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Samsung NX30: Speed mirrorless camera in a compact shell

Published on May 5, 2014 6:06 AM
 
Samsung NX30

Samsung's NX30 is the latest camera in the Korean company's NX mirrorless series. Unlike its cousin, the rangefinder-like NX300, the NX30 sports a traditional DSLR form factor.

This is to accommodate the new tiltable electronic viewfinder (EVF) sited where the pentaprism would have been in a conventional DSLR. This EVF can be pulled out and tilted up to 80 degrees.

Considering that the NX30 already has a 270-degree rotatable touchscreen LCD screen, which is great for selfies, the tiltable EVF might seem irrelevant. However, this EVF is useful for street photography when you want to shoot unobtrusively.

The high-resolution EVF offers a bright and big view, and makes it easy for you to compose your photos. I found myself using the EVF most of the time, especially when bright sunshine makes viewing the LCD a chore.

The touchscreen display is great for previewing photos, allowing you to pinch, zoom and swipe through your pictures.

Though the NX30 is not powered by Android, you can use Samsung's Tag & Go feature that utilises Near Field Communication (NFC) to send photos quickly to your NFC-enabled Android smartphone.

First, download the Samsung Smart Camera app on your smartphone. Next, tap your NFC-enabled Android smartphone on the left side of the camera to pair the devices.

If you want to send a particular picture from the camera to your smartphone, tap the smartphone on the NX30's left side while previewing the picture. Tapping the smartphone while the NX30 is in shooting mode allows you to control the camera with your smartphone. Using a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, I found both processes to be quick and seamless.

There is also an iOS version of the app. But as there are no iOS devices that are NFC-enabled, you need to go through a longer route by connecting them on Wi-Fi. And you cannot tap to send pictures to your smartphone.

The NX30's build is plasticky and it does not feel like a premium came1ra. Thankfully, a big rubberised grip and a rear thumb rest make the camera very comfortable to operate with one hand.

It is really lightweight, tipping the scales at only 635g when fitted with the 18-55mm kit lens used in this review. While not as compact as the miniature Panasonic GM1, it can be easily slotted into my daily backpack.

Controls and button layout are very well-conceived. On top is a Mode dial, with a Drive dial on the right. A dedicated video-recording button sits just above the thumb rest. This placement allows easy access with your fingers and thumb.

A top wheel dial sits behind the shutter release and a rear dial, allowing you to adjust shutter speed and aperture swiftly in Manual mode.

Overall, handling is superb.

The NX30 is quick. Compare the 2sec power-up and shutdown times of its competitors to the NX30's 1.2sec power-up, and 0.7sec shutdown. Shutter lag is negligible.

An important point to note is that the NX30 can shoot at a super fast shutter speed of 1/8000sec, freezing any quick action, including your child sprinting across the living room.

Using the kit lens, autofocusing (AF) is lightning quick in bright sunlight, locking on to a focus almost instantly. In dim conditions, AF slows down, taking up to 1.4sec with the help of the AF assist light.

When recording video, AF is almost as fast as a dedicated video camera. It takes about 1sec to focus when you pan to a new scene.

Using an SD card with a writing speed of 45MB per second, the NX30 is able to capture 12 RAW images in 1.5sec before it runs out of buffer.

Image quality is generally good, but looks a little soft. You probably need to do some sharpening in Photoshop. There is also slight barrel distortion at the widest focal length of the kit lens and slight purple fringing, especially in high contrast areas.

Colours are vivid without being over-saturated. Auto white balance is accurate in most lighting conditions.

Image noise performance is rather disappointing. Images are devoid of noise till ISO 800, but noise artefacts with slight loss of details are evident at ISO 3,200 and I would not recommend going beyond ISO 6,400.

Video recorded with NX30 is sharp and crisp with very little ambient or wind audio. You cannot even hear the AF of the lens.

By mirrorless camera standards, battery life is average. It takes about 360 still images on a full charge.

  • If you need a lightweight and compact mirrorless camera with great video capability, the Samsung NX30 is one model to look at.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on April 23, 2014.

Background story

TECH SPECS

Price: $1,369 (with 18-55mm kit lens)

Sensor: 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS

Lens: 21mm (35mm equivalent), f2.8

Display: Rotatable 3-inch touchscreen LCD with 1,036,000 dots; tiltable electronic viewfinder with 2.36 million dots

Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 25,600

Shooting speed: Up to 9 frames per second

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication

Weight: 635g (with battery, memory card and 18-55mm kit lens)


RATING

Features 4/5

Design 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 4/5

Battery life 3/5

Overall 4/5