NX10 Update - Samsung Steps-up; Edging To Own Mirrorless Camera Market. What I've Learned.

SynapticReplaycom | Product Reviews & Previews | Published Jan 21, 2013

In review of the NX-10, I can say that I’m finally pleased that Samsung has listened (in part) to our voices. For me; a transition from Film to Digital drew concern around four main issues that centered on the use of manual functions (as with most pro/advanced users) and as they relate to manual lens adaptation with the NX10 body. Shortly after it’s introduction I purchased one and during review discovered a few major flaws with the NX10 to fit into my plan and was a bit bold in expressing this as I wrote; “NX10; Samsung's Hope To Own Mirrorless Camera Market…

If Samsung wishes to present the NX10 as the answer to the need for a versatile, world compatible digital camera (which I had hoped for) they will need to add this functionality.” What I’d hoped proved true in that these issues could be corrected (for the most part) in a Firmware Version Update.

First a little background - Why hung-up on manual lenses?

This point is both a personal choice and a functional one. As a longtime working professional from the film days ( oh; why does that sound so bad – times are changing ) the subject of focus hasn’t been a problem as long as there’s diopter features (and had just doled-out a chunk on some bifocals… sorry; progressive lenses), and why the HD Display are crucial to a DSLM. Auto-Focus is a clumsy pain (for me) which rarely does the right thing, great for party snap-shots though. The ‘hit or miss’ percentages are about the same (for me) with complex (obstructed) subjects and in speed. Yes, speed. Example; while the sensors are calculating the focus of, say an F-18 fly-by, it’s gone and some AF lenses have a multi-step method for manually Focusing to Infinity. In that scenario I use the time-tested and experienced method of F-Stop and pre-determined Focal-Plane – Distance. The subject reaches the marked area and you hit the shutter, now that’s fast. This may yield some insight as to why I prefer the classic high-grade manual lens approach. There is also very little that can breakdown in a manual lens.

The DSLM - Sweet things that a Mirrorless APS-C can deliver.

The sweet thing about APS-C digital sensor's in a mirrorless DSLM camera is that one's investment of classic high-grade lenses used in 35mm film are granted new life in the digital world. My f/2.8, 200mm is now a f/2.8, 300mm as the APS-C has a 1.4 to 1.6x crop factor (the NX10/11/20 has a 1.54x crop).This is a huge return on investment when considering the cost in digital photography. (a f/2.8, 300mm lens today; $5k). And I must mention 'Burst Capture' (30 images in nearly a second - wonderful). With cam on tripod; something moves fast, trip remote shutter and 'BAM' - 30 frames. I was near NAS during the Topgun program, a F-18/F22 rockets by, 'BAM' - 30 frames (in JPG only). And there's ‘Live-View’ (your always looking thru the lens). Oh; and in the dark with manual lenses (at a small f/); I flip-up the flash, the display goes bright I compose/focus then close the flash to shoot. Not the best scenario but its quicker then racing the aperture ring up/down.

Note: Part of the camera’s image processing speed is dependent on Memory Card performance. Always use a good brand CLASS-10 memory. I use Transcend SDHC 16G (class-10) cards or equivalent.

There was also a concern with regard to Noise Reduction and Sharpness processing in digital capture, which I will discuss in conclusion but first the Firmware.

The NX Firmware:

Note: some have forced a NX10 to NX11 Firmware Conversion and this is doable. I’m weighing in all the facts, for now the new rev-1.31 on the NX10 works and gives nearly all the functions discussed in the NX11.  The only benefit to be gained (I would say) is 'Frame Mode' which increases viewing brightness for composing in Low-Light.  [search; "Give new life to your NX10" in Samsung Forum]. There is also a rev. 1.32 listed as for the NX5 but under NX10 support which is confusing.

Issues with the original NX Firmware Version:

1- The flash must Sync with manual operation using remote flash equipment.

2- The operation of the AMOLED display screen switch to EVF (viewfinder) is automatic, this was extremely frustrating and a no-deal as attempting to position or tripod the camera near an object or tight area would shutdown the screen and switch to EVF (interpreting it was your face looking thru the viewfinder) which made it impossible to compose and focus from the nice-large display screen.

3- This next issue was a big deal; with a beautiful detailed AMOLED display, it was also nearly impossible to quickly focus manual lenses especially in low light. With Samsung brand autofocus lenses in manual mode, the on screen image will 'Center Magnify' with the Manual Focus Assist function. This wonderful function is unavailable when using straight manual lenses. The EVF is ok for composing but lacks the detail for focusing.

