The 10.1-megapixel Samsung GX-10 digital SLR was developed in partnership with Pentax and helps to redefine what consumers can expect for their money at this price point.
At the launch of the GX-10, Samsung was keen to distance its camera from the Pentax K-10 (which it was developed in partnership with), citing the interface and firmware as key differentiating features. The GX-10 combines high-end specification, a ‘professional’ build quality and a price that won’t leave you struggling to pay the mortgage for months to come.
The Samsung GX-10 features a 10.2MP CCD sensor that is capable of delivering images measuring 3872×2592 pixels, to give an oversized A4 print size of 33 x 22cm (13 x 8.6in) at 300ppi, with only a slight drop in resolution achieving an A3 output.
Optical Picture Stabilisation
Another welcome inclusion is a CCD-based stabilisation system. This means that compatible Pentax KAF lenses gain Optical Picture Stabilisation (OPS) to counter the effects of camera shake. As an additional benefit they are also triggered on startup to remove dust for blemish-free images.
The GX-10 offers a wide range of shooting modes, starting with a fully automatic ‘green’ mode, through the now-standard PASM quartet to manual for complete control over the aperture and shutter speed (from 30-1/4000sec, plus Bulb). The GX10 is also honoured by two new exposure modes – TAv and S – on the mode dial. The first – TAv – is shutter (time) and aperture priority, where the photographer chooses a preferred shutter speed and aperture pairing and the camera attempts to deliver this combination by automatically setting an ISO sensitivity to suit from its ISO 100-1600 range. Alternatively, in Sv (sensitivity value) mode you choose a working ISO and the camera chooses the aperture and shutter speed. This may sound very much like using the Program mode (and in reality the two are very similar) but you can set the ‘Program line’ in the custom functions to high speed, depth of field, MTF priority or ‘normal’, whereas Sv simply gives you what the camera decides on. This does rather raise the question ‘why’?
Regardless of the shooting mode the GX-10 employs 16-segment multi-area metering, with centre-weighted and spot patterns options to help determine the exposure, with a similarly wide range of white balance settings covering everything from automatic to manual with eight presets and three custom settings that allow a precise Kelvin or Mired-based colour temperature to be set. With the exception of the auto WB you can further fine-tune the colour bias for absolute precision.
AF and Continuous Shooting
The GX-10 uses an 11-point AF system that is almost certainly underpinned by Pentax’s Safox VIII AF system. As with all modern DSLRs there’s the usual choice of leaving the decision over the point of focus to the camera or manually intervening and selecting a single AF point yourself. There’s also the compulsory single shot and continuous AF options, with a continuous drive mode delivering up to nine Raw frames in a burst, or up to the capacity of your memory card if you record JPEGs – assuming your card can match the speed of the camera, that is.
For flash users things are a little less rosy, with the built-in flash delivering a weaker-than-most output with its guide number of 11 (GN11m@ISO100) and the 1/180sec sync speed failing to set hearts racing. There is a hotshoe when you need more flash power, but one of the more disappointing facts is that neither model has a PC sync socket for plugging in studio flash units. It may sound like we’re asking a lot seeing as no camera at this price point has one, but given the otherwise ‘pro’ spec of the camera it seems like an obvious way of making this particular model appeal to studio photographers, especially in the portrait environment.
Design and Performance
The Samsung GX-10 is streets ahead of similarly priced peers from other mahor camera brands. Weatherproof seals around the terminal cover, locking card slot and battery compartment – not to mention a rugged, rubberised outer shell – lend it the robust feel of a Nikon D200 or Canon EOS 5D, suggesting that it will withstand a little rough handling without complaint.
Dedicated Raw Button
We particularly like the inclusion of a ‘Raw’ button on the front left of the lens throat that gives the immediate option to record a Raw file without the palaver of navigating the menus, while the ‘Fn’ (function) button gives easy access to the white balance, ISO, flash and drive modes. Similarly, separate control points for the metering mode (surrounding the main mode dial on the top left) and AF mode (around the four-way control pad) also means that changing the camera’s set-up is not as menu-driven as some other models. The GX10’s sophisticated-looking menu system is in keeping with its refined build.
Raise the GX-10 to your eye and you will be greeted with a respectable 95% coverage of the scene through the lens. Yet while the viewfinder is bright, the eye relief seems a little short, so you will find yourself having to move your eye around the viewfinder to read the information relayed on the LCD beneath the focusing screen and scan the corners of the frame.
We have no real complaints about the performance of the AF system. The active AF point or points are picked out in red on the focusing screen when the camera gets a lock, which is generally as immediate and as precise as it needs to be. Even when you find yourself in low light with a slow lens there’s only the slightest hesitation in getting a focus lock, and even that disappears if you’re using the built-in flash to fire a stroboscopic ‘AF assist’ burst.
The positives continue when we look at other areas that have obviously been considered at the design stage, such as the novel white balance ‘check’. With the white balance options called up on the rear LCD you can use the depth of field control to get a low-resolution preview of your image. As you scroll through the WB settings the preview is updated ‘live’ on the LCD, enabling you to see which gives the ‘best’ result. You can also fine-tune the WB before taking your final colour-accurate photograph. Obviously, if you shoot Raw files this is largely redundant as the white balance can be tailored at the processing stage, but for the photographer who wants print-ready JPEGs – with or without an accompanying Raw file – we have yet to see a more comprehensive solution.
With such an impressive spec, build quality and price tag, the GX-10 looks to be a photographer’s dream, however if you’re a novice looking for your first DSLR it might not be for you. The reason is that it requires a little work to ensure things come out ‘right’. The 16-segment multi-area metering is readily thrown by highlight areas so you need to keep an eye on the histogram if you want print-ready JPEGs, or edit your images ‘after the event’. Better still, a rudimentary knowledge of when and why you might want to use centreweighted metering will help no end.
It’s a similar story with the white balance, which can deliver cool-looking images when left to its own devices, while the pre-set WB settings aren’t always the answer either – giving overly warm results in overcast conditions, for example.
When it comes to noise we have no complaints whatsoever. At the lower end of the scale (ISO 100-400) images can be considered ‘noise free’ up to an A3 print size, while at ISO 800 noise isn’t an issue with a 300ppi / A4 sized print. Even when viewed at 100% on screen it’s luminance texture, rather than coloured (chroma) noise that starts to creep in. What impresses us most, though, is that at ISO 1600 the images don’t ‘fall apart’. There is some base texture in darker areas of A4 prints, but this is by no means obvious, or indeed disruptive to detail. Also, as the noise is primarily luminosity noise rather than chroma noise, photographs have a ‘filmic’ appearance rather than a telltale digital look.
What we?re looking at here is a cracking DSLR ? the Samsung GX10 redefines what we should expect at this price point. If you think ?Nikon D200 at a D80 price? you won?t go far wrong. Samsung is now a ?class leader? and certainly not the ?also-ran? it had risked becoming.
The key to getting the best from the GX-10 lies in how much work you are willing to put into your photography. If you want to shoot Raw, have a basic understanding of exposure metering and white balance then you won?t go wrong, but if you just want to point and shoot you?ll be better served elsewhere.