Samsung NX300 £599.99

24th Apr 2013 | 09:20

Samsung NX300

High performance CSC with fold out touchscreen

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Like:

Image quality; Build quality and design; Ease of use; Bundled Lightroom software;

Dislike:

Slightly chunky body and lenses; No bundled external charger;

Introduction

There's lots of action right now in the compact system camera (CSC) segment, which pairs compact camera bodies with interchangeable lenses for a DSLR-like experience without the internal mirror or associated bulk.

It's an area where Samsung has been making steady headway with an expanding range of lenses that now includes a new 45mm prime lens for shooting 3D stills and movies. It works exclusively with the latest arrival - the faux leather-clad Samsung NX300.

Retro credentials aside, this camera bears more than a passing resemblance to its siblings, the Samsung NX210 and Samsung NX1000, which currently remain on sale.

Samsung NX300 review

There are similarities elsewhere, too, with each model - and the more traditional Samsung NX20, which is the only one to feature an integrated electronic viewfinder - sporting a 20.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor.

In the Samsung NX300, though, it's a brand new chip, with combined contrast and phase detection autofocus, which Samsung claims can fix on your subject in 0.08 seconds. That's impossible for us to verify in the lab, but it was certainly fast out in the field, and up to the job of fixing on a speeding rally car.

It also now sports a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000 second, which is faster than last year's Samsung NX210's 1/4000 second speed, as well as raw shooting and an articulated touchscreen.

Samsung NX300 review

In all, there are 105 phase detection and 247 contrast focus points on the Samsung NX300's sensor, and it can detect up to 10 faces to determine the correct settings for shooting group portraits.

The Samsung NX300 is priced at £599.99 / US$748 (around AU$877), making it the same price as the Samsung NX1000 when it came out, and considerably cheaper than the Samsung NX210 and Samsung NX20's original full prices.

It's in the same price bracket as rival CSCs the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 and Nikon 1 J2, but more expensive than the Sony NEX-5R and Pentax Q10.

Features

Samsung NX300 review

What you get for your money depends very much on which option you go for, since Samsung has put together two bundles - one with a traditional 18-55mm iFunction lens (equivalent to a 27.7-84.7mm range in 35mm terms) and one with a slightly shorter 20-50mm lens (30.8-77mm equivalent). We used the former in our tests.

On each unit, maximum aperture stands at f/3.5 and f/5.6 at either end of the zoom, narrowing to a minimum f/22.

The regular auto, scene and P,A,S,M modes are supplemented by a new arrival: Lens Priority. Pros will recognise this as a simpler rebranded aperture priority, which enables enthusiasts to forget all about f-stops and work with a simple defocus/sharpen slider, which you can drag on the touchscreen or move by twisting the focus ring on an iFunction lens.

Samsung NX300 review

There's a flash in the box, but it's not integrated, so you'll have to either carry it about with you or fall back to longer exposures or higher sensitivities. Sensitivity kicks off at ISO 100 and runs through to ISO 25600, with three stops of compensation in each direction, in 1/3EV steps.

In the Samsung NX210 and Samsung NX1000, sensitivity was capped at ISO 12800, so this is an improvement.

The Samsung NX300 boasts 14 scene modes, with the usual suspects - landscape, macro, panorama and so on - supplemented by more creative options for blurring moving water and shooting streaking headlights at night.

Samsung NX300 review

There's no dedicated movie mode, which in our book is a plus. You can shoot movies in any regular stills mode and won't risk missing a one-time shot the next time you switch back on because you've left it set to the wrong mode.

Best quality footage hits 60fps at 1920 x 1080, unless you've opted for the 3D lens, in which case it's halved to 30fps. If that's a bit rich for your needs you can trim the resolution as far as 320 x 240, and the frame rate to 24fps.

Build quality and handling

We've got no complaints where build is concerned. The Samsung NX300 may be slightly heavier than its predecessors, but the body has a reassuring rigidity to it, and it's capped by a brushed aluminium top plate.

Access to the battery and card slot is through a flap beneath the grip, which is sufficiently offset from the mount point not to foul a tripod head, so you can change your battery or card without detaching it.

Around the back, the bright AMOLED screen is easy to use in direct sunlight, and it's larger than most rivals, stretching to 3.31 inches/84mm corner to corner. It's articulated, so you can tilt it up and down to reach more creative angles, and it's the first touch-sensitive screen on Samsung's semi-pro lineup.

Samsung NX300 review

The screen mechanics have been strengthened to endure years of folding in and out, and Samsung has successfully found a balance between making it smooth enough to easily position and firm enough to stay in place.

