Cameras

Samsung NX100 Digital Camera Review

An interesting camera that's cheap, and takes good pictures, but missing features make it a poor pick.

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Introduction

The NX100 is an interesting interchangeable lens camera that is cheap and takes good pictures, but the missing features (flash, viewfinder and image stabilization) make it a poor pick.

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Bottom

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Top

Top Tour Image

Size Comparisons

In the Box

Box Photo

As well as the camera and the kit zoom lens, the box contains:

  • USB cable
  • BP1310 1300 mAh rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Software CD-ROM
  • User manual
  • neck strap

Although it is not included with the camera by default, many dealers are including a separate flashgun with the camera.

Color Accuracy

We found that the NX100 did a decent, but not spectacular job at capturing the 24 colors of our test chart. These colors (shown below) represent the range of colors found in the real world, and we test to see how accurately a camera can capture this range of colors. The NX100 had acceptable accuracy with most colors, but struggled with some, particularly the purples and yellows.

Click here for more on how we test color

The NX100 offers a number of different color modes (described below), but we found the most accurate was the standard mode.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Color Modes

The NX100 offers nine color modes, called picture wizards: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm and Classic. You can see examples of six of these modes below, and the complete range in the Picture Effects section. The names are pretty self explanatory, with Retro producing an old film look, and Classic producing black and white images. Each picture wizard can be adjusted for color, saturation, sharpness and contrast, but the examples below and in the Picture Effects section of this review were shot at the default settings.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Long Exposure

If you are shooting in really low light, you need to crank up the exposure time. This really tests a camera, as long exposures give more time for noise to gather on the sensor. So, we test all interchangeable lens cameras by shooting a series of long exposure images, from 1 second to 30 seconds exposure time. We found that the NX100 did well in this test: although image noise was fairly high in the test images at 1 second, it fell as the shutter speed increased.

Related content

Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

We found that the color error of the images stayed remarkably consistent across the range of shutter speeds: there was no major shift in the colors on our test chart.

We found that the long exposure noise reduction made a considerable difference: the noise was much lower with it enabled. The noise was fairly high with a shutter speed of 1 second, but it fell significantly at the longer shutter speeds: presumably some other form of noise reduction is being enabled between 1 and 5 seconds.

Noise

Noise is a concern on cameras like the NX100. The smaller the image sensor, the more prone it may be to capturing noise in the image alongside the real thing. We found that the NX100 did a decent job in keeping the noise low, but it becomes a serious issue at ISO levels above ISO 800.

Click here for more on how we test noise.

The NX100 offers only two settings for high ISO noise reduction: on and off. We tested the NX100 in both settings, and found that, as the name suggests, turning this setting on reduced the noise at higher ISO levels, although the difference between on and off was not huge. Noise was passable up to ISO 1600, but above that, it became significant and adversely affected the image quality. We did find a slightly odd result at ISO 3200: the noise there was slightly lower than at ISO 1600, presumably because the camera is doing some other form of processing that reduces the noise slightly.

As part of our tests, we look at the amount of noise in the individual color channels to determine if there is any one color that is more prone to noise, but we found that, with the high ISO noise reduction turned off, the noise was pretty consistent between colors and in the luminance channel.

If we compare the performance of the NX100 with the noise reduction turned off, we found that the NX100 was a reasonable performer: the noise with the high ISO NR off is consistent with other cameras. However, we suspect that the camera is still doing some noise reduction, as the noise level drops at ISO3200.

Comparing the cameras with the noise reduction at its maximum settings (for the NX100, that was with the noise reduction turned on), we find that again it is quite consistent with the general pattern that we see.

ISO

The NX100 offers an ISO range of 100 to 3200, with an option to expand this to 6400 by enabling the ISO expansion. That's a decent range, but it lags behind the higher ISOs that some other cameras offer, such as the 25600 ISO maximum of the Sony SLT-A55. But, given the noise in images that we saw in the tests above, perhaps this is for the best. The examples shown below are taken with the high ISO NR on.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

Our resolution tests are not based on the megapixels of the camera, but on the sharpness and other issues in the captured images. There is no point in having a high megapixel count camera if the images it produces are soft and fuzzy because the lens it uses is poor. The performance of a camera in these tests is very much dependent on the lens: we tested the NX100 with the kit lens that it is sold with, a 20-50mm zoom lens. This lens seems to be the main issue here: the camera seems to be capable of capturing sharp images, but the lens doesn't have the optical quality.

Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

Our first test looks at the distortion that the lens introduces into the image. Because cameras like the NX100 offer interchangeable lenses, this test doesn't count towards the final score. We found that the 20-50mm kit lens of the NX100 had very low distortion, only distorting the image by about 0.5 percent at the longest zoom setting, which is barely noticeable. Below are examples from our test shots that show this distortion.

Chromatic Aberration ()

We did find that the 20-50mm zoom lens introduced some chromatic aberration into the image, particularly at the smallest aperture setting for the lens (f/22). Chromatic aberration shows as a slight colored fringe on sharp edges, and it was particularly evident at the edges of the frame, as you can see from the sample crops below.

