Though it uses the same sturdy, well-designed body as the, and boasts a broad set of sharing and connectivity options, the Samsung NX210's performance and JPEG photo quality don't seem to match its predecessor's.
The NX210 produces extremely good raw images up to ISO 3200, but JPEGs begin to show noticeable artifacts as low as ISO 400. The biggest problem is Samsung's edge handling; it's a little easier to overlook some mushiness and hot pixels than the aliased-looking (jagged) edges caused by sharpening. It's severe enough that at ISO 800 I was convinced I'd shot some images at the wrong quality level -- the camera defaults to Fine rather than Super Fine compression, I suspect to speed up the image processing. While I don't like the idea of defaulting to a lower quality setting, the difference between the two isn't that significant (likely because the Super Fine isn't that great).
In all other respects the camera delivers very nice images. In an unusual move, it defaults to the neutral color settings rather than the more typical saturation-and-contrast-boosted Standard like other cameras do. I prefer that, and even the NX210's neutral images come out reasonably saturated rather than flat. The exposures look good and it meters consistently.
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Video quality looks typical, which is fine for most travel, kid, and animal clips. The autofocus pulses a bit but color and exposure look good; there's little to no moiré and no rolling shutter that I could detect. In low light there's some clipping in the shadows and some color noise, but otherwise it's acceptable.
Note: We recently updated our testing methodology to provide slightly more real-world performance results, so the results aren't necessarily comparable with previous testing. Until we're finished refining our procedures we will not be posting comparative performance charts.
Despite changes in our test methodology, I can unequivocally state that the autofocus on the NX210 is slower than the NX200's; I pulled the NX200 out to double-check. It's not absurdly slow, however. As you'd expect, the effects of the autofocus speed permeate all the other test results. It takes the camera about 2.7 seconds to power on and shoot because of the slow initital focus. The time to focus in both bright and dim situations is the same -- 0.6 second -- which is normal-to-good for dim but slow for bright. Shot-to-shot time is roughly the same for both raw and JPEG, at 1.8 seconds for the former and 2.0 for the latter.
Continuous shooting is fast, but limited. It can burst a fixed 11 frames of highest-quality JPEG at a zippy 8.2fps, but then it takes another 9.3 seconds to process the images before you can start shooting again. Raw bursts are limited to 8 frames, but again at a fast 7.8fps.
As with the NX200, however, my bigger problem is how bogged-down the camera gets when shooting raw+JPEG. You can't do anything -- change menu settings or review images -- for at least a second or two after shooting. I could almost hear Scotty yelling "I'm giving it all she's got, Captain!" in there.
Like most OLED displays, the screen is bright and contrasty, and remains sufficiently visible in direct sunlight so the absence of a viewfinder isn't too much of a problem.