With a 20.3-million-pixel APS-C-sized sensor inside a light DSLR-styled body, is the Samsung NX30 the camera to provide competition to the likes of Olympus, Panasonic and Sony? Callum McInerney-Riley find out
Samsung NX30 at a glance:
- 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-25,600
- 3in tiltable Super AMOLED swivel touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 1,037,000 dots
- 2,358,000-dot electronic viewfinder with 80° tiltable eyepiece
- NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity
- RRP £899.99 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens
- See sample images taken with the Samsung NX30
Samsung NX30 review – Introduction
Comparing the NX30 with other Samsung NX-series cameras, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s very little difference between them. Many of the NX-series models feature the same 20.3-million-pixel resolution that was class-leading when it first appeared. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in resolution in compact system cameras, with the launch of models such as the Sony Alpha 3000 and the Olympus OM-D range.
However, the Samsung NX30 fights its corner with a class-leading LCD, an electronic viewfinder and a host of advanced connectivity features.
Samsung NX30 review – Features
The Samsung NX30 has an APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, measuring 23.5×15.7mm, with a resolution of 20.3 million pixels. This is the same resolution sensor that is used inside many Samsung NX compact system cameras, including the Samsung Galaxy NX and the Samsung NX300. Thanks to the next-generation DRIMe IV processor, a speed of 9fps in full-resolution JPEG or raw format is possible in the NX30.
The standard kit lens supplied with the NX30 is a Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, which features Samsung’s ifunction button. This equates to a 35mm focal-length equivalent of 27-82.5mm with the x1.5 crop factor of the APS-C sensor.
The Samsung NX30 boasts Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, which allows users to connect to their smart device via the free Samsung Smart Camera app that is available for both iOS and Android. Users can then remotely shoot from their device or preview, download, upload pictures. In addition, the NX30 has an abundance of other connectivity-based features, including the ability to connect to the internet from a Wi-Fi hotspot without the aid of another device. Pictures can then be uploaded directly to the social network, Facebook or the popular cloud storage service Dropbox via a pre-installed app on the camera. This is the first camera-specific device to allow direct-to-Dropbox uploading.
Also featured is AutoShare, which allows users to send each photo taken with the camera automatically to a smartphone or tablet in a predetermined resolution. By default, it is a 2-million-pixel resolution file.
Many companies have their own raw file-editing software CD included with their cameras. This can, at times, be a bit slow and frustrating to use. However, Samsung has decided to include a full version of Adobe Lightroom 5 for free with the NX30. As this software was awarded the Software Of The Year award at the 2014 AP Awards, and it retails for £102.57 direct from Adobe, this is a fantastic addition to the camera package.
Samsung NX30 review – Build and handling
The NX30 is marginally bigger than its predecessor, the Samsung NX20, measuring 127mm x 95.5mm x 41.7mm compared to the NX20’s 122mm x 89.6mm x 39.5mm. However, the main change is in the body shape itself. The front grip of the NX30 is now much bigger and more like the Galaxy NX, while the thumb grip has also been enlarged. The buttons have been rearranged to make the camera easier to use. All these design tweaks mean that the Samsung NX30 is very well balanced, feels secure and is incredibly easy to use. The only real downside is the polycarbonate construction that feels very plasticky and doesn’t have quite the premium build quality we would expect of a camera of this price range.
I found that the controls and the adjustments for the settings are very easy to use. Most of the controls, such as metering, ISO and white balance, can be changed using the function menu. There are several ways to access this menu, using either the i-Function button on the lens, the Fn menu button or via a tab at the bottom left of the touchscreen. Settings can be changed in value by using a swipe gestures on the touchscreen, moving the focus ring of the lens, using the scroll wheel on the topside of the camera or the scroll wheel/D-pad on the back of the camera. With so many ways to change the settings, users will quickly find the method that suits them. The menu is laid out on-screen, making it very easy to check and adjust settings.
My only slight gripe about the handling is the processing time. When shooting raw and JPEG files, it can take a couple of seconds to process them and the camera’s buffer is filled quite quickly.
Samsung NX30 review – Metering
A 221-segments (17×13-block segment) TTL metering system is featured on the Samsung NX30, with the option of centreweighted, spot and multi-metering selectable from the function menu. A ±3EV exposure-compensation adjustment can also be found in the function menu should users need it adjust the metering of a scene. However, I found that centre, spot and multi provided consistently good exposures in a variety of lighting conditions. Even when I was shooting long exposures at night, the metering performed well, striking a good balance between the highlight and shadow details. For day-to-day shooting, I preferred to use the spot metering. This can be linked with a focus point and positioned by touching an area on the 3in LCD display.
