There’s a lot riding on this camera for Samsung, as it’s the first launch in its brand new Hybrid system, so if the camera is a flop the system could be dead in the water. Fortunately Samsung has done its homework and produced a camera that fulfils the criteria of a small, portable system camera, but also comes closer to delivering a DSLR-like experience than anything yet seen from the rival Micro Four-Thirds system.
In pretty much every respect the NX10 looks and feels like a down-sized DSLR. The body styling resembles the company’s GX20 DSLR and aside from the electronic viewfinder it handles just like a DSLR, but smaller. With the 30mm pancake lens you’ll probably be able to squeeze it into a blazer pocket. Compared with the Panasonic GH1, which I have had with me, the NX10 is smaller, but not by as much as its rounded edges would fool you into believing. The shallower grip of the NX10 doesn’t impede the camera’s handling – not for me anyway, though I have fairly small hands.
The first thing I noticed at switch on is that 3 inch AMOLED screen. It’s noticeably brighter and higher contrast than Panasonic’s G series, though it doesn’t tilt and swivel. (Samsung claims that AMOLED has a 10,000 times faster response rate than LCD, and a higher contrast ratio of 10,000:1 instead of 500:1. The power consumption is said to be lower too).
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is also brighter, though not quite as sharp as the one on the GH1. When you put your eye to the chunky rubber eyecup the camera switches the EVF on and the screen off automatically.Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of EVFs – I find them harder to use and focus with, especially in certain situations such as shooting into the light – but I guess it depends what you’re used to, and I’ve grown up with DSLRs. It won’t be an issue for many people and even I, as a sceptic, appreciate that this is the sacrifice that must be made in order to achieve that smaller size.
If you’re familiar with DSLRs you probably won’t even need to read the manual to find your way around the NX10. The mode dial is on the top right, near the shutter button, and includes the full compement of PASM modes as well as Smart Auto, Scene modes and Movie mode. There’s an input dial behind the shutter and an exposure compensation button behind that. The four way control pad, quick access Function button and all the other staples from DSLRs are on the back, where you’d expect to find them.
Samsung’s user interface is model of clarity and the text, both in the viewfinder and on the screen, is large and easy to read. The main menu and function menu are particularly worthy of praise for their clarity and aesthetics.
I had the fortune to be able to spend a couple of hours with a pre-production NX10, fitted with the 18-55mm kit lens. (A 30mm pancake, and 50-200mm tele-zoom are also available) and was impressed with the pictures I took with it. You can see a selection for yourself in our image gallery. They’re all jpegs straight out of the camera with no post-processing. (I shot raw too, but don’t have the software to open the NX10′s proprietary srw files.) Bear in mind though that this is a pre-production camera, so these pictures are not a definitive guide to the final camera’s performance.
Overall, based upon my brief time with the camera I’d say that Samsung has cause to be very pleased with its new baby. After a disappointing excursion into the DSLR market, which it was never really going to conquer, it looks like Samsung may finally have hit the jackpot with its new Hybrid camera system.
• Small size and weight
• Big, bright screen
• DSLR handling
• User interface
• Focusing, metering and white balance performance
• High ISO performance
• Jpeg processing
• EVF not as sharp as competitors (though it’s brighter)
• Continuous burst mode a bit sluggish compared to a DSLR
• Launch cost of £599 with 18-55mm lens higher than some DSLRs
What is the Hybrid system?
The Hybrid system was developed by Samsung to fill what is believes is a gap in the market for camera buyers wanting a camera that offers the image quality and interchangeable lens benefits of a DSLR but in a smaller package.
The system uses a DSLR sensor and processor, but by removing the mirror and prism assembly that DSLRs use to enable viewing, and replacing it with an electronic viewfinder, or EVF (a small monitor, like a tiny TV, inside the camera) the cameras can be made significantly smaller. And because the distance from the lens mount to the sensor is reduced, the lenses can be smaller than DSLR lenses too.
The principle is much the same as the rival Micro Four-Thirds (MFT) system developed by Panasonic and Olympus, but rather than using a Four-Thirds size sensor the Hybrid system uses a larger APS-C sized sensor. In the case of the debut camera, the Samsung NX10, it’s the same 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor used in its GX20 DSLR though with some tweaks. This, in theory should enable the possibility of better mage quality than MFT, especially where noise is concerned.
Three lenses have been produced initially but there will be more to follow. Although Hybrid lenses, which use a new, unique NX lens mount, are smaller than DSLR ones, they will be slightly larger than MFT lenses due to the larger sensor.
Samsung has also shown two flashguns, a remote release and some filters to expand the system, with more accessories promised. The company has also revealed that it will in the future be releasing downloadable Apps for NX system cameras from its newly launched Apps Store to expand the functionality of the cameras (just like with smart phones like the iPhone) though no date has been put on this.