Though the digital camera market is dominated by Canon and Nikon (with Sony a distant third), Samsung has been making some very successful inways into the segment with their new range of professional cameras. The mirrorless NX20, released last year, received good reviews and set itself apart by offering value added features competitors lacked. With the NX30, Samsung has improved its flagship significantly and has a clear goal – being a mirrorless camera with DSLR-like aesthetics and image quality- but much more accessible. Lets find out if Samsung has succeeded with that.
Design & Features
Like its predecessor, the NX30 is built to make the average DSLR owner feel right at home. It’s bigger than the NX20 at 127 x 95.5 x 41.7mm, but never feels bulky like some high-end DSLRs. Although the NX30 is not built with the Magnesium Alloy material you find on mid-end DSLRs, the polycarbonate body makes it feel sturdy and not necessarily cheap. Samsung has added some welcome flourishes to the mix, including a tiltable LCD screen that a lot of photographers would appreciate as well as a tiltable electronic viewfinder which is a pretty interesting addition. The screen is a Super AMOLED touch-screen display that is impressive in its color reproduction and important considering there are times where there’s a lot of touch controls to refer to.
Housing an APS-C sensor with 20.3 megapixels to work with, the NX30 also has some very exciting features that don’t necessarily impact the image quality of the camera but do a lot to make things easier for photographers after they’ve taken their pictures. The built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity makes it easier to share and transfer pictures to smartphones as well as upload to Facebook. Most notable is an app inside the camera that allows direct upload to Dropbox, which I believe makes the NX30 the very first mirrorless camera to tout this extremely handy feature. Overall, it’s these value added features and integration mechanics that make the NX30 stand out among a sea of mirrorless competitors.
Sitting near the top end of Samsung’s camera offerings, there was no doubt that the NX30 wouldn’t slouch in the image quality department. But what’s most surprising is how impressively crisps the resulting images really are. In the following daytime pictures, it’s worth noting the fascinating amount of detail that the camera managed to capture in far away subjects. The biggest problem of a mediocre camera is how it gives up on details captured when zoomed in to 100% as items become soft or fuzzy. The NX30 didn’t quite have that problem as you can see the in the picture below with the balcony railings and other architecture. It iis impressively detailed for a camera that isn’t quite a DSLR.
Another capture is proof of how the camera has a solid grasp on daytime photography.
When put to the test at macro photography, the NX30 was even more impressive by capturing fine details on anything we threw at it. For example, the following two images feature stunning detail of the subjects. Worth noting is the great shallow depth of field that the camera manages to hold on to despite the sunlight.
Next up, I tested the shutter speed capabilities of the camera, specifically when it came to fast moving targets and diminishing light. Here at near sunset, it was impressive how the camera captured the bird mid-flight without blur.
Here’s a macro shot taken from the camera. As any pro would tell you, adjusting settings manually has a better result than relying on the numerous modes that the camera has (such as Macro).
Finally, the most important test of a camera is to see how much noise it produces in lower light conditions and high ISO. The Samsung NX30 captures at a considerably high ISO-3200 but surprisingly holds not only composure without any kind of blur (no tripod was used), but also lacks any noticeable noise. The picture produced is not fuzzy and maintains the details of everything in the foreground. For a mirrorless camera, that’s quite the feat.
Though the NX30 excels in terms of image quality in a way I wasn’t expecting, there are some important things worth mentioning. Obviously, Samsung is trying to focus on creating a product here that is more accessible than a DSLR to a photography enthusiast. Two features that are added exactly to aid with that are an electronic viewfinder and robust set of touch screen controls. Unfortunately, both those things are the key issues with the NX30. While the EVF is high-res and has its advantages over optical viewfinders, it suffers from a noticeable lag when moving it around that can actually become a hindrance for those used to the DSLR workflow. Other electronic viewfinder cameras (the Panasonic GH3 comes to mind) minimize this, but here the implementation feels subpar.
The other thing is the touch controls, which frankly are way too cumbersome to use. The camera throws a load of menu options at you and while it’s packed with features and settings, it’s a chore to actually access them quickly or intuitively as you may expect from such a camera. This makes it particularly problematic when taking photos off the fly. Thankfully, there are actual physical buttons on the camera to aid with that but many settings can only be accessed using touch screen buttons which is not my preferred method.
Samsung NX30 is one of the best mirrorless cameras in the market with a solid image quality that will silence the worst of mirrorless critics. However, the real strength of the camera is how far it goes to add connectivity features that add more value and speed to the way you can use the camera to capture and share those images. Not all attempts to be so user friendly work though, and its EVF and touch screen controls could pose a problem for those very used to DSLR workflows. But for camera enthusiasts who don’t quite want to take the plunge into a DSLR but don’t want to compromise on the image quality either, NX30 is a force to be reckoned with.
The Samsung NX30 is available in the UAE at AED 3,499.