Samsung NX30 review – Dynamic range
In scenes with a high level of contrast, the Samsung NX30 does a good job of capturing a good balance between highlight and shadow detail. In testing, the sensor recorded 13.49 stops at ISO 100, which is a very impressive dynamic range for any sensor
Using the supplied copy of Adobe Lightroom 5, I previewed some of the images with the highlight/shadow clipping warning on. I found that only in challenging conditions did the images have blown-out shadow or highlight detail. In addition, a lot of detail can be brought back by adjusting the highlight and shadow sliders in Lightroom to give images a dynamic range boost.
Dynamic range boosts are also available in-camera in the form of two separate automatic settings. These are Smart Dynamic and HDR mode. The Smart Dynamic mode takes an image and lightens/darkens the shadows/highlights to optimise the dynamic range. The HDR mode blends three separate exposures and processes them in-camera.
Image: A ISO 100 the NX30 has a dynamic range of over 13-stops of light. This allows users to capture a great range of tonal detail.
Samsung NX30 review – Autofocus
The Samsung NX30 boasts an advanced hybrid autofocus system that uses the 105 phase-detection and 247 contrast-detection points. This is the same autofocus system first used in the NX300 and later in the Galaxy NX. However, Samsung says it has improved the autofocus speed by 35% when compared to the NX300. When used, it certainly did appear faster, most noticeably in low-light situations. In very low light the focus would lock on to low-contrast subject areas in around 1/2sec with a good degree of accuracy, although not faultlessly. In optimum lighting conditions the focus is very snappy and accurate achieving focus without much delay.
Thanks to the touchscreen, manually selecting a focus point using spot AF is very easy and achieves great results. Also, for those with a preference for manually focusing, the NX30 has focus peaking and controllable MF-assist that enlarges an area x5 when the focus ring is moved. I found this particularly useful for shooting portraits with a shallow depth of field in order to get the focus precisely on the eyes.
Samsung NX30 review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity
Images shot at ISO 100-400 show very little signs of noise in both the JPEG and raw files. Even when closely inspected, only slight luminance noise is visible in the raw files while the JPEG has this noise largely removed. Raw images at ISO 800 show slightly more signs of luminance noise, but this is minimal. The JPEG images show little signs of noise due to the in-camera noise reduction. Thankfully, at this ISO sensitivity a good balance between detail and in-camera processing is achieved. For JPEG shooters ISO 800 offers the best balance between high sensitivity without a great loss in detail. JPEG images up to ISO 3200 are usable, but they show signs of heavy in-camera noise reduction. This removes practically all the noise, but simultaneously removes much of the finer detail that results in a softer image.
However, the raw files are still very good right up to ISO 3200, with mostly luminance noise present. Using Lightroom’s noise-reduction tools, a far superior level of detail can be achieved than the JPEG.
At ISO 6400 in both the raw and JPEG files, luminance noise is evident on even small-scale images and chroma noise starts to creep in, getting progressively worse until the maximum ISO of 24,800.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the Samsung NX 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/5.6. 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.
Samsung NX30 review – White balance and colour
There are ten white balance settings, comprising automatic white balance, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent white, fluorescent NW, fluorescent daylight, tungsten, flash, custom and a setting that allows users to set the colour temperature manually. All these settings have the ability to adjust them for correction or artistic effect. The bias between amber, blue, green and magenta can also be adjusted.
Overall, I found the colour rendition of the Samsung NX30 to be very good, producing well-saturated images with punchy colours. On occasions, particularly with very bright and vivid subjects, the saturation of the scene appeared to be a touch too strong. I found adjusting it in Picture Wizard or in post-production achieved an image that better reflected the scene.
The Picture Wizard menu has nine presets and three custom settings that allow users to set image styles such as retro, landscape and vivid. These can be adjusted in colour, saturation, sharpness and contrast.
Image: Overall the colour rendition of the NX30 is great. However, some images appear over saturated. Thankfully this can be corrected in-camera or in post.
Samsung NX30 review – Viewfinder, live view, LCD and video
The Samsung NX30 camera benefits in many ways from Samsung’s expertise in consumer electronics, and no area benefits more than the LCD display. With a 3in tiltable Super AMOLED swivel touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 1,037,000 dots, the monitor specification is on a par with the best compact system cameras we have seen. In use, I found the refresh rate was very fast and the range of colours is fantastic. Equally useful is the ability to move the LCD 180° to the side, and upwards and downwards 270°, making shooting at high and low angles very easy.
