Samsung NX210 £749

19th Apr 2012 | 07:00

Samsung NX210

Is integrated Wi-Fi enough to boost interest in Samsung CSCs?

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

Like:

Nice images; Stylish; Screen good in bright sunlight; Digital level;

Dislike:

Remote viewfinder lacks functionality; Screen only 614k dots; No in-built flash; Limited lens range;

Introduction

Although it was one of the first camera manufacturers to go mirrorless, Samsung hasn't quite seen the same success as its rivals in the compact system camera field.

Keen to offer something more unusual, the latest batch of Samsung NX cameras - including the Samsung NX210 and brothers the Samsung NX20 and Samsung NX1000 - come equipped with integrated Wi-Fi, enabling a number of different options, including the ability to email or share images and use a mobile phone or tablet as a remote viewfinder.

Other than the addition of Wi-Fi, little has changed on the Samsung NX210 from its predecessor, the Samsung NX200.

Samsung NX210 review

It features the same body and control layout, while also housing the same 20.3 million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor.

Another minor change to the CSC is the increase in frame rate, with the Samsung NX210 capable of 8fps, compared with the Samsung NX200's 7fps.

Additional features that have been brought over from the NX200 include a fixed 3-inch, 614k dot screen, which offers a 100% field of view. Auto sensitivity ranges from ISO 100-ISO 3200, which is expandable up to ISO 12800.

Samsung NX210 review

A flash is not included on the camera, though an external device does come bundled in the box. Offering a Guide Number of 9, this slots into the hotshoe on the top of the camera.

For those looking for more creative options, these are supplied via the camera's Magic mode. A number of digital filters and quirky frames can be found under this option.

The Samsung NX210 has a full price of £750 in the UK and $900 in the US, and sits in the middle of Samsung's latest lineup of compact system cameras, in between the more advanced Samsung NX20 and above the Samsung NX1000.

Samsung NX210 review

Featuring a more robust metal body than the NX1000, the NX210 is designed to be a more stylish option than the NX20, which is styled more akin to a traditional DSLR.

Samsung cameras don't quite have the lens range available that Panasonic or Olympus cameras do, but with nine currently on the market it is starting to make inroads.

Announced at the same time as the latest NX range, the standard 18-55mm OIS lens that comes bundled with the Samsung NX210 in the kit package has been redesigned to include a metal mount. The previous version used plastic.

Samsung NX210 review

Other lenses currently available in the Sony NX mount include a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, an 85mm portrait lens and a 20mm pancake lens.

Six out of the nine lenses are also i-Function optics. This technology, which is unique to Samsung cameras, enables direct access to key controls (such as aperture and sensitivity), and is something the company is keen to push.

Build quality and handling

The main chassis of the Samsung NX210 is stylish, with its sleek, black metal body giving an overall impression of a quality CSC.

A problem with many large sensor compact system cameras is that large lenses tend to look slightly incongruous. This can definitely be said of the Samsung NX210 paired with the 18-55mm kit lens. Pancake lenses, such as the 20mm f/2.8 are much better suited to the small body – so it's worth thinking about investing in additional lenses.

The grip feels well made, and the camera sits pretty comfortably in the hand. A thumb rest on the back of the camera also adds additional purchase, making shooting one-handed easy to do.

Samsung NX210 review

Buttons on the back of the camera are reasonably laid out, with a dedicated movie record button falling naturally where a thumb might rest.

A function (Fn) button is a useful way to quickly access all of the most commonly used settings, bringing up a display that can be scrolled through using the arrow keys or scroll dial.

There's also the ability to customise the Delete button at the back of the Samsung NX210. A number of one-touch options can be set via this button, such as switching between raw and JPEG shooting, or Auto Exposure Lock (AEL).

Samsung NX210 review

One bugbear here is via the exposure compensation button. In order to make changes, this needs to be held down at the same time as moving the scroll wheel - something that is pretty much impossible to do one-handed. Luckily, you can also use a small dial at the top of the camera, or iFunction, when using one of the compatible lenses.

At the top of the camera is a dial for changing the mode of the camera. The usual P,A,S, M modes can be selected here, as well as Smart Auto, Magic Mode and Wi-Fi. The dial is useful for quickly switching between modes, but it can be a little stiff, requiring a firm push on occasion.

The Samsung NX210's main menu, which is accessed by pressing the Menu button, is well arranged, with it split into different sections, such as Photo and Movie. You may not find yourself using this menu too often, though, since most of the controls can be accessed via the Fn button.

Samsung NX210 review

There are four different types of autofocus functionality – Selection AF, Multi AF, Face Detection AF and Self-Portrait AF. If you're happy to enable the camera to choose autofocus points for you, then use Multi AF. However, if you want a little more control, then Selection AF is the better option.

When using this option, to change AF point, the central button on the Samsung NX210's navigation pad needs to be pressed, and then the arrows/scroll wheel used to change the point. This isn't the quickest of options, and here a touchscreen would have been welcome. You can also alter the size of the AF point here, by using the scroll dial at the top of the camera.

