Samsung NX20 review:

Samsung NX20

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Typical Price: £900.00
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good i-Function lens system; design and feel; Image quality; Built-in Wi-Fi.

The Bad Expensive.

The Bottom Line The Samsung NX20 is a great camera, consistently producing sharp images full of detail and realistic colours. It's a joy to use, thanks in part to the i-Function lens system, which makes it easy to adjust the most common shooting controls. However, at around £900, it's expensive compared to its rivals.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Jun '12

Samsung doesn't make a traditional dSLR. Instead, it's concentrating its high-end efforts on compact system cameras (CSC). This class pairs a traditional interchangeable lens set-up with a compact body, as seen elsewhere in the Panasonic GX1 and GF5, Pentax K-01 and Q, and Nikon 1 J1 and V1.

Although not the smallest CSC I've tested lately, the NX20 is light and extremely comfortable to hold for extended periods. It takes the best of a regular dSLR, including the viewfinder (digital rather than optical in this instance), and sculpted grip, and packs it into a slightly squeezed body.

Around the back is a vivid 3-inch screen that's articulated through 180 degrees horizontally and 270 degrees vertically. If you don't want to take overhead or low shots, you can turn it back on itself and fold it flat to the back of the camera. There's a hard window in front of it for protection. Combined, these features make the NX20 very satisfying to use for extended periods.

The Samsung NX20 can be bought now for £900.

Stills tests

I tested the NX20 in aperture priority mode so that I could control the depth of field, while leaving all other decisions about exposure and sensitivity up to the camera. I set it to write JPEGs in camera, but you can opt for raw or a combination of the two for maximum flexibility.

The kit lens I used in these tests was fast to focus and sharp once locked onto its subject. In the image below, which demonstrates some very stark contrasts where the weather vane passes in front of an overcast sky, the edges are well defined. The grain in the wood, which you might expect to be silhouetted by the brighter background, is clearly rendered. Even the screw thread that connects the vane to the post is easily made out.

Samsung NX20 test photo
Despite being shot against an overcast sky, the edges of this sharply contrasting weather vane are strong and crisp and there's plenty of detail in the grain of the wood (click image to enlarge).

It coped well with images containing only a limited colour palette in which it had to rely largely on luminance changes rather than contrasting colours to render the scene.

The image below of a wooden badge on the front of a VW Camper Van is a case in point. The paintwork and wood are very similar tones, yet there's plenty of detail in each as the NX20 brings out the underlying texture, while maintaining smooth and unstepped changes to luminance.

Samsung NX20 test photo
There's not a great deal of variety in the colours here, yet the NX20 has done a great job of accurately rendering the scene (click image to enlarge).

The lens was fast to find focus and easy to fix on specific points in the image. There's no touch-to-focus as it's not a touch-sensitive screen, but the Area AF zone covers around half of the display. Continuous auto-focus takes about half a second to fix on a new subject when you shift the lens, so long as you can hold the camera body fairly steady.

The results are sharp, with texture, grain and tiny imperfections in my test subjects clearly picked out. The paint on the air line below is starting to peel, leaving parts of the white backing exposed. Even from a distance of 4m, using a moderate amount of zoom, the imperfections are laid bare, with further scratches in the red paintwork and even the slightly corroded nut below the face revealed.

Samsung NX20 test photo
The NX20, paired with an 18-55mm kit lens, consistently picked out the smallest details throughout these tests (click image to enlarge).

Focus remains sharp right into the corners of the image. In the still-life test below, the subjects in the upper left and both of the lower corners are roughly the same distance from the lens as the centre point subject, and they're sharp and cleanly focused. There's no evidence of stretching or smearing, where the lens has problems bending the light to an extreme degree to focus it accurately on the sensor.

Samsung NX20 test photo
The focus is uniform across the frame as the kit lens accurately focused the incoming light right into the corners (click image to enlarge).

Naturally, this means the NX20 doesn't suffer unduly from chromatic aberration either. This is an undesirable colour fringing effect where fine subject matter or sharp contrasts may be traced with a pink or turquoise halo where they meet brighter backgrounds, such as the sky.

That could have been the case in the shot of the hay wagon below, where the leaves of the bamboo to the left, fir in the centre and fruit trees to the right overlay the brighter sky. However, the NX20 accurately focuses each wavelength of visible light in sync for a crisp, neat result. The same was true with the shot of the weather vane, seen above.

Samsung NX20 test photo
There's no evidence of unwanted chromatic aberration in this shot. The leaves and branches that pass in front of the sky have sharp, accurate edges (click image to enlarge).

It produced very natural skin tones, as can be seen below. Both the well-lit forearm and the face, where it falls in shadow, have a natural, balanced colour. This is despite the brighter, unnaturally coloured teapot being the focal point of the frame.

Samsung NX20 test photo
Despite the bright teapot being the focal point, the NX20 accurately retained skin tones in direct light and shadow (click image to enlarge).

Video test

The NX20 shoots Full HD video at 1,920x1,080 pixels at 30p. There are supplementary options for 1,920x810 pixels at 24p, 1,280x720 pixels at 30p, 640x480 pixels at 30p and a specific web-sharing mode that shoots up to 30 seconds of footage at 320x240 pixels.

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