Every CES brings something exciting at the upper end of Samsung’s camera range. Last year, it was the almost pocket-sized NX300; this year it’s the more traditional dslr-wannabe NX30, with a reinvented sensor and super-bright fold-out 3in AMOLED touchscreen.
Compare and contrast
Samsung has stuck with 20.3 megapixels on an APS-C chip – common to all NX cameras – and added the same phase/contrast AF system that debuted on the NX300, combining 105 phase detect with 247 contrast-detect points. Focusing is down to less than 0.08 sec, whether you’re half-pressing the shutter release or tapping the touchscreen. Opt for the latter in any of the semi-manual modes and you can drag out a second point from your focus point, which is used to set the exposure.
There’s a digital viewfinder above the screen with a proximity sensor that detects your eye and switches between the two. Again, it’s bright and sharp and has an extending, articulated arm that lets you tip it up so you’re looking down, rather than forwards, as you would on an old-style analogue camera. Working this way is extremely comfortable – particularly if you’re shooting still life or seated portraits.
Samsung has also slimmed down the filter in front of the sensor so it blocks less light, and set maximum sensitivity at ISO 25600. You can safely take the NX30 as far as ISO 1600 with only minor grain, even when shooting in raw, and while the noise does become increasingly obvious from that point on we’d have few reservations taking it to the max on shots we were happy to desaturate, as there’s plenty of detail. If you need to push things further, exposure compensation gives you an additional three stops in either direction, broken down into 1/3EV steps.
Aside from when we forced it towards the top of the range, we performed most of our tests with the NX30 set to aperture priority with automatic sensitivity, and it consistently kept to the lower end of the scale. Of 286 test shots, almost half were exposed at ISO 100, even when shooting inside a museum, without the camera forcing so long an exposure that we needed a tripod. Overall, close to 90% came in at ISO 800 or below, for a clean set of results all round. Colours were realistic, there was plenty of contrast and images were bursting with texture and detail in everything from cut stone to natural wood and foliage.