Samsung NX30 Review - The Samsung NX30 features DSLR-esque design and an impressive 20.1MP APS-C sensor, but is it enough to compete with the imaging heavyweights?
In fact, the quality of camera in the field is better than ever, with models such as the Sony A3000 and Olympus’s OM-D range offering a truly impressive combination of design and advanced specification.
Samsung’s NX series is another that continues to impress, with the new Samsung NX30 being the latest in that line-up.
It features a host of advanced connectivity features, an impressive LCD screen and ample 20.1MP APS-C sensor. We take a closer look to see if that’s enough to place it ahead of its impressive rivals.
Samsung NX30 Review – Features
Thanks to Samsung’s communications heritage, one area in which the NX range has impressed previously is with the advanced connectivity of its cameras.
This continues to be the case with the NX30, as it boasts both Wi-fi and NFC connectivity compatible with either smartphone or tablet through the free Samsung Smart Camera app for both iOS and Android.
The app facilitates one of the most complete connectivity experiences on the market, including remote shooting from smart device as well as previewing images, downloading and remote uploading to back-up for social networks.
Furthermore, the NX30 is now capable of connecting to the Internet without the need for a smart device as a conduit, directly to a Wi-fi hotspot.
Once connected, photographers can upload these images directly to social networks, or simply back up their images with Dropbox pre-installed on to the camera. In this connected age, such advanced connectivity places the NX30 ahead of a host of its competitors.
In terms of the core imaging functionality, the NX30 features an APS-C-sized CMOS sensor complete with a resolution of 20.3MP which, on paper at least, places it well against other CSCs in its class.
The sensor is paired with Samsung’s latest DRIMe IV image processor which should aid the camera’s operational speed when dealing with larger file sizes, as well as delivering an impressive continuous shooting rate of up to 9fps in either Raw or JPEG.
Much like the camera’s connectivity features, the NX30 benefits from the company’s wide-reaching consumer electronics network when it comes to the LCD screen.
The unit found on the rear of the NX30 measure in at 3in and boasts a resolution of 1,037k-dots although that’s just part of the story.
The screen is of the tiltable variety and as such can be viewed from a range of angles, while it also boasts Super AMOLED technology and well as touchscreen functionality and as such is one of the best specified on the market.
The NX30 also sports an impressive, and unique, EVF. The unit features a resolution of 2,358k-dots and is also tiltable, meaning it can be rotated around 80 degrees.
One final element of the NX30 package – rather than directly the specification – is what’s bundled in the box. When you purchase the NX30 you’ll get a free, full version of Adobe Lightroom 5. Not only is Lightroom 5 one of the best image editing tools on the market, but with a retail price of just over £100 it represents a serious saving to boot.
Samsung NX30 Review – Design
In terms of design, Samsung has taken the approach of making the NX30 more like a mini DSLR than some of its CSC competitors.
As a result, the model is a touch larger than its NX20 predecessor, although these increases in size are thanks to some welcome design additions.
One of the main examples of this is found on the camera’s grip – not only is the front grip of the camera increased substantially, but the thumb grip on the rear of the camera has also been increased. As a result, the camera feels a lot more secure in the hand and easier to get a firmer grip over.
Further design enhancements include the rearrangement of the buttons on the camera in a way that makes for a more intuitive shooting experience.
This intuitive shooting experience is further enhanced by the presence of Samsung’s acclaimed ‘iFunction’ lens technology. This can be customised to any of a range of shooting settings which can then be adjusted by the lens ring.
The body also features an ‘Fn’ menu button on the rear of the camera, along with an ‘Fn’ tab on the camera’s touchscreen display, and with all three you’ll never be wanting for customisation options.
The only real gripe with the camera’s design and build is the quality of the material from which the camera is constructed. Unlike than some of its magnesium alloy rivals the NX30 is constructed from a polycarbonate material that doesn’t quite have the quality feel you might expect from a camera in this class.
Samsung NX30 Review – Performance
As mentioned previously the LCD on the rear of the NX30 is one of the best specified on the market. The good news is that this specification generally delivers an impressive user experience.
