Samsung NX10 'Hybrid' 14.6MP Camera (18-55mm OIS Kit, Firmware 1.15) Review
Samsung is an electronics company that was founded over 70 years ago and has been in the business for a reasonably long time. They had finally overtaken Sony as global leader in consumer electronics in 2005 and have not looked back. Samsung is in essence what Sony was in old time past. Sony had once dominated for many years but now that torch has been past to Samsung.
The difference between the Japanese giant (Sony) and the Korean giant (Samsung) is that Sony made a name for itself in the past with a sole focus on its televisions and popular Walkman (Cassette) and Discman (Compact Disc) series, while Samsung has infiltrated every possible segment out there creating televisions, portable electronics, computer electronics, mobile phones, and memory chips (DRAM, SRAM). They even manufacture home appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and air conditioners. Samsung without a doubt has a more diverse lineup and has made it their mission to have their name brand imprinted on everything that a individual uses.
The dilemma with being such a large company and making products for many different segments is that how can such a company become experts at every possible segment they get into? It's almost impossible, at least in my opinion. You can become experts and churn out the best products for one type of product segment but on the other hand, it might not be possible to replicate the same success for the second or third product segments because you have never done it before or just not there yet. This is where you have a research and development department improving products with every release until you get your technique down perfectly.
Over the past three years, I've reviewed two camcorders (2007, 2008) and two Samsung digital cameras (2009, 2010) and what I described in the above paragraph are examples of what I am talking about. There were some good and some not so good releases from Samsung, but the WB550 was where things started to drastically improve from previous years. And that is the essence of becoming the best, by improving with each release of a similar product.
Today I review Samsung's brand new NX series offering dubbed the NX10. The NX10 is a unique product because of where it slots in the camera classes. This unique product is a fusion of digital camera and DSLR technology and in the end combines the best of both worlds. It also records in HD (720p) video too!. We'll see whether or not things have been improved at Samsung in regards to picture quality, video quality, general usability and whether a mixture of digital camera and DSLR technology can create a great end result.
“For over 70 years, SAMSUNG has been dedicated to making a better world through diverse businesses that today span advanced technology, semiconductors, skyscraper and plant construction, petrochemicals, fashion, medicine, finance, hotels and more. Our flagship company, SAMSUNG Electronics, leads the global market in high-tech electronics manufacturing and digital media.
Through innovative, reliable products and services; talented people; a responsible approach to business and global citizenship; and collaboration with our partners and customers, SAMSUNG is taking the world in imaginative new directions.”
Samsung NX10 Product Overview
"Introducing the NX10, the next generation compact Camera with 14.6 Megapixels, APS-C sized CMOS sensor with Supersonic Dust Reduction technology which delivers the highest image quality with rich, natural colour. Small enough to take anywhere, the perfectly compacted NX10 is reduced in size to maximise portability and convenience, and is combined with a 18-55 mm interchangeable zoom lens for maximum versatility. With advanced features such as Fast and Precise AF (Auto Focus) to capture your moments instantly; and 3.0" AMOLED display for outstanding colour reproduction, your moments can be captured and images can be created just as you imagine them."
Samsung NX10 Product Features
Samsung NX10 Product Specifications
The Samsung NX10 comes in a compact black corrugated box, for which I have to give credit to Samsung's product packaging designer's, because it's quite the looker. You have this sleek black design philosophy throughout. The camera is shown in front of the package with the light source creating a celebrity type look. To the lower left, you read the catchy slogan, 'Why Capture? Create!' Turn the box over and you have all the features listed to make an informed decision.
In Canada, you can find the Samsung NX10 18-55mm OIS kit retailing for $799.99 or you can wait for it to go on-sale for a competitive $699.99 price tag. Once you've purchased the NX10, here is what you will find in the box...
Samsung supplies the NX10 with a good bundle. Obviously to finish the package, you will have to invest in an SD card (NX10 is SDHC capable). The only thing missing from this NX10, being HDMI capable, is an HDMI cable! I would have expected Samsung to include this (HDMI cables are now inexpensive to produce) but it wasn't the case.
Before I go even further in the review, I'd like to tell you the dilemma I had. The NX10 being a unique camera in terms of where it sits in a certain camera class (it's a hybrid between a digital camera and DSLR). Going into this review I wanted to know what I would 'compare' it to. Should I compare it to a digital camera or should I compare it to a DSLR? Maybe both? Well I concluded that I compare it to what Samsung was presenting it as...From Samsung's own website comes this description for the NX Series and sums it up clearly.
