Samsung NX300 review
A little bulky, but feature-packed and with dependable image quality, the NX300 has plenty to offer enthusiasts and beginners alike
The NX300 debuted at CES, back at the start of the year, and it's only now that the finished product is ready to ship. It sits at the very top of Samsung's compact system camera line-up, with a new 20.3-megapixel APS-C sensor, and marks the first time Samsung has used a fold-out screen on any of its NX cameras.
Bright and easy to use in direct sunlight, this 3.3in AMOLED display is a real winner. As well as being articulated, allowing you to tilt it up by 90 degrees and down 45 for hip-held or overhead shots, it's also touch-sensitive. The menus are standard Samsung fare, so are elegant and easily prodded, but if you prefer to rely on hardware controls, the most important features are accessible through the buttons.
Physically, the NX300 sits at the chunkier end of the scale, despite lacking an integrated EVF. You can downsize the 18-55mm kit lens for a shorter 20-50mm version (30.8-77mm equivalent) and save around £30 in the process, but you'll still have to accommodate a body that's almost as wide as an entry-level DSLR. It isn't hard to forgive this, though, as the space is well used, with the large screen around the back.
We performed our tests using the 18-55mm lens. This demonstrated slight focal fall-off towards the corners, and some obvious barrel distortion on the raw files, which was corrected for in JPEGs. There was slight evidence of chromatic aberration along sharp contrasts and fine lines, but it had no trouble with complex detail, keeping areas of dense texture – such as receding marsh grass and lichen-encrusted wood – sharp and detailed across the frame.
Maximum aperture runs to f/3.5 and f/5.6 at wide angle and telephoto respectively, and while experienced photographers will likely stick with regular aperture priority mode to tweak these, Samsung's new lens-priority option lets novice users achieve the same depth-of-field effects with a quick twist of the lens ring or swipe of the screen, without having to learn the nuts and bolts – a fantastically intuitive system.
The NX300 is a much faster camera than its predecessors, with combined phase detection and contrast autofocus locking onto a subject in 0.08 seconds, with no discernible hunting in good light. It's far faster than the sluggish Canon EOS M, which felt terribly ponderous in comparison. Burst mode delivers 8.6fps in JPEG mode, and the maximum shutter speed is 1/6,000 second.
For handheld shots, sensitivity stretches to ISO 25600, with compensation of three stops in either direction in 1/3EV increments. Low-light performance is good, with grain holding off as far as ISO 800, and remaining light even up to ISO 3200. We'd have no hesitation routinely pushing it towards the upper end of the scale to cope with low-light conditions, in preference to slowing the shutter or attaching the bundled external flash. Image quality is second to none, with accurate colours, superb detail and an almost complete absence of compression artefacts on JPEGs.
In addition to the usual scene modes, the NX300 has a couple of more unusual ones – for streaking headlights, blurred water and cityscapes. Like the lens-priority feature, this put amateurs and pros on an equal footing when it comes to shooting tricky subjects, with the pros most likely dialling in the settings themselves, and less experienced users using the shortcuts.
|Price ex VAT||£525|
|Price inc VAT||£630|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||6|
|Camera megapixel rating||20.3mp|
|Camera screen size||3.3in|
|Camera optical image stabilisation||in kit lens|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||122 x 41 x 64mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||320 shots|
|Aperture range||fUnknown - fUnknown|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/6,000|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||30s|
|Bulb exposure mode?||yes|
|RAW recording mode?||yes|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 3EV|
|ISO range||100 - 25600|
|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||9.0fps|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|