Samsung’s new NX210 takes the 20.3-million-pixel sensor and high specification of the NX200 and adds the key new feature of Wi-Fi
Samsung NX210 at a glance:
- 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized, CMOS sensor
- 3in, 614,000-dot AMOLED screen
- ISO 100-12,800
- Wi-Fi compatible
- 8fps continuous shooting mode
- Street price around £749 with 18-55mm kit lens
It may have been only late last year that Samsung launched the NX200, but with technology changing so fast the company has already released its successor, the NX210. The vast majority of the new camera’s specifications are the same as the NX200, including the high-resolution, 20.3-million-pixel sensor, which is also found in the NX1000 and NX20.
Essentially, the new Samsung NX210 is an attempt to take a camera that we described as ‘proof that compact system cameras should be taken seriously as alternatives to DSLRs’ and introduce a key new feature – Wi-Fi integration. This is a feature that Samsung is currently introducing throughout its digital camera line-up.
When we reviewed the Samsung NX200, it scored an impressive 84%, so it will be interesting to see just how much the addition of wireless technology – and other new features – brings to the NX210.
All the key components of the NX210 are identical to those of the NX200, including the 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, which is developed in-house by Samsung.
Of the new features, the first to note is the increase in the maximum shooting rate, which has been raised from 7fps to 8fps.. As the camera relies on contrast-detection focusing, the focus still remains fixed at the first frame. As a compact system camera, the NX210 isn’t designed or suited for sports or action photography, so the increased shooting rate isn’t a major new selling point.
Another minor update that will be welcomed by many is the facility for the NX210 to be used with the new Samsung SR2NX02 wired remote shutter release, via the camera’s Micro USB socket. Unfortunately, it is not backwards compatible with the NX10, NX100 and NX200.
However, as already mentioned, by far the most significant change is the Wi-Fi technology that has been incorporated into the NX210, as it has in all other recent Samsung cameras.
A number of different functions are offered by the Wi-Fi connectivity, but the three that will no doubt prove most popular are Mobile Link, Remote Viewfinder, Email and Social Sharing. The first two require separate apps to be downloaded to a mobile phone or tablet computer. Mobile Link connects the NX210 to a smartphone or tablet, and then allows these devices access to all the images that are saved on the camera’s memory card. Images can then be transferred, either individually or as a batch, from the camera to the mobile device. I transferred images to my iPhone, then edited images using Nik Software’s Snapseed image-editing app, before uploading the edited photos to Instagram’s online image-sharing service. This allowed people to see my images within minutes of taking them.
Remote Viewfinder allows the camera’s shutter to be controlled via a smartphone or tablet, with a live view presented on the screen. While the controls are limited, with only the flash, self-timer and resolution that can be altered, Samsung has promised access to all the shooting features by the end of the year.
When using the Remote Viewfinder application, there is a fraction of a second delay, which I estimated to be around 1/10sec, in the live view update. There is also a similar delay between clicking on the on-screen shutter button and the shutter being fired. However, the feature should still be useful for shooting when the camera is mounted out of reach, or for avoiding camera shake during long exposures. Again, there is the option to upload images to a mobile phone or a tablet for editing or sharing.
The Social Sharing function allows the camera to be connected directly to the internet via a Wi-Fi connection and images to be directly uploaded to an online service. Photobucket, YouTube, Picasa and Facebook are all supported, although Flickr is missing. Images can also be shared via email, uploaded to Sky Drive, backed up to a computer or viewed on a compatible Samsung TV, all via Wi-Fi.
While many photographers may not feel the need to start editing or sending images via a mobile phone, I certainly enjoyed doing this. It was interesting to see how I could edit and crop images while away from my computer. Using the Wi-Fi functions of the NX210 has made me realise that the next time I go away on holiday, I want to take a Wi-Fi-enabled camera with me so I can share some of my images immediately with those back home.
Build and handling
There is very little physical difference between the NX200 and NX210, other than a revised program dial that now includes a Wi-Fi option, and the redesigning of two other icons.
The camera’s metal construction is one of the reasons we like the NX200, and this is true again of the NX210. All the buttons are logically placed, and there is direct accessto the most used functions.
Hitting the Fn button displays an on-screen menu that shows nearly all the shooting settings you would wish to change, including AF options, metering and image quality. Samsung has also paid attention to the look of the menu, which is not cluttered.
My only slight complaint with the NX210 is that the hand grip could be a more contoured shape. While it’s not uncomfortable to hold, it could do with a few grooves to allow fingers a more snug fit.
I found that the NX210’s 221-segment evaluative metering generally performs well, producing well-exposed, bright images. In fact, once or twice I had to reduce the exposure by 0.3EV to darken images slightly. This was to make sure that enough detail was kept in highlight areas.
