Samsung NX10 Digital Camera Review

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Samsung NX10 Digital Camera Review
Posted: 31 Mar 2010

Samsung NX10 Review - The Samsung NX10 is the company's answer to the Micro Four
Thirds system and it is up against stiff competition from Olympus and Panasonic. Will
Cheung tests it out.

                     The Samsung NX10, a system camera and it is small
                     because it lacks a pentaprism and instant return
I got chatting to some ePHOTOzine members in the bar (where else?) at the recent Focus
on Imaging show and one of them had a very interesting opinion on the lines of, ‘Is it right for
a system camera not to have a reflex mirror in it?' Leaving aside Leica M cameras, what the
chap was clearly referring to was the rash of Micro Four Thirds format cameras that have
appeared from Olympus and Panasonic. This camera type has done away with traditional
aspects of design that date back 50 years, ie gone are the pentaprism and the instant return
reflex mirror, thus saving weight and space for the user and material and production costs for
the manufacturers. It’s win-win.

The Micro Four Thirds system camera market has materialised very quickly and shown that
there is a demand for compact cameras with interchangeable lenses. The Samsung NX10
has jumped on the bandwagon but using an APS-C sized sensor rather than Four Thirds and
a new lens mount, the NX mount.

As an aside, for those of you interested in camera trivia, the first SLR with a pentaprism was
the Contax S (1949) and the first camera with an instant return mirror was the very rare
Hungarian-made Gamma Duflex (1948) and only 800 were ever made. The first Japanese
made SLR with instant return mirror was the Asahiflex IIb (1954).

Anyway, back to the present-day, The NX10 is in the shops now and has a guide price of
£600 with the standard 18-55mm OIS lens. However, the street price is already down to
£490 with the same lens.

Samsung NX10: Features
Small size does not mean that the camera's features list is compromised. Far from it. The
NX10 is brimming with features, a mix of stuff aimed at experienced and inexperienced

Aimed at the less experienced user, for example, there's a long list of Scene modes. Portrait,
landscape and night are common but there are some more exotic ones such as fireworks,
sunset and something called Beauty Shot.

For keen photographers, there is the usual array of exposure modes, PASM: program,
aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual. To modify exposure settings there is the usual
powerful trinity of exposure modification tools: exposure lock, compensation and bracketing.
A noteworthy feature of the metering system is the multi-zone measurement system that
utilises no fewer than 247 zones.

The autofocus system relies on 15 sensor points in normal use and 35 in close-up, with the
choice of using all of them or just one. Face detection and self-portrait AF modes are also
options. The single zone AF function allows you to move that zone around to the relevant
part of the frame. The sensor allows you to shoot at the 14Mp resolution with its image ratio
of 3:2, or if you prefer a more panoramic format you can select a 16:9 picture ratio and a
resolution of 12Mp.

       The 3in monitor provides bright
                                               You can see the exposed sensor.

The 3in monitor will be the most popular method of composition for many people and this
does provide an impressively bright image, but there is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) too.
Put your eye to the viewfinder eyepiece and the image switches automatically from the
monitor to the EVF and vice-versa. This is similar to the Eye-start system originally seen on
Minolta SLR cameras.

The EVF image is more than acceptable. The image is clear, sharp and free of obvious lines
that used to beset earlier EVF systems. There's no refresh lag as you pan from side to side
either, so it's a perfectly usable system.

For this review, we were supplied with three lenses: the 30mm f/2 pancake, the 18-55mm
standard and the 55-200mm telephoto zoom. The NX10 is being marketed in packages
featuring one, two or three lenses. No doubt in time we will see more optics from Samsung,
as well as from other brands.

                    The NX10 is bigger and heavier than the Olympus
                    Pen E-P2, but it also feels more robust and it does
                    have a viewfinder.

Samsung NX10: Build and handling
Everything about the Samsung NX10 feels positive and confident. The controls are firm and
click securely into position. There's no sloppiness here and little chance of accidentally
moving important controls such as the exposure mode.

In terms of feel, the body is reassuringly robust. The handgrip is a good size to give
someone like me with average-sized hands a secure grip while there is no 'give' in the body.
To be honest, it feels more solid than it looks and I like that. Size-wise, as someone used to
Canon and Nikon DSLRs the NX10 is delightfully petite. It's small enough to illustrate the
benefits of booting out the reflex mirror and pentaprism but not so small that it is a fiddle to

I'm going to show my vintage here and say that the differences reminds me back in the 70s
when the then radical Olympus OM1 came out. Every SLR at the time was big, and heavy
then along came the OM1 and the photographic world changed forever and for the better.
Products such as the NX10 and the Olympus/Panasonic models could have the same

Finding my way around is no problem and there is nothing on the NX10 that would
bamboozle a current DSLR user. Users progressing from a compact, however, may be more
perplexed by the controls and menu items. There's an opportunity for Samsung to make a
simpler version or to make the NX20 (or whatever the next one will be called) more user-

As far as the menu is concerned, the one on the NX10 is Samsung's best effort yet and
significantly clearer than the menu system of the GX10 and GX20. The lovely monitor helps
here too.
       The exposure mode is positive.           The buttons are small but okay in use.

