Samsung NX200 review

14 Mar 2012

Stunning image quality at an amazing price, but it’s undermined by some irritating flaws

Price when reviewed 
460
5

After a brief hiatus, it seems the old megapixel wars are back on in 2012. First came Sony with its NEX-7, and now Samsung has breached the 20-megapixel barrier. But while Sony’s compact stunner is affordable only to the wealthy gadget-obsessed, Samsung’s is firmly in consumer DLSR territory at less than £500.

At that sort of price, it’s never going to be as fully featured as the Sony, and so it proves. There’s no integrated viewfinder to match the NEX-7’s amazing 2,400kpixel effort, and no option yet to buy an add-on. The Samsung can’t match the Sony’s stratospheric 24.3-megapixel figure either, and there’s no image stabilisation onboard or in the 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that came with our review sample.

The gap between the two cameras isn’t as yawning as the specifications and price might indicate, however. There’s no getting around the lack of viewfinder, which can be a problem in bright sunlight, and the NX200’s screen doesn’t fold out or swivel either. However, the quality of its 3in, 614kpixel AMOLED display is exceedingly good, and in most light we had no trouble composing shots.

Handling, too, is exceptional. The NX200 is a very compact camera with a body measuring a mere 25mm from front to back at its thinnest point. Despite its small size, it sits comfortably in the hand, with a large, gently curved grip and sensibly placed buttons and dials.

The controls are superbly responsive and intuitive, and the highlight is Samsung’s i-Function system. This allows you to click a button on the side of the lens barrel to cycle through various settings, and tweak the focus ring to change them. Depending on the mode you’re in, ISO and shutter speed, aperture, white balance and exposure compensation can all be adjusted in this way.

For lenses without the i-Function button, meanwhile, dials on the rear and the top of the camera allow shutter speed and aperture to be adjusted just as swiftly, and clicking the Fn button in Program offers quick, onscreen access to other settings such as white balance, metering and focus area modes.

Image quality is a highlight, too. In automatic mode, exposure and white balance were generally spot on, and the extra detail captured by the 20 megapixels was really noticeable over the 16-megapixel Sony Alpha SLT-A33 we used for comparison. In low light, the unstabilised kit lens that came on our review unit meant we had to use slightly slower shutter speeds, but upping the sensitivity didn’t have too detrimental an effect on noise levels. At ISO 3200, we found shots were perfectly usable, and even at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 noise wasn’t horrendous. It’s a far cry from its predecessor, the NX100, whose poor performance in low light made shooting indoors without flash all but impossible.

And that lens is pretty good too, despite the lack of stabilisation. It’s the same pop-out unit that came with the NX100 when we reviewed it a year or so back, and it proved just as good: sharp across the frame, distortion-free at wide angle and with an impressively low incidence of chromatic aberration.

Performance, on the other hand, is middling. The NX200 will go from off to snapping its first shot in two seconds, but shot-to-shot time for RAW and JPEG files is a lengthy 1.6 seconds (it will only shoot four frames in RAW before the buffer fills up). There’s also a mode that captures 7fps for seven full-resolution RAW frames or 11 JPEG frames, which sounds impressive. However, the autofocus isn’t fast enough to keep up, and subjects moving towards the lens or away from it simply stop the NX200 in its tracks. Worse still, once the camera snaps a sequence of seven RAW shots, it then takes a further 39 seconds to process those photos, during which time it’s completely unresponsive to input.

Details

Price ex VAT £383
Price inc VAT £460
Overall rating 5
Performance 3
Features & Design 4
Image quality 5
Value for Money 5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 20.3mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 2.5x
Camera maximum resolution 5472 x 3648

Weight and dimensions

Dimensions 117 x 25 x 63mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 320 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? no
Aperture range f3.5 - f5.6
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 100 - 12800
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 7.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type SD
Viewfinder coverage N/A
LCD resolution 614k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Tripod mounting thread? yes

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? no
Software supplied Intelli-Studio 3, Samsung RAW Converter 4