For the most part, the camera produces JPEG images suitable for printing. If a scene does require more precise metering for a local area, then centreweighted and spot metering are also available.
When EV compensation is needed, it can be applied using a button on the rear of the camera or via one of Samsung’s i-Function lenses. This requires the push of a button on the side of the lens barrel before turning a control ring on the lens to alter the setting. Each press of the button scrolls through a different setting, including aperture value and exposure compensation, making it easy to find the required setting.
Image: Careful exposure metering meant that I was able to recover both highlight and shadow detail in this image to produce an almost HDR effect
White balance and colour
Image: Although there is a hint of noise here, a large amount of shadow detail can be recovered
I was particularly impressed with the colours produced by the Samsung NX210. With the company’s background in the more consumer side of the market, the images were bright and vivid, but not garish.
Of course, different colour settings are available, each of which can be adjusted. There are also a few preset image effects that I occasionally used when shooting JPEGs. The vignette effect, which adds a vignette and slightly increases the contrast, produces a nice result for slightly flat landscape scenes. It also works well when shooting candid portraits. The retro style is also nice, but it should not be overused, as it adds a slight amber hue and a lower contrast to reproduce the effect of an ageing photograph from the 1970s.
With any of these effects I would recommend shooting raw and JPEG images simultaneously, so the original raw file is still available for editing.
Alongside these settings is the usual range of in-camera effects, such as miniature/tilt-shift effect and even a black & white vintage mode that adds scratches and dust marks to images. These modes have an added benefit with the built-in Wi-Fi, as the adjusted images can be directly uploaded from the camera to a website.
LCD, live view and video
Although the Samsung NX210’s 3in AMOLED screen is only 614,000 dots, images look superb. The dots are in a PenTile arrangement, which means each row is interlaced like a brick wall rather than in a matrix. The result is that the screen shows smooth colour gradations, and the AMOLED technology makes it very bright.
My only criticism would be that Samsung didn’t take this opportunity to upgrade the screen to an even higher resolution or an articulated version, like that on the NX20. An articulated screen would be a really great addition to this camera, and I am sure we will see one in a future version.
As in the NX200, the NX210 offers 1080p HD video capture, including in-camera stereo sound recording.
I found that AF on the NX210 was much the same as on other recent Samsung NX models. Focusing is quite fast for a contrast-detection system, but it lacks the snappy focus of the current Panasonic Lumix G series and the Sony NEX cameras. That said, with the NX210 designed more for scenic and social photography, its AF should be fast enough to cope with any subjects moving at a moderate speed.
Noise, resolution and sensitivity
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the Samsung 85mm f/1.4 lens. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution at the specified sensitivity setting.
With the same 20.3-million-pixel sensor that Samsung used in the NX200, the image resolution of the NX210 is on a par with its predecessor. A lot of detail can be resolved at the lowest ISO 100 sensitivity, although at all sensitivities JPEG files do appear to be a little soft.
What is interesting is that we conducted our resolution chart test with both the 18-55mm kit lens and the 85mm lens, and while the 85mm optic is slightly better, it is not significantly so if JPEG images are all that are ever shot. Far more detail, particularly textures, can be revealed by shooting SRW raw images, and it is here that the 85mm is the superior lens.
Although noise isn’t visible in JPEG images until the highest ISO settings are reached, the effects of noise reduction are visible even at ISO 400. Close inspection shows that images look smudged and devoid of detail. It is a shame because the sensor has a lot of potential, but, JPEG compression and noise reduction is a bit harsh.
Overall, I would say the image quality is the same as we have seen from the other Samsung cameras with this sensor, and to really see the full potential of the sensor it is best to shoot raw to maximise resolution, sharpness and noise reduction.
Image: Taken with the 18-55mm kit lens at a sensitivity of ISO 400, these images show a good level of detail, particularly in the edited raw file
Given that the sensor in the Samsung NX210 is the same as that used in the NX200, the dynamic range of NX210 is unsurprisingly similar. While not quite as impressive as the 16.2-million-pixel Sony sensor used in a number of cameras currently on the market, the NX210’s sensor does allow for a fair amount of detail to be recovered from shadow areas, although with some colour and luminance noise present.
With a high-resolution sensor, only bettered in a compact system camera by the Sony NEX-7, and a host of innovative features, the Samsung NX210 should offer some healthy competition to the rest of the CSC market.
The NX210 is a nice size, with a strong, well-built magnesium-alloy body. Colour rendition is good, although JPEG image quality could be a little better. Raw images reveal the true potential of the camera’s sensor.
Wi-Fi capability is a really great addition, and credit to Samsung to be the first to introduce it across its range and allowing it to be used in a number of different ways. For those looking for a CSC, then the NX210 is worth serious consideration. However, unless Wi-Fi is going to be a useful addition, it is probably not worth NX200 owners upgrading.