Image Quality

The NX30 offers a 20.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor. That puts it near the top of the mirrorless class, both in terms of sensor size and resolution, and it offers roughly a billion times more resolution than your smartphone. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but it is a lot and coupled with a much larger sensor, the NX30 will run circles around most smartphones in terms of image quality. For quick-and-dirty sharing, those 20 megapixel images are downsized to 2MP by default, though it's possible to share originals over Wi-Fi. Raw images are saved as .SRW files.

JPEG image quality

At default settings the NX30's JPEGs are nice and sharp without any noticeable evidence of over-sharpening. Its standard tone curve is a bit on the high contrast side, sometimes resulting in more clipped highlights and deeper shadows in daylight scenes than we'd like to see. Colors are vivid, with lovely blues and greens in the landscapes we've taken with the NX30.

ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/500sec 100% crop
ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/500sec 100% crop
ISO 3200, f/4.5, 1/500sec 100% crop
ISO 6400, f/4.0, 1/125sec 100% crop
ISO 12800, f/4.0, 1/250sec 100% crop

There's a bit of false color in the fine grass visible in the first image above, but both low ISO images are on the whole pleasantly sharp. Fine detail starts to decline at ISO 3200 as noise reduction amps up. At very high ISOs muted colors start to fade toward monochrome as color noise reduction gets stronger.

While we've seen much improvement in Samsung's JPEGs over the past few years, its noise reduction algorithm doesn't quite keep up with most of its peers once it hits ISO 3200 and beyond. Chroma noise is left behind and attempts to clean it up tend to wash out some colors and muddy fine detail. That said, most sensitivities will look fine at web sizes, so your happiness with the NX30's output may just depend on where you're outputting your images.

We mentioned in our Shooter's Report a peculiar scene in which the NX30 seemed to be applying too much noise reduction at low ISO and blurring out fine detail in some distant water. Samsung responded to our comments with a firmware update, toning down noise reduction and aiming to retain more sharpness in distant details. Below is a comparison shot, taken in a different location, the first with initial firmware and the second with the new version. We see a subtle difference in how the camera renders detail in the water and greenery.

ISO 100, F5.6, 1/800sec with original firmware
Original firmware, 100% crop Updated firmware, 100% crop

It's also worth noting that the NX30 applies quite a bit of in-camera lens distortion correction to its JPEGs. It can be turned off in the main camera menu. Adobe provides lens profiles for corrections, though at least with the kit lens, gives distortion a noticeably different treatment than the camera does.

Raw

The NX30's Raw files offer some room to play with tone curve adjustments after capture. The image below was shot at ISO 100 and most of the detail in the plant life has been lost to shadows. As seen in Raw conversion, much more information is available in the shadows than the JPEG has made use of, and a good amount of tone can be recovered before the noise penalty becomes too high.

Original JPEG ISO 100, f/5.0, 1/160sec
Raw conversion (ACR 8.4) shadows +100, 100% crop (equivalent to a 2.66EV push) Original JPEG 100% crop

Raw files also allow a bit more sophisticated application of noise reduction. At high ISOs the NX30's JPEG processing tends to mute colors as it seeks to eliminate color noise.

Original JPEG ISO 6400, f/3.2, 1/125sec
Original JPEG 100% crop ACR conversion 100% crop with +45 color noise reduction and +37 luminance noise reduction

As you can see, the Raw conversion above manages to get rid of color noise but doesn't take the blue writing off the tag in the process. Play with some of the NX30's Raw files yourself by clicking the links to download samples below.

Raw files for download

Flash

The NX30's built-in flash has a guide number of 11 at ISO 100, with a sync speed of 1/200sec. The camera's hot shoe will also accept Samsung's SEF580A external flash unit. The pop-up flash can wirelessly trigger the accessory flash unit, a useful function that Nikon omits from its entry-level DSLRs.

The NX30's pop-up flash mostly overpowers some softer window lighting to the subject's left and leaves him looking a bit washed out. Flash intensity can be adjusted by +/-2.0 levels, in increments of 0.5.

Its noise performance and noise reduction are a little disappointing, but Raw files stand up well to processing. The NX30's high resolution sensor provides plenty of detail for cropping and downsizing, the latter of which you'll likely be doing if you plan to share images wirelessly from the camera. Overall image quality is about par for the class - not terribly impressive, but probably sufficient for a majority of users.