4- Using Manual Lenses in Aperture Priority and Movie Modes, you just got the big software halt; “Check Lens”. This is firmware as current manual lens adapters have no elec-contact or linkage connection to the body-mount.

This error will flag lens functionality issues as they relate to programmed exposure functions.

Now came Firmware Update 1.20 and some of these issues got fixed.

The on-camera flash did now Sync from 1/160 on down and could use a studio setup with Slave Flash Trigger on remote strobe. All was fine there but the last and most important for me was still a problem as above for AMOLED to EVF switching, Manual Lens focusing and use of Auto Modes with manual lenses.

Firmware Update 1.30 had a surprise as follows: (Did not get a chance to use Ver. 1.25)

Item-1  Here is where things went backwards; Sync for manual flash setup now only operated at 1/20th, Not Good. I also at this point found the Hot-Shoe is non-functional except for Samsung brands as it is Not ISO Standard.

Item-2  With 1.30, the Auto Sense switch for Display/EVF could now be separately Enabled/Disabled in the Menu settings.

Item-3 & 4  Was the greatest advancement for me; Manual Focus Assist can now be activated with straight manual lenses by simply pressing the OK button, press OK again it releases or once the shutter is tripped. There is also a little Peaking (not as much as the Sony I hear) but it can help as you see little wavy pattern in highlights (moiré). Also Manual Lenses could now be used in Aperture Priority and Movie Modes (Movie in AP Mode).

The Firmware Update 1.31, here’s what I found.

Item-1  Manual flash sync is restored to 1/160th but there is one caveat, for Slave Flash Sync the only type I’ve found to work for Samsung are the WEIN Peanut Digital (and I’ve tried many). Others say some Wireless Triggers work also ( in the Pro Flash Forum ) but have not tested this.

As for Issues 2 - 4  They thankfully remained fixed as in ver. 1.30.

Oh; one really nice added feature along the way was the new Auto Panorama function which works nicely in SCENE Mode (with OEM lenses only).


On To Noise Reduction and Sharpness Processing In Digital Capture:

For me, one of the most important items in Digital Image Capture is how good the software (algorithm) is in processing for Noise Reduction and Sharpness and this should be observed as a fundamental part to all formats of digital capture; camera, scanner, etc.

All devices within the digital imaging domain will have noise and sharpness flaws of some sort and how they are dealt with is the key so the question here is; How well does the NX10 handle RAW and JPG Processing? This is essential for getting the most out of my classic high-grade manual lenses.

The short of it is this; my test (here) displays Photoshop CameraRaw 6.7 as a superior RAW image Noise/Sharpness processor over Samsung’s Raw Converter or NX10 Native JPG. Within each software application the adjustment parameters were set optimally and had no additional processing except for Noise & Sharpness. Test Details: Samsung NX10 w/ Minolta MD-Rokkor f/4, 210mm (70-210mm) at 1/160sec, ISO-200. NOTE: the 35mm format/APS-C crop factor would make that a 315mm image.

From original NX10 RAW image: RAW Conversion Noise/Sharpness Test; Details enlarged below.

NX10 w/ Minolta MD-Rokkor f/4, 210mm (70-210mm) at 1/160sec, ISO-200.

NX10 RAW Image Conversion Test:

TOP: PS-CameraRAW 6.7

Note the orange glow highlight underneath the boardwalk edging, this is not ‘chroma-bloom’  but a sunset glow off the wet timber.

2nd: Samsung RAW Converter 4.04

Water detail was lost.

3rd: NX10 'Native' JPG Original

In the JPG, the water and sky look fake showing many process artifacts. 

To see details; open and enlarge 200-300%

In conclusion:

As a professional interested in APS-C, mirrorless format cameras (which the mirrorless design made possible) the use of my classic high-grade manual lenses simply by adding a lens mount converter ring with no optics involved. I can now say that Samsung has stepped up to make this all useful in the NX-10/11/20.  I’m also glad to see that Samsung listened to the voices (myself included) for the need of an articulating AMOLED display screen and carried this out in the NX-20 but I wonder if the NX-20 also carried over all the good things from NX-10/11 or improved upon.  Although the theme here discusses classic manual lenses I won’t altogether discount the Samsung lens. Although unlike Sony who chose to embrace the name of their lens partner (Zeiss), Samsung’s move to obscure it could be a licensing/marketing savings and maybe of Schneider decent, another brand admired by all in the world of serious optics.

I’m encouraged by Samsung’s move and in hope that other OEM’s will read this to also consider the many possibilities. In this niche market no one can sit still for long, as there are already a few new kids on the block. (My next consideration will be a look at the NX20 and Sony NEX7 or its successor.)

Hope this was helpful, Cheers