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In an ever-evolving digital age where everything seems to get smaller, it just makes sense that manufacturers of cameras would be right there in the thick of it. Thing is, they have to miniaturise the equipment at the same time as trying to maintain the quality of modern DSLR cameras. Over the past few years this led to the development of a whole new breed of cameras, called compact system cameras, or CSC’s as they are referred to in photographic circles. These cameras have the benefit of interchangeable lenses, which gives much more flexibility and better quality than the point-and-shoot type cameras while still being “pocketsized”. Unlike their DSLR big brothers, most CSCs are mirrorless which helps keep their dimensions down.
The Samsung NX200 camera is right in there with cameras from the big names: the Nikon J1 and V1, Olympus E-PL3, Pentax Q, Sony NEX7N (which is not a mirrorless camera), Panasonic GX1 and the Fuji XPro1. It is one of the more expensive cameras available and at approximately R8 500, the choice between the Samsung NX200 and a decent DSLR becomes a matter of preference along with the availability of lenses and equipment. Although the CSC’s are supposed to be compact designs, it is still a bulky item to carry around when a lens is fitted although not as bulky as a DSLR.
With the stiff competition from the well established names in mind, I visited about a dozen photographic shops to compare pricing and availability of the Samsung camera and its accessories. I failed to get someone that could help with my technical enquiries and even the dedicated Samsung shop staff rather referred me to the website. Other remarks from photographic shops included “we don’t sell washing machines and fridges”. So let’s see if these remarks, and the price tag, are justified.
- 20.3 megapixels
- APS-C image sensor (similar to most consumer DSLR’s)
- ISO 100 -12800
- 30fps burst speed
- 1080 full HD movie recording with stereo sound
- 3.0” AMOLED almost 100% field of view display
- Shutter speeds from 1/4000sec – 30sec
Menus and options:
The kit supplied for this review comprises the camera body, a 20-50mm zoom lens, and a small flash.
The Samsung NX200 has all the bells and whistles that you would find on a decent DSLR camera and the menu system is comprehensive and easy to navigate. You can point and shoot in full auto mode or select to play around in more manual territory.
In the Camera menu, the photo size, quality, and ISO can be adjusted. White balance can be fully automated or can be selected from pre-programmed settings. However, the real enthusiasts still have the option to adjust it manually. The auto focus mode and area can be adjusted to different options as well as the drive and metering system.
In Movie mode the movie size, quality and motion settings can be adjusted.
There are also quite a number of camera settings that can be adjusted e.g. language, numbering system, date and time, power saving, quick view etc.
For an avid DSLR user, holding the camera is a bit of an issue. The camera is too small to really be supported in your hand in the same way as a DSLR although I eventually opted for supporting it this way. Holding it with the forefinger and thumb like one would with a point-and-shoot digital camera is uncomfortable and unstable due to the length and weight of the lens. The design of the body, although modern, is not very ergonomic and the sharp base of the camera tends to become uncomfortable when supported in the palm of your hand for an extended period of time.
The absence of a viewfinder, due to the mirror-less design, benefits the compact design. If you’re upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera, this will not bother, but DSLR users may find that picture composition is slightly more difficult – I really missed a viewfinder. Perhaps time and many photographs will overcome this. Sample pictures below show how deep and clear the images are (pictures have been re-sized):
Zebra: ISO 100, focal length of lens = 50mm, aperture = f5.6, exposure= 1/160sec, all setting on auto.
Panorama pic: ISO 800, focal length = 38mm, aperture = f5, exposure = 1/125sec
A very useful function on the NX200 is the iFunction button on the lens which gives you instant access to your program settings on an overlay display by a single. This means fast on-the-run adjustment of aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc, depending on the mode you’re shooting in.
The dials and buttons are pretty much in accordance with the standard in DSLR cameras which made operation a pleasure and will keep enthusiasts happy. Those upgrading from point-and-shoot cameras will adjust very easily due to the auto settings which will give them time to adjust to the full functionality of the camera.
The pictures are of a good quality and are sharp with good colour balance — the auto mode works very well. The only issue is that the autofocus is not as fast and precise as I’m used to in my DSLR even though Samsung claims it to be fast and precise. I played around with different options on the auto focus but often did not get the desired result. In some cases I opted for manual focus and was quite satisfied with the results. In darker circumstances the auto focus function seems to have even more difficulty.
The HD video also produces good results.
Shooting without a flash in low light also produced some very pleasing results, particularly due to the very high ISO 12800. However, from ISO 3200 upwards the noise levels become an issue for me although the rest of the family reckons the pictures are still pretty good.
The camera also boasts a panorama program that gives a very pleasing result and is quite some fun to play around with.
The Magic setting can really be fun to play around with. It provides some frames and filter settings that can make the world of difference to an otherwise dull photograph.
As mentioned earlier, the camera was supplied with a 20-50mm zoom lens but there is also a 50-200mm, an 18-55mm and an 18-200mm zoom available. The fixed focal length lenses available is a 16mm F2.4, 20mm F2.8, 30mm F2.0, 60mm F2.8 and a 85mm F1.4.
There is also a choice of 3 Samsung flash guns, unfortunately Samsung does not provide guide numbers on their site. The flash provided with the camera gave good results without dark corners when shooting at wider angles.
It is also possible to get a GPS attachment which fits onto the hot shoe and supplies GPS info on the photos taken with it. This is a great option for the kind of traveler that always arrives home with a couple of hundred photographs and later cannot recall where they were taken.
Sony, Panasonic and Nikon seem to set the trend in this market with the Panasonic and Nikon being cheaper than the Samsung. In SA the choice will be governed by the availability of service and accessories which makes the Sony and Nikon the more accessible choices.
It is also true that one can get a pretty decent big name DSLR camera for the same price, and in terms of service and accessories the choices then is almost limitless.
In terms of ease of operation and quality the NX200 is there and although the 20.3MP seems to draw a lot of attention, some of the big brands, by clever design, supply quality products with fewer pixels than the Samsung.
If the compactness of the camera is a deciding factor, keep in mind that it is not that compact with an 18-200mm lens, which I would use if I were travelling.
It may not be a washing machine or fridge, but at the going price it is worth considering all the other options available to you.