If you choose one of Samsung's iFunction lenses, such as the 18-55mm kit lens, it will feature an iFn button on the side of the barrel. Pressing it calls up a context-sensitive menu, which in turn is controlled by a twist of the focus ring at the end of the lens, through which you can quickly dial in changes to shutter speed, aperture, white balance and so on.

Although not new, this is a great feature that puts all of the control functions in your left hand while leaving your right free to fire the shutter. Furthermore, you don't need to change how you're holding the camera body to navigate the shooting options. It's also key to the aforementioned lens priority mode.

Samsung NX300 review

The regular full menus are clearly structured and organised across tabs. Each of the entries is large enough to accurately target with a fairly chunky finger, and any controls that need to be dragged are responsive.

There's no external charger, sadly, so you'll have to refresh the battery using the bundled adaptor, plugged in to the micro USB port on the side of the body just below the accompanying HDMI output.

There's no reason why you also need to use USB port to retrieve your images from the camera, though, because like the Samsung NX210 this camera features Wi-Fi connectivity. Perhaps not surprisingly for a company with so much experience in building smartphones, it's been extremely well implemented here.

Samsung NX300 review

There's a dedicated Wi-Fi position on the mode dial that enables you to access a range of functions, including backing up shots to Microsoft SkyDrive or shooting direct to your PC or Mac. A direct link button on the top plate enables you to shortcut this mode, since you can program it to activate Wi-Fi and launch your preferred wireless function with a single press.

For those with a suitably equipped tablet or smartphone there's built-in NFC for image sharing, too.

Overall the Samsung NX300's button and control layout can't be faulted, with the most commonly used options falling pretty much right beneath your fingers.

However, although you can directly drag left and right on the screen to move through your images when playing them back, we do miss the thumbwheel on the rear of the Samsung NX210, which required less lateral movement, and overall was a faster solution to navigating a large card full of shots.

Performance

Samsung claims a maximum autofocus speed of 0.08 seconds courtesy of the Samsung NX300's combined phase detection and contrast AF system. It has 105 phase detection focus points, and 247 contrast focus points.

It works well in general use, even in poor light, and the option to tap the screen to set the point of focus manually is much quicker than stepping between a limited number of points using hardware buttons. It also sports face detection for up to a maximum of 10 faces in any frame.

Detail is crisp in both raw files and in-camera JPEGs, and colours are spot on, in images shot both in well-lit conditions and under overcast skies.

Samsung NX300 review

Shooting a test grid revealed some barrel distortion, though, with a slight fall-off in the sharpness towards the corners and edges on examination of the raw files, but if you're shooting JPEGs this won't be an issue, as the in-camera conversion ironed it out.

Metering was accurate throughout our tests, with the Samsung NX300 performing well under both overcast and clear skies. It wasn't foxed by strong contrasts such as a dark subject in front of an overcast sky. And even when the darker matter was the metered point, the sky remained textured and wasn't burned out.

The camera enables multi, centre-weighted and spot metering, with 221 metering points arranged across the frame.

Samsung NX300 review

White balance is easily controlled through the lens using the iFn button and focus ring. It has eight predefined light sources, including three different fluorescent settings, plus custom and manual options.

We performed our tests with the Samsung NX300 set primarily to auto, but shot some frames with the camera set to the appropriate white balance selection for comparison. The results were barely distinguishable from those achieved in auto, indicating that the camera does a good job on its own.

You can tweak the presets by adjusting the bias on a four-way scale for green, blue, magenta and amber through seven steps in each direction.

Samsung NX300 review

The maximum sensitivity setting on the NX300 is ISO 25600, at which point there's naturally considerable grain across the frame. However, you can comfortably take it to ISO 800 before you'll start to see any grain at 100% on screen, and even at ISO 3200 fine detail remains very clear.

It's therefore generally safe to leave the Samsung NX300 to make up its own mind about sensitivity and only restrain it manually if you're after a particular outcome, such as forcing a long exposure at a wide aperture in gloomy surroundings.

If you're shooting raw and JPEG files side by side then you'll notice some slight smoothing taking place as part of the in-camera JPEG processing, which helps to reduce noise at middling sensitivities, but also softens off a little of the detail at the shadow end of the scale.

Our tests reveal that the NX300 is capable of resolving lots of detail, but as is often the case, the kit lens doesn't make the best of the cameras pixel count.

Samsung NX300 review

The Samsung NX300's in-camera JPEG conversion is excellent. It has a light touch and doesn't introduce compression artefacts into the converted file, which explains why the most complex JPEGs came in at over 12MB.

