is due to the larger APS-C imager sensor.

The NX10's HD video results were also very pleasing, both indoors and out. The camera uses the H.264 compression format, which helps it capture nice clear video when shooting in decent to good lighting, while still keeping file sizes manageable. When you get in marginal or darker lighting, the image does get grainy, however this is typical with most digicams (and even some camcorders).   Playback is nice and smooth, and there is very little noise present. You also have the ability to control the aperture manually, which adds to the creative possibilities with this camera. I also found that the AF system did a very good job keeping subjects in focus while zooming. Overall, the NX10 can capture some high-quality HD (720p) video, comparable to digital camcorder.

Battery life from this camera was impressive. Samsung claims you can capture up to about 400 shots on a single charge using CIPA Standard testing methods, however I was able to get closer to 500. Overall we captured 1000+ images with about two power cycles. I will ad that several of those (100+) were when using the camera's burst mode settings. If you are a weekend shooter, or are planning on a short vacation, one pack will probably do fine. However, if you plan on shooting 400+ images a day, or are going on a extended vacation, I highly recommend picking up a second pack if you budget allows. You can charge one while using another, so you'll always be ready for action. 

Bottom line - As you can see from reading the above, I enjoyed using the NX10 very much. This is a powerful camera that offers excellent image quality, robust performance, loads of creative outlets with various exposure modes options, and great HD video; all packed into a compact frame. At one point when shooting with the 30mm F2.0 pancake lens, I actually put this camera in my cargo pants pocket without a problem (I'll add that this was a baggy pocket). With a street price of $649 US or less, I feel the Samsung NX10 offers a great value and highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a capable EVIL camera. Be sure to check out our reviews of other EVIL type cameras, like the Olympus E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

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