Samsung NX2000 Review - The Samsung NX2000 features a huge touch-screen monitor, 20.3MP sensor and Wi-fi connectivity
Samsung NX2000 Review – Features
The biggest and most obvious new feature on the Samsung NX2000, and the camera’s main selling point, is that enormous 3.7in touch-screen monitor. Samsung is the world’s biggest supplier of LCD panels, building screens for many other manufacturers’ products, including the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as for its own highly successful range of Galaxy smartphones and tablets, so you’d expect the screen to be good.
The NX2000’s monitor is outstanding by any criteria; not only is it the largest monitor on any current digital camera, it is also one of the sharpest, with 1,152,000 dot resolution in WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) format. It’s a capacitive screen, like those found on smartphones, and supports multi-touch functions including pinch-to-zoom.
It’s not quite as slickly responsive as the screen of a Galaxy S4 phone, but anyone who’s used to operating a smartphone will feel right at home with the NX2000. This is certainly deliberate; Samsung has been at the vanguard of the seemingly inevitable convergence of smartphone and digital camera technology, most notably with its innovative Android-powered Galaxy cameras.
The NX2000’s sensor is the same 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS unit that was introduced with the NX200 in 2012, and is used in most of Samsung’s other current CSCs, including the NX20 and NX300. It’s a well-proven sensor that is certainly capable of producing excellent results. It’s coupled with Samsung’s proprietary DRIMe IV image processor, promising high performance with improved colour reproduction and noise reduction.
The NX2000 offers a number of different shooing modes. Its main mode, and one promoted as a selling feature, is the Smart mode, although this is really nothing more than a slightly more complicated Scene Mode feature, providing a range of automatic settings to cope with unusual situations such as sunsets, landscapes, macro shots, action, portraits, fireworks etc.
It does offer a couple of unusual options, such as Light Trace, a long-exposure mode for night photography, and Creative Shot, which auto-detects the scene and adds an appropriate filter. For more conventional creativity the NX2000 also has an “Expert” mode, with the standard program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure. Shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second are available.
The Samsung NX2000 shares some other prominent features with smartphones. It is equipped with both Wi-Fi and Samsung MobileLink NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity, which provides a number of interesting options. Wi-Fi is nothing new of course; there have been Wi-Fi-equipped cameras since at least 2005. Connect your NX2000 to your home Wi-Fi network and you can instantly download images to a connected PC, or upload them to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Microsoft Skydrive, very useful if you’re running out of space on your memory card.
More unusual is the MobileLink system. Other manufacturers, most notably Panasonic, offer some degree of smartphone and camera integration, but Samsung’s system is the best implemented and easiest to use, and also offers more features. With a suite of three Android-only smartphone or tablet apps, free to download from Google Play, you can remotely control your camera, share pictures with your phone, wirelessly stream video and even have notifications of firmware updates pushed directly to your camera.
Once you’ve set up your connection you can link devices quickly and easily by pressing the Direct Link button on the top panel. It’s a very well integrated system and much easier to set up than most of its rivals.
Touch-screen and i-Function
To make room for that huge screen the Samsung NX2000 has done away with almost all physical external controls on the camera body. The rear panel holds only the dedicated video button, a playback button, and a Home button – another example of camera and phone convergence. On the top panel is the Direct Link button, the shutter button with the on-off switch as a rotary bezel, and a single adjustment wheel, the implementation of which is horribly counter-intuitive in most shooting modes.
With the NX2000 featuring such a large screen the touch buttons are thankfully large enough for even the biggest fingers, and other camera settings can be adjusted via an on-screen swipe or via the i-Function feature. This is an extra control found on most recent Samsung NX lenses. There is a button on the side of the lens barrel that activates an adjustment ring around the lens, which can be used to adjust shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO setting, white balance or digital zoom, depending on which exposure mode is selected.
It’s a system obviously designed to appeal to photographers who are used to traditional film SLRs and rangefinder cameras, which is somewhat ironic since those people are extremely unlikely to opt for a camera like the NX2000. The i-Function system is useful enough once you get used to it, but since it involves pressing a button on the side of the lens and then turning a ring on the front, while looking at the screen on the back of the camera, it is a little clumsy at first.
Samsung NX2000 Review – Design
The overall shape of the Samsung NX2000 is very similar to the NX200 that preceded it, a flat-topped, round-ended design that is derived from the company’s NV compact camera range of 2007-2008. It’s a simple but distinctive shape, with a nice big textured handgrip on the front and a decent-sized thumb-grip on the back and what few controls it has are easily accessible.
The NX2000’s body is made of plastic, but feels strong and well-made. The connector and battery hatches feel sturdy and solidly mounted, as do the controls. The tripod bush is made of metal and is positioned in the best location, directly under the centre line of the lens.
The NX2000 is fairly light for its size, although it is a few grams heavier and a few millimetres larger than the NX1100 or NX210. It’s available in black or a very eye-catching and futuristic-looking brilliant white. We took the white version out on test and it drew many admiring comments. The only downside to the white version is that not all of Samsung’s NX lenses and accessories are available in white to match it.
The NX2000 has no built-in flash, but it does have a flash hot-shoe, and a very neat little clip-on flash is available as an optional extra, which is powered by the camera’s battery through the hot-shoe connection.
Our only real reservation with the NX2000’s design is one that we’ve noticed before with other similar models in this series. If you’re using it with larger lenses such as Samsung’s 18-200mm super-zoom or 50-200mm telephoto zoom then there isn’t a lot of room between the handgrip and the side of the lens barrel. The light weight and slim size of the camera body does also make it a bit unwieldy with these larger lenses.