The Samsung NX series lets you be creative without having to make any compromises. It’s a lightweight point-and-shoot that delivers the performance and professional image quality of a DSLR in compact form.
I think it's clear from this quote that the Samsung NX10 is presented to us consumers as being a point-and-shoot digital camera first and foremost and that it is not being sold as a DSLR. This is important to differentiate. Samsung then makes clear two traits that the NX10 possesses that makes it DSLR-like and what it is trying to achieve. One is performance and two is image quality. So what we have in the NX10 is a DSLR-look-a-like point-and-shoot digital camera that has the performance of a DSLR, has the image quality of a DSLR, but it is not a DSLR. Err...this makes no sense at all!!
I'm going to end up comparing it to both then.
The NX10 uses a Lithium-Ion 7.4v, 1300mAh battery and not those regular AA batteries we've all used throughout the years and wasted. According to the CIPA Standard that estimates battery life at a specific temperature and procedure, it allows the camera to achieve a rating of 200min/400shots. The battery is slim and helps with decreasing the camera's footprint size.
Reading one of Samsung's many marketing materials for this NX10 made me chuckle when I came across this header that read: "Super large 14.6 Megapixels, APS-C size Samsung CMOS Sensor". This is very funny, at least to me, because technically the APS-C sensor is technically not the largest sensor out there. The largest sensor out there is the full-frame sensor (36mm x 24mm). But yes compared to the many point-and-shoot digital cameras out there, APS-C (23.4mm x 15.6mm) is much larger, more than three times larger! The sensors they have in those point-and-shot cameras (usually 7.2mm x 5.3mm) are tiny like a peanut! As a result from upgrading from a small peanut size sensor to one that is more than three times larger, you're guaranteed to have better detail in pictures and video, without question.
Check out my other DSLR reviews for more information regarding sensor sizes.
The Samsung NX10 maintains the look of a DSLR, but is significantly smaller in depth than its DSLR counterparts. The NX10 measures in at 4.8in wide, 3.4in height and only 1.6in depth (without the lens). Compared to the smallest DSLR I've reviewed thus far in the Nikon D60, the NX10 is a inches off in length and height compared to the D60 but significantly smaller in depth. This is because the NX10 isn't like a conventional DSLR; it does not have a mirror box or a pentaprism and without these two attributes, allows the NX10 to be significantly more compact.
The Samsung NX10 fits in my hand better than any other camera I've ever held that it's perfect for me personally. It fits so snug and gives my right hand all the grip I need that I can forgive the quality of rubber Samsung used on the NX10. On the back, my thumb grips on a thumb size amount of rubber while on the right hand side there is much more rubber for the rest of my fingers all the way to the front, but the rubber isn't grippy enough because its either super thin or it's not real rubber. However, since my right hand fits perfectly snug on this camera, it doesn't really matter.
The Samsung NX10 as a whole looks fantastic and looks like a real DSLR. It has that signature textured black paint that comes on DSLR cameras and it's a strong body that will definitely hold up to any bumps and thumps. This doesn't feel like a cheap digital point-and-shoot camera, it's on a higher level.
Whoever designed the layout for the NX10 got it right on. Everything is laid out logically and in pretty much the perfect spot on this camera. Your right fingers will do most of the work as majority of buttons lay on the right side, while the left does just a few things like reach the menu, pop-up the internal flash and release the lens. From my experiences and coming from a Nikon DSLR, it feels so Nikon-like that I was amazed Samsung could build something like this so quickly. They are definitely improving let me tell you!
Directly looking at the front of the NX10 we can see from top left the shutter button with the power switch being integrated around the shutter button. To the right we see the AF-assist/timer lamp, directly below is the depth of field preview button and the lens release button on the right hand side. The three holes below the NX10 badge is part of the microphone/speaker system. Oh yes, the AF-assist lamp is unique in the sense that it illuminates with a green colored 'Hulk' type of light color, than the normal halogen yellowish type of color. It caught me off guard the first time I seen it in action.
We find the right side strap holder eyelet and the memory card cover. Opening the memory card cover reveals the memory card slot. The plastic cover releases easily and locks into place snugly. You get used to it but sometimes when popping out the SD card, it may not pop out far enough and the door creates a tight space for you to remove the card.
We have the connections cover on the left hand of the NX10 camera and the left strap holder eyelet. The cover pops open or close and reveals the following connections: DC-IN 9.0v port, HDMI port, shutter release connection port (accessory) and USB/AV OUT port.
Left to right we find the Flash button, menu button, speaker/microphone port, hot-shoe cover for external flash, 10-point mode dial, shutter button with the power switch being integrated around the shutter button, dial, green button and drive mode button.