The screen delivers a fast refresh rate with very little lag, while the range of colours and general image reproduction is also good. As ever, the ability to tilt the LCD screen about both a horizontal and vertical axis is useful, while the touchscreen functionality allows for intuitive sweeping between images on review, as well as the touch selection of focal points.
The vari-angle viewfinder, meanwhile is a fantastic addition. Being able to rotate the eyepiece by 80 degrees enables new shooting angles and can really add a new dimension to the shooting experience. The fact that the eyepiece also features a pleasingly responsive eye sensor is also welcome.
In terms of general operational speed, the NX30 is relatively prompt considering the amount of technology on board, with the DRIMe IV processor clearly delivering some pretty impressive operational performance.
Unfortunately the camera does struggle a little when it comes to processing images during shooting. When shootingRaw and JPEG files once you’ve run up a succession of images the camera begins to slow, taking a few seconds until the buffer has cleared.
In terms of AF performance, the NX30 features the Advanced Hybrid Autofocus system as seen on the Galaxy NX and NX300. The system combines some 247 contrast-detect points with 105 phase-detect points, with Samsung suggesting that the system on the NX30 delivers AF speed around 35% faster than its predecessors with the same system.
In use, the system is noticeably faster, managing to lock focus almost instantly and with a reliable level of accuracy. The only time the focus system really struggles is in low lighting conditions, and even then it only hesitates slightly and still delivers a good level of accuracy.
As mentioned, the large touchscreen allows for touch selection of specific focus points, which in turn can aid focus accuracy. The NX30 also sports a useful MF-assist mode which when activated allows for 5x magnification of the area in focus for precise operation.
Samsung NX30 Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
Alongside the automatic white balance setting sits some 9 preset alternatives, including Flash and custom, while there’s also the ability to set white balance manually. Each of the preset options also provide the ability to be tweaked to suit personal preference.
Using the automatic white balance setting, along with the camera’s natural colour setting, the NX30 delivers good colour rendition with an even saturation and punchy colours, without being too over the top.
If you want to do more with your images in camera, the model’s Picture Wizard setting has 9 presets and three custom settings that include Vivid and Retro for a range of adjustments.
The camera’s exposure system relies upon a 221-segment metering system and on the whole it performs well. The range of metering modes all offer reliable results, producing consistent exposures in a wide range of lighting conditions.
The most reliable of these is most likely the spot metering mode, which can be linked to the focus point and then positioned using the touch focus setting.
In terms of dynamic range the NX30 goes a good job of balancing out highlight and shadow detail in most scenes. Where it may struggle at all, a pair of dynamic range enhancement modes – namely Smart Dynamic and HDR modes – are on hand to bail it out.
Resolution & Noise
Noise is well controlled at the lower end of the ISO setting, with very little by way of luminance noise making itself known at ISO 400. At ISO 800 luminance noise does become more prominent, although in-camera noise reduction does a good job of dealing with this with very little compromised in terms of detail.
At ISO 1600 and 3200 there is more evidence of noise, and perhaps more importantly there’s more evidence of in camera noise reduction compromising and smudging finer detail.
Above this, noise becomes a real issue, and the maximum ISO of 25600 is probably best avoided.
Raw vs. JPEG
While the NX30 does a good job of reducing noise in JPEG images with very little by way of compromise to finer detail, if you really want to get the most detail from the sensor it’s best to stick to shooting Raw files and then applying noise reduction in post production. Luckily, thanks to the supplied Lightroom 5 software you can do so at no extra cost and very little hassle.
Samsung NX30 Review – Verdict
Although the NX30 might not boast the best build quality of all CSCs in its class, it’s a model that has an awful lot going for it.
The model sports one of the most complete feature-sets of any camera in its class, with the LCD screen and Wi-fi functionality impressing in particular.
Thanks to some re-design tweaks, the model also handles particularly well, and with the inclusion of Lightroom 5 as standard you’re looking at a pretty complete package for those wanting to invest in an enthusiast CSC.
Samsung NX30 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample images captured with the Samsung NX30. For a wider range of images head on over to the Samsung NX30 review sample image gallery.
