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

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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.

Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens , black)
7.6

Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens

The Good

With excellent photos for a sub-$1,000 model and a nicely designed user interface, the <b>Samsung NX200</b> 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.

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.

Performance
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.

Design and features
Thankfully, there's more to the NX200 than just a lot of pixels. It's much better than the NX100; it's smaller, yet more comfortable to grip, and more solidly built. For those unfamiliar with Samsung's i-Function system, it consists of a button on the lens, which invokes shooting settings, such as ISO sensitivity or shutter speed, which you then change using the manual-focus ring. The system works well, and it feels much like shooting with the Canon PowerShot S100 or Olympus XZ-1. It distinguishes the NX cameras from the other ILCs in a way that adds to the shooting experience rather than detracts from it.

If you choose to go the traditional route, Samsung introduces a new (for it) Smart Panel interactive control panel interface that you pull up with the function button. It's easy to use, but I found myself missing the type of customization control that Panasonic's cameras offer over the interface, as well as the capability to save custom settings. You can program a raw override (as well as which options appear on the i-Function ring), but that's just not as much as I'd like.


The NX200 has a very readable, well-designed interactive interface for frequently used settings.

The camera supports full manual exposure controls during movie recording, and has a Multi Motion mode that records and plays back both faster and slower than normal, though the slow-mo mode only works at reduced frame sizes and frame rates.

  Nikon 1 V1 Olympus E-P3 Samsung NX100 Samsung NX200 Sony Alpha NEX-5N
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS
12 bit
14.6-megapixel CMOS 20.3-megapixel CMOS 16.1-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
13.2mm x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 200 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting 5fps
n/a
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
3fps
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
3.0 fps
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
7fps
11 JPEG/9 raw
3 fps
10 JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
0.47-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
Optional Optional plug-in EVF
201,000 dots
0.55x
(98 percent coverage)
None Optional
Autofocus 73-point
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 15-point contrast AF 15-point contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Shutter speed 30 - 1/16,000; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec. x-sync
Metering n/a 324 area 247 segment 221 segment 1,200 zone
Flash Included optional Yes No Included optional Included optional
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Video 1080/60/ 30p; 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV 1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps 720/30p H.264 MPEG-4 1080/30p; 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono Stereo Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 330 shots 420 shots 330 shots 430 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.4 x 3 x 1.7 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.4 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.6 x 2.5 x 1.4 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 12 (est.) 13 12.2 9.5 9.3 (without flash)
Mfr. price n/a n/a n/a n/a $599.99 (body only)
$899.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $899.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $549.99 (est., with 20-50mm i-Function lens) $899.99 (with 18-55mm i-Function lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
$1,149.95 (dual lens kit) $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens) n/a n/a n/a
Ship date October 2011 August 2011 October 2010 September 2011 September 2011

Aside from what I've already mentioned, there aren't many standout shooting features. I really miss a tilting or articulated LCD, there isn't even an option for a viewfinder, and there are no useful tools like an intervalometer. As I've mentioned, there are some novel effects, but you can't adjust the parameters. And if you use its Magic Frame, which overlays some huge preset designs over your shot, it reduces the photo's resolution to 2 megapixels.

Conclusion
With excellent photo quality, a nice shooting design and interface, and solid performance, the Samsung NX200 makes a nice package. But it also means buying into a lone-wolf lens system without much third-party support, and because the image stabilization is in the lens rather than the sensor, you're subject to Samsung's whims for OIS-capable lenses. (In contrast, all the other manufacturers have either some third-party lens makers or use sensor-shift stabilization.) That, combined with a ho-hum feature set, makes the NX200's price seem overly high.

Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens , black)
7.6

Samsung NX200 (with 18-55mm lens

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Image quality 8