The bottom of the camera from left to right contains: Battery chamber cover and right in the center and middle of the lens is the metal tripod mount.
The place where all the magic happens. Let's go clockwise from where the LCD is. We find the 3.0-inch AMOLED display, above the display lays the eye sensor which automatically changes from AMOLED or the Electronic VGA View Finder, the viewfinder and eyecup, Diopter adjustment dial, AEL button, EV button, DISP button, Function (Fn) button, status indicator green LED, multi-directional, multi-function button (AF-MF, White Balance, ISO and metering), playback button and delete/picture-wizard button.
General Impressions - The 3.0" AMOLED Display
The Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode display that Samsung has invented and have chosen to place on the NX10 is like nothing I've seen before. It's absolutely beautiful.
The 3.0" AMOLED has specifications of being VGA (640x480) in size and having only 614,000-dot (PenTile) resolution. Looks like it has less resolution, it actually doesn't because LCD and AMOLED is two different technologies. If you've read my HDTV reviews, you will know that LCD is a technology that has a light source behind the LCD screen, where it then blocks light to create an image. Well with AMOLED its different. AMOLED is a technology that actually emits light rather than blocking it to create an image.
The result of AMOLED technology, according to Samsung, is increased contrast ratio, incredibly clear images, better color rendition, 3000 times faster response rate than compared to LCD, brighter, less power consumption, thinner and the ability to be viewed from any angle without color fade, and being able to viewed even in bright sunlight. I have to say from my experiences with the NX10, everything is true and the best part from this AMOLED screen from any other LCD screen out there is the ability to be used in sun. The AMOLED works significantly better outdoors than anything I've used in the past. It's super sharp too and doesn't even remotely look like 640x480 resolution. You can see all the fine details with AMOLED.
Using the AMOLED display for the first time was interesting because screens response time is so darn fast! It's like experiencing the 120Hz mode on an LCD HDTV versus the regular 60Hz. The NX10 AMOLED display looks like 120Hz in well lit conditions and in poor lighting conditions, switches to 60Hz mode and is still silky smooth.
The only downfall of this implementation on the NX10 is the difference at how the AMOLED display looks when in real-time versus under image review mode. The quality when reviewing photos you've taken is superb with no artifacts of any kind or grain of any kind, but when used in real-time photo taking circumstances, the AMOLED resolution quality is much less than its actual real resolution. You can see jaggies, artifacts, grain, etc.
General Impressions - Samsung 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OIS Lens
Samsung with the release of the NX10 also churns out three different lens for consumers to purchase. The standard kit lens is the 18-55mm model which contains Optical Image Stabilization (anti-shake) and it certainly does work well.
The Samsung 18-55mm is what you would call your 'walk-around' lens. Most manufactures have this focal length lens for the lineup and Samsung is no different. This lens has 12 elements in 9 groups and is Aspherical in nature. The minimum focal distance is a close 0.28m and maximum magnification out of this lens is 0.22x. If you want accessories for this lens, look for 58mm sized filters. The NX10 body weighing roughly 1lbs, this lens is a perfect compliment because it doesn't make the camera nose heavy. The lens weights only 198g without the lens hood installed, that's very light!
The construction of the 18-55mm is of standard quality, meaning while not the best, it certainly is not worst in any way. It's made of plastic obviously but doesn't flex or creak in any weird way which is a good thing. The lens mount unfortunately is made of plastic so it won't inspire any confidence if in the event of a fall.
The side of the lens contains two switches that allow you to turn off and on the Optical Image Stabilizer and switch between manual focus mode and auto focus mode.
The focus ring is easy to turn but exhibits this annoying clicky clacky noise which will find their way into your video recordings, which is a darn shame. But if you don't manually focus your video recordings, you won't hear these noises. Check out some video samples later on in the review for examples of this noise.
However you will be introduced to another type of sound in your video recordings. If you enable automatic focusing of the lens during your video recordings by pressing on the depth of field preview button, you will hear a small lens motor whine during your recordings. It sounds much worse than the manual focus ring noise though.
The same problem is present with the zoom ring. While zooming in and out during your recordings, you will hearing the noise in your videos. Zooming isn't the smoothest or quiet but it's passable. Optics are very good though. You will see how good the detail is, in the photo samples.
Here is a table comparing each of the lens released by Samsung.
How it performs
Let me first off say that I had some issues with the Samsung NX10 but found out that there Samsung released two firmware's before the camera was actually released. The camera I am reviewing originally came with firmware 1.00. I recommend upgrading to firmware 1.15, which is on Samsung's website. The improvements seen are well worth it.