The interface design is fairly straightforward, although it would definitely be a good idea to read the manual first. The adjustment wheel on the top panel seems to have been added as an afterthought, and does a number of different things depending on which mode you’re in, which can be very confusing. Fortunately the well-designed touch-screen controls and the i-Function system more than make up for this one weakness.
Samsung NX2000 Review – Performance
Unfortunately there are a few issues with the Samsung NX2000’s performance. It can start up and take a picture in a fraction less than two seconds, and in JPEG super-fine mode it can maintain a shot-to-shot time of approximately one shot every 1.2 seconds, both of which are slightly below average for this class of camera.
In Raw+JPEG mode, which most serious photographers will choose, the performance is even less impressive. It can shoot six frames at normal speed, but then it has to pause for nearly six seconds to write the buffer content to the memory card, and any subsequent shots also have the same delay.
Part of the problem is the fact that like a number of other Samsung cameras the NX2000 uses MicroSD cards for storage, and these simply aren’t fast as high-performance full-size SD cards.
It has to be said that other aspects of the NX2000’s performance are much better. The autofocus system is extremely quick in good light, although when trying to take several shots in quick succession it did hesitate a few times, even with well-lit high-contrast targets. The video recording mode is also very good, if a little basic. It starts up almost instantly from the dedicated video button, and produces very good quality for both video and audio.
It has a few good features, such as an automatic fader and a variable high-speed option, but lacks the manual exposure and focusing options offered by some rival cameras.
As is often the case with cameras so packed with high-tech gizmos as the NX2000, battery duration is a bit disappointing. The NX2000 is powered by an 1130mAh li-ion cell, which is bigger than some of its rivals, and Samsung claims 340 shots on a full charge, but in our tests the battery gave out after only 150 shots, plus a few minutes of video and a while of playing around in the menus.
Admittedly this was with a brand-new battery, and li-ion rechargeables do take a few cycles to reach peak performance, but it’s still well short of expectations.
Samsung NX2000 Review – Image Quality
In terms of image quality the Samsung NX2000 performs well, but perhaps not as well as one might hope. While the big 20.3MP APS-C sensor is certainly capable of recording plenty of detail, the image processing does let it down somewhat. JPEG images show signs of over-sharpening and the noise reduction, while very effective at high ISO settings, does leave images looking a bit muddy at medium speed settings.
Colour and white balance
Colour reproduction proved to be somewhat hit-or-miss, with slight variations in tone between consecutive shots under similar conditions, although these were most likely due to the variable performance of the exposure metering. The automatic white balance was also less than perfect, producing quite cold skin tones in what should have been warm evening sunlight.
Exposure metering proved to be very unreliable. Using the multi-zone mode, upon which most people will rely for the majority of their shots, the Samsung NX2000 displayed wide variation in exposure between consecutive shots under the same lighting conditions, and didn’t cope at all well with any unusual conditions.
Shooing into the sunset and shooting a pub gig indoors produced quite badly under-exposed images, both situations that most of the Samsung’s competitors would have coped with easily. By reviewing each shot and adjusting exposure compensation accordingly it was possible to produce good results, but for a camera of this type that really shouldn’t be necessary.
The resolving power of that big sensor is unquestionably impressive, and is a match for many full-size DSLRs. Shooting images in Raw mode at low ISO settings, and then processing them using the Adobe Lightroom 4 software supplied with the camera produced superb results. However the in-camera JPEG processing had an unfortunate tendency to slightly over-sharpen, which produced subtle but visible artefacts around high-contrast detail.
There seems to have been a dramatic sea-change in high-ISO noise control recently, with cameras produced in the last couple of years vastly out-performing older cameras. The NX2000 is one such example, and produces outstanding results at almost every ISO setting.
In our tests there was virtually no visible difference between shots at 100, 200, 400 and 800 ISO, and at 1600 and 3200 ISO the only difference was a slight banding in colour gradation. Actual noise artefacts didn’t start to appear until 6400 ISO, and even 12,800 ISO produced perfectly usable images. The extended 25,600 ISO maximum setting did produce a lot of colour noise and loss of fine detail, but this isn’t a setting you’d use every day.
Kit Lens Performance
The 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 i-Function kit lens supplied with our test camera proved to be much better than expected. It is a plastic-bodied lens, as are nearly all kit lenses, but it is solidly made and very light and compact for an APS-C standard-zoom lens.
Its centre sharpness is very good indeed, and at most apertures its corner sharpness is also very good. It definitely has a sweet spot for overall sharpness at around f/8, and at wider apertures there is some sign of blurring towards the corners of the frame, but there was no sign of chromatic aberration and wide-angle distortion was also kept to an acceptable minimum, even at close range.
Samsung NX2000 Review – Verdict
The Samsung NX2000 is a technological tour-de-force, and may well be a sign of things to come in the CSC market, but this is a camera for people who would otherwise buy a point-and-shoot compact.
With its massive monitor, multi-touch screen and advanced smartphone/PC wireless integration it is a camera for the iPhone generation – or at least the Samsung Galaxy S4 generation. It is certainly capable of taking very good shots, but the secondary nature of its manual controls conveys the impression that image quality is less important than the ability to instantly share your pictures with your friends.
It’s also quite an expensive camera considering its limited features, and in summary there are better performing and better-equipped CSCs available for less.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a selection of sample images captured with the Samsung NX2000. For a full range, visit the Samsung NX2000 review sample image gallery.