We're at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, and as usual we're battling through thousands of gadget-mad bloggers and industry analysts for off-record product briefings and hands-on sessions with this year's latest cameras. One of the most interesting products announced at CES is the Samsung NX300 - a well-rounded replacement for the NX210 which offers some genuine refinements over its older siblings. We didn't get a chance to handle the NX300 prior to its official unveiling, so we made a beeline for the Samsung stand to get our hands on the newest NX.
|From the front, the NX300 is hard to tell apart from its predecessor the NX210...||But from behind, you'll see that its OLED display is tiltable - and touch-sensitive, too.|
The NX300 features looks a lot like its predecessor, but beneath the surface it's a very different camera. Like the NX210, the NX300 features a 20MP CMOS sensor, but this is a newly-developed unit which offers 'hybrid' autofocus consisting of 247 contrast-detection AF points and 105 phase-detection points which should provide much faster and more positive focus in favorable lighting conditions. The cameras we handled were pre-production units, so it's impossible to make a definitive statement about their performance, but our first impressions are very good. Even in the relatively low light of a CES meeting room, focus with the 85mm F1.4 was fast and positive, with almost no 'jitter' - certainly a clear improvement on the solely contrast-detection system in earlier NX bodies and many competitive mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
As far as handling is concerned, the NX300 is in some respects very familiar, but in others it is refreshingly different. The basic user interface is very similar to the NX210, but two additions make a lot of difference - the rear screen can be tilted up and down, and is now touch-sensitive. It is also wider - with the new panel having a 15:9 aspect ratio, giving an 800x480 pixel display, rather than the 640x480 resolution of the older models. The screen articulation is useful for image composition from low or high angles (and for video shooting) but the up/down tilt is limiting. Apart from anything else, it really isn't useful when shooting in the portrait format (unless you like taking pictures around corners).
A much more useful addition is touch-sensitivity. The NX300's touch-sensitive controls are effectively optional - you can just use the conventional interface if you prefer - but it can be very useful. When it comes to quick 'grab shots', for example, touching the screen to focus is so much quicker than manually positioning the AF point. The NX300's touch screen is very responsive, and in line with our expectations of modern Samsung smartphones.
Speaking of quicker, thanks to an upgraded processor the NX300 can shoot at nine frames per second, compared to the eight of its predecessor, and Samsung is also claiming that in Wi-Fi mode, the new camera should be much quicker and easier to pair with mobile devices than the last-generation of 'Smart' devices. Again though, we were unable to test these claims in our brief hands-on session with the NX300.
As well as the NX300, Samsung also launched a 3D-capable version of its 45mm F1.8 NX lens at CES. This can be used as a conventional lens in '2D' mode but when switched into '3D' via a switch on the barrel, two LCD screens move into the optical path (shown above). These screens take turns to black-out their respective sides of the lens, meaning a slightly different image is projected onto the camera's sensor. The NX300 can capture and combine these alternating frames to create either 3D movies or stills.
Samsung says the feature cannot be extended to earlier NX models, and our understanding is that this is due to the higher processing requirements demanded by the creation of 3D stills and footage.
Again, we used a pre-production sample of the new 3D 45mm F1.8, and we were not able to examine image quality, but it's a neat idea in theory, and one that might breath some life back into consumer-level 3D content creation - lest we forget, the 'next big thing' at CES 2011.
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