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Raw and raw conversion

Supplied software

The NX200 is supplied with a Software CD containing:

  • Intelli-studio 3.0 (Windows) - Intelli-Studio is a file browser and image/video editor. It features a great many JPEG editing effects and tools, ranging from useful tone adjustments to fairly silly image distortion options. Video editing functions include transition effects, cutting and text overlay. Overall it seems fine at what it does but it's not specific to the to the NX200 (it can't tell whether images were shot in Smart Range mode, for example). If you already use software such as Picasa, you may find yourself better served by sticking with it.

  • Samsung RAW Converter 4 (Windows/Mac) - Samsung RAW Converter 4 is essentially a Samsung-only version of SilkyPix, a RAW conversion application developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory which is probably better known in Japan. SilkyPix provides a wide range of advanced RAW conversion options including adjustable noise reduction, lens aberration correction and rotation / perspective correction.

The Samsung NX200 ships with Samsung RAW Converter 4, a special (fully featured) edition of SILKYPIX, a rather quirky, though surprisingly well-featured, raw development application for Windows and Mac. The (on-screen) manual is very comprehensive, but doesn't really explain the features very well, and first-time users may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options on offer. This isn't helped by the slightly dodgy translations and the plethora of sliders with names that don't really indicate what they actually do. But there is lots here to get stuck into, and the default settings produce perfectly acceptable results.

But after some experimentation and adapting you'll discover that the RAW Converter 4 can produce superior results to the JPEGs, not least in that they can be fine-tuned to produce output that suits your own needs / tastes. There's easily as much tweaking on offer as you get with Adobe Camera Raw, though the extent of the changes isn't so great so you'll often find yourself pushing lots of sliders and getting pretty similar results. The application can be a little slow when browsing and processing raw files but the fact that Samsung, Pentax and Panasonic all provide software based around the Silkypix processing engine suggests it must be pretty capable.

You can save parameter sets (for some reason you put them in the 'cloakroom') once you've found out what works for you, which combined with batch processing and extensive output options (TIFF or JPEG), takes some of the grind out of the business of developing large numbers of raw files.

Samsung Raw Converter has a comprehensive feature set, though the lack of any meaningful documentation (and occasionally incomprehensible menu options) mean it can take a while to really feel comfortable and to find your way around. It's not all hard work; a panel of drop-down menus and tabs give a series of sliders to fine tune each parameter. These offers the ability to tinker with just about every aspect of the image processing without those options too often becoming overwhelming.
There are a series of presets, including Nostalgic Toy Camera that adjust all sorts of settings. The nice thing is that you can browse around and see what each has changed in order to produce their effect. Dig a little deeper, beyond the presets, and RAW Converter offers almost limitless tweaking opportunities, certainly enough to satisfy even the most advanced user. In fact you can easily end up spending way too long trying the different sliders.

Raw conversion

As is normal in our reviews we like to compare the supplied raw conversion software, any optional manufacturer raw conversion software and some third party raw converter. For the purpose of this test we've picked Adobe Camera Raw alongside the Samsung software. Here we compare these two converters to the camera's JPEG engine to see how each of them pulls detail out of the images.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • SRC - Samsung RAW Converter 4
  • ACR - Adobe Camera raw 6.6

Sharpness and Detail

In contrast to some other manufacturer-supplied raw converters Samsung Raw Converter is not attempting to emulate the camera's JPEG engine but produces entirely different results. The default conversion is showing less detail than the out-of-camera JPEG but it's also considerably less sharpened. With the fine control over the type and level of sharpening being offered in Samsung Raw you'll be able to achieve at least the same amount of fine detail as the JPEGs if you divert from the software's default settings. Adobe ACR produces more detail than Samsung Raw Converter but again the default settings don't get the most out of the raw files.

Samsung Raw Converter ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Adobe ACR 6.6 raw ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

At their default settings both raw converters - Samsung Raw Converter 4 and Adobe ACR 6.6 - are extracting similar levels of fine detail out of the raw files as the NX200's JPEG engine. You could improve on the converters' results by applying customized sharpening parameters but even at default settings all three sample images show some detail up to our chart maximum. However, while the out-of-camera JPEG is fairly clean of artifacts both raw conversions show significant levels of moiré patterning. That said, the latter won't be an issue in the vast majority of real-life shooting situations.

JPEG from camera Samsung Raw Converter 4 (raw)
 
Adobe Camera raw (raw)  

RAW vs JPEG

With its 21MP sensor the Samsung NX200 is a viable alternative for those photographers who need maximum detail in a shot but prefer the more compact dimensions of a mirrorless camera over a DSLR. The NX200's out-of-camera JPEGs already show a very good level of detail and the difference to a processed raw file really only becomes visible in very fine patterns and low contrast detail. The shot of the marshes below was taken with the 18-55mm kit lens. With the amount of pixels the level of captured detail is quite impressive.

Processing the files in Adobe ACR and applying some custom sharpening (Amount 30, radius 0.6, detail 73) squeezes a small amount of additional detail out of the image although this only is relevant to you if you frequently view your images at a 100% magnification.

JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw (raw)
100% crop 100% crop

Even if you're not a detail fetishist the ability to modify shooting parameters after an image has been taken, in raw conversion, can be extremely useful. Like many cameras the NX200's Auto White Balance isn't always 100% reliable under artificial light and rather than worrying about setting the right manual parameter or getting the custom white balance right you can still snap away and take care of the problem in post-processing where the chances of getting it 100% right are much better.

The picture below was taken indoors with the white balance accidentally set to 'daylight' which resulted in a strong yellowish cast. In Adobe ACR we modified the color temperature and tint parameters, slightly lifted the exposure and also applied some customized noise reduction to create a more pleasant end result.

JPEG from camera Adobe Camera Raw (raw)

Raw files for download

Don't just take our word for it - take a look at the NX200's raw files for yourself, and run them through your own software and preferred conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of 'real world' scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the NX200's studio scene shots, you can download original raw files from our compared to (raw) page.

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