Sharpness ()

This chromatic aberration was also accompanied by a significant fall in the sharpness of images at the smallest aperture. Although images were nice and sharp at the widest and mid aperture (even at the edges of the frame), the sharpness across the frame was much lower at the smallest aperture, particularly at the widest zoom setting. Our bottom line recommendation is that with the kit lens, you should avoid using the widest zoom and smallest aperture if possible.

Shooting at the widest 20mm zoom setting, we found that the NX100 took pretty sharp shots at the wide and medium aperture settings. However, things we much less sharp at the smallest setting: here, the entire image was somewhat soft.

The same pattern was evident in the middle of the zoom range: decent sharpness at the wide and mid apertures, but a rather soft image at the smallest aperture.

The fall in sharpness at the smallest aperture was less pronounced at the telephoto end of the zoom range, but it was still somewhat disappointing.

Picture Quality & Size Options

The NX100 offers a wide range of image size and quality settings, with 14 image sizes (see below) and three JPEG quality levels: Super Fine, Fine and Normal. RAW image capture is also supported, with images saved in Samsungs own SRW format at 14 megapixel resolution.

Dynamic Range

The dynamic range of a digital camera indicates how wide a range of shades a camera can capture. The wider the dynamic range is, the better it will be at capturing both shadow and highlight details in images that give a more natural feel to a picture. In our tests, we found that the NX100 had a decent dynamic range, but it was not as wide as some cameras: the Canon T2i captured an additional two stops, which is a significant difference that will make images look more realistic. The dynamic range also fell off quickly as the ISO increased.

Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

In the chart below, we show the dynamic range at all of the ISO levels supported by the camera. As the ISO increases, the dynamic range decreases, partly because the increasing noise in the images leads to some lost shadow detail. The NX100 doesn't have a particularly wide dynamic range at low ISO levels, and this does not change at higher levels, falling to a rather small 2.66 stops at the maximum ISO level of 6400.

Image Stabilization

The NX100 does offer image stabilization, with an optical image stabilization system that moves an element of the lens to compensate for camera shake. However, this is not included on the kit lens that is supplied with the camera, so we did not run this test, and the NX100 gets a zero score here. For reference, we found that the NX10 (which includes a lens that does offer image stabilization) performed well in this test. Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

White Balance

The color of objects in photos depends on the characteristics of the light that is illuminating it: called the white balance. Your eye automatically adapts to different lighting, and your camera has to do the same, which is what we test here. We illuminate a color chart with three light sources: simulated daylight, a flourescent tube and a tungsten light similar to the incandescent bulbs in your house. We take photos using both the auto white balance feature of a camera and the custom white balance, where the camera gets to sample and judge the light before the photo is captured.

Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance ()

We found that the NX100 did a very good job of judging the white balance of the light in our tests using the auto white balance feature.

The chart above shows the color error that we found with the NX100 in auto white balance mode with our simulated daylight. The NX100 did pretty well here: the error is very small and most people are unlikely to notice it.

Incandescent light posed more of an issue for the NX100: the color error in this test was larger and is visible in our test images. However, most cameras seem to struggle with this light source, so the NX100 is certainly not alone in having problems here.

Fluorescent light can confuse some cameras, but the NX100 had no problem getting the white balance almost spot on here.

Custom White Balance ()

For the custom white balance, we use the process outlined in the manual to set a custom white balance. For the NX100, this involved selecting the Custom Set option from the main menu, then pressing the Fn button. At the cameras prompt, we put a white object into the frame (we use a white balance card), lined it up so the measuring area (about an eighth of the screen) is over this object and pressed the shutter. This process only produced middling results, though, with the camera again failing to get a grasp on the incandescent light. For this test, we expect the camera to produce more accurate results than the auto test.

White Balance Settings

The NX100 offers a good selection of white balance controls, including the usual full auto mode and seven presets, plus a custom mode and a direct entry mode where you enter the color temp in degrees Kelvin. The list of presets includes three different types of fluorescent tubes.

Playback Mode

The basic viewing options here are simple but nicely designed, and the beautiful OLED screen makes the playback process particularly pleasurable.There are three screen display options, toggled by pressing the DISP button repeatedly. Images can be magnified up to 7.2x, or zoomed out to show 9 or 20 images on screen at a time

A smart album feature is available during playback, accessed by pressing the button ordinarily used to set drive mode. This can group the files into three categories, by date, week or file type (i.e., stills or movies), indicated by a strip along the bottom of the screen. This is useful if you want to group all your movie files together, but is somewhat crippled by poor design: there's no shortcut to jump quickly from date to date or week to week. Instead, you have to use the scroll wheel or four-way controller to tediously scroll through each individual file.

The slide show utility has one feature that's particularly useful. You can create groups of images to be included, and save up to three groups. You can also pick a particular date (but not a range of dates) to show images from. The fancy visual effects (two choices) and background music (only one tune) are too aggressively busy for our tastes, but they can be disabled.