To use manual focus, this can switched on via the lens. Turning the manual focus ring on the lens causes central portion of the image to be magnified to assist with focusing. This is fine if whatever you're photographing happens to be in the centre of the frame, but is of little use if it's not. There's currently no way to change the magnified area, which seems a bit of an oversight.

A couple of taps of the Display/Up button on the back of the camera brings up a digital level. This is useful when shooting landscape images, because it helps to ensure straight horizons. It's also good for using with a tripod that doesn't have a built-in spirit level.

Samsung NX210 review

Of the nine currently available proprietary lenses for the Samsung NX mount, six are iFunction lenses. This includes the standard 18-55mm kit lens. Key functions (such as aperture or ISO) can be accessed by pressing the iFunction button and twisting the manual focus ring on the lens.

In theory, this is a great idea, but in practice on larger lenses such as the 60mm f/2.8 macro, or even the 18-55mm lens, it can be a little awkward to use, especially one-handed. On smaller lenses, such as the pancake 16mm and 20mm optics, this is a lot easier.

Performance

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Overall, we were impressed by the images produced by the Samsung NX210. Colours are represented very well on the whole, with lots of vibrancy without being over the top.

The 20.3 million-pixel sensor is able to resolve lots of detail, and the camera is certainly able to rival a budget DSLR in terms of image quality, especially when shooting in good light.

Auto white balance does a good job of reproducing accurate colours, even when shooting in artificial or mixed lighting conditions. If you find it doesn't quite match, changing the white balance setting is easily done via the iFn button on the lens, or the Fn button on the back of the camera.

Samsung NX210 review

There are three metering options, Multi, Centre-weighted and Spot. Multi does a good job in general conditions, while changing to Spot is a good idea if the camera is likely to be confused by a mixed lighting source.

Noise performance is reasonable, if a little worse than the Samsung NX200's. Our lab tests (see next page) show that the Sony NEX-5N, which also uses an APS-C size sensor is a much better performer, putting the Samsung NX210 more on a par with smaller sensor cameras.

At ISO 800, noise is certainly visible, but on the plus side there doesn't appear to be too much evidence of smoothing or over-sharpening.

On occasion, the Samsung NX210's processing times aren't particularly quick. This is especially true when shooting at a high frame rate, or using a Magic filter, meaning you sometimes need to wait a few seconds between shots before being able to use the camera again.

Samsung NX210 review

Focusing is reasonably quick, locking onto subjects with ease in the majority of cases. It can struggle to lock onto smaller subjects, even when using the macro lens. This can be helped along by changing the size of the focus area, though it can be a little frustrating as it hunts for focus in these conditions.

The 621k dot AMOLED screen works very well in bright sunlight. In all but the brightest of direct sunlight, composing an image on the screen was pretty easy.

Unfortunately however, images played back on the Samsung NX210's screen look a little dull, and on occasion as if they are slightly out of focus. These days, 621k dot is not particularly high, which may explain this problem.

If this is the case, it's worth zooming in on previewed images to make sure accurate focus has been gained.

Samsung NX210 review

The ability to connect the camera to a smartphone or tablet is very appealing. However, with extremely limited functionality, this can only be so useful. A dedicated Android app is available, and we're told that an iOS version will also be available soon.

Unfortunately, the only control this gives is the shutter release, with no other manual controls. As this can only be reached via the Wi-Fi mode, you also don't have the ability to determine settings beforehand.

Hopefully, Samsung is working on a way to make this a lot more useful, and give a lot more functionality, in the future.

Aside from Remote Viewfinder, Wi-Fi mode also contains other useful options, such as Social Sharing and Email. Once you've set up a Facebook or email account, for instance, uploading images is quick and easy. Unfortunately it's a laborious task entering a caption using the on-screen keyboard, so it's best to keep those to the absolute minimum.

Samsung NX210 review

Digital filters are proving extremely popular on cameras these days, in the wake of Instagram and other popular smartphone apps.

The Samsung NX210 includes a Magic Mode, which includes a number of Magic Frames and Smart Filters. The Magic Frames, are quite frankly, a little bizarre, and we're not sure who they are likely to appeal to.

The Smart Filters fare a little better, but are still not as creative or interesting as some of those on offer from Sony, Panasonic or Olympus.

It's also worth noting that these Magic Effects can only be shot in JPEG mode, meaning that if you decide you'd like to remove the effects afterwards, you can't. If you want a bit more flexibility then there is the option to use Picture Wizard, in any of the semi-automatic or manual modes.

Samsung NX210 review

This gives options such as Vivid and Landscape, as well as more creative options such as "Classic" (which is basically black and white), "Calm", which makes colours appear more muted, and "Retro" which adds a sepia tone to make images look like they were shot in the 70s. Again, some of these options will be more popular than others, but it's good to see that these can be shot in raw format for post-capture removal.

