The Samsung NX200 is a comparatively small camera in the mirrorless system camera market segment but nevertheless handles remarkably well. At first the metal edges can appear a little sharp and unwelcoming, but the entire grip area and large parts of the camera back have been covered in a rubber material that has a pleasant feel to it. Combined with the contour of the grip, the rubberized coating gives a nice firm hold and the grip is just the right size to hook your fingers around and let your thumb rest on the dedicated texturized area on the back.
Despite the comfortable grip though the NX200's is fairly compact, and if you have large hands you might find the button and control layout a little cramped. The buttons have a nice travel and don't feel too 'clicky' but they are very small. This 'issue' is common to several mirrorless cameras and if you have large hands or are used to the larger buttons of an SLR we'd recommend you play with an NX200 before you commit to a purchase and make sure its ergonomics are right for you.
Overall though the NX200's button and dial-driven control layout is intuitive and gives you quick and easy access to all major functions.
Overall operation and handling
The metal-bodied NX200 is not particularly lightweight (although it is slightly lighter than its nearest competitor the Sony NEX-5N) and leaves a solid impression in your hands. It balances well with the standard zoom kit-lens and pancake options, but it can feel a little unbalanced with more bulky lenses such as the 60mm Macro or the 50-200 tele lens. This is especially true when the camera is used one-handed.
The body sports a quite attractive minimalist design with clean-cut lines. The downside are some pretty sharp edges, especially at the bottom front, which can become a little uncomfortable when holding the camera for extended periods of time. That said, the rubberized grip which wraps around to the camera back does a good job at providing a comfortable gripping surface.
When setting the camera to its 'Smart' mode the NX200 essentially functions like an oversized point-and-shoot but for those who like more control the camera offers an intuitive and fairly conventional user interface that should be easy to get used to by anyone who has being using another recent mirrorless or high-end compact model. External buttons give you access to drive mode, ISO, AF-mode and exposure compensation. After pressing any of these buttons the values can be changed by either pressing the four-way controller or turning the top-dial which makes exposure adjustments really easy and quick. A number of other shooting parameters such as White Balance, Metering Mode, Picture Wizard or image quality can be accessed through the Fn-menu.
On the NX200's grip a combination of textured metal, soft-feel rubberized coating and a well-chosen shape make it easy to get a good grip on the camera.
For a camera in its class the NX200 comes with a good number of customization options. The appropriately named 'Custom' button on the camera back can take on five different functions including DOF-preview and custom white balance, but what gives the NX200 a real edge over some of its competitors in terms of customization and direct access to shooting parameters is the iFn-button that most of the Samsung lenses come with. It's a great way of changing settings on the fly and once you get used to it you won't want to miss it. You can also define the maximum sensitivity to be used by the Auto-ISO function (from ISO 200-3200).
Menu activation and dismissal, focus acquisition and startup/shutdown are all nice and quick but, as we've described in the performance section of this review, the camera 'locks up' when buffering the large image files. It's much less of issue if you're shooting JPEG only but raw shooters will have to get used to not being able to change any settings for several seconds after capturing images.
For manual focus aficionados the NX200 does not offer a focus peaking function but the manual focus magnification is activated automatically on as soon as you start turning the focus ring on the attached lens and gives you a very good quality magnification view, allowing for very precise manual focusing. Unfortunately when using manual focus K-mount lenses with Samsung's K-mount adapter this doesn't work but you can get the focus magnification by pressing the OK button. Overall, thanks to its intuitive user interface and great customization options the NX200 is a joy to use for Auto mode shooters and experts alike, as long as you can live with the unusually long buffering times.
Specific handling issues
As described above the NX200's user interface follows the almost ubiquitous mix of direct access buttons, Fn-menu for key parameters and everything else in the camera menus. Samsung's particular recipe for this mix works very well and the iFn button adds a unique detail that many photographers will find useful.
Most handling 'issues' we've found with the camera are of a very minor nature. Some of us found the sharp edges of the metal body occasionally a little uncomfortable. We've found it to be more problematic when shooting in portrait mode than in landscape orientation but ultimately if and how much this bothers you will very much depend on the size of your hands and shooting style.
There a very few instances where the behavior of the user interface is a little inconsistent and annoying. For instance, when selecting the parameters that are being displayed by pressing the iFn button you have to make sure you press the Menu button to confirm your selection, otherwise it will be dismissed. It's a minor issue though as you're likely to change these parameters very rarely.
Perhaps more important to landscape photographers and other users who like to mount their cameras on a tripod is the fact that you can't do that without blocking the NX200's combined memory card/battery slot. So make sure your card has enough available space and your battery is charged before fine-tuning your tripod position. For those working outside in extreme temperatures it's also worth noting that the camera's all-metal body adapts quite quickly to the ambient temperature which can get uncomfortable in the cold, so make sure you wear gloves in those conditions that are thin enough to allow for easy operation of the camera.
Another point to mention is the NX200's supplied accessory flash. The camera does not feature a built-in flash but comes with an attachable variant instead. That's not a disadvantage per se but it is of course easier to accidently leave it behind when heading out on a shooting trip. The unit also looks a little flimsy and we would be a little concerned about its durability in long-term use. That said, while using the flash in the process of writing this review we did not have any problems with it.
The NX200's biggest problem though is write speeds, especially when shooting raw. We'll look into this in more detail on the next page.