Movie playback lets you pause, rewind, fast forward and adjust the volume during playback, but doesn't let you move frame by frame, or jump immediately to the beginning or end of a clip.

Software

The NX100 comes with two programs for Windows users. The image organizing and editing program is genuinely useful and delivers some entertaining effects and projects. The RAW converter is powerful but potentially intimidating. Mac users only get the RAW converter program: they will have to use other programs (such as iPhoto) to edit and catalog photos.

Direct Print Options

The DPOF system allows you to tag your files for printing at an outside service bureau, specifying which images you want printed, how many of each and at what size. There's also an option to request an index print of thumbnail images, which we always like to see. What's missing is the option to have date and/or file name information imprinted on the images, which is a fairly standard DPOF feature.

The PictBridge utility, which lets you output photos directly to a compatible printer without using a computer, is a full-featured and easy to use implementation. You can pick which photos to print, specify the size, printing quality, paper type, and whether you want the date or file name printed. You can have more than one image printed on a sheet of paper, and generate index prints.

Sensor

The NX100 is built around a 23.4 by 15.6mm CMOS image sensor, which has 15.1 total megapixels, which takes 14.6 megapixel images. This sensor is a little bigger than the rival micro four thirds cameras, which have image sensors that measure 17.3 by 13mm, but a similar size to cameras like the Canon T2i. The theory is that the larger sensor picks up less noise than the smaller micro four thirds camera sensors. To see if this is true, see the noise section of this review. The image sensor uses a super sonic dust removal system, which uses high frequency vibrations to shake off dust.

The image sensor is controlled by a Venus HD image processor chip, which Samsung claims will enable it to shoot 3 frames a second.

Viewfinder

There is no viewfinder built into the NX100: images are previewed and shown on the 3-inch OLED screen. An optional electronic viewfinder is available: the imaginatively named EVF-10, which costs $199, and attaches to the flash hot shoe (Samsung calls this the Smart Shoe), and the electrical connection below it on the back of the camera.

LCD

The NX100 has an impressive screen on the back of the camera body: a 3-inch AMOLED screen with a 461k resolution. We found this to be very clear and bright, with good color and sharp detail. We did find that it is less visible in daylight, though, which could be a problem if you are heading to the beach or the ski slopes: you will really need the optional viewfinder then, which makes the camera larger, more awkward and more expensive.

LCD Control Panel

There is no secondary screen on this camera: you do not get an LCD screen on the top of the camera body that shows shooting settings as you do with many larger SLRs.

Flash

Unusually, the NX100 does not include a flash. As with the viewfinder, this is available as an option: the SEF15A flashgun costs an extra $149.99 (although some of the camera dealers are bundling this flash gun with the NX100). This increases the bulk of the camera significantly, making it much larger than a comparable point and shoot camera. Some dealers are also bundling the flash with the camera, which makes sense.

Lens Mount

The NX100 uses Samsungs own NX lens mount, which is only compatible with lenses made by Samsung themselves. At the moment, only a handful of lenses are available that use this mount, but Samsung are releasing more. At the time of writing, the range goes from a 10-17mm wide angle zoom out to a 50-200mm zoom. That is a decent range, but it is safe to say that the selection of lenses available for this camera will not be as wide as is available for other types of removable lens camera.

The examples taken below were shot with the 20-50mm zoom kit lens. Other lenses are available, ranging from a 10-17mm wide angle zoom to a 50-200mm telephoto zoom.

Battery

The NX100 gets its juice from the BP1310 battery that fits into the bottom of the camera body. This can hold about 1300mAh of charge, and Samsung claims this will offer a battery life of 420 shots or 210 minutes of video. We found that this is probably about right: we got a couple of days of serious shooting out of it before it needed recharging.

Memory

The NX100 captures images and video onto SD/SDHC memory cards. The newer SDXC type of cards are not currently supported. Samsung estimates that a 1GB SD card could hold about 423 JPEG images at the highest quality and image size.

Jacks, Ports & Plugs

The NX100 connects to the outside world through a number of ports under a cover on the left side of the camera body (looking from the back). These ports are (from the top) a USB/analog A/V output, a wired remote control, DC power input and a micro HDMI port. The HDMI port uses a standard connector, but the USB and analog A/V output port uses a proprietary connector.

Other Features

GPS - The NX100 does not include GPS as standard, but a GPS receiver can be added (the GPS10, which costs $199.99). This allows images to be tagged with a location, which can be used to sort or locate images on hosting services such as Flickr.

Shooting Modes

The NX100 offers a range of shooting modes, including the full selection of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual. In addition, there is a Smart Auto mode, a scene recognition system that attempts to identify the subject you're shooting and adjust camera settings accordingly. The Samsung version has more potential modes to work with than most similar systems, and was impressively accurate in matching modes to subjects.

A newcomer from the NX10 is the lens priority mode. The lenses are marked with the scene modes that are appropriate for the focal length, and you can change the mode by pressing the iFn button on the lens body and rotating the lens focus ring. The idea is that you can shoot and change modes without shifting your hands. The icons on the lens are merely for guidance, though: you can set the camera to any mode you want. This same approach can be used in the PASM modes to set shutter speed, aperture, exposure comp, white balance and ISO: press the iFn button and use the focus ring to select the setting and value.