       The pop-up flash has a GN of 11 at
                                                Excellent, clear menu system.

One thing that has concerned me from day one regarding these small system cameras is
that the sensor is relatively open to airborne nasties. Indeed, there's nothing to stop you
accidently smearing your finger over it. There's no physical protection, ie no reflex mirror and
shutter curtain mechanism to cover it. This is less of an issue if you never change lenses but
of course one of the attractions of system cameras is being able to do exactly that.

During my time with the Samsung, I only once got shots with a nasty blob of dust on it and
that is pretty good going because I expected more problems. The integral sensor cleaning
system, called a Super Sonic Drive must do a good job. It vibrates 60,000 times a second to
shake off surface dust.

The spectre of physical damage still looms large in my mind, but that is probably because I
can get a little sloppy when swopping lenses. Having a vulnerable sensor is a good antidote
to that. On the plus side, the openness of the sensor does make it simpler to clean. It's close
to the surface so it's easier to see what you are doing with the swab and you are not working
too much in the dark.

Samsung: NX10: Performance
I shot Raw and Super Fine JPEGs. At the time of testing, Photoshop and Lightroom were not
compatible with the NX10's Raw files so I processed the Raws using Samsung's software,
which is Windows compatible only.

I also shot some movie footage too and the image quality is excellent. The biggest
drawbacks are the microphone quality, as you would expect, and mono sound. But for fun,
the NX10 movie mode is fine.
I took over 600 pictures in a very wide range of lighting situations from bright sun at the
seaside to the low light of a fairground. I left the NX10 in its default multi-zone light
measuring mode.

To be honest, you would expect any camera to mess up occasionally but, incredibly, I did
not suffer from one badly exposed frame - except those that I deliberately messed up. A few
images could be tweaked to make more of them but not once did I have to get to work in
Raw to recover a frame. I think that is a remarkable performance.

Of course, the NX10 is unlikely to be infallible in exposure terms and there is doubt that it will
falter sooner or later, but so far, so good and the system is clearly capable.

No obvious shortcomings were revealed during the test, apart from the continuous AF
system's inability to hold focus on fast moving fairground rides in low light. To be honest, not
even top-end pro Canon or Nikon DSLRs would have managed that particular test.

I tried the single zone and multiple zone AF system as well as face detection. With the multi-
zone AF system I did end up with a few failures where the camera focused on something
other than what I wanted. To be fair, this happens with other multi-zone AF systems too, and
is why I prefer using the single zone AF so that I can pick what I want sharp.

The AF system itself is virtually silent and the focusing action is swift and responsive. On the
monitor and in the viewfinder, if the camera can't focus, red indicators show while you get
green if the subject is in sharp focus. In terms of outright speed, the NX10 seems marginally
slower than my current DSLR, but this is only an impression and the difference, if any, is

Samsung NX10: Colour
I left the camera in its standard colour setting for most of the review, playing with the style
modes only to see what they were capable of.

My pictures looked fine to me and did not need any remedial help in Photoshop to enhance
saturation or to subdue colours. Pictures looked rich without being over the top, natural
tones like skin, foliage and skies looked accurate. The same could be said of whites, greys
and blacks which were mostly recorded free of any colour cast.

The primary colours came out richly saturated especially reds and blues while still holding
onto detail with greens just being slightly more delicate. Subtle hues also looked good and
there was no problem with purples, pinks and delicate blues. Click on the thumbnails of our
test shelf to view high resolution images if you want to check out the results for yourself.

                       Samsung NX10 colour and ISO test: view high
                       resolution images by clicking on the individual
                       thumbnails below
                      ISO100            ISO200           ISO400

                      ISO800            ISO1600          ISO3200

       A variety of lighting conditions were thrown at the NX10 and it coped
       admirably with little, is any, manual intervention. Click on the thumbnails if
       you want to a view a high res image.

Samsung NX10: noise
The ISO range is 100 up to 3200, selectable in full f/stop values.
As you would expect, the images taken at ISO100 and ISO200 are very clean and tonality is
smooth. Picture quality is generally excellent.

Noise starts making its presence felt from ISO400 onwards. Areas of even tone start looking
marginally coarse but fine detail is unaffected and remains nicely resolved.
Up another stop and noise is prevalent in the darker colours and shadows, but generally the
midtomes and highlights remain clean and detail still looks good.

The last ISO for critical use is ISO1600. Digital noise is obtrusive, especially in the shadows
where blotches of red and green noise can be seen. In lighter areas there is no such

ISO3200 is probably best avoided unless you really need such high sensitivity. Fine detail is
lost in mushy digital noise and noise is obviously visible in even toned areas. To be fair it
wasn't horrible at all, but it did take the shine off the camera's performance at low ISO

To sum up, the NX10 is a respectable but probably not outstanding performer in the ISO
stakes. However, at the lower ISO settings it is impossible not to be impressed with image

                       Samsung NX10 noise test: view high resolution
                       images by clicking on the individual thumbnails

                       ISO100           ISO200          ISO400

                       ISO800           ISO1600         1S03200

                       View high resolution images by clicking on the
                       thumbnails below to check out ISO

                       ISO100          ISO200           ISO400

                       ISO800          ISO1600          ISO3200

Samsung NX10: White-balance
I usually leave the camera set to auto white-balance, trying the presets just to see how they
performed for the test.

