The Samsung NX10 hopes to capitalise on the headway hybrid cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GF1 and Olympus Pen E-P1 hybrid models have made, bridging the gap between a compact camera and a standard regular DSLR model. But has Samsung cracked it with the NX10? We managed to get a brief hands-on look with the new model at both the US and UK launch events.
The premise of this and other "hybrid" models is incredibly simple - people want the ability to take better pictures without having to lug around a bulky DSLR model that is unlikely to fit in their bag let alone their pocket.
Using some clever smoke and mirrors (or not as the case may be) Samsung, like Panasonic and Olympus, has removed the single lens reflex element allowing for a smaller body and one that is almost half the thickness of the company's now defunct GX20 DSLR model. In real terms that's 123 x 87 x 39.8mm (excluding the projecting parts of the camera) with a weight of 353g without batteries and card.
To get the main tech specs out the way, the NX10 offers a 14.6-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor with a 3-inch AMOLED screen, 720p HD movie recording functionality and the ability to change lenses just like a fully-fledged DSLR.
Put that tech and those dimensions into practice and you get a small, thin and well-moulded design that is comfortable to hold and therefore to shoot with. The only downside to the size is that unless you fit the camera with anything other than the 30mm pancake lens (there are several lens options) the lenses and accessories look rather oversized.
The rear of the camera is dominated by the 3-inch AMOLED screen that sits to the left of the usual array of buttons allowing you access the features of the camera. All the buttons are mapped out as you would expect and Samsung doesn't seem, in our brief play, to have thrown up any "crazies" here. Yes the Menu button is tucked out of the way on its own, but it's certainly no deal breaker.
The main button focus is found on the right-hand shoulder of the camera packed in as best as possible. It's a tight squeeze but it works fairly well with further shortcut buttons and the main controlling dial to access various scene modes and the like.
Elsewhere on the camera Samsung has bundled in a HDMI socket for connecting directly to a TV to share the love and a built-in pop-up flash with hot shoe attachment on top so you can connect an external flash as well. This being from Samsung, it also works with Anynet+, so if you have a Samsung TV, you'll be able to control the camera using the standard TV remote.
One up on both the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus Pen is the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder (EVF) as standard rather than as an optional extra. It's a positive move, meaning you don't have to fork-out extra cash on a viewfinder. It's an advantage that the Panasonic Lumix G1 and GH1 offer, although neither of those models are as compact.
Coming with interchangeable lenses there are a number of options to get the ball rolling. The standard entry-level offering is the 18-55mm with a 30mm pancake and 50-200mm lens completing the package. Samsung are quietly promising a further three lenses a year to make sure there is enough to entice people away from the Panasonic and Olympus systems (who make a similar promise of additional lenses). The Pentax K-mount adapter will work here, but because it's just a device for physically mounting your K-mount lens to the NX10 body it will have an impact on controls.
You won't be able to use a previous-generation flash either, so if you are after more advanced flash photography, you'll have to buy one from the new system.
Unfortunately while we were able to take pictures and video on both occasions in the US and the UK, we weren't able to take those pictures away. We'll have to wait until we get a final review unit in March to examine the quality of images and the HD video the NX10 produces.
But with a range of technologies including the company's new DRIMe II Pro engine and advanced AF algorithm it should perform. Samsung is also touting something it is calling Smart Range that works in a similar way to HDR, picking out the highs and lows of an image so bright spots aren’t saturated and dark spots aren’t too dark.
Samsung's a late entrant to the hybrid - as it calls it - market and because of that we would have expected something with a little more wow. The lack of connectivity between this and its previous DSLR offerings, certainly in terms of lenses and accessories will annoy those who've already signed up for the previous Samsung systems, but the same could be said of Micro Four Third rivals too.
The Samsung NX10 isn't just another Micro Four Thirds clone, however. There is enough here to differentiate it from Panasonic and Olympus rivals despite setting out with the same ambitions. You don't get the retro styling, but the NX10 looks like it will be lighter in your pocket.
The real deciding factor will be performance and image quality, so we are looking forward to putting the Samsung NX10 through its paces when we get a final unit.
The NX10 is expected to be available in the UK in March.