Live View

The NX100 only does Live View: there is no way to see anything but a preview of the image captured by the sensor. There are three Live View display options. All have a black strip with white type along the bottom, mimicking the look of a traditional SLR viewfinder, listing the current shooting mode, shutter speed and aperture settings, exposure compensation, the number of remaining shots available and the battery level. The other information on the screen varies from mode to mode, though.

In the default mode, the camera shows a series of icons on the left and right side of the screen that show the current settings for the various options that can be set with a press of the OK button. Another press of the display button adds the date and time to the top of the screen, plus a histogram that shows the density range of the image. Another press of the display button gives you the third option, which is a clear view of the preview with only basic shooting info along the bottom of the screen : mode, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, card space and the battery status. Other options for the display include the ability to overlay a grid of either 2 by 2, 3 by 3 or two types of crosses to aid composition.

Scene Modes

The NX100 offers a very wide range of scene modes: 13 in all, shown below with Samsungs own explanation for the mode.

Picture Effects

The NX100 offers a set of nine 'picture wizard' settings, which affect color, saturation, sharpness and contrast, as shown in the samples below. There are also three custom picture wizard settings.

There is also a bracketing option for picture wizard settings. In this mode, you select three of the available picture wizard options and the camera takes one shot and saves three versions with the specified effects applied. We can see situations where this capability could prove useful, producing three different looks with no extra effort on your part.

The NX100 offers a number of what Samsung refers to as Picture Wizards, which are shooting modes that affect the colors, sharpness and overall look of an image. On each of these you can adjust color, saturation sharpness and contrast.

Focus

Like other mirrorless cameras, the NX10 relies on contrast detect autofocus, using data directly from the image sensor, rather than the faster SLR-style phase-detect autofocus, which uses a mirror to bounce light to a separate autofocus sensor. On the plus side, the NX10 autofocus feels about as fast as the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, which are significantly faster than the Olympus models. At the same time, if you're doing a lot of sports or nature photography, the hesitation between pressing the shutter halfway and acquiring focus is still irritating, especially if you're used to shooting with a conventional SLR. For less action-packed scenes, like photographing guests at a party, it won't be a problem.

The camera supports four focus modes:

Exposure

The exposure compensation range is ±3 EV, in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments. You can also use 3-shot exposure bracketing, with the same ±3 EV range. The camera takes all three sequential shots automatically when you press the shutter once – there's no option to pause between bracketed exposures.

Speed and Timing

The NX100 captures about 3 frames a second, but also offers a burst mode that captures more at the cost of reduced resolution.

Shot to Shot ()

Running in the continuous drive mode, we found that the NX100 could just about manage the claimed 3 frames a second, shooting at the full resolution of the camera. However, we did find it to be somewhat erratic: when we tested it with a Sandisk Extreme II SDHC memory card, it slowed down after 5 images and shot much slower, so we wouldn't rely on it for precisely timed sequences. If you need quicker shooting, there is a burst mode on offer as well.

Drive/Burst Mode ()

The NX100 offers the continuous shooting mode described above, plus a reduced-resolution burst mode which delivered very nearly the blazing-fast 30 shots per second promised on the spec sheet. This mode shoots at a lower resolution of 1472 x 976 pixels, and it is also a fixed length: one press of the shutter takes 30 shots, even if you only want a couple.

Depth of Field Preview

A depth of field (DoF) preview button is located on the left side of the camera body, next to the port covers. This provides a decent preview of the image, although it does get somewhat dull and jerky if you are using a small aperture.

Metering

Three metering modes are on offer.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed of the NX100 ranges from 1/4000 of a second out to a maximum of 30 seconds. A bulb mode is also available which keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold the button down, out to a maximum of 8 minutes.

Self-Timer

The NX100 offers the a self timer that can be set to any period between 2 and 30 seconds, in 1 second increments.

Handling

The NX100 is a slightly odd camera, looking rather like a point & shoot that grew too much. It is a little chunky as well: at just under 17 ounces, it is heavier than it looks, with the weight of the lens making it slightly unbalanced. It is bigger than a point and shoot, but smaller than most SLRs.

It fits well into the hand, though, with the shutter falling naturally under the index finger, while still leaving the control wheel within reach. The mode dial is a little far away for the thumb to reach if shooting one-handed, but it is easy to reach if you hold the camera with two hands. One handed shooting is possible, but the camera is better used with two hands: one on the shutter holding the body, and the other on the lens.

This two-handed design brings us to another new aspect of this camera: the iFn button. This button on the lens barrel allows you to control many settings by pressing the button and turning the focus ring. In the lens priority mode, you can use this to select a scene mode, control shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance and exposure comp in the PASM modes (you cycle through the controls with further presses of the iFn button). This means you can control a lot of the cameras functions without taking your hands off the lens, which makes it easier to control. It's a definite plus for this camera (and it can also be enabled on the older NX10 with a firmware update).

