With its 20.3-million-pixel APS-C sensor, Samsung’s slim compact system camera certainly raises the stakes. We find out what the NX200 has to offer advanced photographers
The smaller four thirds sensor used by Panasonic and Olympus in their system cameras benefits from requiring a smaller image circle and shorter focal lengths due to the smaller sensor, resulting in physically smaller lenses. With an APS-C-sized sensor, Samsung didn’t have this luxury, but the NX mount has included designs such as a collapsible zoom and three pancake lenses to keep the optics compact. The new sensor provides a 5472×3648-pixel image, equating to roughly a 12x18in print at 300ppi or an A2 print at 220ppi. Images are saved in a choice of JPEG with normal, fine or super fine compression, or Samsung’s native 12-bit SRW raw format.
Although no information has been given as to whether this is a completely new processor or a tweaked version of the previous model, it now allows a 1-stop increase in sensitivity, giving an ISO range of 100-12,800 along with full 1080p HD video at 30fps compared with the 720p offered by all other NX models. Video is recorded in MP4 format with stereo sound and there are options for manual and speed priority exposure control, as well as the program and aperture priority seen on the NX100.
Super Sonic Drive (SSD) dust reduction is built into the body to dislodge any dust particles in front of the sensor, although stabilisation remains lens based and is only present in the longer lenses and the 18-55mm kit lens. The pancake lenses and the 20-50mm remain non-stabilised to keep the size of the lenses compact, and is not an issue at these focal lengths.
The TTL metering system uses a 211-segment array with a choice of multi, centreweighted and spot options. Exposure compensation is available in 1⁄2 or 1⁄3 stops to just ±3EV, rather than the 5EV that is becoming more common on advanced models. Bracketing can also be applied with 3 frames in 1⁄2 or 1⁄3 stops for exposure and ±1 to 3 steps in both axes for white balance. White balance itself can be fine-tuned in all modes and features seven presets as well as auto, temperature value and custom – set via the shutter button.
The contrast-detect autofocus is now claimed to be faster, with a 100ms focus time, compared to the 170ms of the NX100 and NX11. Alongside the single and continuous options there is face detection, single-point selection (across all but the extremes of the image frame), 15-area focus and 35-area focus (close-up).
The standard array of manual and priority exposure shooting modes is accompanied by a lens priority mode (to pick the best settings dependant on the lens attached), a smart auto mode, the panorama mode (as seen in the NX11) for instant stitched panoramas by holding the shutter and sweeping the camera across the scene (horizontally or vertically), and video. There are also scene and magic modes. There are 15 scene modes, including a new 3D mode, while magic mode houses 10 smart filters for effects such as vignette, old film and halftone dots, and magic frames, which include 13 graphic images to place your image into – such as a newspaper front page or an old film. This may be very entertaining for the family, but not modes photographers are likely to use very often.
There is no built-in flash in the NX200 as there was in the NX100, although the standard kit includes a small hotshoe-mounted unit with tilt control and a guide number of 8m @ ISO 100. There is also a noticeable removal of the accessory port, which was used by the electronic viewfinder. However, the hotshoe has two extra contacts that could be used for a forthcoming EVF.
The NX200 boasts a new high-speed continuous shooting mode to allow 7fps and, despite initial reports, this is selectable in the drive mode and at the full 20-million-pixel resolution. The camera uses SD cards for storage and is fully compatible with SDHC and the new SDXC cards. Using a SanDisk 8GB Extreme Pro SDHC card, the NX200 will maintain the 7fps burst shooting for up to 7 raw files, or 11 JPEG files, while using the slower 3fps shooting mode allows greater numbers to be taken. A separate burst mode records 30 images at 7fps with a single press of the button, but this is at a reduced resolution of approx 5 million pixels.
Individual write times appear on the slow side, with files taking around 2secs for a JPEG, around 6secs for raw and around 7secs for a combined raw and super fine JPEG. The menu system is not accessible while files are being written, but shooting can resume without delay.
Features in use: Lenses
Four new lenses have been added to the NX range, making a total of 11 optics available for the NX200. The first and perhaps most suited to this new slim model is the 16mm f/2.4 prime. This is a pancake lens, joining the current 20mm and 30mm versions with a price of £299. Providing a focal equivalent of 24mm on 35mm cameras, it makes a handy wideangle for landscapes and features a 43mm filter thread on the front. Results appear sharp with no sign of barrel distortion. The 60mm f/2.8 Macro OIS is a substantial lens complete with optical image stabilisation, priced £549. This provides full 1:1 magnification and appears exceptionally sharp.
Despite being a prime, it features two adjustment rings – a large rubberised front grip for focus control with direct focus control rather than an electronic link, and a small rear ring for i-Function control. This second ring avoids the focus being adjusted by accident during macro shots and the i-Function button must still be pressed before this is activated. The third lens is the all-encompassing super zoom, an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OIS, which equates to 27-300mm in 35mm terms, costing £649. This is a powerful but fairly large lens for the NX200 and would be better suited to the NX11. However, the quality seems impressive throughout the range and it provides a handy all-round solution.
The lens extends to nearly double its length when at 200mm, but comes with a lock switch to keep it contracted. Focusing is fast and near silent on the 18-200mm thanks to the voice coil motor (VCM), making it suitable for video use. Indeed, the other new lenses are all fairly silent in operation. A final lens – the 85mm f/1.4 costing a hefty £899 – wasn’t available at the time of testing. Due to its wide aperture it features a much larger diameter, which looks at odds with the small frame of the NX200 but should make an impressive close portrait lens.