Thanks to the rather sedate pace of sensor development by Micro Four Thirds-backers Olympus and Panasonic, for a while it looked like interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) would be refreshingly free of excessive megapixelation. But manufacturers using APS-C-size sensors seem determined to undermine every advantage the larger sensor confers by packing them with increasing numbers of photo sites. Sony's latest Alpha NEX model delivered its 24-megapixel sensor, and now Samsung offers up a 20-megapixel sensor in its new NX200. (What I find interesting is that the companies driving the increasing resolution are all camera companies who also make sensors--Canon, Sony, and Samsung.)
Thankfully, there's more to the NX200 than just a lot of pixels. I had a chance to shoot with a preproduction version, along with a bunch of the new lenses, and liked it quite a bit. For one, it's much better than the NX100; it's smaller, yet conversely more comfortable to grip, and more solidly built. Samsung has also redesigned its i-Function lenses, and the new 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens, while slow as all the other kit lenses, operates much more smoothly and feels better constructed than its predecessor's 20-50mm model. It's not nearly as compact, though, which puts it at a slight disadvantage compared with, say, Panasonic's new Lumix X series collapsible lens. (I forgot to take photos of the lenses. D'oh!)
For those unfamiliar with Samsung's i-Function system, it consists of a button on the lens, which invokes shooting settings, such as ISO sensitivity or shutter speed, which you then change using the manual-focus ring. The system works well, and it feels much like shooting with the Canon PowerShot S95 or Olympus XZ-1. It distinguishes the NX cameras from the other ILCs in a way that adds to the shooting experience rather than detracts from it.
If you choose to go the traditional route, Samsung introduces a new (for it) Smart Panel interactive control panel interface that you pull up with the function button. It's easy to use, but I found myself missing the type of customization control that Panasonic's cameras offer over the interface, as well as the capability to save custom settings. You can program a raw override (as well as which options appear on the i-Function ring), but that's just not as much as I'd like.
The camera supports manual exposure controls during movie recording, though I was unable to get that to work. This is usually an interface issue, and without the documentation I find a lot of these cameras to be not obvious in this respect.
As for image quality, I was pleasantly surprised. There were no significant artifacts that I could spot at low ISO sensitivities except for some muddiness in out-of-focus areas that you see a lot in point-and-shoots. And I'm guessing that for midrange sensitivities--ISO 400 through ISO 1600--it would probably gain some latitude by shooting raw (I didn't have any raw processing software) and possibly from some tweaks to the firmware before shipping. Beyond that, I don't think there's much chance for improvement; but that's typical for this class of camera.
In daylight, though, the color accuracy looked quite good, the metering and exposure were generally both consistent and appropriate, and the sensor handled bright, saturated colors without blowing out detail. I didn't get a chance to really analyze the dynamic range in general or play with the settings that affect it.… Read more