One thing we were not keen on was the matte covering of the case quickly picks up and shows greasy fingerprints. While it might look good in the showroom, it looks like a mess when it has been in the hand for a bit, picking up greasy fingerprints and other dust and dirt.

The NX100 has a very small raised area on the top front of the right side of the camera, which offers a limited area to grip with the right hand. Combine this with the weight of the camera and the smooth surface and the camera could easily slip out of the hand. So, using the included neck strap is important.

Handling Front Image
Handling Back Image

The NX100 in the hand from the front and back

Controls

Pressing the Fn button brings up the quick menu system, which focuses on shooting settings such as photo size and quality, auto focus area, flash control, metering, smart range (i.e., dynamic range adjustment), ISO and the picture wizard setting. For lenses without an optical image stabilization switch on the barrel but with the feature, OIS is also controlled from here.

Pressing the menu button accesses the main menu, which is a more conventional tabbed structure, with three tabs for shooting settings, one for control settings and five for other settings. All of the settings from the quick menu (such as ISO) are available here, as well as other settings, such as noise reduction, color space, etc.

On both types of menu, you can scroll through the options using the jog dial on the top of the camera or the scroll wheel around the directional pad. To select a feature or option, you press the OK button in the middle of the directional pad. Overall the system works well, with the quick menu providing access to the more frequently used settings, and the main menu holding everything else. The iFn feature discussed above also provides an interesting new way to access settings which is even quicker.

Main Menu Picture

The main menu (left) and the function menu (right)

Manual & Learning

The NX100 is accompanied by a well written and illustrated user manual, which discusses the features of the camera in detail. Good use is made of illustrations and photos within this to explain the more complicated features, such as the focus modes and Smart Range processing.

Video: Color Performance

The Samsung NX100 rendered most colors accurately in our bright light video testing, but the camera had significant trouble with green and certain yellow tones. As a result, the NX100 turned in a less-than-stellar color error of 4.22. That's not a bad score, though, it's just not a top-level performance.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.

Saturation levels on the NX100 hovered around 84%, which, again, is a fairly average performance. These results were obtained using the standard color mode on the camera, but there are plenty of other color presets (and custom color controls) that allow you to alter the color performance to your liking. In fact, using the Forest color mode on the NX100, we were able to obtain a color error of just 2.94 (a very good score). The other color preset options offered similar color error results to the standard color mode, although the Vivid option did boost saturation significantly.

Compared to the Samsung NX10, the NX100 had slightly worse color accuracy, but the two models had nearly identical saturation levels. You can compare the images produced by the two Samsung models, as well as those from the Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic G2, below.

Video: Noise Performance

The Samsung NX100 averaged 0.36% noise in our testing, and that's slightly less the amount of noise we measured on the Samsung NX10's image previously. Averaging less than 0.4% noise is very good, even for a video-capable DSLR.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.

In the crop above, you can see that noise isn't really the problem with the NX100's image. The real problem is blur, a lack of sharpness, and some interference that is creating discoloration and moiré patterns. This is similar to problems we saw from the Samsung NX10, but things actually look even worse on the NX100 (see crops above). The Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic G2 look very good in comparison, which doesn't bode well for Samsung.

Video: Motion Performance

If we had to pick one word to describe the NX100's motion performance we'd use "choppy". The camera did not capture smooth motion in our test, while it did do reasonably well in terms of limiting artifacting and motion blur. Still, the choppiness was so bad that we can't give the NX100 a pass in this test.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.

Video: Sharpness

The NX100 strongly disappointed us in our video sharpness test. The camera mustered a horizontal sharpness of 550 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 500 lw/ph, both of which are significantly lower numbers than the Samsung NX10 managed in this test. These are not good numbers, even for a camera that records 1280 x 720 HD video (all of the cameras we compared the NX100 to record video at a 1280 x 720 resolution).

The biggest problem with the camera's performance was the fact that it produced so much discoloration and moire patterns during our test. We've seen this issue before with video-capable DSLRs (the Nikon D90 comes to mind), but it is rarely this big of a problem with camcorders.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.

Video: Low Light Sensitivity

The Samsung NX100's results in our sensitivity weren't great, but they were the best of the video-capable DSLRs we compared it to. The NX100 needed 17 lux of light (that's 2 less lux than the NX10 needed) to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This is slightly more light than the average high-end consumer camcorder requires to reach the same light levels in this test and it's roughly on par with what the average mid-range camcorder needs.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.

None of the cameras in this set were particularly impressive in this test, as you can see from the table below. There also wasn't that much of a difference between the four models, as the sensitivity range fell between 17 lux (the NX100) and 24 lux (Panasonic G2).Since all of these models offer interchangeable lenses, keep in mind that you can alter the sensitivity of your camera by shooting video with a faster lens (a lens with a wider aperture setting). All of our testing data was obtained using the NX100's kit lens.

