Is the new Samsung NX10 the future of Micro System Cameras? The What Digital Camera Samsung NX10 review sees how it stands up against the established Micro Four Thirds system...
Samsung NX10 Review
So is the NX10 a true DSLR-buster? In many respects yes, but it’s with the AF system that, as per so many other contrast detection systems, the camera shows its limitations. AF can be slow, and also a tad inconsistent – focusing on the same static subject a number of times can produce different AF-points taking priority of focus, despite no change in scene.
Switching to the 50-200mm tele zoom lens increased the impact of the AF, with focusing on subjects between changing distances proving slow – not the sort of performance desired from a long lens.
The Continuous AF system works to the best of its ability, and yet this means constant ‘forward and back’ contrast-detect AF focus-checking that can be slow – too slow for very fast moving subjects.
Also, in low light, and despite a superbly bright green AF illuminator lamp, there can be the tendency for focus to opt for the brighter backlight with Multi AF active (Selection AF is a more accurate way for subject-specific work, assuming the time permits to set up and adjust AF Area).
With Auto ISO there is also a tendency for the camera to resolve exposure with on-the-cusp shutter speeds of 1/15th or even 1/6th second in reasonably good light, capturing at ISO 480 for example.
A faster ISO sensitivity choice and snappier 1/30th exposure time would have been preferable to pertain optimum sharpness.
Of course there are all the manual and aperture/shutter priority controls to override this counter-intuitive effect, but with this camera crossing over to both step-up auto users and more advanced amateurs this does feel like a small oversight, nor is there the option to preference top-end ISO use when in Auto mode.
The 14.6MP output means some big files and, if shooting Raw & JPEG Super Fine, expect each pair of files to be around 35MB total. Great for detail-packed post work, though Raw-junkies beware the impact this may have on card space and, indeed, the NX10’s buffer.
Such a large file size can quickly clog the buffer when continuous shooting, though only when the Raw files are concerned. With a claimed 3fps drive mode to three Raw files, the Panasonic Gold Standard Class 6 SD card used in this test happily shot Raw + JPEG Super Fine at this pace, taking some 11 seconds to then clear the buffer for the next round of shooting. Using Super Fine JPEG only, the camera continuously shot at 3fps until the card was full with no let up and no processing lag.
Star of the show has to be the AMOLED screen. Its smooth motion preview is superb, playback is crisp and it looks great. However, the screen coating seems fond of fingerprints that can then cause reflective sunlight issues in bright conditions.
To accompany the screen is the 921K-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF). It’s a great viewfinder that produces the same AF-point feedback as per the main screen. Although it’s still a long way from optical viewfinders, it’s a step in the right direction and the auto screen-to-EVF sensor means there’s no faffing with buttons when your eye nears the EVF activates for quick use.
A slight nuisance is the fiddly dioptre adjustment to the side, which has an excellent range of -4.0-+2 for those glasses wearers among us, but you’ll need very delicate hands to adjust this. On the upside this does mean accidental adjustment is unlikely, yet setting it right in the first instance should be easier.
The new NX lens fitting currently means limitations on number of lenses, which may in part have led to Samsung delaying the camera for so many months. However there is promise of more: To add to the existing 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS, 30mm f/2.0 and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 OIS will be a non-stabilised version of the 18-55mm (likely for an even more cost effective package), a 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens, 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS compact zoom, 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OIS, and 50mm f/2.8 Macro. Only the latter two are unlikely to be on the shelves inside 2010 but should be available for the first part of 2011.
It’s certainly all systems go, an array of lenses is an essential requirement for a system that depends upon firstly interchangeable lenses and the pancake lens and compact zoom will be significant as, currently, the 18-55mm kit lens is fairly large and at full extension somewhat long too. The forthcoming macro lens will be an important addition to the camp as the current range won’t focus particularly close to subject – some 28cm from lens at the wide end of the 18-55mm kit lens, or 25cm from lens with the 30mm prime.
As well as the still images the NX10 also records HD 720P movies at 30 frames per second. These movie files are encoded with the H.264 codec, which is seen as the current best format for smaller file sizes with greater detail. No in-camera or software-based editing tools are provided, though it is possible to pull stills from the movie sequence at the press of a button on camera and Quicktime is provided to play back the resulting MP4 files.
Although a variety of options allow for single or continuous autofocus, the camera will only take a single point of focus whether in Program Auto or Aperture Priority movie modes. The Depth of field Preview button on the front of the camera – which is placed in a location that makes it rather difficult to utilise when shooting – can be used to refocus, though this should not be considered as ‘continuous focusing’. Manual Focusing is possible, but the lens feedback can be picked up from the NX10’s microphone.