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Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to see comparative boxes inside each patch.

It's in this area that the Samsung diverges furthest from commonly accepted behavior. Digital cameras are a fairly mature product so it's not surprising that most manufacturers have reached a common conclusion about what sort of options consumers want. Default, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, a more muted option and mono are the standard offerings. Samsung has other ideas though - in addition to the expected options you get Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm and, collectively they're not terribly useful.

Samsung is currently the only manufacturer to conclude that people will want to give their images a prominent green or blue tinge (Forest and Cool, respectively). But, in fairness, the faded print browns of 'retro' might appeal to some and 'calm' is just an unusual name for 'muted.'

 

Samsung NX10 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardVividPortraitLandscape
ForestRetroCoolCalm
ClassicAdobeRGB

Artificial light White Balance

In most real-world situations the NX10's white balance does a very good job, rendering color well. Like many cameras, auto white balance leaves a considerable orange cast when the scene is lit using conventional tungsten lightbulbs (and this brings us back to the argument of whether you want auto white balance to correctly balance the color channels or leave a hint of 'atmosphere'). It's a good performance though and one helped by the inclusion of white balance fine adjustment so that you can tweak the camera's default behavior to your liking.

We liked that you can assign 'set manual white balance' to the depth-of-field preview button on the front of the camera. We weren't quite so impressed with its performance, though, which stayed defiantly on the cold side of neutral.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 9.4%, Blue: -12.2%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 3.3%, Blue: -4.8%, Average
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 1.8%, Blue: -1.0%, Good
Fluorescent - Fluorescent W preset WB
Red: 4.4%, Blue: -4.4%, Average

Flash

The NX10 has a comparatively sophisticated flash system, allowing you to select first or rear curtain slow-sync flash, as well as two fill-flash options (one that attempts to reduce red-eye). The flash output can then be adjusted between +2 and -2 if the effect is too prominent.

Flash exposure is generally pretty good, and for social snaps or a little fill-in for shadowed faces it's far more useful than having no flash at all. The slow-sync options are handy and, if your subject stays still long enough, can produce nicer results than the fill-flash.

Smart Range

What contemporary camera would be complete without a dynamic range boosting feature for high-contrast situations? Samsung's implementation is called Smart Range and, as we see on the Dynamic range test page, works very much like Canon's Highlight Tone Priority or Pentax's Highlight Correction function.

The result is around an extra stop of dynamic range in the highlights, which we'd usually expect to result in an increase in shadow noise - however, this doesn't appear to be the case in this instance (see Image Quality Specifics below). Both shots taken at ISO 640, F5 and 1/13 seconds (as chosen by Auto ISO). There is slight camera shake in the Smart Range Off shot but the key thing is the different level of detail in the lit areas of the painting in the background.

Smart Range Off Smart Range On
33% crop 33% crop
100% crop 100% crop

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

The image quality from the NX10 is generally good. Reliable metering and white balance, combined with a sensible color response mean that most pictures it produces are likely to leave most people quite happy with the results.

However, the noise reduction that affects fine, low-contrast detail such as hair, fur, grass and skin texture might be a problem for people wanting to crop into their images to any greater degree. The problems seem to be particularly prevalent when Smart Range is engaged. Rather than letting more noise through as most other manufacturers do, Samsung appears to be applying considerably higher levels of noise reduction to keep noise levels consistent between shots taken with Smart Range on and off.

Smart Range Off Smart Range On

The effect is only apparent in the finest, low contrast detail but because this can include skin texture and fabrics, it can be disturbing. It's enough to prompt us to make sure we only turn Smart Range on in extreme contrast situations where it's needed.

Auto ISO is the other problem and one we think will affect more potential users- the camera regularly chooses such low ISO values that it requires shutter speeds that cannot be reliably hand-held by most people.

We're not sure whether Samsung has over-estimated the effectiveness of its image stabilization though, as far as we can tell, no attempt is made to consider what focal length is being used or whether image stabilization is switched on (the two most important factors in terms of image shake).

In side-by-side tests with a Canon EOS 550D (with both cameras set to 55mm F5.6), the NX10 chose to use 1/13 sec at ISO 480 while the Canon chose to use 1/80 sec at ISO 3200. The two cameras differ in terms of the maximum ISO they're willing to use, and if Samsung feels that ISO 800 is a sensible limit from an image quality perspective, we don't consider that to be a problem (though it'd be nice to be able to specify the maximum). However, most people can't hold a camera steady enough at this focal length for 1/13th of a second. Even with a maximum ISO limit of 800, the camera still has the option of increasing the ISO to make things more manageable but simply doesn't.

One of the most common complaints for users moving from compact cameras to DSLRs (a demographic that is clearly a target for Samsung with this camera), is that they find that more of their shots come out blurry. Because of the NX10's Auto ISO, which is always engaged in Smart Auto and all Scene modes, blurry photos are likely to be a particular problem for this camera. Its low weight also makes the camera rather susceptible to shake, which risks exacerbating the problem.

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