The battery, which Samsung promises lasts for around 330 shots, lasted all day during our testing. By the end of the day it was still showing a full battery charge, but then suddenly lost power very quickly, dropping from apparently full to completely empty in the space of just a few minutes.

It seems redundant to have a battery gauge at all if it works in this manner, because you have no real way of telling how full it is – especially if returning to it after a couple of days away.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Samsung NX210, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Samsung NX210 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Samsung NX210

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 400, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 800, score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 1600, score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 3200, score: 14 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 6400, score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 12800, score: n/a (Click here to see full resolution image)

Raw

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 400, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 1600, score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 6400, score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Samsung NX210 review

ISO 12800, score: 10 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX210 Review: JPEG signal to noise ratio

JPEG images from the Samsung NX210 relate the most closely with the Samsung NX200 for signal to noise ratio, and are much better than the Nikon 1. However, from the chart you can see that andOlympus PEN E-P3 and Panasonic G5 have the edge over them overall, while the Sony NEX-5n performs significantly better.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX210 review: TIFF signal to noise ratio

TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Samsung NX210 and Samsung NX200 are closely matched for their signal to noise ratio, at the lower end of the sensitivity scale, while it's closer to theNikon 1 at high sensitivities. Results from the Olympus PEN E-P3 and Panasonic G5 aren't vastly different, but again the Sony outperforms the Samsung by quite a considerable margin.

JPEG dynamic range

Samsung NX210 review: JPEG dynamic range

Our dynamic range results show that there is a drop in performance for the Samsung NX210's JPEG images over the Samsung NX200, with our results in fact putting it behind all the other cameras tested.

Raw dynamic range

Samsung NX210 review: TIFF dynamic range

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Samsung NX210 have a greater dynamic range than the Nikon 1 and Samsung NX200's images at lower ISOs, are similar to those from the Olympus PEN E-P3, but they lag behind the results achieved by the Panasonic G5 throughout the sensitivity range, and are significantly behind the Sony NEX-5n.

Sample images

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours from the Samsung NX210 are represented well, with lots of detail captured by the 20.3 million pixel sensor.

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Samsung NX210's large sensor enables shallow depth-of-field effects to be created. This was shot with a 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

Samsung NX210 review

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Although not as wide ranging as some of its competitors, the Samsung lens options are growing. This image was taken with a 60mm f/2.8 macro optic.

Samsung NX210 sample image

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Focusing is quick and accurate for the majority of situations, but the Samsung NX210 can struggle a little when capturing close-up images.

Samsung NX210 review

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Although this image suffers a little from lens flare to the left, the camera has done a good job coping with the bright backlighting from the sun behind the building.

Samsung NX210 review

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This is an example of an image shot with PictureWizard, which still gives full manual control. You can also remove the filter in post-production when shooting in raw format, if you like.

Samsung NX210 review

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Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

These are some of the Smart Filters available in Magic Mode. Here we can see Old Film 1, Old Film 2 and Halftone Dot. These can only be shot in JPEG only, meaning a "straight" image isn't recoverable.

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Miniature is another option to be found in Magic Mode. A popular digital filter on many cameras, it recreates the effect of using a tilt-shift lens. Again, this effect can only be applied when shooting in JPEG format.

Sensitivity and noise

Samsung NX210 review

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Samsung NX210 review

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ISO 100

Samsung NX210 review

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ISO 200

Samsung NX210 review

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ISO 400

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Samsung NX210 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Samsung NX210 review

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ISO 6400

Samsung NX210 review

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ISO 12800

Verdict

As one of the early innovators of compact system cameras, Samsung is really trying hard to be noticed in what is now a very crowded marketplace.

Unfortunately, the company still doesn't seem to have quite got there. Although the Samsung NX210 is capable of producing some very pleasing images, it's nothing that can't be equalled, or bettered, by other cameras currently on the market.

The odd quirk aside, handling is reasonable, especially if you're already using a Samsung compact camera or perhaps a mobile phone.

The addition of Wi-Fi could have been a real selling point here. While it's true that the ability to quickly upload photos to Facebook and the like without having to connect a cable is reasonably fun, the novelty soon wears off if you want to include a caption longer than three words.

A remote viewfinder could have really made this camera stand out from the crowd, but with almost zero functionality, we struggle to see the point.

We liked

Images have lots of detail, while colours are represented accurately and vibrantly. The camera looks stylish, especially when paired with a smaller, pancake-style lens.

We disliked

The only major difference between this and its predecessor is the addition of Wi-Fi. This could have been great, but unfortunately it falls well short of the mark.

Final verdict

The Samsung NX210 is stuck in the middle of Samsung's range. With only Wi-Fi separating it and its now retired predecessor, the Samsung NX200, this is an expensive proposition for what it is.

Perhaps if Samsung can offer a firmware upgrade to improve the Wi-Fi functionality, it might fare better.

Those looking for something cheaper in the Samsung range may like to take a look at the Samsung NX1000, while those after something more akin to a DSLR should take a look up to the Samsung NX20.

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