Samsung NX200 Ken McMahon, May 2012
 
   
 

Samsung NX200 verdict

Samsung has its work cut out for attempting to take a slice of the compact system camera market. Best known for its value for money point and shoot compacts, it lacks the pedigree of competitors like Sony, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and, to a lesser degree Panasonic, who have a track record of producing pro and semi pro cameras as well as a loyal customer base of professional and serious enthusiast photographers.

The NX200 has a lot to commend it to those kinds of photographers. It's solidly engineered with a magnesium alloy shell and it looks and feels like a serious camera. It offers a growing seelction of stabilsed zoom lenses and primes. It provides respectably fast continuous shooting modes and 1080p30 video recording.

The NX200 has a good array of physical controls which combined with the iFn lens feature and Smart Panel shortcut menu provide with the kind of handling characteristics that DSLR users will feel very comfortable with. Added to which its APS-C sized sensor produces excellent quality images at the low end of the ISO sensitivity range.

But there are a number of things about the NX200 that aren't so appealing. Probably the most significant is the length of time it takes to write files, particularly the large RAW files, to SD cards. The slow write time compromises performance not just in continuous shooting modes, but makes the camera feel sluggish and unresponsive even when shooting in single image drive mode. Then there's the low light performance: the NX200's image quality while great at 100 ISO quickly succumbs to noise even in the medium sensitivity range.

While the NX200 is endowed with numerous physical controls I think Samsung could make big improvements in the way these work together in manual and semi-auto modes to provide better handling. Finally, the lack of a fold out screen or accessory Electronic viewfinder will be a turn off for many people, particularly as it's something offered by competing models.

   
 

 

Compared to Sony NEX 5N

     
 
 
     
     

Though it uses a lower resolution 16.1 Megapixel sensor the NEX-5N has a great deal in common with the Samsung NX200. Both cameras share APS-C sized sensors, offer a comparable range of lenses (not to mention expanding roadmaps) and are similarly-priced too. And, as with the bodies, the standard 18-55mm kit lenses are similar in terms of size and weight.

So what sets them apart? In its favour, the NEX-5N has a flip out 960k pixel screen, though its 16:9 proportions are better suited to movie than stills shooting. Crucially, the NEX-5N's screen is touch sensitive, which not only provides better control, but the genuinely useful option to focus by tapping the screen. The NEX-5N also has the option of Sony's industry leading FDA-EV1S electronic viewfinder. Both cameras have accessory flash units included, but you can fit any flash unit into the NX200's hotshoe, whereas the NEX-5N has a proprietary connector for the flash attachment. Sony offers an external mic accessory and wireless controller for the NEX-5N whereas Samsung supports neither wireless control nor external mics on the NX200.

The NEX-5N's sensor supports a much wider ISO sensitivity range than the NX200 - 100-25600 compared with 100-12800. In my tests the 5N's sensor delivered cleaner results right through the ISO range, but the difference became much more significant at sensitivities of 800 ISO and above. The 5N also has Hand-held Twilight mode making it an all-round better low-light performer. The 5N additionally makes manual focusing a breeze with its focus peaking feature which highlights the edges of subjects in sharp focus.

At 10 frames per second The 5N's continuous shooting performance outpaces that of the NX200, it can empty its buffer much more quickly and allows you to fire off short bursts before the buffer is completely emptied. Both cameras can shoot full HD video but while the NX200's best quality H264 mode encodes at 1080p30, the NEX-5N's AVCHD modes can encode at 1080p50/60. So despite a strong start for the NX200 at 100 ISO in terms of image quality, the NEX-5N out-performs and out-features it pretty much across the board.

See my Sony NEX-5N review for more details

 

Samsung NX200 verdict

The Samsung NX200 has a lot going for it. It's a serious well-built camera with ample physical controls, some clever features and excellent image quality. On paper it looks like a credible alternative to competition both from the Sony NEX range as well as Micro Four Thirds models from Olympus and Panasonic. In practice it handles well and the physical control layout and menu system is well designed. But there are a number of areas where it's performance is frustratingly limited.

The most serious problem is the time taken to write images to the SD card which is a continual mild irritant when single shooting but renders continuous shooting almost unusable. Noise in the medium to high ISO range is something to be concerned about if you plan to do a lot of indoor and low light shooting, but at the base 100 ISO sensitivity the NX200's image quality is excellent. The NX200's raw files are comparitively large, which add to buffer write times and the physical controls aren't optimally configured for manual and semi automatic exposure modes.

Fundamentally, the NX200 is an excellent small system camera, though you can't help but feel it has potential that has yet to be achieved. Revealingly it's also out-performed and out-featured by Sony's NEX-5N in a number of key respects.

At the time of completing my review, Samsung announced two new additions to the NX range plus a replacement for the NX200, the NX210. Aside from the addition of WiFi connectivity it doesn't look like much else has changed, so we'll have to wait and see whether the new model addresses any of these issues. In the meantime, it would make sense to wait for the new models to appear on the shelves before buying, either to take advantage of any improvements or to make the most of the inevitable drop in the NX200's price.It also goes without saying that anyone considering an NX200 / NX210 should look very closely at the Sony NEX-5N. We look forward to seeing how the NX system develops...

 



Good points
20.3 Megapixel APS-C sensor.
7fps burst shooting.
1080p30 movie recording.
Full manual exposure control in movie modes.
iFn lens button.

Bad points
Very sluggish buffer write times.
Fixed screen and no EVF accessory.
Poor use of physical controls.
Poor high ISO noise performance.







Scores

(relative to 2011 compact system cameras)
 

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20

84%


   

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