Design and features
The NX300 has definitely been inspired by cameras of yesteryear in terms of looks, but not necessarily construction. Around the body of the camera is a leatherette-style, textured grip in either a brown or white finish. At the top is a contrasting silver metal-finish band to offset the classic styling. In the hand, the camera is weighted well when using the 18-55mm lens. Controls are within easy reach, and it's even possible to shoot one-handed if you so desire because the camera is light enough at just under 480 grams with lens, but without battery.
For photo enthusiasts, the NX300 delivers all the manual controls you could expect. At the top of the camera, the mode dial gives access to full PASM controls, while the single dial adjacent lets you adjust aperture or shutter speed in conjunction with the exposure compensation button at the rear.
As well as the manual modes, beginner photographers can make use of the full automatic mode and smart mode, which gives access to scene options like landscape, macro, action freeze for fast motion and panorama. Filters can be applied to images in playback mode, including black-and-white or sepia.
Like earlier NX models, the NX300 uses an APS-C CMOS sensor rated at 20.3 megapixels, which puts it at the same physical size as entry-level and enthusiast SLRs, as well as ILCs from brands like Sony and Canon.
Like earlier NX cameras, the NX300 is compatible with i-Function lenses. This is a button on the lens barrel that lets you switch between exposure parameters such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed without taking your eyes off the action.
A bright, 3.3-inch tilting touch-enabled OLED screen gets a resolution bump to 768,000 dots. The touchscreen is accurate and lets you employ familiar gestures such as touch to focus, pinch to zoom and swipe between photos. In bright sunlight, the coating used on the outside of the screen makes it rather difficult to see. Photographers looking for an alternative to the screen in the form of an electronic viewfinder will be disappointed as there isn't one available for this camera.
It's an unusual move, given that other aspects of the NX300's feature set are geared towards a more advanced crowd, such as a minimum shutter speed of 1/6000s. Bracketing options also include exposure, white balance and picture style settings, all customisable from within the menu system. Focus peaking is provided for accurate manual focus, with either white, red or green colour choices.
Connectivity options are in abundance, with Wi-Fi and NFC support on top of physical connections provided via micro USB and HDMI out. With a dedicated Wi-Fi option on the mode dial, users get access to a wide range of features, including the ability to email or automatically back up photos and videos to a computer when in wireless range.
If you have an NFC compatible mobile device, connecting the NX300 is as simple as enabling NFC and tapping the two devices together. This will automatically establish the connection between camera and phone. The Samsung Smart Camera app (iOS and Android) lets you use the mobile device as a remote viewfinder. There's little discernible lag and the app itself is easy to use. When using the remote viewfinder, images are saved to the camera at full resolution and in the phone at a reduced resolution of 1616x1080.
The camera uses SD/SDHC/SDXC cards and has a hotshoe that accepts Samsung flash units and other accessories for the NX system. There's no built-in or pop-up flash available on the camera, but a small hotshoe flash comes in the box. Charging is done in-camera over micro USB rather than a dedicated battery charger.
|Sony NEX F3||Nikon 1 V2||Canon EOS M||Samsung NX300|
|16.1-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (APS-C)||14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (CX size)||18-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C)||20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C)|
|3-inch, 921,600-dot flip-up LCD||3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 1.04 million-dot touchscreen LCD||3.3-inch, 768,000-dot flip-up, touchscreen OLED|
|25-area AF||135-area hybrid AF||31-area AF||105-area hybrid AF|
|Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i)||Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p)||Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p)||Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Nikon 1 V2
Canon EOS M
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
Nikon 1 V2
Canon EOS M
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Autofocus speed has improved from earlier NX cameras, and it's certainly nimble thanks to the hybrid AF system that merges phase detect and contrast autofocus with 105 AF points. We didn't experience any issues with focus accuracy during the review period, but it's not as lightning-fast as systems on other ILCs, such as the Olympus OM-D or Nikon 1 system.
The NX300 is a very fast performer when it comes to continuous shooting speed, though it is only maintains the above rate for 15 frames (when shooting JPEG) before slowing to process. In RAW, the NX300 only manages to push out 4 frames at the above rate before stopping completely.
Samsung rates the battery at 320 shots.
Photographers won't be disappointed with the images produced by the NX300. The kit lens is sharp and performs well in the majority of shooting situations. There is some barrel distortion at the wide end, though it can be adjusted in post — the camera automatically corrects this if you shoot JPEG. Like many wide-angle to telephoto zoom lenses, the 18-55mm does show some sharpness drop-off towards the sides of the frame.
Colours are accurate on default settings and picture styles, but a little more muted and subdued than might be expected, especially if you only ever shoot on automatic.
The NX300 has the most latitude for recovery in shadow areas when processing RAW images. Blown out highlights, which do occur from time to time on automatic exposure modes, are much more difficult to recover.
The NX300 does a very good job of keeping detail when performing in-body JPEG conversion, as you can see above (100 per cent crops inset). The JPEG files actually level out the exposure a little bit, which does explain why there's not as much detail to be recovered in highlight areas when shooting RAW.
Images stay clean up to ISO 400, when a very small degree of noise begins to appear, though nothing at all that affects image detail. Colour noise only starts to appear at the very upper echelons of the NX300's sensitivity range, like ISO 6400 and beyond.
Video recording options are available at 1080/50p or 25p, 810/24p, 720/50p or 25p, 480/25p and 240/25p, recorded in H.264/MP4. Overall, the video from the NX300 is impressive, and more refined in terms of image sharpness than on previous NX cameras. Continuous autofocus is reasonably smooth, while audio from the built-in microphone is nicely separated and picks out detail well. There's no manual adjustment for microphone levels, though there is a wind cut filter available, which can be enabled from the menu. The NX300 does not come with a 3.5mm microphone jack, so for better audio, the Samsung microphone ED-EM10 needs to be used.
Exposure: 1/100, f/4, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/200, f/6.3, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/1600, f/5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/160, f/5, ISO 800
Samsung delivers a camera with plenty of power and features to satisfy photographers who want to step-up to an interchangeable lens model. That said, the lack of viewfinder options may be off putting to those who are looking for a compact alternative to an SLR.
The NX300 sells for AU$899 with an 18-55mm OIS III lens. It comes bundled with a free copy of Adobe Lightroom 4, which normally retails at AU$98.75 as a stand-alone package.