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Samsung NX10 By Renaud Labracherie

After more than a year of waiting, Samsung's first compact digital camera with interchangeable lenses has finally made it to the stores.

Leaving bulky SLRs behind,

Samsung has crafted a smaller camera which still has a room for the same big APS-C sensor you'd find in an SLR and the ability to choose different lenses according to your needs. Handling At first sight, it seems that Samsung didn't want the NX10 to be a complete break from tradition, and parts of the design are close enough to a traditional SLR to not put off photographers who have understandably become attached to certain features. In general, the whole shape of the camera reminds us of a downsized SLR, with a real handle and a viewfinder crowned by a pop-up flash. It's a very different aesthetic to the more blocky, reduced form factor of the micro fourthirds cameras like the Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic GF1. The NX10 is thin, and with the 30 mm f/2 pancake lens attached, it slides easily into a large pocket or a small bag. It's less portable with the 18-55 mm lens on, but is still easily lighter and smaller than any SLR you care to name.


It handles wonderfully, and the outside, although finished in plastic, has a certain quality feel about it.

Overall, our impressions were pretty positive and the finish has been well

crafted. Putting our eye up to the electronic viewfinder didn't spoil things either: as soon as you bring the camera up to your face, the view switches from the screen to the viewfinder and the quality that's on offer is far from shameful. Although the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus Pen E-P2 clearly show a lot more detail in their own electronic viewfinders, it's still a treat to use and a long way ahead of what you can find in any of today's bridge cameras. The display is fluid and the dynamic range wide enough to give you details in both high and low light areas. In the shadows, it updates fluidly, but the image suffers from a lot of noise and is generally rather dark, making lining up your shot fairly tricky. If you don't want to use the viewfinder, the AMOLED screen represents a real alternative: it's fluid and has plenty of detail, the viewing angles are very wide, contrast is high, blacks deep and energy consumption low, helping to prolong your battery life. When light levels fall, it's a better choice than the viewfinder, and is sure to become a trusty friend in tricky situations. In bright sunlight, the anti-glare coating works almost too well and unless you're looking straight at the screen, the display soon looks too pale. We are eagerly anticipating a version with a flip-out screen to make more challenging shots possible.

Samsung has included a relatively traditional interface, but with a lot of controls, including a selection dial to choose your exposure mode, a scroll wheel for adjusting settings, a four-way directional control and a host of dedicated shortcuts.

On screen, the menus are clear and

straightforward, although the number of options remains limited. We were disappointed not to find a contextual help system to explain the various features. While we're on the subject of minor irritations, it's a shame that there are no dedicated controls for accessing video mode. Responsiveness


Overall, the NX10 is fast and very pleasant to use. Switching it on is very fast, once you've managed to switch off the automatic sensor cleaning (which it's impossible to interrupt once it's started). The autofocus gets close to, but doesn't really rival, the performance of an entry-level SLR. It's very fast when light levels are good, and as good as Panasonic's G range cameras, but it begins to come unstuck when it has less light to work with. Photos are saved quickly, even when you're using 14 Megapixel RAW files, and the burst mode at three photos per second lives up to its promise. Image Quality Now that we've covered the two tricky areas of the electronic viewfinder and the autofocus, let's look at the quality of the photos produced by the NX10. Such a large sensor means you get better control of soft focus backgrounds than you'd expect from a compact, as well as less electronic noise. In practice, that means you can take photos up to 800 ISO without too many problems, and even go up to 1600 ISO if you're careful. Still, we recommend you avoid the maximum sensitivity of 3200 ISO, where blurriness is too much of a problem.

The NX10 has a slight tendency to under-expose photos, and most regular viewers will find its colours, with very saturated tones, very flattering. The 30 mm lens produces good, sharp photos, even at maximum aperture, without introducing too much chromatic aberration.

Samsung

decided against including stabilisation in the camera itself (unlike the GX SLRs), so you'll have to make do with stabilisation from the lens, including, for instance, the 18-55 mm. The optical stabilisation on this particular lens worked relatively well and produced a stable portrait at 1/5 s. Video Samsung's NX10 has a 720p HD video mode that produces .MP4 files using the AVC compression (H.264). Sound is recorded in mono, and there isn't a mic input or a headphone output, which


makes it tricky to use for filming an interview. Continuous autofocus keeps on going (once you've turned it on), but often struggles and the movement of the lenses could be more fluid.


Samsung NX10