A few weeks ago I was invited by Samsung, along with 30 other european bloggers to join them for two crazy days to test out the new Samsung NX300. We spent the our time putting the cameras though it’s paces at various speedy events like speed boat rides, horse racing and a whistle stop tour of London. The outcome of this event is that some of the 30 are going to be sent to Paris to meet Usain Bolt and shoot him with the NX 300. There is also a possibility of you being there, courtesy of Samsung, if you check out this Facebook page. After spending two days with the camera I wrote a full review of the NX300 which you can read below.
All the images in this review (unless that are of the camera) where shot with the Samsung NX300 with the 20-50mm that comes with it.
The NX300 basically bridges the gap between a Digital SLR and digital compact. You lose the view finder, but by doing that you get a smaller body. When paired with pancake lenses that come in 16mm, 20mm and 30mm you have a camera that fits into your pocket. The NX300 maybe smaller than your average DSLR but it packs a APS-C sized sensor.
When it comes to digital photography I am used to the Canon Eos system as I have been using it since 1996. Some compact cameras can frustrate me with the menus and bad user interfaces. The NX 300 user interface is really easy to get around. Any avid photographer will be at ease with the familiar function dial with: A (aperture priority), S (Shutter priority), fully auto etc. There is also a WiFi option which I will get to later. What’s missing from the control dial is movie mode and in my opinion quite rightly so, for the sake of simplicity there is a one click record button below the control dial. I don’t really touch on the movie recording but the camera does record in full 1080p. To the left of the screen you also have quick access buttons to the ISO, Drive, and Auto Focus settings. Where things really get snazzy is with the touch screen which makes it super easy to navigate though menus and it’s not just for clicking on-screen buttons, you can also swipe to scroll through long menus.
Whatever shooting mode you’re in, you can bring up an on-screen control panel by pressing the Fn button. The control panel enables you to change different settings using the touch screen. Depending on what mode the camera is set to, four different settings can be changed by swiping on the screen: shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation and ISO. When one of the settings is swiped you will see the other setting sliders move into a new position to compensate; this would be a great thing for photography newbies to get to know how the relationship between exposure, shutter speed, aperture and ISO effects each other. Along with the four sliders there are also on screen buttons that enable you to change the following settings with a few taps of the screen: white balance, picture wizard, metering, autofocus, focus area, drive mode and flash synchronisation. The on-screen control panel gives you instant access to the camera’s most common settings which makes the camera a breeze to use.
Shutter speed and super fast drive modes
The thing that Samsung is really pushing with the NX300 is speed. The camera’s top shutter speed is 1/6000 sec. I believe most other cameras in its class can only shoot up to 1/4000 sec and the highest end professional cameras like the Nikon D3X and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III shoot at 1/8000 sec, so all in all it’s pretty damn fast. It’s not just the shutter speed that is fast on this camera. The amount of continuous shooting modes it has is ridiculous. There are two Continuous shooting modes: Normal and High which allow you to shot 5 frames per second and 8.6 per second, if you have a memory card that is fast enough it can shoot at those frame rates in RAW. The only slightly annoying is that if you are in a continuous mode and you lightly press the shutter button, the camera will always take two pictures. If 8.6 frames per second is not fast enough why not take it up a notch to 30fps with burst mode, which allows you to shot images 5 megapixel jpgs at 30, 15 or 10 frames a second. Images shot in burst mode are good enough for 9” x 6” prints and things you might want to do with images on the web. When browsing images on the camera images shot in Continuous and Burst modes are shown in folders so you don’t have scroll though ten images of the same thing to get to next subject which is handy.
The NX300 has a multitude of different focusing modes; from face detection, tracking for moving subjects and focus peaking to help with manual focus. My favorite focusing feature is touch AF – simply touch the screen where you want it to be focus and the camera snaps into focus with no messing around with focus points. There is also a one touch shot option where you tap the screen on your subject and as soon as the camera has achieved focus the picture is taken.
i Function lens button
The i-Function lens button is quick access to commonly changed settings. Simply press the i-Function and you gain control of the Shutter Speed / Aperture (depending what mode you are in). Press it multiple times and you can change: exposure composition, ISO, White Balance and zoom. Once you have selected what you want to control, the focusing ring is used to adjust the setting. Basically you can control key functionality of the camera from the lens with one button on the focusing ring. i-Function is definitely of the most innovative features of the camera in my view.
Sharing with e-mail Facebook and with other devices via WiFi
The other thing that this camera is really speedy with is sharing images. There is a WiFi option on the dial and from there you can (if you connected to a WiFi network) email photos directly from the camera, post to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and SkyDrive (what ever that is). They really need to add Flickr, Twitter and Dropbox to the list, that said it’s not really problem because you can actually transfer images from NX300 directly to iOS or Android device. You need an app on iOS/Android device to do it but once set up it’s a breeze to get an image off the camera and onto the wider internet. I managed to set it up pretty quickly with a stinking hangover on a bus, so I assure you it’s pretty simple. Since having the NX300, all my Instagram photos have come from this camera. I know there are some Instagram purists out there who will say it’s cheating but it does not feel like it because you are still posting the images in the moment so I feel I am retaining the feeling of Instagram spontaneity, that’s what I think anyway.
Included software Adobe Lightroom 4!
This is a real killer feature for me, instead of the usual branded photo management software that comes with a cameras you get a copy of Adobe Lightroom 4 for Mac or PC worth £90. Anyone who has read my blog before knows that I am a bit of Lightroom evangelist. I rarely use photoshop anymore most of my image editing is done in Lightroom and I tell anyone who comes on one of my photography courses to buy it. It has to be noted that last week Adobe released Lightroom 5, but I still think bundling an old version is still kick ass!
The NX300 does not have a built in flash but there is one included in the box. It’s quite simple to use all you have to do is put it in the hot shoe and when you want to use it flip it up, if you don’t want to use it, flip it down and won’t fire.
3D and other features I did not even touch on
Although this camera dose not have a 3D screen you can shot 3D images with samsung 3D lenses then output them to a 3D Tv via HDMI. I saw this working at it was quite impressive. I never usually mention manuals in reviews, but I was impressed by the NX300‘s manual as the first 30 pages are about the basics of photography like Aperture, Shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, Depth of field, Composition. Hats off to Samsung for that as people are always telling how confusing they find camera manuals.
One of the things I think this camera could do with is a time lapse mode. This could be done with a firmware update. Also it’s not a big deal but being able to update firmware over WiFi would be awesome. That said it took iOS a few years before it could update over WiFi. Oh and don’t forget the Flickr and Drop box WiFi uploads. Apart from that we are all good.
To sum up
You can get you self the NX300 for £510 form amazon.co.uk (UK) or $569.22 from amazon.com (US). It’s been a long time since I have used a digital camera that’s brought so many new features to the fore, namely WiFi sharing and ease of use via i-Function. If you are in the market for getting a camera that’s a little step up from a point and shoot, then I would seriously consider this NX300. It sells for £500 with the 20mm – 50mm lens but when think about the inclusion of Lightroom 4 it’s really just £420. Also if you DSLR shooter and want a camera that is portable as a second camera, the NX300 definitely gets a thumbs up from me. If you simply want to up your Instagram game but retain spontaneity this is also the camera for you.