Samsung’s new top-end compact system camera is the first to offer an online connection for photographers in the field as well as at home, but does this built-in Wi-Fi have any real benefits?
The way autofocusing speeds are measured and declared in recent times has changed, and not necessarily in the direction of clarity.
With the introduction of mirrorless systems and the prevalence of contrast-detection AF systems in larger bodies, it has been easy to enhance AF start and travel figures in a way that doesn’t reflect everyday usage. ‘The fastest AF in the world’ is a common claim, but one that only really stands up in the lab and under certain conditions – usually once an AF module is already in action.
Image: Low noise at ISO 400 makes handheld macro achievable even in dim conditions
Samsung also makes claims about its contrast-detection system, and while it is good enough for everyday use and most subjects, it is not, in common with all contrast-detection cameras, good enough for sport or moving objects in general. I found in single-shot mode the camera performs very well. Obviously, the fixed-focal-length pancake lenses act with lightning speed, but the effort to shift the larger, and more weighty, elements of the 85mm f/1.4 optic slowed the operation slightly. The mighty 18-200mm megazoom lens works more slowly still, and together the camera and all-rounder found it hard to keep pace with the leisurely stroll of my local carnival procession in continuous tracking mode. Without focus priority, and even on a rare bright sunny day, many frames were recorded with missed focus.
The NX20 makes slightly heavy work of short focus distances with the 60mm macro lens. While perseverance is an essential virtue with all AF macro situations, I found my rate of intervention significant in only relatively low light. I suspect that the combination of yellow buttercups against green grass presented a limited tonal difference compared to the obvious chromatic drama our eyes enjoy. Perhaps we need colour contrast AF in these mirrorless bodies to assist the working of the tonal scales when there’s not as much difference as we might expect.
On balance, expect lenses such as the 16mm, 20mm, 30mm and the company’s two standard zooms (18-50mm and 20-50mm) to work at an impressive rate and present the best of the AF system. The 60mm, 85mm and 18-200mm optics are more challenged, although in bright light and at normal distances they work perfectly well with static subjects. Moving subjects are much more of a hit-and-miss affair.