Video: Low Light Color Performance

The NX100 showed improvement in terms of color accuracy when we did our low light testing. The camera shaved more than one point off its color error score—down to 2.86—when we lowered the light levels as compared to its bright light color accuracy score. We were somewhat expecting this, though, as the Samsung NX10 did nearly the exact same thing. The NX100 also boosted its saturation level to 92.27% in low light.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance.

As you can see from the comparison images below, the NX100 produced a very dark image in our low light test. This matches what the NX10 produced in our same testing with that camera, but it didn't appear to negatively effect color accuracy or saturation level on the two camera's low light images. Still, some may not like this dark image effect, which means using a manual exposure boost may be necessary for Samsung NX100 (and NX10) owners.

Video: Low Light Noise Performance

Noise levels on the NX100 came to 1.34% in our low light testing, which is a tad higher than the Samsung NX10 measured. This is a decent noise level compared to what most camcorders score in this test, but it is an average score for an interchangeable lens camera.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.

As we saw in our bright light noise test, the NX100 has far more problems with its low light image than simple noise issues. Just look at the crop above and you'll see what we're talking about. The camera's low light image is a ugly collection of artifacting, blur, and discoloration (as well as noise). The NX100 even looks worse than the NX10, which is not a good sign (both cameras produced very bad low light images). Compare this to the Olympus E-P1, which had a noisier image, but retained a lot of sharpness and detail. We think it's low light image looks far better than either of the Samsung cameras. Same goes with the Panasonic G2, which had the cleanest image of the four cameras.

Video: Compression

The Samsung NX100 uses MPEG-4 compression, which is the same compression system used by Samsung on its HD camcorders. The difference with the NX100, though, is that it tops out with a 1280 x 720 resolution rather than Full HD (1920 x 1080, what most consumer HD camcorders record at). It is fairly common for compact DSLRs like the NX100 to lack a Full HD record mode, but that doesn't mean it doesn't bother us.

Not having a Full HD mode is a big deal, and it essentially limits how much detail and sharpness the NX100—and the other models we used as comparisons in this review—can capture in video mode. On the other hand, the NX100 does have two standard definition record modes, so you should be set if you want to record low-quality videos that are small and easy to share on the internet. There are also two quality settings to choose from when you record video: Normal and High Quality.

Video: Manual Controls

The NX100 does not have manual ISO or shutter speed control in video mode, but the camera is loaded with an aperture-priority video mode (that's better than nothing). This allows you to play around with depth of field with the camera, which is one of the primary benefits of using a camera to record video instead of a traditional camcorder.

Auto Mode

Auto exposure on the NX100 is choppy, and by that we mean the transitions aren't very smooth. Moving from light to dark scenes, we noticed a step-like transition taking place. It was subtle, but it was definitely there when you looked closely. A smooth, seamless transition is better, and that's something we look for in determining the quality of the auto exposure system.

We also noticed something funny with the camera set in aperture-priority mode. Even in this mode, we saw some slight exposure adjustments taking place, which we chalk up to the camera changing the shutter speed automatically. Usually, though, if you're in a manual mode like aperture-priority, the the exposure should not change unless you're changing the settings.

Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio

Zoom is controlled by rotating the zoom ring on the lens attached to the NX100. The amount of zoom you get is entirely dependent on what kind of lens you have attached to the camera. The kit lens is a 20 - 50mm lens, which doesn't get you much zoom (2.5x zoom).

Focus

The NX100 has auto focus, and this auto focus system even includes a continual auto focus option. The thing is, the continual autof ocus only works during video recording—and you have to activate it by pressing a hidden button on the left side of the camera. To top it all off, nowhere on the camera does a display pop up to let you know that you've turned on the live auto focus system. So, if you bump the left-side button accidentally you just have to guess as to whether or not that "bump" was hard enough to turn on the auto focus. That's not even poor design... it's just plain silly.

You can also perform a single auto focus with the camera by pressing the shutter button down half way (just like you would when taking a photograph). This is the preferred method if you have no reason to use the continual auto focus system. Speaking of the continual auto focus, the system also has the same faults we see on nearly all DSLR cameras: it is slow, noisy, and not always accurate.

Oh, we almost forgot. You can also go old-school with the NX100 and just focus manually using the lens ring. In fact, this may be the best option overall because it is quiet and it's the most precise. It just requires you to use your hands to rotate a ring and your eyes to make sure you've focused properly. If that's not too much work for ya, then you may want to try it sometime.

Exposure, Aperture and Shutter Speed

Exposure can be set manually on the NX100, but only prior to recording (you can't adjust once recording has begun). The camera has the standard exposure adjustment range (-3 to +3 in 1/3 EV steps) and it is fairly simple to adjust. We do want the freedom to adjust while recording is taking place, though.

Aperture can be set manually on the camera, but you have to put the NX100 into a special Aperture-priority mode within video mode (the other option is Program mode, which sets the aperture automatically). Unlike exposure, aperture can be set during recording, although the NX100's instruction manual makes it sound like this is not possible (the manual is wrong).

ISO and Other Controls

ISO is set to automatic control in video mode, but you can set white balance manually for videos (or choose from the variety of white balance presets). You also have access to the camera's extensive color adjustment controls in video mode and a built-in fader feature that adds a fade to the beginning or end of your clips.

