Samsung NX200 quick review

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stratokaster, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    [​IMG]

    The Samsung NX10 was the first mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized sensor and consequently it enjoyed significant attention when it was first announced 2 years ago. However, it was quickly overshadowed by the Sony NEX series, which delivered arguably better image quality in a smaller package.

    However, Samsung did not sit idle. The company released three more cameras (NX5, NX100 and NX11) with the same internals as a stop-gap measure while working on the all-new 20MP sensor. Samsung NX200 is the first camera utilizing this sensor as well as the new image processor.

    Body and design

    The NX200 is very different to its predecessors. The earlier NX series cameras were all plasticky and curvy, while the NX200 is (mostly) metal and angular. The overall look is elegant yet understated. The camera clearly is designed to appeal to fashion-conscious consumers.

    The top and the front panels of the NX200 are made of metal. The grip area on the right side of the body is covered with a very nice rubber-like plastic. The entire back plate is made of the same soft plastic material. Did I mention it feels nice in hand? Overall the NX200 is very comfortable to hold. Build quality is also top notch.

    [​IMG]

    The size of the camera is rather small. It's slightly slimmer than the Olympus E-P3 in all dimensions despite having a larger sensor. Actually, it's almost as small as the Samsung EX1/TL500. But the small size also means there is not enough space for an EVF or built-in flash. The small clip-on flash (SEF-8A) comes with the camera and draws its power from the camera body. In operation it's very similar to the flash included with Sony's NEX series cameras.

    [​IMG]

    Compared to the NX100, the NX200 loses the remote control socket, and Samsung's proprietary USB connection is now replaced with the standard Micro-USB type socket. While the former is regrettable, the latter is very welcome and probably long overdue. I wish other camera makers followed Samsung's example.

    The screen is the same VGA OLED panel used in the previous NX series cameras and also, incidentally, in the Olympus E-P3. It's nice. In fact, it's almost too nice: it makes colors look richer and exposures brighter than they are. Unfortunately, the glass protector plate is very reflective and as such reduces the screen visibility in broad daylight. Don't even think about judging exposure by the screen image. The histogram is your friend.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The kit lens

    The NX200 is sold as a kit with the Samsung 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. This lens is very similar to the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42 mk I. It's collapsible and very compact in its folded state. The outer barrel and the mount are made of plastic, but the inner barrel is metal. Like the Olympus 14-42 mk I, the lens focuses by moving the front group back and forth and (again, just like the Olympus 14-42 mk I) it is not a speed demon.

    Opticaly this lens is surprisingly good at its widest setting, but at the 50mm it suffers from heavy spherical aberrations which create dream-like halos around bright objects. This effect disappers on stopping down.

    Controls and menus

    The NX200 has a decent amount of external controls. There are 7 buttons (not including the shutter release), two control wheels and a mode dial. Oh, and the second wheel also functions as a 4-way controller, which brings the total amount of buttons to 11. Not bad for such a small camera! Unfortunately, the AEL/AFL button is not one of them and there is no way to repurpose the movie button to function as AEL/AFL. It's possible to assign one of two available functions (DOF preview or one-touch WB) to the delete button and that's it in terms of customizability.

    [​IMG]

    While the camera loses some buttons compared to its predecessors, it also gains some much needed refinements. For example, on the previous 'three-digit' NX camera, the NX100, the top control wheel was too easy to turn accidentally. This problem is rectified in the NX200: both control wheels now require just the right amount of force to turn. The quick access menu (which is summoned by pressing the Fn button) is now organized like Olympus's Super Control Panel, which is very convenient. Another welcome addition is the 'direct manual focus' (DMF) mode which works exactly like the one in the Sony NEX cameras: after the camera locks focus, you can turn the focusing ring on the lens and the camera will show the magnified view of the selected focusing point. Unfortunately, it has a bug which also plagues Sony's NEX series: if the camera can't lock focus, the DMF mode doesn't work.

    Those quirks and issues aside, the NX200 is a very easy camera to shoot with, and its UI in general is very well thought-out.

    I almost forgot to mention Samsung's i-Function control scheme that allows you to use the focusing ring on your lens as the third control wheel. In my opinion, this is just a gimmick, but some people like it.

    Shooting with the Samsung NX200

    Ok, so we have discovered that the NX200 is very satisfactory as a physical object, but what about using it as a camera?

    Well, I have both bad and good news here. Let's start with the good ones.

