Samsung NX200 Camera with 3in AMOLED Monitor Review

Samsung's it is one of the most successful and prolific camera manufacturers, with a range of over two dozen compact cameras, a dozen or so video camcorders and its highly regarded series of compact system cameras (CSC), the NX System, in which it currently fields six models. Samsung NX200 is a second-generation model in the NX series, following on from the popular NX100 which was launched in 2010. Samsung surprised a lot of people by opting to use a full-sized APS-C sensor in its CSC range, and the NX200 is equipped with a 20.3-megapixel CMOS imaging sensor measuring 23.5 x 15.7mm, giving it one of the highest resolutions of any current CSC camera and easily beating rival models such as the Panasonic GX1 (16-megapixel), the Olympus Pen E-P3 (12.3-megapixel), the Pentax K-01 (16.3-megapixel) and the Nikon 1 J1 (10.1-megapixel), which I reviewed a few weeks ago. Only the flagship model of Sony's CSC range, the NEX-7, has a higher resolution at 24.3-megapixel, but that's nearly twice the price. Not that the NX200 is a particularly cheap camera; at £549, including the kit 20-50mm lens seen here, it is one of the more expensive CSCs on the market, costing more than the Pentax Q (£349), the Nikon 1 J1 (£375), the Panasonic GF5 (£500) and the Sony NEX-5 (£530), but it is cheaper than the Nikon 1 V1 (£630), the Olympus E-P3 (£640) and the Pentax K-01 (£680).

The NX200 features a 3in AMOLED monitor with a resolution of 614,000 dots. It's exceptionally sharp but rather disappointingly it's a little too dim to be viewed in direct sunlight. It's worth noting also that the NX200 has no built-in flash, although it does have a hot-shoe that will accept any external flashgun, and a small folding flashgun is available as part of the NX range. Some CSCs have simple controls like those of a compact camera, but the NX200 offers a greater level of complexity, approaching that of a mid-range DSLR. It has a mode dial recessed into the top panel with a full range of automatic and manual exposure options, including scene modes, a sweep panorama feature, digital filter effects and 'Magic Frame' mode, which composites a variety of novelty frames onto your photo.

The NX200 offers a very wide range of exposure control, with shutter speeds of 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second, and the 20-50mm kit lens has a minimum aperture of f/22 and a maximum of f/3.5-5.6. Further versatility is added by the Picture Wizard function, which offers a range of customisable pre-sets for picture tone. Like all the best cameras, the NX200 offers several different ways to accomplish the same thing, so you can tailor the way you use the camera to your own preference.The NX200's overall performance is good, although there are a few issues. In its default setup, the camera will run a quick sensor-cleaning routine on start-up, which takes a couple of seconds. It's a good idea and helps keep dust off the sensor, but it can be annoying if you're trying to snap something in a hurry. Fortunately this feature can be turned off in the menu, in which case the camera can start up and take a picture in well under two seconds. In single-shot mode its shot-to-shot time is approximately 1.3 seconds, which is slower than I was expecting, mostly due to the slightly sluggish AF system. It has two continuous shooting modes, a low speed at 3fps which appears to be able to run for several dozen shots, and a high-speed 7fps mode, which shoots for seven frames but then locks the camera up for 12 seconds while it writes to the memory card. The only major problem I found with the camera's performance was in raw mode, where after just a few shots the camera would lock up for up to nine seconds, displaying a "processing..." notice on the monitor. Since menu or playback functions cannot be used while this is going on, it makes the camera frustrating to use in this mode.

Battery duration is about average for the class. It is powered by a 1,030mAh li-ion rechargeable which Samsung claims is good for 320 shots. I took about 250 shots plus some video clips while testing and the battery indicator was still showing two out of three bars, so that may be a bit on the conservative side.

Colour reproduction and dynamic range earn a special mention; both are exceptionally good, and will come as a major revelation to anyone expecting this camera to perform like a compact. The Schneider Kreuznach kit lens is also above reproach, producing pin-sharp detail right across the frame, with no corner blurring, optical distortion or chromatic aberration. If only all kit lenses were this good!

This review wouldn't be complete without a brief mention of the video recording mode; the NX can record in full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution at 30fps with stereo audio recorded via a pair of microphones on the top plate. Video quality is very good, as one might expect, although the audio quality is a bit tinny and the automatic level control goes bananas if you try to record loud music. The microphones are also very susceptible to wind noise, turning a slight breeze into a loud whistling sound. Manual zoom can of course be used while recording, and video files are recorded in H.264 format.

Price : £549.00 with kit 20-50mm lens

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