Audio Features

The Samsung NX100 has the exact same set of audio features as the Samsung NX10, which is to say it doesn't offer much. There's no external mic jack or headphone port on the camera and there is no manual audio control (other than the ability to turn audio recording off). The built-in mono mic is also located on the top of the camera, which isn't the best locale for a mic to be. The NX100 does have a wind cut option, though, so if you're recording on a windy day you can turn this feature on to limit wind-related interference.

Video: Handling

The Samsung NX100 is compact for a video-capable interchangeable lens camera and the camera is a good amount smaller than the Samsung NX10. With its diminutive size, however, comes a problematic design. The camera has very little to grab onto when you hold it—no ridges or rough material to grip. The entire body of the NX100 is smooth and sleek, which doesn't bode well for video recording. It makes the NX100 hard to hold steady and easy to slip right out of your hand if you're not careful. There is a slight indentation and grip on the back of the camera where you can rest your thumb, but we want more.

Handling Front Image

The LCD is large and inviting on the NX100, but it is completely stationary, and that's a problem for video recording. A stationary LCD means you must crouch and crane in order to frame odd-angle shots within the screen. If the LCD could just tilt a bit this would be a huge help for video recording (particularly when shooting on a tripod).

Handling Back Image

The NX100 in the hand from the front and back

The LCD is large and inviting on the NX100, but it is completely stationary, and that's a problem for video recording. A stationary LCD means you must crouch and crane in order to frame odd-angle shots within the screen. If the LCD could just tilt a bit this would be a huge help for video recording (particularly when shooting on a tripod).

Navigating video mode is easy on the NX100 and most of that is thanks to the fact that the camera has a dedicated video setting on the mode dial. This means all the video controls are organized in a specific video menu rather than meshed in with the rest of the camera's controls. It's also easy for Samsung to keep things simple here because the camera doesn't offer much in the way of video features to begin with, and less features = less cluttered design.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i Comparison

The NX 10 and the NX100 are built around the same inner components: the same image sensor, image processor and other components. So, the differences between the two were minimal: the only significant difference we found that the NX10 had very slightly wider dynamic range.

Performance:

There is one important performance difference between these two cameras: the NX10 is sold with a lens that offers image stabilization, while the NX100 kit lens does not. So, we gave the NX10 a score of 0, while the NX100 managed a score of 4.16, indicating that the image stabilization was quite effective. We would expect that the NX100 would get a similar result if it was used with a lens that supported the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization system) that Samsung uses on these cameras.

Components:

Although both cameras use the same internal components, there are also some significant differences between the two cameras in the external ones. The NX10 offers both an electronic viewfinder and a built-in flash, while the NX100 offers neither. These can be added, but at extra cost, and only one one device can be connected at a time to the Smart Shoe on the top of the camera.

Handling:

The two cameras handle quite differently, with the NX10 offering a more conventional SLR design, with a large grip on the right side that the fingers wrap around. The NX100 only offers a slight bump here, so the grip is much less firm: combined with the smooth surface and the camera could easily slip out of the hand. So, using the included neck strap is important.

Controls:

The two cameras offer a similar control layout, with jog dials close to the shutter and a fairly minimal number of buttons on the back of the camera. The NX100 adds the innovation of the iFn button on the lens body, which provides another useful way to quickly access the shooting controls. Fortunately, Samsung is providing support for this with a firmware update to the NX10 that adds iFn support for those lenses that include it (which the kit lens it is sold with does not).

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Olympus PEN E-P1 Comparison

The T2i was the higher scoring camera in our tests on color and dynamic range, but the NX100 proved to be no slouch by taking the top spot in resolution and long exposure. Noise was pretty much a draw between the two, but neither camera overly impressed us in this test: both produced images that had visible noise at ISO levels of 800 and above.

Performance:

Both cameras proved capable of capturing high quality images, but had different strengths. The Canon had the superior color and a significantly wider dynamic range, which translates into capturing images that have a wider range of tones and are more visually arresting. It was also faster to focus than the Samsung, and focused better in low light. The Samsung shot better long exposure images and produced slightly sharper results, though.

Components:

The Canon is the clear winner here: it includes a longer zoom, a built-in flash and an optical viewfinder. These can be added to the Samsung, but at extra cost, and you can only have one device occupying the Smart Shoe slot at a time.

Handling:

The Canon is the larger camera, but that is sometimes a good thing: the larger body and grip gives you more to hold onto, so the T2i is much less likely to slip from your hands or tip when shooting. The NX100 is smaller, but it is surprisingly heavy, with a lot of weight on the left side, causing the camera to tip if you aren't holding on tight.

Controls:

Both cameras provide quick access to shooting controls, but the Canon is the easier camera to control overall, with a simpler menu structure that involves less scrolling around and less button pressing. The Samsung does offer the interesting iFn button on the lens body which allows you to control a number of features (such as ISO and white balance) using the combination of this button and the focus ring, so you can control these features without moving the left hand from the lens.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Comparison

In our tests, the two cameras were mostly evenly matched. However, there were some differences, with the Olympus getting a much higher score for color accuracy, while the Samsung had higher scores for resolution and dynamic range.

