Samsung’s entry in to the DSLR marketplace came by rebadging Pentax DSLRs and allows the company to build a corner in the market from which it can attempt to expand its market share. Samsung threw money at building its compact model market share and it has worked and Samsung assured us that it will develop its “own” DSLRs in the near future and already the GX10’s update, the imaginatively named GX20 has been announced.
So, it is not before time that the GX10 arrived on my desk and on the face of it, the camera is identical to the Pentax K10D on which it is based. Advantages are the camera has a massive lens range to adopt with an even bigger installed lens base as all KA and KAF2 optics can be used.
Build is tough with key camera seals proofed against ingress of dirt and moisture including the SDHC external storage port on the camera’s right side. The 10.2-megapixel sensor boasts a sensor cleaning system that unfortunately clearly does not work properly.
Each time the camera’s turned on the thing vibrates rapidly as the sensor cleaning cycle struts its stuff, so you know quite clearly it is working as an option in the easy to follow – and use – menu system, displayed on the camera’s 2.5-inch colour screen.
However, the review sample I had has both the dirtiest sensor I’ve ever encountered, so it has clearly been round the block a few times, and the system simply fails to tackle any of that dirt. It would be unfair to be overly harsh on the camera at this point given the number of photojournalists that have (probably) used it but it does indicate the sensor cleaning system needs a bit of a revamp. When I get the GX20, (hopefully in a more timely manner than this model) I’ll be able to find out.
Other key equipment includes a CCD-shift anti-shake system that does work and provides around two tops of extra exposure hand hold-ability, which should never be sniffed at but that will never replace a tripod.
Shutter speeds run from a useful 1/4000th-sec to 30-seconds and you get a Bulb mode too while the sensitivity control on offer runs from ISO 100 to ISO 1600 with a sensitivity priority mode so that you adjust the sensitivity and the camera automatically adjusts both the shutter and aperture to get an as-metered exposure.
This mode works just like aperture and shutter priority modes (you set one, the other is adjusted automatically) but you also get another marvellous mode the TAV setting, a combined shutter and aperture priority mode that allows you to set the desired aperture and shutter combination with the camera adjusting the sensitivity to a setting suitable to get a correctly as-metered exposure.
But that’s not the only funky feature, a direct RAW button means if you’re not already using the RAW or RAW+JPEG simultaneous shooting options at the press of a button (it’s on the camera’s front-left lens mounting) you can activate the RAW mode without ever having to slow down by dipping into menus.
You also get Dynamic RAW shooting for up to nine frames at 3-fps and Direct RAW Editing that allows you edit RAWs in camera without a computer where you can adjust image tones, pixel count, picture quality, the auto white balance, ISO, sharpness, contrast, and saturation then save them as a JPEG.
In terms of focus performance, the AF utilises 11-AF zones and the AF is both zippy and accurate. Metering can be prioritised to the AF point in-use as well. Metering performance is pretty good although I found that it would struggle on some scenes where the predominant part of the lower part of the scene was dark, here it seemed to overexpose the lighter areas, even if using the 16-zone evaluative meter, seemingly as though it was over-biased towards the centre part of the scene.
While the camera’s LCD is clear and bright, but a little too reflective in direct lighting, the smallish viewfinder houses a “proper” pentaprism (rather than the typically dimmer pentamirror set ups found on similarly priced competing models) so it’s crisp and clear if still a tad gloomy for my liking.
Other controls include the single mode dial to the pentaprism and built-in pop-up flash’s left (on the top plate) across the other side you find a large data LCD, the shutter button and its enclosing on/off/depth of preview control and the camera’s Green button that resets the exposure settings at the press of the button or, helpfully, in manual shooting sets the camera to an appropriate exposure mode.
On the rather cluttered back plate, you find a host of other controls both in terms of viewing controls (for the LCD) and shooting options such as the exposure compensation control, focus point selection ring (auto, select or central points) that surrounds the four-way jog and “OK” buttons. The anti-shake system can be switched on and off via a clear, large, switch and there’s the memory card port open button too.
An auto exposure lock sits helpfully on the camera’s right shoulder while an “Fn” function button allows you quick access to settings such as ISO, white balance, flash, and drive modes. More of this camera’s more advanced features include a multiple exposure control for two to nine exposures and a comprehensive set of custom modes for tailoring the camera to how you want, prefer or need.
So with all this kit how does the camera do at the things it has been designed for - creating images? I’ve already mentioned a slight metering foible where it seems to have a propensity to underexpose and I’ve already mentioned the excellent and speedy focusing set up. In terms of colour and white balance it does rather well, but with images seemingly oversaturated in terms of greens and blues if I was going to be picky.
Detail is excellent and noise control is good; shooting at sensitivities up to ISO 400 noise is not an issue, at ISO 800 and above even at the top ISO 1600, setting noise is noticeable but it is not overwhelming.
The Samsung GX10 provides a nice balance between features, robust build, and usability. In truth, there are features within this camera (and by extension the Pentax K10D on which it is based) that would normally be the preserve of higher end semi-pro models so for the price it is a bargain. Just watch out for that dirt getting onto the sensor.
A competent and well-specified DSLR supported by Pentax’s massive system of accessories and lenses provides great results and super build and should be high on the list of those wanting an advanced comprehensively specified DSLR on a budget.