Supersonic Dust Reduction is turned off by default and this allows the Samsung NX10 to have DSLR-fast startup. Having dust reduction off allows you take an image right away in just a single second after flicking the power switch on. If you turn on Supersonic Dust Reduction it will run at startup each time and extend startup time another three seconds.
By default the AMOLED display is turned on so you can frame your shots. Not until you cover the eye sensor that is above the display, will the AMOLED turn off. I thought this was pretty neat. You can manually choose whether you want to utilize the AMOLED display or Electronic View Finder (only on the updated firmware 1.15). I prefer to use the AMOLED because it is superior in every way.
The Electronic View Finder is too small and looks too spycam-ish for my tastes. Unlike DSLR's which have optical view finders (because it has the mirror and pentaprism), this one on the NX10 is electronic, basically a VGA image representation of what you are seeing, a small LCD basically. And compared to the AMOLED display is inferior in every way. I suggest you don't use it, it's very hard to use.
It's clearly evident when paired with the 18-55mm lens that the NX10 performs like no point-and-shoot digital camera. It has auto-focusing speed that mimics DSLR cameras and that is great to see. It makes the NX10 perform like a point-and-shoot camera on steroids.
The internal focusing motor on the lens is very quiet and never noisy. All you hear is a very faint motor whine when focusing. You won't hear this unless you put your ear beside the lens, but the microphone will pick this up when recording video.
In poor lighting conditions, the AF-assist lamp helps to prevent hunting and does a great job in accomplishing just this. It will take 2-3 seconds to focus on subjects whereas it takes 1 second in great lighting conditions.
What is DSLR-like in the Samsung NX10 is the amount of AF-target points available. You can enable Multi-AF and the camera will automatically look for things to focus on and illuminate many different green squares that are focused. Cool. You can also choose to go to single-AF mode like any true point-and-shoot digital camera. To move this target you press the OK button to select where the AF-target should be placed. You can't really do this in real-time like you can do in other DSLRs.
The Samsung NX10 offers three metering modes which include: Multi, Spot, Center-Weighted.
This camera is capable of shooting in RAW and JPEG which is standard nowadays. JPEG at full resolution and super fine resolution can be over 6MB in size depending on how many subjects are in your photo. RAW is even larger and can be up to 27MB in size since it retains all needed information about the photo.
While I was on firmware 1.00 and shooting in RAW+JPEG, the NX10 felt slow in writing to my Kingston SD card and while writing to the card, no menus could be accessed which I felt was crazy. It was evident that the buffer was full and was to blame. Continuous shooting because of this seemed not to work well. Thankfully after upgrading to firmware 1.15, the SD write and read speed was improved upon just a bit and worked better than before. You can see the difference in the gallery and see how fast my card actually is.
Another problem I had experienced with firmware 1.00 was on a bright sunny day, I had problems auto-focusing on cars that were lit by the sun. The sun was reflecting off them and I couldn't get the NX10 to autofocus. I've also had the same issue when trying to focus on a building. Upgrading to firmware 1.15 solved these issues.
I think it's wonderful that Samsung would improve on its product by releasing firmware upgrades. It shows they are committed to addressing customers problems and want to get better. I like this mentality.
Here are some of the improvements on the two previous firmware upgrades...
With a guide number of 11, the internal flash for the NX10 is average in power among its competitors. I found that got exposure right almost all the time.
The Samsung NX10 with its APS-C sensor trumps any point-and-shoot digital camera out there by providing image quality detail that is very good. I was surprised at how easily you could distinguish details captured in the photos. Images coming from the NX10 are sharp, nicely saturated and have high detail. I have never seen image quality this good coming from any Samsung digital camera before and it's refreshing to see they are improving.
What I recommend is turning the sharpening down one notch as the default sharpness is a little too much. Contrast in the photos by default is a tad too much and while its manageable, maybe toning it down one notch will help. I felt the camera shot with too much contrast. Find a combination that you are happy with. I personally turned down sharpening and contrast one notch and increased saturation one notch up.
The auto balance on the Samsung NX10 tends to come off looking too cool. The color cast has a hint of blue/purple it seems and doesn't give enough warm color cast. Samsung needs to fix this in later revisions and releases. The best way to combat this is to manually select the correct white balance.