Performance:

Both cameras can capture decent images, but they also shared the same issues of significant noise (especially at higher ISOs) and low overall dynamic range. This means that images taken in low light will have blotchy patches of noise in them, and shadow detail won't be well resolved.

Components:

These two small cameras are more about what you don't get rather than what you do: neither includes a viewfinder or a flash by default, although both allow these to be added at an extra cost. Both offer 3-inch screens, but we found that the AMOLED screen of the Samsung was superior, showing more detail and better colors. Both allow you to swap out the lens, but the Olympus has the wider selection of lenses available, as it uses the Micro Four Thirds lens mount, which is supported by a number of manufacturers. The Samsung NX mount, however, is only used by Samsung, and only a handful of lenses are on offer.

Handling:

Small cameras can be somewhat awkward to hold, and neither camera handles as easily or comfortably as a larger SLR camera. However, we found the more solid construction and wider grip of the E-P1 to be superior to the slick surface and small grip area of the NX100.

Controls:

The majority of controls for both cameras are of the on-screen variety rather than dedicated buttons, which keeps the cameras simpler. The Samsung does offer the interesting iFn button on the lens body which allows you to control a number of features (such as ISO and white balance) using the combination of this button and the focus ring, so you can control these features without moving the left hand from the lens.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

COMP 4

In our tests, we found that the Panasonic had superior color accuracy and produced sharper images, but the NX100 was the stronger performer in our noise test, which is often the failing of micro four thirds cameras and their small image sensors.

Performance:

Both cameras proved to be very capable picture takers, but they both had some issues that proved limiting. Noise was an issue on both cameras, with the noise in images becoming somewhat intrusive at higher ISOs. Both cameras produced sharp images, but were also somewhat prone to softness at the edge of the frame in certain circumstances. For both cameras, this was with the kit lens at the smallest aperture, which is not uncommon, as it exaggerates optical issues within the lens.

Components:

The G2 has the edge here, offering both an electronic viewfinder and flash as standard. These are available as optional extras for the NX100, but cost extra and only one can be fitted to the Smart Shoe at a time. The G2 also has a big advantage of offering an LCD screen that can tilt and pivot for shooting from above or below, while the NX100 has a fixed screen.

Handling:

The NX100 is the smaller, more compact camera, especially with the kit lens in the locked position when it is not in use. Although the G2 is small by SLR standards, it is significantly bigger and bulkier than the NX100.

Controls:

Both cameras offer a wide selection of controls for both automatic and manual use, but the G2 offers the wider selection of controls, including a custom mode spot on the mode dial. In use, both cameras rely heavily on on-screen menus rather than buttons,

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Conclusion

We found ourselves saying "does not" a lot while writing this review. The NX100 does not include a flash, the NX100 does not include a viewfinder to bolster the weak daylight performance of the AMOLED screen. The NX100 does not have a grip, so you never feel like you have a firm hold on it. In the end, these missing things mean that the NX100 isn't a great camera: merely a good one. It represents good value at $599, but most users would be better off spending more to get a more fully featured camera that handles better and which includes the features that the NX100 is missing.

Performance

Overall, we were favorably impressed with the performance of the NX100. Samsung claim that the benefit of using a new camera format is that the larger sensor means less noise than the Micro Four Thirds camera, and this was what we found. However, there was still significant noise in the images, with it becoming very visible and somewhat distracting at ISO levels of 1600 and above. The images that the NX100 captured were nice and sharp, though, although again, we did find some issues, with smaller apertures causing a noticeable softness across the frame.

Video Performance

As far as video features and performance goes, the NX100 doesn't offer anything new or exciting that wasn't already covered by Samsung on the NX10. In fact, the NX100 did a bit worse overall in our video tests than its larger (and slightly more expensive) cousin. The video mode on the NX100 is easy to use, fun to play with, and has a few manual controls, but don't expect to get professional or even high-quality video from the camera—it is extremely limited in that regard.

Components

It is easier to say what the NX100 doesn't have rather than what it does: no flash, no viewfinder, no rotating LCD and no image stabilization in the kit lens. The first two can be added, but cost extra and add to the bulk of the camera. You also cant use the viewfinder and flash at the same time: both fit into the Smart Shoe flash hot shoe, so you have to choose between them. What you do get, though, is a compact, sleek 14.6 megapixel camera

Handling:

The NX100 is a slightly odd beast, looking more like a point and shoot than an interchangeable lens camera. It handles more like a point and shoot as well, with no hand grip and a slick, smooth case surface that makes for a light grip: the camera could easily slide out of your hand on a hot day.

Controls:

The NX100 relies on the on-screen menu for most of its controls, but you do get quick access to some (ISO, white balance, exposure comp) through the iFn button on the lens barrel. This also allows you to change these settings with a combination of the iFn button and the focus ring; an innovation that definitely makes the camera easier to control.

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