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Samsung's range of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) are usually fairly conservative in their design — with the notable exception of the droplet-inspired NX100. The NX20, now the flagship camera in the NX range, looks like a shrunken-down SLR in line with its predecessors, the NX10 and NX11.
For photographers moving up from a compact camera, or those looking for a smaller, more lightweight SLR alternative, the NX20 will not present too much of a learning curve. Controls and dials are all intuitively placed; there's a standard mode dial at the top, which houses full PASM control, as well as a range of scene modes. A simple power switch surrounds the shutter button, while an exposure and playback zoom control wheel sits right behind. At the back, buttons don't intrude the real estate, with record, exposure compensation, exposure lock and four-way directional dial among the features.
The NX20 is jam-packed full of menu options and enough configurable settings to keep anyone occupied for hours. Fortunately, if all you want to do is point-and-shoot, there is the option of leaving the camera in "Smart" mode, which is, essentially, the automatic mode.
Screen technology is typically where previous Samsung cameras have excelled, and the NX20 is no exception. The camera is fitted with a flip-out, articulating 3-inch AMOLED unit, which is bright and easy to see in most shooting situations. The electronic viewfinder is small, but it has a decent refresh rate, which makes it very usable.
The iFunction button on the kit 18-55mm lens.
Like earlier Samsung NX cameras, the NX20 is fully compatible with iFunction lenses. This is a simple button at the front of the lens barrel that, when pressed, brings up a contextual menu on the screen that lets users change common exposure parameters, like white balance and aperture, just by turning the focus ring on the lens.
Bracketing is available with three parameters to choose from: exposure, white balance or picture style.
Overall, the NX20 is a comfortable camera to use. Lens choice will determine how the camera is balanced in the hand, but we find that the kit 18-55mm model feels most comfortable when the screen is extended out from the body. It counterbalances the weight of the lens nicely.
Full HD video is available at 1080/25p, 810/24p, 720/25p, VGA/25p, or a 240p for online sharing.
The NX20 comes with built-in Wi-Fi to connect with a range of devices and transfer photos. It's very nicely done on this camera, with all the Wi-Fi options accessed from the dedicated option on the mode dial.
Menu options presented on the Wi-Fi screen of the NX20.
Available from this menu are the following options:
Remote Viewfinder, which lets you use a smartphone or tablet with the specific app as a viewfinder, to see what the camera does
Social Sharing, which can connect to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube or Photobucket
Email to send photos to your inbox
SkyDrive to store photos on Microsoft's cloud storage service
Auto Backup to send photos to your PC
TV Link to play back photos and videos on DLNA devices.
When using the Wi-Fi to connect ad-hoc to a device, such as a smartphone, it does take quite a while to establish the connection — well over 10 seconds of thumb-twiddling. Once this is done though, the connection is stable and transfers happen quickly and seamlessly.
|Samsung NX20||Olympus OM-D||Canon EOS M||Sony NEX-7|
|20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor||16-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS sensor||18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor||24.3-megapixel Exmor HD APS-C CMOS sensor|
|3-inch articulating AMOLED screen||3-inch flip-down OLED touchscreen||3-inch flip-down LCD screen||3-inch LCD touchscreen|
|Full HD video (1080/25p)||Full HD video (1080/60i)||Full HD video (1080/24p)||Full HD video (1080/25p)|
|15-point AF||35-point AF||31-point AF||25-point AF|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In the fastest continuous mode (8 frames per second, as measured above), the NX20 can take 13 shots before stopping to process them. Samsung rates the battery at 360 shots.
On par with earlier NX cameras, the image quality delivered by the NX20 is good. On default settings, photos have natural colours, and are saturated pleasingly on neutral photo settings. Sharpness from the kit 18-55mm lens (the only lens we were provided with for testing) is fine for most purposes, though there is a drop off towards the edges of the frame.
Automatic white balance is accurate, delivering good results, even when used in tricky low light situations. While many photographers will be happy with the results that JPEG images offer, it's the RAW files that provide the most detail. The NX20 holds its own in terms of noise control, up to and including ISO 800, with usable shots at 1600 and 3200, with a touch of noise reduction applied in post.
The pop-up flash provides decent reach over the 18-55mm, but definitely provides the best and most accurate coverage when subjects are in close proximity to the camera and in the centre of the frame.
The autofocus system struggles when shooting in anything but ample lighting, with the NX20 often refusing to take a shot in low light if it can't lock focus. You can get around this in some form by choosing manual focus on the lens and fine-tuning with expanded focus on the screen, but it's not ideal for anyone who's used to pointing and shooting.
Video quality has improved from previous NX cameras. However, best results will be obtained when using a tripod, as the image stabilisation system on the kit lens is not at all forgiving for handheld use, which you can see in the video below. Audio quality is fine from the internal stereo mics. You can attach an external microphone (Samsung EM10), which communicates and is powered by the camera from the hotshoe.
Exposure: 1/80, f/4, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/160, f/5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/40, f/5.6, ISO 800
The Samsung NX20 is an attractive buy for anyone who wants Wi-Fi built in seamlessly to their camera. With the benefit of interchangeable lenses and a bright screen, it's a camera with lots of bells and whistles, but without the price tag to match. Do be aware that photographers who want to push the most out of this camera will need to shoot RAW, and use a lens beyond the kit version.