Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera review
The NX300 is Samsung’s latest mirrorless flagship camera, offering 20.3MP with an APS-C sensor (23.5×15.7mm), and capable of shooting RAW files. It sells for Php36,990.00 and is available in brown, white and black.
We had a chance to try one out which came just in time for a recent trip to Puerto Galera. How did the camera perform? In a nutshell I was really impressed by it. Spec-wise this camera seems aimed at photo enthusiasts but offers a wide range of controls that makes it a serious consideration as a secondary camera for professionals. This would do well for casual users who wants a good camera with a little more money to burn. Some of the things you might like about it are the connectivity options, which come with both WiFi and NFC, to enable you to conveniently upload to several online services or sync photos to compatible devices. It is not without its flaws however and to those who want to find out more can read on.
I have to mention a disclaimer. This is the first mirrorless camera that I have used for an extensive period of time. I have for the most part as a photography enthusiast have shot using film and my trusty Canon G12. I’ve always felt that although mirrorless cameras produce really good quality shots, with the price-point I would rather just buy a DSLR; which is why for this review I will judge the NX300 by its own merits.
Out of the box you get the camera body, the 20-50mm kit lens, camera strap, a small flash, a microUSB cable and wall socket adapter to charge the camera, documentation and a couple of CDs; one for Samsung software to use for your camera and the other is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. Yes, that’s Lightroom 4 and you’ll see that on the box as well. You would think that Samsung has been really generous here but I believe that it was absolutely necessary to include it in the package (more on this later).
Design and Feel
For this review, we got the white version and instead of the 20-50mm, we got the 18-55mm OIS lens with iFunction, which basically provides you control over aperture, shutter speed and ISO by twisting the ring around the lens. The design of the camera has that throwback feel: it’s reminiscent of the old rangefinder cameras in terms of look, but is a lot more minimalist and curvy. It’s consistent with the design of Samsung’s NX-line of cameras. The build doesn’t feel cheap at all, and the “leather” material affords a reasonable grip.
“One thing I’ll say is that the camera is heavy on the hand once you attach the kit lens.”
One thing I’ll say is that the camera is heavy on the hand once you attach the kit lens. Thankfully there’s a matching strap included, but I’m not very fond of walking around with it strapped to my neck and I felt it needed a wider one as the lens makes it a little heavy. I felt it would have been better if it was a hand strap instead, but that’s just my preference.
The physical controls of the NX300 are pretty easy to figure out, and it largely resembles that of my Canon G12 controls so I never got lost navigating through the different settings. There is a separate button for recording video which got me confused but after a while I found that this placement makes sense.
The NX300 has a 3.3″ AMOLED tilting touchscreen. The responsiveness of the touchscreen is pretty good. Do make sure to make sure to update your firmware so you can have pinch-to-zoom and various other improvements.
Using the NX300
In the two weeks I had with the camera I carried it with me to work and wherever else I went including a weekend trip to Puerto Galera last August. What was unfortunate was that the weather was largely overcast during my time testing this unit, but I was still able to squeeze in some pretty decent outdoor shots as there have been instances that the sun would shine through the clouds. Have a look at my compilation in Flickr, aside from the occasional cropping and straightening the images are unmodified.
Here’s a sample photo taken with the NX300:
“I was very impressed by the amount of detail captured as well as how the colors turned out, despite the fact that the weather was mostly overcast.”
For more high-res sample photos, please visit my Flickr set.
I shot using both RAW and JPEG to test out the different shooting modes and the camera did admirably well. I was very impressed by the amount of detail captured as well as how the colors turned out, despite the fact that the weather was mostly overcast. Autofocusing was quick to respond although I would sometimes find this a little too overactive, thankfully you could just tap the screen to direct the camera where to focus. I found the contrast/phase detection focusing spot on. Manual focusing via the lens will afford you better control with your subject.
The camera has a mulitiude of creative shooting modes: Beauty Face, Landscape, Macro, Action Freeze, Rich Tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light Trace, Creative Shot, Best Face. It also has a bunch of effects pallets: Vignetting, Miniature, Colored Pencil, Watercolor, Wash Drawing, Oil Sketch, Ink Sketch, Acryl, Negative, 4 Selective Color options. All these were put in so that you don’t have to fiddle with your controls and miss a great shot. I’m not too hot about the effects palette though, but it’s useful for those who want to gaud up their photos.
The NX300 records up to 1080p video in MP4 format and you can be able to apply live effects to it as you shoot. You can also set the focal point by tapping on the touchscreen as well.
The included flash accessory for me is a little weak and would only be good for selfies and close-ups.
From Camera to PC to Cloud
Samsung provides you several options to import and share your photos: you have the AutoBackup software that’s included in the white CD that you install in your Mac or PC and imports your photos as soon as you connect it via USB and WiFi. You can also wirelessly transfer JPEG photos to your mobile device via the Samsung CameraApp. You also have NFC that unfortunately I wasn’t able to test as I didn’t have any Samsung compatible NFC devices at hand. You can share your photos via email, Picasa or Facebook and upload videos to YouTube straight from the camera as long as you have Internet and Wifi.
Despite all those options though, nothing beats the speed and directness of simply connecting your memory card or camera to your computer. Mac OS X users should know that as of this writing the NX300 RAW is not yet compatible with iPhoto and importing it screws up the metadata of the JPEG versions, the RAW files themselves won’t import. Much to my annoyance the information in iPhoto showed the photographs being shot in 1932! Which explains why I couldn’t find the photos after importing them.
So what’s the fix? That’s where Adobe Lightroom 4 that comes with the camera comes in. You’ll have to install the application, download the update then you could be able to import the RAW files. Hopefully a future RAW compatibility update from Apple would come with support for the NX300.
After ironing out the kinks that comes with setting and figuring out a new camera, I fired up iPhoto for the imported JPEGS and Lightroom for the RAW files to examine the photos. The photos are impressively sharp and produced richer colors than my G12, definitely thanks to the bigger camera sensor. I did find that on many of the bright scenes there was a certain amount of chromatic distortion with using the kit lens.
I found it quite convenient to charge the battery by just connecting the camera to a USB port or by using the USB wall socket. The trade-off though is that with this setup you can only charge one battery at a time. If you plan to shoot all day I suggest you buy a spare battery just in case.
Another thing I wished was included was an electronic viewfinder. Although the touchscreen panel is still somewhat viewable under bright sunlight, it would have been convenient and you would save a little more battery juice if you had that option.
This camera is impressive feature-wise. I felt that the two weeks that I had with this camera was not enough to be able to maximize what this camera had to offer. It would have been awesome to also try their other lenses, especially the ones with 3D. It is not without its imperfections of course, but it is a seriously marked improvement in Samsung’s foray into mirrorless digital imaging.
|Samsung NX300 Key Specifications:|
|Mirrorless interchangeable lens|
|Approx. 20.3 MP|
|APS-C CMOS sensor 23.5×15.7mm|
|20-50mm f3.5-5.6 ED or 18-55mm OIS Kit lens|
|3.3″ tilting AMOLED touchscreen (pinch-to-zoom with firmware update)|
|HD Movie: 60fps, 30fps, 24fps(1920×810 Only) (* 3D – 30fps Only)|
|Up to 1/6000sec. shutter speed|
|Up to ISO 25600|
|JPEG and RAW image capture|
|SRP: Php36,990 (as of May 2013)|
|Great image detail||A little heavy to carry|
|Lots of features||Not yet compatible with iPhoto|
|Touchscreen viewfinder||Weak flash accessory|
|Connectivity and sharing options||Kit lens has chromatic aberration on bright scenes|