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Thorough Hands On: Samsung NX10

by Chris Gampat on 03/10/2010

Yesterday at a Samsung event I was able to get hours of quality fondling time with the Samsung NX10. It was a pre-production model and I didn’t have an SD card with me on hand. However, I talked about the camera with many Samsung reps today and got an answer to many questions. Stick around for my findings.

Tech Specs at a Glance

Some of this is from DPReview,

“* 15.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (presumed to be close relation to Pentax K7 sensor)

* 14.6 million effective pixels

* New Samsung NX mount (25.5mm flange-back distance)

* 720P movie capture (H.264, 30 fps)

* Contrast-detect autofocus

* 3.0″ AMOLED screen (614,000 dots, PenTile RGB array)

* 921k dot Electronic Viewfinder with auto eye detect

* 30mm F2 pancake and 18-55mm standard zoom options along with an attachment for Pentax lenses

* ISO up to 3200″

The NX mount is a brand new creation from Samsung and doesn’t use anything from Pentax, despite the fact that the companies still have a close relationship. It it meant to compete with Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Ergonomics

Of any EVIL (electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens) camera I’ve held, the NX10 is perhaps the most comfortable. The GH1 and G1 feel like a small DSLR but have a very nice velvet feel to them. The NX10 feels like a very, very tiny DSLR. The grip is just the right size for my hands and I’d be happy to shoot street photography with it.

The button layout is a bit awkward for me. As a DSLR guy, I’m used to being able to shoot constantly without my eyes leaving the viewfinder. Though in theory I could do that with the NX10 and some muscle memory, it isn’t intuitive.

The selection wheel is also in quite a weird spot, right above the shutter release. I would’ve preferred it to be below it the way that it is with Canon or Nikon cameras. I also recommended to the reps that in future and more professionally targeted models that they please put another selector wheel of some sort on the back. That selector wheel is actually present on the TL500 point-and-shoot that they announced.

I really have to give it to Samsung though for keeping the button layout on the back simple and easy to remember. The muscle memory for using the back buttons can be learned very quickly with some personal fondling time playtime with the camera. The viewfinder activates very quickly when your eye (or in many cases with us, a finger) comes close to it. The same technology is found on the Panasonic GH1 and G1. Additionally, the AMOLED screen is gorgeous.

There are a couple of ports on the camera. Disappointingly, you cannot connect a microphone up to it and the camera’s microphones are placed on the top and at the front left. This may or may not be a cup of tea for you when shooting video at 720p. The ports allowed though will be quite sufficient for consumers and enthusiasts.

I also recommended to the Samsung reps to please not only add a microphone jack but also a headphone jack so that we can monitor the sound internally without the need for extra sound packs.

Outstanding Features

The first outstanding feature of this camera is the fact that there is an APS-C sized sensor in there of Samsung manufacturing. It isn’t Foveon, or Four Thirds. It’s larger. Below is a chart for reference. This sensor is the size of those from Sony/Nikon.

This feature to me makes it very appealing. As an event, wedding, concert and photojournalism shooter, I love the larger sensors. Sure, it isn’t Full Frame or APS-H but I’ll take it.

Another interesting feature of this camera is the menu system and how it works. First off, all the information you could possibly need is displayed for you on the screen and in the viewfinder. For enthusiasts and pros, this will be easy. For beginners and people stepping up: this should help and so should this.

Something I like is being able to shoot at different file sizes on a camera like this. Specifically, in RAW. Not many entry-level models have this feature.

The way the menu works also looks very nice. You select an option, then move more and more upwards until you sometimes have to manipulate settings like Fill-in flash above. The way it looks reminds me of the analog meters on some of their other cameras.

The most unique and interesting thing that I saw on this camera though was totally customizable White Balance. That means that your Tungsten can look like Daylight and vice versa. This can all be reset back to the original manufacturer settings using the green button on top of the camera. Further, we had a bit of a problem with the manual white balance function: When we told the camera to become cooler, it became warmer. When we told it to become warmer, it became cooler. This is probably most likely a pre-production problem though and I’m positive it will be fixed.

Pictures from the camera look gorgeous. And the Fill in Flash settings when used properly can really spice up the look of your photos to add nice even lighting.

The Awesome

* APS-C is finally in a really small body

* AMOLED screen

* Very comfortable feel

* Nicest menu system I’ve seen to date. Even better than Sony’s.

* Electronic Viewfinder

* Relative Megapixel restraint shown

* Easy to use for professionals and enthusiasts

* Very light

* I’m excited to throw a pancake lens on it and shove it in my bag for shooting whenever.

* Potential to make shooting fun again vs streamlined professionally for pros.

* On camera flash photos actually look damned good.

Constructive Criticism

* Slow processing speeds for long exposures. Lots of entry level cameras have this problem and I wish it were solved. With Samsung being an electronics giant, I hope they do soon.

* Long learning curve for learning buttons when looking into the viewfinder. It isn’t intuitive.

* Viewfinder needs to be much higher resolution, I can’t even tell what I’m focusing on at times.

* Limited amount of lenses available due to the new system. This will change and more manufacturers will partner with Samsung I’m sure.

* That one problem we had with manual white balance mentioned earlier. I’m sure it’s a pre-production problem.

* No 1080p HD video, microphone jack, headphone jack or selectable frame rates. But they’re coming, I’m positive of that.

* Microphone placement is a bit awkward.

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