Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 20.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 16-50mm OIS kit lens
  • 3-inch flip-up LCD
  • Full 1080p video recording
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC
  • External flash shoe
  • MicroSD Card slot
  • iLauncher
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

Pros
  • High photo and video quality
  • Very impressive low-light performance
  • High-speed burst works well
  • Group Share via Wi-Fi (4 smartphones)
  • Flip-up LCD for "selfies"
  • Attractive filter effects
  • Impressive battery life
  • Compact, light body (0.5 pound)
  • Attractive vintage body style
Cons
  • Auto focus can be slow
  • Auto focus is sometimes inaccurate
  • Full resolution burst mode is sluggish
  • Menus can be cumbersome
  • Small, optional flash is weak
  • 3x zoom of kit lens is modest
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 3.5 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = 0.1 second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 0.3 second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.2 seconds with quick review off
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 0.7 seconds
  • Burst = 5fps @ 20M (first 10 frames)
  • Burst = 2fps @ 20M (35 frames)
  • Burst using continuous AF = approx. 1fps @ 20M
  • Burst = 4fps @ RAW (5 frames)
  • Burst = 1fps @ RAW (10 frames)
  • Burst w/flash = 1.4fps @ 20M
  • High Speed Burst = 30fps @ 5M

All tests taken using Program mode, flash off, quick review off, and all other settings at default unless noted.
Bottom Line
This compact, Wi-Fi-friendly camera lets you swap lenses and excels in low light. But the auto focus is slow and inaccurate, and burst shooting is disappointing, making it a poor choice for demanding photographers.

Pick This Up If...
...You want Wi-Fi and interchangeable lenses on a compact camera that performs very well in low light, and don't do action photography.
The Samsung NX3000 offers a lot of SLR-type features in a compact body. With the ability to change lenses, shoot in RAW mode, and attach an external flash, it's easy to see the appeal when the body weighs just half a pound. And it's an attractive camera at that, given that you're partial to vintage styling. The textured surface of the body, slight contour of the hand grip, and a flared thumb pad on the back panel make it easy to keep a firm handle.

You can flip up the LCD 180 degrees - and when you do, the image flips as well, so you're seeing yourself right-side-up for framing "selfies." And, with integrated Wi-Fi and NFC (near field communication), those self portraits can be beamed to anybody who is anybody right away. Using the Group Share feature, you can send photos to up to four smart phones at once (saving you time). However, if you've attached an external flash, the LCD can not flip up far enough to flip the image and help you frame your shot.

Speaking of framing shots, you will have to use the 460k-dot LCD because there is no viewfinder. If you are using manual focus, this is not ideal. Although the 16-50mm kit lens has a ring that doubles as a zoom ring and focus ring, turning it activates a motor. This doesn't provide the tactile feedback of a focus ring that moves optical elements in the lens, nor does the LCD flash any green focus boxes to let you know you've locked on to your subject. When using the ring to focus, you'll have to use the zoom toggle on the lens barrel to zoom in or out. The camera offers 5x and 8x on-screen magnification while focusing manually.

In addition to the typical Auto and Program modes on the mode dial, there are positions for shutter- and aperture-priority, as well as full manual. There are not multiple positions for scene modes - just a scene mode position called "Smart Mode" that offers a scene modes menu (Samsung is quite fond of using the word "smart" to rename common features). The mode dial also has a position for panorama mode (which works well), and a Wi-Fi selection. In addition, the Mobile button atop the camera pulls up an abbreviated menu of wireless tasks.

The Fn button on the back panel brings up a menu of icons for quick adjustments to camera settings. You use the thumb dial to navigate these, and it's a lot easier than having to dive into the full menu. In addition, you can use the iFn button on the lens barrel to access three or four of these same settings (depending on the shooting mode). Also, the trash button doubles as a customizable button in shooting mode. You can use it, for example, to lock the exposure (AE-L).

Using the camera's scene modes and effects left a little to be desired. Not in terms of results - the camera offers a generous number of filters and scene modes for recording JPEGs. But they're split across three menus. The scene modes are easy enough to reach via the Smart Mode position on the mode dial. But then there's Picture Wizard, which is just more scene modes, such as Portrait, Landscape (which is also in the scene mode menu), Retro (sepia tone) and Classic (black and white). These are accessed from the Fn button menu.

And then there's the Smart Filters, which you'll need to select in the main shooting menu (via the Menu button). You get just four of these in shooting mode - such as Miniature and Sketch - but many more are available in playback mode.

If you've selected a Smart Filter, you will be unable to enter the Picture Wizard menu, nor change a few other settings. Fair enough, but this would be easier to grasp if these effects were contained in the same menu. Unfortunately, the pop-up help system does not explain which features conflict. And sometimes the manual was not helpful - sometimes not on the page describing the offending scene mode or filter, where it would have been most helpful to have a footnote mentioning which other features are not compatible.

In one instance I did find where the manual said that you can't use the smart filter feature with Picture Wizard enabled. But with Picture Wizard off, I still could not figure out what other feature caused the Smart Filter selection in the menu to be grayed-out. So, I had to reset the camera settings entirely.

The camera delivers both solid still images and videos, as long as you don't put much demand on the auto focus. The camera records stills at up to 20M, as well as in RAW mode. It records video at full HD resolution (1080p). Details looked sharp and colors looked vivid, in both stills and video. I did, however, run into some problems with exposure accuracy. Shooting outside on an overcast day, I tended to get shots with an underexposed foreground. Granted, this is a difficult exposure because the sky is still so bright, but I was surprised that switching from multi to center-weighted did not improve the accuracy of the exposures.

