Though not nearly as identical to the Pentax K10D as earlier models were to their Pentax twins, the Samsung GX-10 is similar enough to consider the same for review purposes. On the upside, that means this 10-megapixel digital SLR turns out to be a very good camera for its price: a feature-packed, well-designed and capable shooter.
Most of the variations between the two models are cosmetic, right down to the slight differences in grip on the otherwise identical 15mm-55mm kit lenses. Generally, all the controls on the K10D--labels, menu text, and buttons--are larger and easier to read or manipulate. Aspects of the GX-10's menu system show a little more thought. For instance, on the custom settings choices, the Pentax displays a "1" to show that the default is selected for a given option; the Samsung tells you the current value of the selection. In other words, if you've selected the RGB color space, the K10D displays a "1" while the GX-10 indicates "RGB."
Like the K10D, the GX-10 has a dust-and-weather-sealed 1.8-pound body, with a build quality that's rare for its price class. It also offers the same great set of features, with options you don't often see for less than $1,000: bulb and external-flash sync (at 1/180th sec); a raw-format override button; a preview option that flips up the mirror to display a snapshot of the scene or an optical depth-of-field preview; color temperature presets for white balance; and support for Adobe DNG as its native raw format. (For a more detailed listing of the GX-10's feature, check out the Adobe Acrobat version of the manual.)
Unsurprisingly, the GX-10's performance results look remarkably similar to the K10D's. Its time-to-first shot and typical shutter lag of about half a second come in around the average, and difficulty autofocusing in dim light results in a 1.6 second lag in suboptimal environments. At half a second, JPEG and raw shot-to-shot speed also fall in the middle of the pack, though its 3.1fps continuous shooting clip elevates it a bit above the budget crowd. I also ran into the same occasional focus lock issues--usually during close-ups--where it would rock back and forth quickly for a few iterations, as if trying to decide whether it was satisfied. Most of the time, I fell into a rhythm with it, as you do with any good camera, but occasionally missed a shot waiting for it to catch up.
Although I found the exposures generally a bit too dark, the excellent noise profile--quite good up through ISO 800, and competitive at ISO 1600--provides enough latitude to allow for enhancement in software. The photos are very sharp as well.
However, whether the Samsung GX-10 is a good camera is almost beside the point. It's neither better nor cheaper than its Pentax equivalent, and Pentax has both the photographic history, service experience, and breadth of dSLR lenses and accessories (which will nevertheless work with the GX-10). So why even consider it?
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Shutter lag (dim light)||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|In frames per second|