Design and features
Think of a leaf. Now, think of a dewdrop forming on said leaf. Got that image in your mind? Great. Now, take that image and compare it with the NX100.
Similar at all? Samsung hopes the answer is yes. Inspired by the aforementioned act of nature, the NX100 sets itself apart from other box-like interchangeable lens cameras due to its curved body design. Made of a plastic casing, this camera's petite stature makes it ideal for those photographers looking for a compact alternative to a digital SLR.
President of Samsung Digital Imaging, Sangjin Park, with the inspiration behind the NX100's design. (Credit: CBSi)
The NX100, like Samsung's NX10 before it, uses a proprietary interchangeable lens mount. With an adapter (sold separately) you can also put old Pentax lenses on the camera as well.
But with the features provided in Samsung's own lenses, most users won't need to; like the new i-Function button, which will feature on all new lenses from this point onwards. Pressing the i-Function button, located just behind the manual focus ring, allows photographers to access common shooting parameters from the screen itself. ISO, white balance and exposure compensation can be cycled through and changed using the manual focus ring.
Click through for our hands on with the NX100. (Credit: CBSi)
This is supposed to make it easier for the photographer to keep engaging with the subject at hand, without distracting them by entering into menus and moving the camera from its target position. In practice, it takes some getting used to as it's actually trying to change the way you approach taking photos — definitely a love it or hate it feature for some users.
Lenses are also marked with their best shooting options; so for example, the 20-50mm kit lens is marked as a good lens to use for landscape or portrait photography.
Though the NX100 shares the same APS-C-sized sensor as the NX10, the NX100's has been tweaked to give it a higher maximum ISO rating (6400 as opposed to 3200). Video recording makes an appearance at 720p, with the company stating that 1080p recording is something that will come in the future with the development of a new sensor.
Controls are reasonably simple, with a full PASM-equipped mode dial at the top, and a scattering of buttons down the back. As for connectivity options, there's no built-in flash, but there is a hotshoe at the back of the camera, plus a smart shoe into which an electronic viewfinder or optional GPS tagging unit can be attached. Obviously, photographers can only use one of these devices at a time.
The 3-inch AMOLED screen at the back is bright, easy to see in direct sun and responsive — perhaps a little too responsive at times as it has a very quick refresh rate.
At the side, there's a flap giving micro-HDMI and USB output, as well as DC power input and a remote shutter release.
|Samsung NX100||Olympus E-PL1||Panasonic G10||Sony NEX-3|
|14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS||12.3-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS||10.1-megapixel Four Thirds CCD||14.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3-inch AMOLED||2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD||3-inch 460,000-dot LCD||3-inch 921,600-dot LCD|
|HD video (720p)||HD video (720p)||HD video (720p)||HD video (720p)|
|No built-in flash, hotshoe||Built-in flash, hotshoe||Pop-up flash, hotshoe||Optional flash via accessory port|
|Optional electronic viewfinder||Optional electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder||Optional optical viewfinder|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Samsung NX1001.13.71.30.3
- Olympus E-PL126.96.36.199.9
- Samsung NX100.81.210.5
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Samsung NX1002.5
- Olympus E-PL13.3
- Samsung NX103.1
The NX100 takes nine frames in full resolution JPEG in continuous shooting mode before slowing down to process them. There is also another burst shooting mode that can take 10, 15 or 30 frames in one second.
Like the NX10 before it, the NX100 is a very nice photo-taking machine when given the right shooting conditions. It does appear that the NX100 favours a more over-saturated, punchy look to its JPEG images than the NX10 though, and the 20-50mm kit lens isn't as sharp as the 18-55mm model supplied with the other camera. It also displays pretty visible barrel distortions, despite its longer than average focal length.
A 100 per cent crop (inset) of high ISO images taken with the NX100. It copes pretty well with keeping noise under control at these high levels. (Credit: CBSi)
The most prominent issue we noticed on our test shots was camera shake. As the NX100 has no form of image stabilisation in the camera body (or in the kit NX system 20-50mm lens), shooting at lower shutter speeds, particularly at night or in low-light situations without flash, does allow camera shake to creep in to images. It's a curious decision from Samsung to package the NX100 without a stabilised lens, given that other interchangeable lens camera systems have some form of stabilisation, either in the camera body or in supplied lenses. Photographers looking to invest in the NX system will probably want to investigate other lens options from Samsung like the 18-55mm OIS lens provided with the NX10.
Again, like other cameras we've recently tested — yes, we're looking at you Nikon P7000 — the NX100's RAW files aren't yet readable by any third-party software like Adobe Camera Raw. The files are readable using the Samsung RAW converter, supplied with the camera.
Video quality is where the NX100 stumbles most. With a class 6 SDHC card, video playback appears juddery when viewing a scene that pans the camera across the scene. Picture quality is reasonably good but the way the NX100 handles moving subjects is a little disappointing. Recording options include program or aperture-priority mode, though there's little beyond this, with no external microphone input or dedicated video recording button.
Click each image below for JPEGs straight from the NX100. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/200, f/7.1, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/80, f/11, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/125, f/4.5, ISO 160
The NX100 is very much a camera that will suit a certain type of photographer — one that doesn't demand too much from their shooting experience but needs a compact, lightweight and easy-to-use interchangeable lens system. On this front it succeeds very well, with everything you could ask for (apart from image stabilisation, but this can be fixed in part by buying an IS lens or shooting at a higher shutter/ISO combination).
Needless to say, given the performance of the kit 20-50mm, we're looking forward to seeing the other lenses and accessories that Samsung will reveal for the NX system.
Five more lenses are expected to be made available during 2011, including a wide-angle pancake 16mm f/2.8, macro 60mm f/2.8, an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3, 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 and a portrait 85mm f/1.4. The NX100 retails for AU$899 and is bundled with either the 20mm pancake or 20-50mm lens.