I recommend turning off Smart Range as well as I feel it didn't help as much as it should have and decreased detail a bit. The shadow quality in the NX10 needs improving, the shadows in the photos can look too dark. Actually the photos sometimes in certain situations did look too dark, it was like there wasn't enough light getting into the camera, even though the subject was in a well lit location. You either had to use exposure compensation or increase the ISO.
Samsung has always had problems with its noise algorithms in regards to ISO speed and while the problem is still present with the NX10, it has definitely without a doubt gotten better. This is mostly due to the size of the APS-C sensor as it helps reduce noise in photos. ISO 100 and 200 looks very clean for the most part and offers the best noise and image quality detail. ISO 400 is where you see some noise but for the most part the image is still clean. ISO 800 is where noise starts to creep up but it is still very much useable but the detail from ISO 1600 is actually surprisingly good in well lit conditions. ISO 3200 is where it starts to drop drastically. Bravo!
One negative that needs fixing is the way the camera chooses ISO speed when in Auto ISO mode. The Auto ISO mode doesn't really pick the best ISO speed for every situation. Sometimes it chooses the wrong ISO and the picture turns out to be blurry.
In conclusion, the Samsung NX10 provides very good photos and that surprised me. This is the NX10's strong attribute; very good photos.
Let's us have a look shall we?
Contrast Roll Over (Lowest and Highest value)
Optical Image Stabilizer Test Roll Over (Off and ON)
Saturation Test Roll Over (Lowest and Highest Value)
SD Card Performance Test before and after firmware upgrade
This is how fast my SD card actually is above.
Picture Modes Available on the Samsung NX10
ISO SPEED NOISE TEST (100% full resolution, highest quality)
'Wind Cut' Video Recording ON/OFF TEST
Samsung NX10 Full Resolution, Highest Quality JPG Samples
In regards to video quality on the Samsung NX10, it doesn't live up to what was experienced with picture quality. If the picture quality is the NX10's strength, the video quality is the weakness of the NX10. But it's not horrible. It's not providing the same level of quality that the photo quality has proven to show. Samsung is not quite there yet and needs a few more releases to get their video technique down pat.
I like how with the NX10 you can get down real close to subjects and that is partly because of the good 18-55mm lens, you'll see bokeh in your videos like you wouldn't see in digital cameras.
The Wind Cut feature does work but what it essentially does is cut off bass from the audio track to lessen and wind noise present. Without Wind Cut voices and sounds have bass but turn it on and stuff begins to sound like tiny cans.
Noise in video recording mode was more visible than I thought it would be as the still photos didn't really have much problems.
The exposure when recording videos needs to be improved as well. It was a little too dark for my tastes (even with good lighting) and when the lighting was medium to poor, the videos almost looked pitch black like all the lights were off.
The two biggest issues that Samsung needs to fix in regards to the NX10's video recording quality is 'rolling shutter' and 'interlacing'.
With the NX10 recording video, you will notice the distorted ghost effect when you move the camera back and forth quickly. Moving back and forth quickly you start to notice lag or rolling shutter in the videos; very poor. The subject starts to look like its floating or like it's a ghost. Rolling shutter is very bad and happens because when the camera reads the image off the sensor too slow. The result is that you will see with camera movement, that the image gets distorted because it changes before completely being read.
The second problem is an interlacing issue. You notice in the videos you record with the NX10 that mostly with horizontal lines (sometimes anything in general) like power lines or car tail lights for instance, the object starts to shimmer with a weird color palette. This is equally as bad as rolling shutter.
Here are video examples of the quality I posted on YouTube. Click on the video to watch it in 720p resolution.
The Samsung NX10 is a hit and miss and is not the complete package yet. For a first generation release and from a manufacture that is not known for its digital cameras or video cameras, Samsung has definitely improved in one area (digital camera) but is apparently is not there yet in regards to the video quality area. But there is definitely upside! Imagine how Samsung will improve in another year or two and with future releases such as the NX20, NX30. I can't wait to see what is coming!
For being a dedicated still camera, the Samsung NX10 should be in your short-list of cameras to consider purchasing. It simply puts out very good photos and comes in a perfect camera body that is easy to handle and is lightweight.
However, if you need a very good video camera, the NX10 at this point in time, is not a good choice. It's not horrible but the point is you can do so much better.
If Samsung had got down their video technique, the Samsung NX10 would have gotten an Editor's Choice Award.
But I still recommend the Samsung NX10 for its very good image quality. Would I upgrade my trusty old Nikon D50 to the Samsung NX10 if I had the chance? Yes I would. You have a beautiful AMOLED display that shows 100% of what you see, comparable image quality and have the ability to record video, even if at passable quality. It's certainly not horrible.
Pros and Cons