Samsung NX210

Samsung’s already proven its calibre in the compact system camera market with the latest 20.3-megapixel NX20 and NX1000 models.

Sandwiched in between those is the Wi-Fi-enabled NX210, a mirrorless camera similar to the NX1000 but with a hardier, more quality build.

Does the NX210 put enough extra on the table to make it a worthy purchase?

20.3-megapixels

Samsung’s 20.3-megapixel, APS-C sized sensor has already been proven to work a treat in NX210’s predecessor, the NX200, as well as the latest NX1000 and NX20 models. Its inclusion in the NX210 means that image quality is assured, but in the same breath it also means that the NX210 doesn’t add any image-quality bells and whistles to the features list above and beyond the more budget NX1000 model.

But there’s a lot to like about this sensor. It’s physically large and, therefore, the high megapixel count doesn’t have a detrimental impact on overall quality, it just means you get big, detail-packed shots. That physical size also makes it all the easier to achieve a pro-looking blurred background, which is further backed up by a wide range of top performing lenses including wide-aperture glass.

We couldn’t see any difference in image quality between the three current NX models, but that means the NX210 delivers bags of detail from ISO 100-800 with little colour noise to be seen. Even ISO 1600-3200 are decent enough to use, although JPEG processing smoothes out images, which makes them look a little softer overall. The top-end ISO 6400-12,800 sensitivities are pushing the limits, and it’s here that the high-resolution sensor finds its boundaries - not that we wouldn’t use the ISO 6400 setting, but it’s definitely one best avoided.

There’s an impressive amount of detail - just look at the 100 per cent crops in the image gallery at the bottom of the page - and exposures are usually on the money too. We still found that shots could dive inconsistently between different auto white balance settings however, but otherwise there’s little to moan about.

i-Function

If you’re new to the Samsung NX range then you may not have heard about its i-Function lens feature. This button, which appears on every NX lens, can be pressed for quick access to the major settings which can then be adjusted using the lens’s focus ring.

It’s one of those features that separates the NX-series from its competitors and, while it may sound like a small-to-do feature, it works very well in practice.

We only have two complaints in terms of the NX210’s implementation: first that the lack of a viewfinder, or ability to add one, doesn’t necessarily make best use of this feature; and second, the ongoing lack of a more extensive list of i-Fn settings. We do like the ability to customise which settings appear from within the main menu, but the list tops out with only five settings - we’d like to see a more extensive set, including autofocus type, continuous shooting modes and more.

Design

The main thing that sets the NX210 apart from the NX1000 is its build quality. This metal-bodied camera has a more pronounced grip than the NX1000 and its finish looks and feels far better in the hand.

But whether it feels £200 better is questionable, and this is one of the NX210’s sticking points for us. The £749 price tag is considerable, although it does also include a 3-inch AMOLED rather than LCD screen and comes boxed with the 18-55mm lens rather than the 20-50mm kit lens of the NX1000.

There’s still no facility to add an electronic viewfinder, a feature we would have liked to have seen - and a one we feel would help to segregate the NX1000 and NX210 more.

Performance

The NX210’s autofocus system is just like that in the NX20, and deals swiftly with most scenarios.

However, extended testing did reveal that the camera would struggle to focus in low light when the AF-illuminator lamp was deployed - instead the NX210 would more often than not opt to focus on higher-contrast areas, such as lights, in the background behind the subject. This resulted in plenty of out of focus night portraits.

Continuous autofocus, just like the NX20, is reasonable enough but – and this stands for all current compact system cameras on the market – just isn’t as quick as some DSLR or SLT systems when it comes to moving subjects. Snapping fast-moving subjects can therefore be an issue, despite a very decent eight frames per second single autofocus burst mode.

The NX200 was incredibly slow when it came to processing images, in particular raw files or bursts of shots, and this is one area that the NX210 has improved upon. However we wouldn’t call it a complete "fix", because after snapping away the camera will present you with a "processing" message that leaves you locked out of shooting or adjusting settings for several seconds.

This issue isn’t necessarily surprising, considering the huge resolution, but we’d still like to see the next generation of NX cameras sweep up this problem once and for all.

Wi-Fi

As we said in both our Samsung NX20 and NX1000 reviews, connectivity in cameras has the potential to be great, but it has to be easy to use for all and accessible from plenty of locations. The latter, at least in the UK, isn’t easy to solve without reaching into your wallet (though elsewhere in the modern world, free Wi-Fi is available in abundance).

The NX210’s dedicated Wi-Fi mode is featured on the main mode dial and, just like the NX20, therefore ensures the camera’s battery won’t take a hit when in other modes.

When in the Wi-Fi settings there are plenty of options to choose from: MobileLink for smartphone sync; remote viewfinder to use the smartphone to view what the camera’s seeing and trigger the shutter via a smartphone; and plenty of social sharing, storage and email options.

Wi-Fi is one of the NX210’s defining features that separates it from its NX200 predecessor. It’s a "nice to have" fun feature, but we don’t feel it's an essential in its current form - but the building blocks are in place and Samsung is heading in the right direction.

Verdict

The NX210 is an impressive compact system camera that relies on its mighty 20.3-megapixel APS-C sensor to deliver the goods. And deliver it does: images are not only large, but also detailed, in particular at the low-mid ISO settings.

But for all its good the NX210 isn’t staggeringly different from the budget NX1000, and its £750 price tag may seem steep for what is essentially a cosmetic improvement over the more budget model.

There are other issues too: it’s still not possible to add an electronic viewfinder, processing is slow, autofocus in low light isn’t there and the AF-illuminator lamp is often bypassed (even when deployed).

Of course all cameras have their issues. Ignore the NX210’s shortcomings and it’s really all about that excellent image quality. It’s that combined with the decent build quality that will sell the NX210.