With ISO settings up to 25600, the camera is able to perform in low light with minimal introduction of noise. Looking at the studio shots on the Samples Page, I'd argue that the camera is great up through 12800, and that only at ISO 25600 does noise and compromised details become slightly off-putting.

The big drawback here is the auto focus, which can be a little slow to adjust to zooming, and to changing subjects at different distances. When recording video, the auto focus doesn't react quickly and you can end up with a second or so of blurry footage. Also, using the lens ring to zoom creates a loud noise on the audio akin to someone tearing a piece of paper right beside the camera (see SAM_0710.mp4 on the Samples Page).

When testing the camera's shutter lag, I aimed at a timer screen at close range. In this setting the camera performed well, clocking in at roughly 0.3 second when not pre-focused. However, in other situations the auto focus was not as quick. At mid day indoors, when ISO Auto would bump up the light sensitivity to ISO 1600 or ISO 3200, the auto focus routinely took closer to a full second to focus. To hopefully improve this I switched to continuous AF instead of single AF, but this just resulted in more swimming of the focus - even when I was shooting the same subject at the exact same distance as the previous shot. To help with focus there is a face detection feature (on by default), and you also can employ tracking AF.

The face detection works well, and comes in handy when you want to be in the frame - you can trip the shutter with the wink or smile detection feature, and these worked well for me.

But for more strenuous photographic feats - such as continuous shooting at full 20MP resolution - this camera falls a little flat. In burst mode, exposure is set at the first frame, so any subsequent change in lighting can result in over- or underexposed frames. Also, the sluggish auto focus makes moving subjects difficult to capture in burst mode.

When shooting a static subject, using single AF, I clocked the camera at 5fps, but only for about the first 10 frames. Thereafter, it slows down to an average of roughly 2fps over 35 or so shots. Changing the file size from 20MP to 10MP made no difference in this performance. What did make a difference - adversely - was switching from single AF to continuous AF. Whether shooting indoors in ambient daylight or outdoors in the afternoon, using continuous AF slowed burst shooting to roughly 1fps. Also, you can not operate the zoom during burst mode.

The high-speed burst modes are much more impressive. Shooting 5MP frames, you can set the camera to shoot at 10fps, 15fps, or 30fps. In all three settings, the maximum is 30 frames. So, at 10fps you can shoot for 3 seconds. At 15fps you can shoot for 2 seconds. And, at 30fps, you get one second of shooting.

At first glance I thought this camera did not shoot in RAW mode. That's because in the photo size menu, the only options are those for JPEG quality settings. There is separate quality menu where you must select RAW. If you find that the RAW selection is grayed out, check that Smart Filter is off. To avoid this scenario, a mode dial position for RAW shooting or another way to quickly undo all conflicting settings would be helpful. Speaking of RAW mode, you can shoot continuously, though the initial five frames at 4fps, but this quickly slows to a 0.5fps crawl. This averages out to 1fps over 10 frames.

If you use continuous shooting until the camera slows (roughly 10 frames or more), the camera will take roughly 5 seconds for the camera to finish processing the shots and be ready to shoot again. On shorter bursts (say, of 7 shots), it can take about 2 seconds to finish processing the shots.

Note that only having an LCD to frame your shots is problematic for burst shooting of an active subject that's nearby. With the screen slow to process and display your shots, you quickly lose the shot preview and are unable to tell if your moving subject is still in the frame. Turning off quick review won't help you here, either.

Macro shooting was not stellar. I found that I could get a little short of 4 inches from a subject with the 16-50mm lens. But at this close distance, the auto focus was often problematic. Even when placing the AF box on an area with contrast in it, the auto focus often failed to lock on to my subject. It routinely turned green and the camera beeped to indicate focus lock, but I'd end up with the area two inches behind the AF box in focus, with the foreground subject blurred.

The test camera came with a small flash, but this appears to be optional (not listed on the box). This external flash is weak and I would strongly advise a more powerful external flash. This small unit (pictured on our Features & Controls page) showed a very noticeable drop-off at roughly four feet. It performed fine as a fill-in flash, but for many shots where it was the prime light source, it failed to deliver attractive results. The one exception was where everything in the frame was at the same distance, so lighting was more even.

In playback mode, you get a lot of editing options. The 12 Smart Filters produce attractive results, from subtle to artsy. This resides in the color edit menu, which offers a fair amount of other options. But once you enter one of these settings to adjust it, you can't simply save from that screen. You must press the Menu button and return to the edit menu, where you press the Fn button to save your edited file. Only when the setting is automatic (such as with Auto Adjustment) are you immediately offered the OK button to save the file. Seems like this kind of navigation could be simplified.

This kind of context-sensitive button function can be cumbersome. Not all menu operations and selections felt intuitive to me. More than a lot of other cameras, I found myself going to the manual to figure out how to access features that should have been a second-nature sequence of button presses.

The NX3000's Li-ion battery is rated to last a respectable 370 shots (CIPA rating, which assumes half shot with flash). But in my testing, I used little flash, and shot a lot in burst mode. And I recorded a whopping 1,865 photos and nine short videos on one charge. Keep in mind, however, that if you plan to use Wi-Fi a lot, this will take its toll. You charge the battery in the camera, connecting via USB cable to either a computer or the included power brick.

Files are recorded on a microSD card. Thankfully for all the wireless features (not to mention USB connectivity) you probably have little reason to remove the card, which is just as well - it's teeny tiny. One possible attraction is that you can insert it in a smartphone's card slot, but you can already transfer files with Wi-Fi and NFC.

Bottom line - The NX3000 is Wi-Fi-friendly and offers sophisticated features, including interchangeable lenses and many filter effects. Its compact body makes it an attractive companion compared to a bulky SLR, but the sluggish and inaccurate auto focus and disappointing full-resolution burst mode make it a poor choice for demanding photographers.


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