A 2,358,000-dot electronic viewfinder is featured on the NX30, which has an 80° tiltable eyepiece. With its impressive refresh rate, vast display of colours and great contrast, the EVF of the NX30 is matching the high standards offered by the LCD. Most importantly, this EVF has very little delay – engaging the shutter button focusing first means that by the time the scene is viewable through the EVF everything is focused and ready to shoot.
Video is possible in 1920×1080 pixels and 1280×720 pixels in either 60p or 30p, and 24p is available in a resolution of 1920×810 pixels. In addition, a low-resolution 640×480-pixel 30p and a web-optimised 30sec video can be captured.
Samsung NX30 review – Our verdict
What the Samsung NX30 lacks in build quality it makes up for in handling. The placement of the buttons has been refined from its predecessor and made even better. In-hand, the camera feels very well balanced, even with some of the larger lenses in Samsung’s ever-growing lens line-up. The Wi-Fi connectivity works very well and offers some unusual ways to upload and back up images that could prove useful.
The highlights of the Samsung NX30 are the LCD and EVF. Both are exceptionally good and could rival some the best compact system cameras and entry-level DSLRs on the market. I found the images from the camera had an impressive dynamic range and achieve good noise performance right up to a sensitivity of ISO 800. After that, JPEG images are burdened by in-camera noise reduction that start to breakdown a lot of detail, increasing in intensity progressively towards the maximum ISO. Thankfully, the raw images are good up to a much higher ISO and a lot of detail is retained that can be brought back using the free copy of Lightroom 5 included.
Providing low-light performance at high ISO sensitivity isn’t imperative, as the Samsung NX30 will do a fantastic job in many situations. With fast autofocusing, exceptionally good handling, class-leading LCD and EVF and extensive connectivity, the Samsung NX30 is great in most situations.
Samsung NX30 at a glance:
- 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor
- DRIMe IV processor
- ISO 100-25,600
- NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Price £899.99 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens
Samsung NX30 – Introduction
A Replacement for the NX20, the Samsung NX30 compact system camera features a 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor that is virtually identical to that found in the NX300, but with enhanced algorithms, so we should expect to see a slightly improved performance. Combined with the sophisticated DRIMe IV image processor, the NX30 has a broad ISO range from 100-25,600.
The sensor also incorporates both contrast-detection and phase-detection AF to deliver a hybrid AF system. While I didn’t get a chance to shoot any moving subjects while handling the NX30, the speed in single AF mode was very good, delivering fast and precise focusing.
Other elements of note are the NX30’s ability to shoot at 9fps, a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec, an Over Exposure Guide that warns of clipped highlights and 1080p HD video at 60p. There is also a 3.5mm microphone socket and, as you would expect, the NX30 also features NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Image: The NX30 has virtually the same 20.3MP APS-C-sized CMOS sensor as the NX300
Samsung NX30 – Display and EVF
Samsung has taken the design of the electronic viewfinder one stage further than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7’s tiltable EVF, with the NX30 offering a double-tilt mechanism to aid low-angle shooting. The mechanism is well made and pulls outwards easily, but not to the extent that it will work itself loose. The EVF has an impressive 2.359-million-dot resolution, but I was unable to see exactly how this performs as the EVF in the sample camera I examined wasn’t the final version.
The NX30’s rear 3in articulated screen has a much-improved resolution compared to the NX20, with a jump from 614,000 to 1.073 million dots, as well as being 30% brighter. Colours were punchy, contrast was good and the touch-sensitive interface was very responsive, as was expected from a company with so much success in the smartphone sector.
Samsung NX30 – Build and handling
The design of the Samsung NX30 has been substantially revised compared to the NX20, most notably in the handgrip. More pronounced than on its predecessor, the NX30 feels incredibly comfortable, and the soft, finely textured grip adds to the premium feel that is enhanced by the quality texture of the controls.
The NX30 features a host of quick-access controls for the photographer, including drive, ISO, white balance and AF, making it very quick to operate. The i-Function feature on compatible lenses also provides quick adjustment of various controls via the manual-focus ring of the lens.
From my short time with the NX30, I believe it has a lot of potential. It is nicely made with a logical control layout and strong specification. Watch out for our full test when we will assess the NX30’s image quality and new features in more detail.
The Samsung NX30 will be available from around the end of February, price £899.99 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens.
Image: Metering performed well during our brief hands-on test