Samsung NX10 Preview,
by Simon Joinson
(additional material by Richard Butler)
2009 will be remembered for many things, most of them pretty unpleasant, but in the photographic world I suspect we'll look back on it as the year that the interchangeable lens camera finally broke free of its 35mm film heritage with the loss of the 'R' part of SLR (the reflex mirror). Around a year ago the Panasonic G1 ushered in a new era of 'mirrorless' interchangeable lens system cameras, and the buzz around Micro Four Thirds products such as the Olympus PEN and Panasonic GF1 have shown what we've long believed to be true: there is a pent-up demand for a quality system camera that's smaller than a conventional DSLR.
We suspect (and in some cases know) that every camera manufacturer is watching this area of the market very closely, and that most have plans The first to show its hand being Korean electronics giant Samsung, with its Micro Four Thirds competitor, the NX system. The system (and this camera) were first shown (under glass, with little concrete information) back in March of last year at PMA 2009, and we've had a pre-production sample of the first NX camera for a couple of months now. It's not final firmware, but this preview should give you an idea of where Samsung is heading with its new system (which almost certainly marks the end of its re branding of Pentax DSLRs).
The NX system is, in truth, very similar to Micro Four Thirds with one key difference: it uses the same APS-C sized sensor as most digital SLR systems. At around 1.5x the area of Micro Four Thirds this has some important implications, both good and bad: the larger sensor theoretically means better high ISO performance (or the ability to offer higher megapixel counts), though to be fair the gap between Four Thirds and APS-C is now incredibly narrow. On the downside the larger sensor means larger lenses - the zooms for the NX system are certainly smaller than their APS-C SLR equivalents, but they're also noticeably larger than those designed for Micro Four Thirds.
Samsung NX10 Key Features
- 15.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (presumed to be close relation to Pentax K7 sensor)
- 14.6 million effective pixels
- New Samsung NX mount (25.5mm flange-back distance)
- 720P movie capture (H.264, 30 fps)
- Contrast-detect autofocus
- 3.0" AMOLED screen (614,000 dots, PenTile RGB array)
- 921k dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 30mm F2 pancake and 18-55mm standard zoom options
Samsung is a global electronics giant, able to draw on resources (and in-house technologies) most camera manufacturers can only dream of. And as one of the newer players in the camera market and crucially one of those without the burden (or blessing, depending on your point of view) of a legacy 35mm system to support, it's hardly surprising that Samsung is one of the pioneers of this new hybrid camera category.
Despite doing pretty well at grabbing a decent share of the compact camera market (mainly, it must be said, by undercutting its Japanese competitors) Samsung has struggled to gain any traction from its partnership with Pentax, which has seen it co-developing sensors (including the one inside the NX10) and slapping its logo on Pentax SLRs. The NX, by contrast, has been developed entirely in-house, independently of Pentax (or any other partner: Samsung claims the NX is 100% Samsung). How well it can compete with the established leaders at the serious end of the camera market remains to be seen.
At the moment the Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four Thirds system has the field to itself, but I'm sure by the time 2010 draws to an end they won't be Samsung's only competition as 'mirrorless' system cameras move from niche to mainstream. Hampered by the lack of any meaningful photographic 'pedigree' Samsung has to prove itself worthy of a seat at photography's top table, and on first impressions the NX10 is an incredibly promising start: only time (and sales figures) will tell if its enough.
The NX System
Samsung describes NX as a 'hybrid' system (there's still no consensus on nomenclature for this new category of camera) that (to quote the original press release) offers "the performance and image quality of a DSLR and the portability and convenience of a compact point-and-shoot". So far, so Micro Four Thirds with a bigger sensor.
As with Micro Four Thirds the key to NX is that it allows slimmer cameras by removing the mirror box and optical viewfinder and replacing them with an all-live view system (using the sensor itself to display a preview image on the screen or electronic viewfinder). The flange-back (lens mount to sensor) distance is reduced by around 40% to 25.5mm, the lens mount itself is shrunk and the net result is a camera with an ALR sensor and interchangeable lenses in a considerably smaller package.
For Samsung, a company with little experience in optics but an awful lot of experience in solid-state electronics it's also a way to make a system camera that contains little, if any legacy technology and very few moving parts. Digital SLRs use a sometimes awkward pairing of cutting edge electronics and decades-old mechanical systems harking back to the days of film, whereas these new 'hybrid' system cameras are designed and built from the bottom up as purely digital devices. It's our understanding that they're also a lot cheaper for a company like Samsung and Panasonic to make than anything requiring a precision engineered fast-moving mirror and reflex viewfinder.
At the time of writing we're got little information on the future scope of the NX system (and when we spoke to Samsung executives on a recent trip to Seoul they were very vague on a lens roadmap), what we do know is that - at launch - it will consist of the following:
- NX10 body
- Three lenses (30mm, 18-55mm, and 50-200mm - specs and details on page 3)
- Dedicated flashguns (SEF20A or SEF42A)
- Various cases, straps and cables
|At the time of launch the NX system will comprise the NX10 body, three lenses (including the 18-55mm and 30mm pancake, shown above) and a smattering of accessories.|
Foreword / notes
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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.
Samsung NX10 - Digital camera - prosumer - 14.6 Mpix -
With 18-55mm Lens - supported memory: SD, SDHC - black
Samsung NX20 20.3 MP SLR
with 3.0-Inch LCD Camera (Black)
Samsung NX210 Kit 20.3-megapixel Digital Camera
Samsung NX20 Camera
with 18-55mm Lens (Black) + 32GB SDHC Class 10 Memory Card + 58mm 3 Piece Filter Kit + Carrying Case + Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable + Mini Tripod Kit + USB SDHC Reader + Memory Wallet
Samsung NX1000 Black ~ 20.3MP Digital Camera
with 20-50mm Lens
Samsung EV-NX100 Digital SLR
with 14.6 MP and HD Recording
Samsung NX20 Digital Camera Body Only
Samsung NX300 Smart Wi-Fi Digital Camera Body & 20-50mm Lens (White)
with 50-200mm Lens & 500mm Mirror Lens + 32GB Card + Case + Battery + Tripod + 2 Lens Kit
Samsung NX300 Smart Wi-Fi Digital Camera Body & 18-55mm Lens (Black)
with 64GB Card + Case + Battery + Tripod + HDMI Cable + Tele/Wide Lenses + Filters
Samsung NX200 20 Megapixel Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera - Black