    The NX200 is significantly faster than its predecessors. AF is almost instant in most lighting conditions. Switching between different modes, selecting focus points, browsing the menus - everything feels snappier. The shutter lag also is reduced.

    [video=youtube;R8pi-JWT-ck]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8pi-JWT-ck[/video]

    The live view image now has noticeably higher resolution (on the previous NX series cameras it was interpolated from 320x240 and looked very crude, with jagged diagonal lines and lots of moire). The magnified view for manual focusing now offers 5x and 8x magnification, but there is one significant drawback — when using MF lenses, you can magnify only the center of the frame. I hope Samsung will fix this in future firmware updates.

    The meter is a bit hot. I discovered that in most situation I have to dial in up to -1 EV to get properly exposed images. The good news is that it overexposes consistently instead of jumping all over the place.

    The shutter sound is still very soft and pleasant. To my ears it's approximately twice as silent as the shutter in the Olympus E-P3.

    Now to the bad news. RAW files are about 50 MB each. It means that the camera eats quickly even through the biggest memory cards. It also means the write times are L-O-N-G. With my rather speedy Class 10 cards, it takes several seconds to write a single file. During this time the camera allows to take another shot, but doesn't allow to adjust its settings. After taking the burst of 7 images, the camera completely lock-ups for almost a minute. I tried an UHS-I card and the writing speed was much faster. I don't recommend using other (non UHS-I) cards with this camera.

    [video=youtube;bPLqbE9Ekgw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPLqbE9Ekgw[/video]

    The NX100 had a very good battery life, that's why I was unpleasantly surprised by Samsung's decision to use another (smaller) battery in the NX200. As a result, the battery is good only for 200-250 shots.

    I also have to note that Samsung's dust reduction system is next to useless. The first time I took the lens off the camera, I got a dust spot on the sensor.

    Image quality

    Just this week, Dpreview sample shots caused quite a stir in the Samsung NX community because they looked unexpectedly horrid. I did not test the camera at higher ISOs, but I took a few shots at ISO 400 and did NOT notice significant loss of detail. I think the NX200 does just fine for a 20MP camera. I also like the colors straight from the camera — they're slightly unusual, but they look great.

    Right now Capture One is the only RAW converter that supports NX200 RAWs. As expected, RAW files are noisier than JPEGs, but they show very good resolution - slightly better than the Panasonic GH2. C1 renders colors surprisingly close to the in-camera JPEGs, so in the end it could be the best RAW converter for the NX200 (I suspect ACR, when it adds support for NX200 RAWs, will have the typical greenish-yellow Adobe look).

    One advantage the NX200 holds over Micro 4/3 is its silky-smooth images at the base ISO which is great for landscapes. My Panasonic GH2 is a great camera, but it produces grainy images even at ISO 160.

    In terms of dynamic range the NX200 appears to be halfway between Micro 4/3 and Sony NEX.

    Some sample images from the NX200:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/CR3g86GVGQ12cGOhZ1o0.JPG

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/t9pgn9llOw8ITHKzVvoy.JPG

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/9Da8dH5ZffaDG9InCUZK.JPG

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/S4HNyGjgo0soidGVyYXR.jpg

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/gPrqWeaTtRFZvG2vdbvH.jpg

    [​IMG]

    Full-size: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/5kWEs1aeHky63Uiszaxf.jpg

    Final words

    The Samsung NX system is often overlooked, which I think is a bit unfair. I hope the NX200 will help the system to gain some prominence. This camera is not revolutionary, but it is a giant step forward for Samsung. For me, previous NX series cameras were fun, but quirky. The NX200 is still fun, but it is much less quirky than its predecessors. It's a very simple and straightforward camera designed mostly in a no-nonsense fashion, it handles well and takes beautiful images. What's not to like?

    The new 20MP sensor is clearly much better than the old one. Finally NX series users have a camera that does their excellent lenses justice. There are rumors that Samsung may introduce a high-end rangefnder-style body with the built-in EVF, and if this rumored camera uses the same sensor - I will be very interested.
     
    • Like Like x 15
  2. pictogramax

    pictogramax SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    963
    Aug 18, 2011
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Very nice review of a very interesting camera. I was surprised to see how similar in size it is to EX1. And with 20 or 30 mm pancakes, it should be just wonderful. Thanks!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Ghosthunter

    Ghosthunter boo! Subscribing Member

    Sep 8, 2010
    London UK
    Real Name:
    Andy
    Superb 'Quick' Review!!

