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Conclusion - Pros

  • Smallest interchangeable lens camera with an APS-C sensor
  • Good image quality
  • Very reliable metering and white balance in most shooting situations
  • Excellent build quality
  • Generally well-thought-through interface and ergonomics
  • High specification for the price
  • Fast (DSLR speed) autofocus and good range of AF point selection methods
  • Superb LED rear screen offers high contrast, brightness and viewing angle
  • EVF useful in bright light and free from the 'tearing effect' seen on some
  • Image quality at highest ISO settings on a par with competitors
  • Smart Range feature offers useful dynamic range boost (but with higher noise reduction)
  • Good battery life, considering small size
  • Fully featured (though esoteric) raw converter provided

Conclusion - Cons

  • Auto ISO will all too readily result in shaky photos
  • Steep tone curve gives harsh transition to blown-out, white areas (as seen in Panasonic G series)
  • Noise reduction in JPEGS can be destructive (especially in Smart Range mode)
  • Several functions, including playback, unavailable for several seconds when shooting RAW
  • EVF seems dull in comparison to excellent rear screen
  • Lack of optional live view magnification makes manual focus of non-NX lenses impractical
  • Continuous AF doesn't track and predict like most DSLRs will
  • No real in-camera raw conversion option (it will only convert to some unusual presets)
  • Little control over noise reduction (Only the additional NR at ISO 3200 is optional)
  • Sensor cleaning isn't particularly effective
  • Video mode suffers lag before recording starts, cuts off early and has pronounced rolling shutter
  • Impossible to switch between images to check focus when magnified in playback mode
  • Rear screen's perceptual resolution not quite as high as VGA branding would imply

Overall conclusion

Samsung is a little unfortunate to be the second guest to arrive at the mirrorless camera party - Micro Four Thirds has already made such a strong impression that it risks becoming the generic term for the new generation of mirrorless systems, even if that's not what Panasonic or Olympus had in mind. But that shouldn't mean the NX10 will be outshone, not least because it offers a sensor with 50% greater area than the actual Micro Four Thirds models (and sensor size is generally the most significant factor in terms of high ISO performance and, with most popular lenses, gives greater scope for experimenting with depth-of-field).

That Samsung has manged to offer so much camera in such a small, well-designed body is impressive - especially with the excellent 30mm F2 lens - but the fact that it's such a likeable camera, considering Samsung's relative inexperience in the sector deserves still greater respect. The NX10 comfortably competes both with the enthusiast DSLRs and the Micro Four Thirds cameras that conceptually sit on either side of it.

It's not entirely without its problems, however. The video mode in particular doesn't live up to the camera's otherwise generally high standard. We can live with the pronounced rolling shutter effect but the 0.8 second lag between pressing the shutter and the movie starting to record is often problematic, as is its habit of clipping the last half second off the file.

Image Quality

One of the most impressive things about the NX10 is its image quality. In general terms, the camera makes a really good job of exposure, white balance and color rendition, meaning that most of the key elements are in place for great photos. The images are perhaps a little under-sharpened (in the style of Nikon), but you can get some improvement by applying a little more sharpening in camera, better still in post-processing or, ideally, during RAW conversion.

Unfortunately, the NX10 seems to use one of the noiser sensors on the market and while the JPEG engine does a good job of supressing this noise, it takes some of the fine detail away too. The problem becomes particuarly apparent at high ISOs and with the otherwise useful 'Smart Range' dynamic range enhancer turned on. This isn't going to be a problem in most situations (and no problem at all for small prints), but does mean you rarely get the resolution that the 14.6 megapixel headline figure might lead you to expect.

Handling

The NX10 is a well thought-out piece of kit and it's obvious that a lot of effort has been put into making sure that photographers have access to the things they're likely to want to change. And it seems equally well considered when it comes to the automated modes (we particularly like the fact that the Smart Mode with its automatic scene recognition lets you know which scene mode it's chosen for you). The result is a generally pleasant photographic experience. The interface is good looking and, just as importantly, quick and easy to use.

There are problems though: the kit zoom's unexceptional image stabilization combines badly with an Auto ISO system that would rather leave you with too slow a shutter speed than hits its high ISO limit. The result is many novice users are likely to find they've taken rather more shaky photographs than they're used to.

There are also problems for enthusiast users trying to push the cameras towards its limits, with the biggest likely to be the delays engendered by the camera's poor bufferring. This makes RAW shooting potentially frustrating by making certain functions inaccessible for several seconds after each shot. Anybody hoping to capitalize on the NX10's mirrorless design (and consequent short sensor-to-mount distance), to use non NX-mount lenses via adapters will also be disappointed because you can't manually engage magnified live view so can't realistically manually focus lenses.

The final word

Overall, it's hard not to be impressed by the NX10. It's the smallest interchangeable lens APS-C camera we've ever tested and, despite Samsung being a relative newcomer to the sector, it's generally very well done. The image quality isn't in any respect class-leading but neither is it significantly behind most of its peers. The LED rear screen is excellent, as is the build-quality. It remains to be seen how the NX system will develop or whether third-party lens makers such as Sigma, Tamron or Tokina will produce lenses (an important factor in making specialist lenses affordable for enthuisiasts), but as a product in itself the NX10 is a good start. It's well designed from both a physical and software point-of-view, is generally nice to use and, with the 30mm lens mounted, will fit in a large pocket or small bag.

Overall then, the NX10 does many things very well. It's not without its flaws but not to the point that you feel like you're part of a beta/guinea pig program. However, it's not substantially better than the smaller micro four thirds cameras nor is it as good as the best DSLRs in its class. So, while we wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend the NX10, we wouldn't disuade anyone from buying one either - if you've taken your time to learn its many stengths, and its handful weaknesses, you won't be disappointed.

Samsung NX10
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
People wanting SLR quality wherever they go.
Not so good for
Demanding enthusiasts or complete beginners. Budding videographers.
Overall score
69%
The NX10 proves it's possible to offer an APS-C sensor and interchangeable lenses without the mirror, prism, and general bulk of a DSLR design. It's a small, likeable camera that is readily capable of matching the image quality of its peers, but a few minor failings prevent it from standing out in a sector full of highly capable cameras.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean

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