First Look: Samsung NX100 review

Are you looking for our full review of the Samsung NX100? If so, you can find it here.

The overall first impressions the Samsung NX100 for us is one of disappointment. To be fair to the camera, anything was going to be a bit of a let down after Sangkin Park’s pep rally to the gathered world press on the first day of Photokina 2010.

As soon as you get close to the NX100, you realise it is neither that pretty, nor does it feel very good in the hand despite the glossy publicity shots and vaguely eco allusions to a dew drop falling off a leaf. As we were told at the press event, it is made largely of plastic - high quality durable plastic the like of which no other manufacturer uses - but still plastic. It makes it look and feel cheap in comparison to other mirrorless hybrid cameras - think of the Olympus Pens and Sony NEX cameras all of which certainly feel like quality weighty solid lumps of metal, even if they're not.

So, as for the first bite, you have to say that the Samsung NX100 doesn't make it over the hurdle.



The next thing you'll notice is that the buttons and controls aren't arranged particularly well. They're also mostly too small - certainly for our hands anyway. The biggest crime though is that they're just not in the right place for how the grip has been designed for your fingers to naturally hit - the jog wheel mounted on top of the chassis being the biggest culprit. To be fair, it might just be that it's one of those things that takes getting used to and will feel natural a month down the line.

What really didn't sit well on first look, though, was that much hyped i-Function button and focus ring combo. It’s just too fiddly. The focus ring works well on compacts like the PowerShot S90 because you assign a single function to it and then you’re off. When you have to think about what that function is each time it just adds a layer of complication too far. What’s more, the i-Function button isn’t all that easy to hit without looking for it with your eyes - which rather defeats the whole object. By the time you’ve gone through all the options and had to move your fingers from where they naturally grip anyway, you may as well have just gone into the menus with the buttons on the back. Were there a decent viewfinder, it might still be worthwhile but there isn’t one included and the accessory viewfinder is, well, horrible, largely owing to its minuscule size. It’s like trying to compose a shot through a keyhole.



Acidic nasties to one side, if you can manage to train your hands and brain to get down with the ways of the i-Function button and ring, you’re in for a treat. The graphic display on the screen is very good and mimics a very pleasing digital representation of an old rangefinder dial. It’s just that the whole system is going to take more getting used to than the Samsung marketing department might suggest.

While pretty much the entire body and external workings of the of the NX100 is disappointment after let down, there is one big shining light in the shape of the 3-inch display on the rear: it’s AMOLED. What this means is that there’s an excellent viewing angle, useful when showing friends and family your shots, and it’s also low power as well. It should offer some pretty spectacular colour reproduction but it didn’t really knock our socks off on the show floor. That might have something to do with the rather artificial light one finds at trade fairs.



Once we got down to the nitty gritty of taking shots, the NX100 performed with all the versatility it’s supposed to. There’s plenty of options to drill down through in the menus, the burst rate is acceptable at 3fps, if not electric - and rather short lived with just batches of 6 at full res - and the AF is indeed really very quick. It’s not crazy, unbelievable, "I’ve never seen anything like it" quick, but it is quick.

What was a real treat though was the manual focus. Most people might rather persist with AF even if it misses 8 times in a row but do make sure to use it if you decide to buy yourself a Samsung NX100. You can use the jog wheel to fine tune things to make your shots super sharp and, when the camera senses you doing so, it digitally zooms in to make the process much easier before automatically zooming back out again. Very neat and very useful.

As for the rest of our demands, the mirrorless machine from Samsung did a decent job but the real test of this thing is when Pocket-lint gets a chance to use it outside of very well lit rooms in Cologne and when we can view the results after on a decent computer screen, when we give it a full review.

Verdict

Make no mistake. The Samsung NX100 is one of the least aesthetically and ergonomically appealing mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras we’ve ever held. It’s not a carbuncle like the Panasonic GH series but it’s not a stunner either. You’re not going to be the envy of any Olympus Pen or Sony NEX owners in terms of style despite the obvious hard work Samsung has put into that area. The difference though is that the NX100 will probably cost a little less than the brand new models from the other companies.

What’s also rather concerning is that there’s a hell of a lot at your fingertips. Now, that’s good on the one hand but we can also imagine a lot of people, who are trying to make the step up from point and shoot, left a little to flounder. There really needs to be some kind of guide system or software, the likes of which you get in the low end Nikon DSLRs, otherwise keen beginners might never dare to delve much deeper.

However, despite all our criticisms, we find it hard to believe that you’re not going to get really good results out of the NX100. The spec sheet is impressive and it is great that Samsung has managed to cram all that in such a small body. So, if, and we stress if, you have the time and patience to get used to holding and operating it a certain way, it could be a winner.