    We have that camera in store so i have been playing with it. The Samsung rep said it was the fastest AF camera in the world but when i was playing with it i found it felt slower than the G3 and Pens. Nice camera to hold and the above images look very good. I'd much rather have a NEX 5n.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    Thanks for the review. I'm intrigued to see how Samsung go about establishing themselves as a significant player in the EVIL camera market. 50Mb RAW files however, are not going to help their cause. Was this a pre-production model? Most cameras I've had run at about 1Mb per megapixel for RAW files.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Nic, no, this was not a pre-production model. Apparently Samsung doesn't see huge RAW files as a problem.
     
  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    I guess as data storage gets bigger and cheaper it will become less of an issue, but reducing the effective capacity of my cards/hard drives by 75% compared to my current cameras makes a BIG difference right now.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Ghosthunter

    Ghosthunter boo! Subscribing Member

    Sep 8, 2010
    London UK
    Real Name:
    Andy
    I must admit it's a very nice looking camera and comfy to hold.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    Thanks for this. Always good to read a review from someone you 'know' rather than an anonymous reviewer (no matter how popular).

    I'm pleased the camera made a good impression. I saw it in-store recently and it certainly is a good looking item. Good to know that the IQ appears to be better than the initial impressions from DPReview.

    I'm not in the market for this camera but I do hope it does well - I have a soft spot for Samsung and would like to see them get established as another strong competitor in the camera market.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    Real Name:
    bart
    Nice review! I always thought the EX1 and the NX10 fell to the hand very naturally and comfortably, it's nice to see Samsung continue this focus on ergonomics - it's too often overlooked. I too was surprised to see how close to the EX1 this camera is when viewed from the front! Also nice to see they improved their sensor so much!

    Too bad about the raw file size, Samsung's been getting complaints about this for a couple of years now, I don't understand why they don't fix it. It really shouldn't be hard at all to compress the files in a lossless way, should it?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. snake

    snake SC Regular

    194
    Oct 4, 2011
    I see the huge RAW files as a problem. I use the EX1 and 21 megs per 10MP pic is quite substantial. It also requires an additional step of DNG conversion just to view them in fastone or any other organizer/browser.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Real Name:
    BB
    Thank you so much, Pavel.:th_salute:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Pavel, thanks for the hard work. Is there a DOF scale or a snap focus mode?
    Have you tried it in low light? I'd be interested to see how the shadows hold up against noise in that scenario.
    Thanks, don
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Don,
    unfortunately, there is no DOF scale or a snap focus mode. I have not tried it in low light (yet), but I think I will try it tomorrow and post the results.
     
  14. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
  15. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    Does the i-function feel intuitive at all, or is the idea of controlling camera settings via a lens-mounted control too foreign these days?
     
  16. snake

    snake SC Regular

    194
    Oct 4, 2011
    Re: Snapfocus:

    If it's anything like the FW on previous models, there is a quasi-snap focus. The EX1 has this, so does the WB650. Can't speak for other models. One focuses on an object at the desired distance. Then the change is made from AF to MF, BUT one must go backwards, not direct to the setting (people with the cam will know what I mean). The graphic will display the focus setting for the desired distance that was set on an actual object, not set theoretically. Simply leave it there and that's it. I guess that's the closest thing to snap focus, with some advantages in some ways, as the user can physically estimate things.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Bugleone

    Bugleone SC Regular

    113
    Jun 1, 2011
    England
    Excellent review!.....MUCH better than Steve Huffs confused and confusing sqeakings.....

    Is there provision for non Samsung lenses so that one can use legacy glass?

    I'm still hoping that Samsung will bring out a NEX7 'killer', but it seems they have some way to go with the megalithic 'write to disc' speed and file size etc. The thing is that Samsung are a MUCH better company than Sony when it comes to honouring their warranties and their general marketing policies.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Snake. Got it. So then one must go off camera to determine DOF. Hmmmm
     
  19. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Snake, being an EX1 owner myself, I know what you mean, but it's impossible on the NX200.
     
  20. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Thanks! I wonder if I should create my own website about camera gear :cool:

    Yes. Samsung actually makes an adapter for Pentax K-mount lenses, and there are many more (3rd party) adapters available from ebay. Also Samsung NX series cameras include a very useful focusing aid that measures the level of contrast in a given area and displays it as a green column. This is how it works:

    [video=youtube;fSdpHiLjxdU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSdpHiLjxdU[/video]