Though it uses the same sturdy, well-designed body as the NX200, 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.
|Click to download||ISO 100 ||ISO 400 ||ISO 1600|
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.
Design and features
The NX210 has essentially the same body as the NX200: solidly built and larger than most competitors, but that helps make it more comfortable to grip. 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 and other enthusiast compacts. It distinguishes the NX cameras from the other ILCs in a way that adds to the shooting experience rather than detracting.
The alternative is Samsung's Smart Panel interactive control panel interface, which you pull up with the function button. It's easy to use, but I miss the type of customization control that Panasonic's cameras offer over the interface, as well as the capability to save custom settings. You can select the delete button's function from a handful of options: depth-of-field preview, white balance, raw override, reset, or autoexposure lock. (The location of the button doesn't really work for AEL, though.) You can also select which options appear on the i-Function ring.
As with a host of Samsung's 2012 cameras, the NX210's built-in 802.11n wireless can be used to connect to your Wi-Fi network for automatic backups to a Windows computer or Microsoft SkyDrive, viewing photos and movie clips on DLNA-equipped devices, or sending them by e-mail; to connect to other Samsung Wi-Fi cameras for direct sharing between cameras; to connect to hot spots or wirelessly tether to a smartphone; and to connect directly to an Android or iOS device.
That last option can be used to send photos to your phone for viewing or uploading to sharing sites, but it will also allow you to control the camera remotely.
I tested the linked wireless capabilities with my phone (running creaky old Android 2.3.4) and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (running Android 4.0.3); Josh has successfully used the Wi-Fi features using an iPad 2 with other Samsung cameras. While it's all much better than nothing, its interface is still fairly cumbersome. You have to go into a special Wi-Fi mode. It can't save passwords for Wi-Fi connections, though it will remember and reconnect if you try to connect to the same access point (AP) as the last connection. It can't connect via a public AP if it comes up against one of the omnipresent terms-of-service agreements.
MobileLink, which transfers photos between devices and the camera, basically lets you select and copy. And Remote Viewfinder is exactly that: a second screen with a capture button and the ability to toggle flash (to auto, but you can't force it on), self timer, and file size.
Except it doesn't rotate or expand to fill a tablet screen, so your remote viewfinder is actually smaller than the camera display. (8/23/12: This was fixed in a subsequent update to the app.)
|Canon EOS M||Nikon 1 J1||Samsung NX200||Samsung NX210||Sony Alpha NEX-5N|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||18mp hybrid CMOS||10mp CMOS||20.3mp CMOS||20.3mp CMOS||16.1mp Exmor HD CMOS|
|22.3 x 14.9mm||13.2 x 8.8 mm||23.5mm x 15.7mm||23.5mm x 15.7mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 12,800/ 25,600 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 12,800||ISO 100 - ISO 12,800||ISO 100 - ISO 25600|
|Continuous shooting|| |
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
11 JPEG/9 raw
11 JPEG/8 raw
10 JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
|Autofocus||31-point contrast AF||73-point |
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
|15-point contrast AF||15-point contrast AF||25-area contrast AF|
|AF sensitivity range||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 20 EV|
|Shutter speed||30-1/4,000 sec; bulb; 1/200 flash sync||1/3 - 1/16,000; bulb; 1/60 sec x-sync||30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes||30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync|
|Metering||n/a||n/a||221 segment||221 segment||1200 zone|
|Metering range||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 18 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Flash|| Optional |
|Yes||Included optional||Included optional||Included optional|
|Video||H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p||1080/60i /30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV||Stereo1080/30p; 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4||1080/30p; 1080 x 810/24p; 720/30p 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||Stereo||Stereo; mic input||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||3 inches articulated touch screen |
|3-inch fixed 460,000 dots||3-inch fixed AMOLED |
|3-inch fixed AMOLED |
|3-inch tilting |
|Wireless file upload||None||None||None||Wi-Fi||None|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||n/a||230 shots||330 shots||320 shots||430 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3||4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2||4.6 x 2.5 x 1.4||4.6 x 2.5 x 1.4||4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||10.5 (est)||9.7||9.5||9.8||9.3 (without flash)|
|Mfr. price||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||$549.99 (body only)|
|$799 (with 22mm lens)||$649.95 (with 10-30mm lens)||$899.99 (with 18-55mm i-Function lens)||$899.99 (with 18-55mm i-Function lens)||$649.99 |
(with 18-55mm lens)
|n/a||$899.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses)||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Ship date||October 2012||October 2011||September 2011||May 2012||September 2011|
Other than all that, the NX210 retains the same feature set as the NX200, including full manual exposure controls during movie recording, and 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. There's also a built-in menu for use with Samsung's optional hot-shoe GPS accessory.
There are some novel effects, but you can't adjust the parameters. And if you use its Magic Frame, which overlays some huge, cheesy preset designs over your shot, it reduces the photo's resolution to 2 megapixels.
I like the NX210; I enjoy shooting with it. But I think there are too many confusing choices for automatic operation, and the JPEG quality needs to be better. Of course, if you shoot raw or only view photos at small sizes then it's perfectly fine (but if you only display your shots at small sizes then you shouldn't be spending this much on a camera). And while the speed of the autofocus never got in my way, it really should be a little more responsive for the money.