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Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens review: Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens

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The Good With excellent photos for a sub-$1,000 model and a nicely designed user interface, the Samsung NX200 is a compelling option for image-first photographers.

The Bad For its price, the NX200 feels light on important features; it lacks an option for a viewfinder, and it cries out for an articulated LCD. And while its shooting performance is fine, in-camera operations like playback and changing settings can get held up by image processing.

The Bottom Line The Samsung NX200's photo quality stands out from the crowd, but its performance and features -- while good -- don't merit its relatively high price.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

With excellent photo quality, solid performance, and a very nicely designed body, the Samsung NX200 distinguishes itself in an increasingly crowded field. But $900 still seems like a bit much to ask for a camera that's not at the front of its class on all counts.

Image quality
I've felt guilty about not getting to this camera sooner given how much I liked the photos from the preproduction unit I'd tested. It really does produce excellent photos, given its price tag of less than $1,000. Combined with its relatively clean images off the sensor, its noise profile is quite good. The eagle-eyed will still see artifacts -- especially in dark stretches of high-ISO-sensitivity photos, like this and on edges. But overall I was really impressed with the quality of the noise reduction and JPEG compression, as high as ISO 1600 on some photos.

The NX200's images come off the sensor with a very good noise profile given its price and class. This is a low-light ISO 800 photo with no noise reduction applied. There's obviously a lot of color noise, but it's got a relatively unobtrusive "grain."

Color accuracy looks quite good, the metering and exposure are generally both consistent and appropriate, and the sensor handles bright, saturated colors well (though the JPEG algorithms don't always), as long as you're willing to put in some work recovering highlights from a raw file. Blown-out light colors don't fare quite as well, however; there's no detail there.

With the right lens, the camera delivers sharp images, too. I shot with several -- the 18-55mm kit f3.5-5.6 OIS lens plus a couple of primes -- and they're all pretty good. The kit lens is typical; it's just good enough (vis-à-vis sharpness and brightness) to match competitors but leaves you craving something better. The 85mm f1.4 and 60mm f2.8 OIS primes produce lovely images, and are sharp, bright, and comfortable to use. Samsung has redesigned its i-Function lenses from the previous generation, and the newer 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 Lumix X Series collapsible lens. And the other two lenses are huge compared with the body. In fact, the barrel of the 85mm lens is so wide that Samsung's hot-shoe-based GPS unit can't clear it; the bundled flash has a longer neck, though.

Video in good light is very consumer-friendly; bright, saturated, and sharp. There's a little bit of moiré, aliasing, and rolling shutter, but it's fine for personal videos. It doesn't fare as well at night, though. There's just no tonal range to speak of.

The camera performs well, with just a few disappointments. It wakes and shoots in about 1.6 seconds, which is on the slow side for its class. Single-shot focus-and-shoot speed is fairly zippy at 0.3 second in good light, increasing to 0.6 second in low-contrast conditions. Its biggest weakness is image processing, resulting in a shot-to-shot time of 1.3 seconds -- better than its predecessor but not as fast as the best in its class. When reviewing photos, it's pretty good about displaying JPEGs, but if you shoot raw+JPEG it gets really bogged down. And while it has a seemingly great burst speed of 6.9 frames per second, that's only for 11 frames -- less than 2 seconds' worth of shots -- after which you have to wait for it to finish processing. I'd prefer a moderately slower burst for a little longer run. That said, I don't know that this is a great camera for continuous shooting, anyway; without an EVF, it's kind of awkward.

Initial models of the camera had some autofocus speed and accuracy issues, but just before writing this Samsung released new firmware (ver 1.04) that seems to have fixed the problems I had during testing; it's now faster and more accurate.

Furthermore, while the AMOLED display is bright, with good contrast, and doesn't wash out in sunlight, it's very reflective. Occasionally, all I could see were the stripes of my shirt. At moments like that I wished it had an articulated, or at least tiltable, display. And I think people will really miss the option to add an EVF; dropping the connector is the one potentially big boo-boo the company made when updating from the NX100.

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