From sunshine, to shooting in a shady wood and to the strange artificial lights of a fairground,
I had no serious concerns with the camera's performance in different lighting situations. The
images in full sunlight with AWB were very slightly cool but not in an unacceptable way. I
found the same with images shots with studio flash – this was using the flash preset without
any custom white-balance.

In shade or under cloud cover AWB did really well and images did not need any warming up.
AWB did less well in incandescent lighting and images still had a strong orange colour cast.
Selecting a preset resolved this, as did doing a custom white-balance.

All round, the NX10 gave a solid performance and there was nothing to be concerned about.

       Samsung provide a Raw converter in its software suite - our sample was
       Windows only.

Buffer/write speed
Using a Lexar 133x SD card, shooting in normal JPEG quality mode, I got 50 shots at 3fps
and there was no sign that the camera was about to run out of steam. Increasing image
quality to Super Fine JPEG, I got 25 frames before the camera slowed up and but even then
I carried on shooting albeit at a slower rate.

Factor in Raw, of course, and shooting speed slows down significantly. In Raw only, you get
three consecutive shots, then there is a delay of a few seconds as an image is written to
card and the buffer clears ready for the next one. With Raw and Super Fine JPEG the
shooting speed is marginally slower.

Bearing in mind that the NX10 is not a pro spec camera, shooting speed performance and
the buffer size are okay. After all, this is not a camera designed for action shooting.

From one full charge I managed 600 shots, a handful of short movies and plenty of image
reviewing. That is good capacity, so one charge is easily enough a week of photography for
many users.

Lens performance
The NX lens system comprises three optics at the moment, but that covers a focal length
range from 18mm to 200mm. In 35mm full-frame format, that is a range from 27mm to
300mm, which is enough for most prospective NX10 users. Those photographers wanting
the NX10 as a second camera might demand more, but it is a good start.

                    The NX10 along with its three lenses: (left to right) the
                    18-55mm OIS, 30mm pancake and 55-200mm OIS.

A full testbench review of the three optics will appear here in due course. Meanwhile, here
are our thoughts based on the pictures we took.

My personal favourite is the 30mm pancake lens. Its fast f/2 aperture aside, the 30mm's
other practical benefit is its size and it combines with the NX10 to form a lovely, pocketable
combination - this assumes a jacket pocket as opposed to a trouser pocket. Images taken on
this lens were really sharp almost regardless of aperture choice. Colours were crisp
andimages seemed to leap off the screen. Viewed at 100% on screen or on A3-size prints,
fine detail was beautifully resolved. While this may be a fixed focal length lens, it offers great
value for money and a splendid performance.

The two zooms have a hard act to follow and it is true that they do not reach the heights of
the fixed 30mm lens, but that is no surprise. The telezoom was the slightly less impressive of
the two lenses, but used at its mid-apertures, images are plenty of contrast and detail is
finely resolved too. The OIS is handy too and it work well, giving at a least a one stop benefit.

In terms of OIS performance, the 18-55mm was more impressive. I got sharp shots at
1/8sec and 1/15sec without too many problems, so the benefit is around two stops. Optical
performance was impressive again with the lens producing sharp, flare-free images. There
were signs of mild distortion, though, so straight lines at the edge of the frame were slightly
bowed out. This is not a problem with general photography and only apparent with
architectural subjects.
Samsung NX10: Verdict
After 25 years of reviewing photographic products, I am as cynical as anyone of the camera
makers' innovations. But I think they are really onto something big with system cameras like
this Samsung and the Micro Four Thirds system. The cameras offer high quality
photography, responsive handling, interchangeable lenses and without the bulk of a
traditional DSLR.

I have had a brilliant time with the Samsung NX10. It is undoubtedly a superb camera that
performs well, and I love it. During this test, I managed to use the NX10 alongside the
Olympus Pen E-P2 and the Leica X1, and added to that was still fresh memories of a recent
experience with the Panasonic Lumix G2. So far, the NX10 stacks up really well against its
nearest rivals and I can't wait to get all of them together for a group test. However, for now,
with the NX10 selling at under £500 with the standard zoom, I think Samsung are on to a

Samsung NX10: Pros
  Picture quality
  Rich colours
  Exposure system accuracy and consistency

Samsung NX10: Cons
  ISO3200 performance not great
  Autofocus could be inconsistent in multi-point operation


Description: Samsung NX10 Review - The Samsung NX10 is the company's answer to the Micro Four Thirds system and it is up against stiff competition from Olympus and Panasonic. Will Cheung tests it out.