Unusually, Samsung chose to announce its new DSLR-style CSC, the NX30, mere moments before this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. We had to wait until we got out to the show itself before we could get our hands on a preproduction sample. Though it replaces the NX20, the Samsung NX30 borrows its 20.3MP sensor virtually wholesale from the NX300. Where it improves is in the algorithms, which Samsung says have been enhanced. This, combined with the sophisticated DRIMe IV image processor, means we should expect improved and fast overall performance from the final product.
The most visually obvious difference between the NX30 and NX20 is the design, and most notably the handgrip, which is significantly more pronounced than it was before. The redesign is, I’m pleased to report, very well done – the grip is incredibly comfortable, and its soft, fine texture gives the camera a real premium feel, which extends to the controls.
These have been designed with speed in mind, and consequently there are a number of quick-access buttons to functions including drive, ISO, white balance and AF. If you have a compatible lens there’s also the i-Function feature that allows for controls to be adjusted via the lens’s manual focus ring.
The NX30’s sensor delivers a hybrid AF system, incorporating both contrast-detect and phase-detect AF, which I found delivered excellent speed during single AF acquirement – snappy and precise. There is a wide, panoramic spread of phase-detect AF points on the NX30, three of which are cross-type.
Elsewhere on the sensor, there are gapless microlenses and reduced pixel height, both of which are designed to increase light-gathering capabilities and therefore improve the NX30’s low-light performance.
The improvements to the NX30’s sensor mean that it performs well in low light situations
Viewfinder and LCD
One significant improvement from the NX20 is the vari-angle tilt rear screen, which has been completely overhauled with a huge increase in resolution, from 614,000 dots to 1,073,000, as well as a 30% jump in brightness.
The screen is hugely impressive – with excellent contrast and punchy colours, and the touch-sensitive interface is as good as you’d expect from Samsung.
I put the Smasung NX30 through its paces during a few spare moments at CES Las Vegas
Unfortunately, as the model I tested wasn’t final, I wasn’t able to properly try out the new EVF, which is one of the NX30’s most intriguing new features.
Like the Panasonic GX7 it offers a double-tilt mechanism, however its impressive XGA display boasts 2,359,000 dots of resolution. I examined the tilt mechanism and it seems great – pulling outwards easily but securely. Assessing the display itself, however, will have to wait until we see a final sample.
The NX30 can shoot at 9 fps and has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec. It shoots 1080p HD video at 30p, and has a 3.5mm socket for an external microphone.
Naturally for Samsung, it features NFC and Wi-fi connectivity, allowing the user to control the camera and view the live view feed via a smartphone or tablet by downloading the Smart Camera app.
There’s also an Over Exposure Guide that warns the user when they’re in danger of clipping highlights. I would also add that it’s truly fantastic to see Samsung offering a bundled copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (retail price more than £100) with the NX30.
Based on my time with the NX30 I can say that it certainly has plenty of potential. It’s well made, with a sensible and intuitive layout and a spec to match. I’m looking forward to getting hold of a final production sample to get a look at the EVF in action and properly assess the image quality.
To see more images from the Samsung NX30, head to our sample gallery
Samsung 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S ED OIS lens
The launch of the Samsung NX30 also sees the arrival of Samsung’s first so-called premium ‘S’ series lens. The 16-50mm has a bright aperture of f/2 at 16mm, closing to f/2.8 at 50mm. Designed to withstand harsh elements with a dust and splash proof construction, the lens features an Ultra-Precise stepping motor (UPSM) that’s intended to be up to 3x more precise in its ability to control and focus on subjects.
In addition, the lens features an optical image stabiliser, three aspherical (ASP) lenses, two extra-low dispersion (ED) lenses and two Xtreme High Refractive (XHR) lenses. While the ASP lenses help to reduce and eliminate aspherical aberration, the ED elements are included to help reduce the effect of chromatic aberration and the XHR allows the lens to be made more compact and lightweight.
The 16-50mm has a minimum focusing distance of 30cm, features a 72mm filter thread and weighs 622g.
At the time of writing, Samsung confirmed there was no UK retail information or pricing available.