As with many cameras at this price point, the NX10 features a 3.0" screen, described as being VGA resolution (640x480 pixels). However, it uses two technologies that distinguish it from almost every other camera on the market - firstly it is an AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen, which selectively emits light, rather than an LCD that selectively blocks the light coming from a large white light-source behind the panel. This produces efficiency benefits that should result in better battery life compared to conventional TFT screens, as well as resulting in theoretically increased contrast and improved viewing angle.
The other difference is that, rather than using a red, a green and a blue triplet of dots to represent each pixel, it uses pairs of sub-pixels to present the same information, in a way that is claimed to be visually indistinguishable. This technology, originally developed by a Californian company, is now owned by Samsung. As explained in this white paper, the screen offers the same resolution in luminance terms as a conventional screen. What isn't made quite so clear is that you don't have full color information at each pixel (because you've effectively got 640x480 green sub-pixels and two offset 320x480 matrices of blue sub-pixels and red sub-pixels).
|Conventional array (3x3 pixels)||PenTile array (3x3 pixels)|
In practice, the resolution of Samsung's 614,000 dot OLED screen certainly appears higher than the 460,000 dot LCD used by Panasonic, but looks less detailed when compared to the 920,000 dot VGA on the Canon 550D. Overall the appearance is excellent, though, with the display giving a very bright, high-contrast image even when viewed from angles that would be unthinkable with LCDs.
|The 3.0" AMOLED screen is very good: dark blacks, excellent contrast, a wide viewing angle and a high refresh rate. The unusual ('PenTile') RGB array claims to give a visually higher resolution than you'd expect from 614k dots whilst keeping power consumption down.|
However, the full benefit of the NX10's screen is only really apparent in playback mode, where its full resolution is utilized. In live view mode, presumably for the sake of speed, the preview image is of a noticeably lower resolution than the screen is capable of. It's not at all uncommon to see moiré and 'stepping' artefacts in the preview that simply won't appear in the final image.
The NX10 - like the Panasonic GH1/G1 twins - features a low profile color electronic viewfinder. Whilst not as impressive as the G1/GH1 (or the Olympus E-P2's add-on unit), it's still pretty good, with 921,000 dots, 100% frame coverage and a large, bright image (it's around the same size as most entry-level APS-C SLRs). It isn't all good news though - like many such devices, the EVF of the NX10 becomes pitifully hard to see in bright sidelight, especially if you happen to wear glasses.
Just underneath the viewfinder is an eye sensor that automatically switches between the screen and EVF when you look into it. This cannot be turned off, which is annoying for two reasons. Firstly, we've found that it be easily activated by mistake, by a hand or the camera strap passing near it. Secondly, there were occasions in which it wouldn't recognize that it was being held to the face of a glasses-wearer (you have to press your cheek pretty close to the sensor).
One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR (or SLR-type camera) - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the Samsung NX10, Panasonic GH1, Olympus E-620 and - for reference - the EOS-1Ds Mark III (currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market). The Samsung NX10's viewfinder is essentially the same size as those of found on entry-level digital SLRs from Nikon, Canon, Sony etc., although we found that the rubber eyecup offers very little relief, which does make it more difficult to see the EVF image in bright light, compared to an optical viewfinder.
Screen / Viewfinder view
The NX10's new user interface is pretty and generally functional too. There's little in the way of customization of the display (you can hide the numerous icons down the sides of the preview and add grid lines, but that's it). The main shooting information is shown in a nice faux SLR viewfinder strip. The display on the EVF and main screen is identical. We'd like to see the option to use the EVF for framing and the rear screen as a status / control panel (something the Panasonic G1/GH1 manages) - then you really could use the NX10 just like any conventional SLR.
|You can alter the level of information shown on screen but you always get this stylish exposure info strip along the bottom.|
|The Fn button brings up a Function menu that contains all the most commonly accessed controls (even dedicated external controls tend to invoke a menu of some type, meaning accidental changes are rare, but it's not the fastest camera to operate).|
The NX10's screen can get a bit busy if you leave the full info display turned on, but it does have the advantage that you can see pretty much everything you need to know at a glance. The diagram below shows the main icons you'll see when using the NX10.
Battery / battery Charger
The NX10 uses a new 1300mAh 7.4V (9.6Wh) Li-Ion cell that locks snugly into place in the battery compartment in the grip of the camera. The battery is charged in the supplied BC1310. It is worth noting that battery life is noticeably much better after the battery has been put through a couple of charge/discharge cycles, and jumped in our sample from less than 100 shots to more than 200 per charge. (Samsung gives a figure of 400 images but does not use the industry standard tests or explain its own methodology, so it's not terrifically informative)
SD Card Slot
Like most of cameras at this end of the market, the NX10 accepts the popular SD format of memory card (including the larger capacity SDHC variety). The card slot sits under a sturdy slide-out spring-bound door (there's no lock but the door is stiff enough to avoid accidental opening).
On the left hand side of the camera is the familiar micro USB digital/video connector and a c-type Mini HDMI connector for connection to your HDTV. No HDMI cable is included with the camera, however, so that's something you may need to invest in. The NX10 also sports a remote-in socket (for the optional wired remote release) and an AC port (for use with the optional mains adaptor).