NX-10 by Samsung: Eh

January 5, 2010

After almost as many leaks as the Apple tablet, Samsung finally announced its new NX-10 pseudo-DSLR. The most complete first look is at dpreview.com.

This is an “EVIL” camera (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens), rather than an SLR with optical reflex viewing. It’s also, as near as I can tell, pretty worthless. (At least from the point of view of my priorities.)

Samsung NX-10

The big excitement about this camera is that it boasts a full APS-C sensor (suspected to be the same as in the Pentax K-7). This is larger than the the sensor used by Olympus and Panasonic’s micro Four-Thirds bodies: The NX’s image diagonal is 28.4mm, versus 21.6mm for µ4/3.  As with micro Four-Thirds, the lack of a mirror box gives a shallower body depth than conventional DSLRs.

Hence, an NX body cannot use anyone else’s lenses, at least directly. Only new Samsung-branded lenses will fit (with only three announced so far).

The kit zoom shown is, as usual, too large and too slow.  I admit Samsung’s new 30mm pancake is appealingly petite; although an f/2.0 max aperture is more “tolerable” than exciting. (That lens-body combo does not provide shake reduction.)

But why did they insist on stuffing 14.6 megapixels into this thing? Occasions when normal civilians require more than 10 megapixels are vanishingly rare. Even the astoundingly good, $2400 (body only), full-frame Nikon D700 gets along swimmingly with only 12 Mp.

The only rationale for building larger-sensored cameras is to improve high-ISO performance. But as you cram in more pixels, each one must become smaller—intercepting less light. Crank up the gain to compensate, and you get ugly noise. Even clever processing can only partially smooth over the damage.

And based on the preview NX-10 shots here, blotchy, colored noise in the shadow areas starts to become noticeable around ISO 800. (Admittedly those shots are from a pre-production sample.)

Another disappointment is the faux-SLR body styling. It seems to have been directly lifted from the Panasonic G1, the least appealing of the current µ4/3 offerings.  Compared to Pentax or Olympus’s smallest DSLRs, the NX-10 has only a modest size advantage. And there’s certainly little original style-appeal to it’s blobby shape. (I am not the greatest fan of Olympus’s retro “digital Pen” styling; but it certainly got people’s attention.)

In my view, the only rationale for sacrificing reflex viewing is to get a camera that’s really small.

Otherwise, you must compare the NX-10 to something like the Pentax K-x DSLR (ironically, Pentax is Samsung’s sometime-partner in camera projects). That gets great high-ISO results with a 12.4 Mp sensor; an SLR viewfinder never gets laggy and grainy in low light; overall performance is likely snappier—and hey—it’s cheaper! Size-wise, the Samsung is indeed much flatter than the K-x; but the height and width are surprisingly close.

I guess one bright spot about this story is that it will keep the camera world talking for another few months—reminding shoppers that “large sensors are good.” If that generates more demand for this camera segment as a whole, we’ll get more choices, and maybe (fingers crossed) better prices. But we’re still not there yet.


5 Responses to “NX-10 by Samsung: Eh”

  1. Francois M Says:

    Hi! Great blog. Actually a lot like the kind of blog I aspire to write… But that would require me to do a migration to a more fitting name…

    Keep up the good work! (I will shortly be posting my own, slightly more optimistic, view on Samsung)

  2. […] – great for street photography and such. Some technology commentators have (rightly) been rather critical about the NX system’s lack of compatibility and slightly ambitious pixel count, and we […]

  3. petavoxel Says:

    A couple of followup comments to my early reaction here:

    Noise performance seems to have improved with the shipping firmware (some reviews listed here); but it still would have been preferable to hold back the pixel count.

    Adapters for various SLR lens mounts are available, including an “official” Samsung adapter for K-mount lenses (which were used in Samsung’s DSLRs). To my knowledge, none support electronic communication with the body.

    The pancake 30mm lens tested very well. Everyone seems to like the OLED screen.

    It would still be nice to see an NX model that was not in this faux-SLR body style, which simply isn’t that much smaller than some real DSLRs (scroll halfway down this review).

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