Samsung NX200 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Good image quality with very high resolution and good detail at base ISO
- Well-designed and intuitive user interface, suitable for point-and-shoot users and enthusiasts alike
- Good customizability including the useful iFn button
- Attractive all-metal body with good build-quality
- 7fps continuous shooting at full resolution (but limited and slow buffering)
- Responsive overall operation, focus acquisition and startup/shutdown
- Good quality video capture
- Full manual controls in video mode
- Useful slow-motion video available at lower resolutions (0.25x at 480p, 0.5x at 720p)
- Good feature set with 30fps burst mode (at 5MP), panorama mode and image filters/frames
- Good focus magnification, allowing for precise manual focusing
- Good quality screen with good visibility even in brighter light
- Comes with decent bundled raw converter (Silkypix)
- Decent selection of NX system lenses available
Conclusion - Cons
- Longer than usual processing times after taking raw shots
- Fairly aggressive noise reduction starts blurring detail at lower ISOs and mixes with high levels of chroma noise at higher sensitivities
- No live-view feed in continuous shooting
- No access to battery and memory card when mounted on a tripod
- No connector for external microphone
- Limited highlight-range with Smart-Range feature turned off
- Excessive noise reduction when Smart-Range is turned on
- No in-camera raw file conversion (and limited JPEG retouch options)
- No dedicated external viewfinders available
The NX200 is the latest in Samsung's NX line of mirrorless system cameras and the first one to feature a completely new 20.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor - a pixel count which not too long ago was reserved for DSLRs, and high-end ones, at that.
However, it would be unfair to reduce the NX200 to its high pixel-count. There is a lot to like about this camera. The user interface is intuitive and offers a good level of customizability for this class. Video shooters will appreciate the 1080p HD movie mode with full manual control and fast playback and slow motion (at lower resolutions) options. Add 7fps continuous shooting, a 30fps burst mode (at 5MP), a panorama mode and a selection of image filters and frames and the NX200 has a really competitive feature set. Where the NX100 felt a little cheap, the NX200 wraps its impressive core technology up in an attractively designed all-metal body which has got a solid quality feel to it.
In terms of image quality the NX200 offers a lot of light and some shadow. At base ISO the camera captures an impressive amount of detail in its JPEG files but at higher ISOs the camera uses pretty strong noise reduction that doesn't always battle the (chroma) noise in a very efficient ways, resulting in images that lack low-contrast detail but also show the purple shimmer of blurred chroma noise in the shadow areas. If you want to get the most out of the NX200's high ISO images though it's a good idea (as always) to convert the raw files and apply custom noise reduction yourself, on a computer.
If high ISO performance is not on top of your priority list there is really only one other potential 'issue' you might have with the NX200. After taking a shot the camera takes longer than we'd have liked to 'flush' the captured data through its imaging pipeline and the camera locks up - ignoring all user input - while buffering. As long as you're shooting JPEG only it's not much of an issue but as soon as you switch to raw capture you'll see that 'Processing' message pretty often, since it can take up to almost 10 seconds (longer in continuous shooting mode) before the camera's user interface is ready again to accept your input.
If you're not a raw shooter (or you're simply a very patient person) there's not a lot else to complain about. Videographers might bemoan the lack of an external microphone connector and some users will no doubt wish that the NX200 offered the option to attac an external viewfinder but other than that most of the points in the 'cons' list at the top of this page are minor quibbles.
When the Samsung NX200 was announced in September 2011 it was a month late to snatch the title of the mirrorless system camera with the highest pixel count. It got beaten to that particular title by the more expensive 24MP Sony Alpha NEX-7 (although the Samsung was available for purchase much sooner) but nevertheless the NX200 offers a generous 20MP in a sector of the market that (apart from the NEX-7) currently limits itself to a maximum pixel count of 16MP.
Fortunately, the NX200 makes good use of its high pixel count sensor. When shooting at base ISO and default settings, with the right lens (such as the fine 60mm Samsung Macro), the camera captures an impressive amount of fine detail - a result of the combination of the high megapixel sensor, a comparatively weak low-pass filter and sensible default sharpening. The color rendition is natural and while shooting our several hundred sample shots the metering and AF system proved to be very reliable, even in low light and difficult high-contrast situations.