The conversion also tones down noise in low-light, high ISO images, and very effectively fixed the barrel distortion that revealed itself when shooting a test grid using the bundled 18-55mm kit lens.

You can shoot JPEGs and raw files side by side, with three levels of compression: normal, fine and superfine.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Samsung NX300, 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 NX300 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files. These images are taken with the 18-55mm kit lens mounted on the camera.

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 NX300 review

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

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 100, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

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

Samsung NX300 review

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

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 3200, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 6400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 25600, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 100, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 12800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 25600, score: 10 (Click here to see the 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.

Here we compare the Samsung NX300 with the Sony NEX-R5, Samsung NX200 and Olympus E-PL5.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX300 review

These results show that JPEG images from the Samsung NX300 show a weaker signal to noise ratio than those from the Sony NEX-R5 at every sensitivity setting. However, the NX300's JPEGs show a greater signal to noise ratio than the Samsung NX200's at every sensitivity but ISO 12800. The Samsung NX300's JPEG SNR results are most similar to the Olympus E-PL5's, producing very similar scores at ISO 200, 400, 1600 and 6400, with the Samsung creeping ahead at ISO 800 and 3200, and falling behind at ISO 12800.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX300 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Samsung NX300 are the weakest of the group at every sensitivity, falling behind the Sony NEX-R5, Olympus E-PL5, Canon EOS M and Samsung NX200.

JPEG dynamic range

Samsung NX300 review

JPEG results for dynamic range are similar to those for signal to noise ratio, with the Samsung NX300 producing less dynamic range than the Olympus E-PL5 at every sensitivity, and less than the Sony NEX-R5 at every setting but ISO 400. The NX300 produces greater dynamic range than the Samsung NX200 at every setting but ISO 400.

Raw dynamic range

Samsung NX300 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Samsung NX300 show greater dynamic range than the Samsung NX200 at every sensitivity setting, but less dynamic range than the Olympus E-PL5 at every sensitivity and less than the Sony NEX-R5 at every sensitivity except ISO 100. The NX300 shows greater dynamic range than the Canon EOS M at ISO 100, 200 and 800, but is weaker at every other ISO setting.

Sample images

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Samsung NX300 coped well with the low light and overcast skies and produced images with plenty of punch.

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The lens priority feature of Samsung's 18-55mm kit lens makes it easy to isolate a specific part of your image.

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

With a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000 second, the Samsung NX300 makes short work of freezing fast action. This racing rally car was shot at 1/4000 sec.

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Comparison shots showing original raw file (top) and in-camera JPEG (lower) of the same image. Both have a healthy level of detail.

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Samsung NX300 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Samsung NX300 review

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

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Samsung NX300 review

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

Samsung has thrown every feature and top-end spec it could at the NX300, and it's paid off. A large, vibrant screen, 20.3 megapixel sensor, 1/6000 sec maximum shutter speed and best focus time of just 0.08 seconds should be enough to satisfy all but a very small number of ultra high-end users.

Image quality is great and colours are accurate, although the kit lens doesn't get the best from the high pixel count, especially if you shoot JPEG images.

Low light performance is good, too, which gives you the freedom to shoot in situations that might otherwise give you pause for thought.

We liked

The overall image quality was hard to fault, and it should be easy for even novices to achieve high quality results thanks to the integral smart shooting modes and the intuitive iFunction lens system.

We disliked

The Samsung NX300, like the Samsung NX210 and Samsung NX200 before it, sits at the larger end of the scale, with a lens that rivals that of a traditional DSLR for bulk and a body that's considerably larger than a compact camera.

Although this is easily accounted for by the larger sensor, we'd love for Samsung to find some way to trim it down just a little to create a truly compact system camera.

Final verdict

It's clear that a lot of consideration has gone into not only what the Samsung NX300 should do, but also how it should do it, since you're never more than a couple of clicks - or screen taps - away from any particular setting.

Samsung's iFunction lens system continues to impress, with the new Lens Priority function opening up the world of attractive short depth of field photography to less experienced users.

Don't assume this means Samsung is dumbing down, though, because this camera will appeal just as much to the professional user as the beginner - and so should the bundled Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software.

On top of all this, it's very keenly priced, which makes it easy to recommend wholeheartedly.

Samsung has formulated the perfect combination of ease of use and great image quality inside an attractive, powerful camera, and packaged it all up with some great bundled software.

Samsung Samsung cameras Samsung NX CSCs compact system cameras camerascarousel-en-au camerascarousel-en-gb camerascarousel-en-us cameraspromo-en-gb awardrecommended
Share this Article
Google+

Apps you might like:

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version