The picture changes a little when the ISO is pushed up, though. You immediately start loosing some fine low contrast detail, and this becomes very obvious beyond ISO 800, with both the smearing effects of noise reduction and a purple shimmer of chroma noise becoming much more intrusive, especially in shadow and low contrast areas of the frame. Noise reduction is pretty aggressive across the ISO range (although, when switched on, it officially only kicks in at ISO 6400) and at the highest ISO settings the NX200 is only really good enough for small output sizes. Especially at ISO 6400 and 12800 the remnants of the chroma noise which has been blurred by noise reduction can be pretty intrusive and can end up almost looking like a opaque purple layer on top of some image areas. Be aware though that even towards the low end of the NX200's ISO sensitivity span, turning its 'Smart Range' dynamic range expansion setting on has a profoundly detrimental effect on shadow detail.
Raw processing gives you a minimal increase in detail at base ISO (and the usual post-capture control over some shooting parameters) but it really comes in handy at higher ISOs where you have much better control over noise reduction. The NX200's JPEG engine gets good detail out of the raw data at low sensitivities but at higher ISOs custom noise reduction can often yield better results than the out-of-camera JPEGs.
The metal-bodied NX200 is reassuringly weighty and gives you a feeling of quality when holding it in your hands. Despite the weight, with the kit zoom or a pancake lens attached to it the camera makes a nicely compact package that finds space in most coat pockets. The downside to the attractive styling is that some of the sharp edges at the bottom front can, depending on the size of your hands and shooting style, become a little uncomfortable when holding the camera for extended periods of time. That said, for m any people this will be a non-issue and the rubberized grip area on the camera front and back has a very pleasant feel to it.
The NX200's user interface follows the by now fairly established model of combining some external controls with a 'Quick-' menu (Fn-menu in the NX200's case) that allows for access to a range of frequently used parameters. On the Samsung the end result is an intuitive interface that doesn't require much time to get used to and offers various customization options. Apart from a custom button on the back of the camera you can assign various parameters, such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, white balance or exposure compensation, to the iFn-button that most NX lenses come with. It's an ergonomically clever and very quick way of changing key shooting parameters on the fly which is this form currently only available on Samsung cameras. Manual focus aficionados will appreciate the very precise focus magnification that is activated once you turn the focus ring.
For those not interested in customization options, or indeed any form of manual operation, the NX200 essentially functions as a point-and-shoot camera when the mode dial is set to the 'Smart' mode. Generally the NX200 is a very pleasant camera to handle in both fully manual and Auto modes and is only slightly let down by the comparatively long processing and write times. The waiting time after taking a shot in raw format is several seconds during which the camera essentially ignores any user input. This is much less of an issue when shooting JPEG only but in any case we'd recommend using a fast memory card and some patience.
The Final Word
The Samsung NX200 is a real step forward from its predecessor, the NX100, and it's great to see Samsung, which for years has been a major player in the compact camera arena, up their game a notch in the system camera bracket of the market and launch by launching a camera that is truly enjoyable to use. The NX200 is an obvious choice for anyone who wants lots of pixels in a small package and cannot or does not want to shell out the big bucks for the 24MP Sony NEX-7. Crucially, Samsung's NX lens lineup is pretty well-established now, and contains a range of optics good enough to show off the NX200's 20MP sensor including an excellent 60mm F2.8 Macro and a couple of pancakes.
If you're looking for a camera for low-light high-ISO work there are better options around though. As always, with some tweaking in raw conversion, the NX200 can turn out decent high ISO images, but in terms of noise and detail retention, when the light gets low the NX200 is beaten by the best of its mirrorless competition. Ultimately though the NX200 is a fine camera which is capable of producing excellent images. The user interface is intuitive and the panorama and magic modes give you something to play with. As long as you can live with the longer than usual buffering times you should be very happy with the NX200.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Samsung NX200 is an obvious choice for anyone who wants lots of pixels in a small package. The camera is slightly let down by long buffering times in raw mode and the JPEG engine's noise treatment at high sensitivities, but overall the NX200 is a powerful photographic tool with a good feature set for its class, and it's enjoyable to use.
- Mirrorless roundup 2011
- Panasonic Lumix GX1 Review
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Review
- Olympus PEN E-P3 Review
- Sony Alpha NEX-7 Review
- Sony Alpha NEX-5N Review
- Olympus OM-D EM-5 Preview
- Mirrorless Cameras: A Primer
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- Panasonic Lumix DMC-G857.2%
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- Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art5.1%
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