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Review Samsung Galaxy NX

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Not so long ago, I chose the Samsung Galaxy NX as the most innovative camera from 2013, because this camera combines the ease of use of a smartphone or a tablet with the image quality of a digital SLR camera.
Without additional tools, you have the availability of GPS and various Apps with which to edit photos. Wi-Fi and a SIM card make it possible – wherever you are – to share your pictures via Social Media/email, or to save/backup your files with Dropbox.
A photo-journalist can so to speak leave the laptop and cell phone at home (peaceful!) when heading out with a Samsung Galaxy NX.
In this Samsung Galaxy NX review, you get to read our findings about the image quality and the potential uses of the Samsung Galaxy NX.

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Design and operation

 

The Samsung Galaxy NX looks like an SLR camera, but with an exceptionally large touch-screen, and virtually without buttons. If you are used to a traditional camera with a lot of buttons, the controls will take some getting used to. Still, without taking your eye off the viewfinder, you can change shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation and ISO value. This is possible thanks to the combination of the thumb switch and the i-Function button on Samsung i-Function lenses. Every time you press the i-Function button, the next setting option becomes available. At the top of the viewfinder or on the OLED display, you can see what you're setting. With the thumb wheel, you then make the adjustments. On previous Samsung cameras such as the Samsung NX300 and the Samsung NX 1000, you didn't need to use the i-Function button, but with this camera that button is indispensable.
The Samsung Galaxy NX has a small built-in flash (with guide number 11 at 100 ISO), that folds up when you press the little button at the upper left side of the camera.

Topview

The connections for HDMI and mini-USB sit behind a hatch on the side. The battery and the micro-SD card are accessed through a door in the bottom. This door is enough far away from the tripod mount, so that even with the camera on a tripod, you can switch the card or battery. Anyone currently using SD or CF cards might find a micro-SD card to be a disadvantage. But it works: thanks to the built-in 16 GB hard drive you basically don't need a memory card. We reviewed the Samsung Galaxy without a memory card, and it worked fine for us. We also left the micro USB cable wrapped up and transferred all the test shots by Wi-Fi to the PC.

The Samsung Galaxy NX has no separate battery charger. The camera uses the same charger as a Samsung smartphone. If you take both a Samsung smartphone and the Samsung Galaxy NX on a trip, you can leave one of the chargers at home. You can also opt to charge the Samsung Galaxy NX through a USB connection or via a wall plug. For both charging and long-term use, you'll notice that the camera gets warm. That means that the battery has to deliver a lot of power. Thanks to a higher battery capacity, you don't (soon) end up with a dead battery.

You can also control this camera remotely with a smartphone. We made a real panorama photo with the Samsung Galaxy NX on a 13-meter Megaview Sonic cam-boom, using the free Remote Viewfinder App on a Samsung smartphone. The functionality of this App is a bit dry. You can't do video with it, can't shoot in RAW, and you can't customize the program mode, for example. But it does work!
You can also operate the Samsung Galaxy from a short distance with your voice. If you have the voice-control enabled, and you shout, "Shoot!", then the Samsung Galaxy NX will take a picture, without you pressing the shutter button. The camera recognizes, just like a Samsung smartphone, several commands. It works about as well as on a smartphone: usually it works, but sometimes you have to repeat the command a few times.

Samsung Galaxy NX vs Samsung NX300

  • The Samsung Galaxy NX300 has no Android and half is half the price and half the weight.
  • In terms of the camera, there are many parallels (ISO range, megapixels, features).
  • The Samsung Galaxy NX has a fixed OLED screen; the LCD display of the NX300 is tiltable.
  • The video of the Samsung NX300 is more advanced (1080 @ 60 fps) than that of the Galaxy NX (1080 @ 30 fps).
  • The Samsung Galaxy NX has a built-in electronic viewfinder; the NX300 doesn't.
  • The Samsung NX300 has more buttons.
  • The Galaxy NX has a built in flash; the NX300 has a separate flash.

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Edit photos on your camera. After acquiring something like the App Photo Mate, for example, you can view, categorize of the basis of stars and color labels, or edit (RAW too) your pictures like in Photoshop. In the above example, I made the flower lighter and sharpened. Then I added the text and mailed the resulting image with the Samsung Galaxy NX.

The main competitors – system cameras with APS-C sensors.

 

There is currently no other system camera with a 1.6 GHz quad core chipset with 2 GB main memory (for Android), 16 GB of storage (Android and camera) and a micro SD card.
The following comparison only applies to the camera section.

  • Sony NEX 7 (24 MP). This camera has a tilting LCD screen, but no touch screen, Wi-Fi or NFC. It's somewhat cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy NX.
  • Fujifilm X-Pro1 (16 MP). This camera has both a rear viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder and an LCD screen. Photographically, this is an alternative, but this retro-camera has a different target audience than the modern Samsung Android camera.

You can also consider system cameras with the Four Thirds sensor (e.g. Panasonic or Olympus) as direct competitors for the Samsung Galaxy NX, even though those cameras have a smaller sensor.

 

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Manage photos and edit RAW files with Adobe Lightroom 5

 

For managing and editing (RAW) pictures, when you buy a Samsung Galaxy NX you get a license for Adobe Lightroom 5. You install Lightroom on a PC (more recent than Windows Vista) or on a Mac. This excellent photo management and image editing program, which purchased separately goes for about hundred euros, can certainly be a reason to choose this camera body. If you want to correct RAW images for distortion and vignetting, then you can use the standard lens profiles for Samsung lenses. Samsung corrects these lens errors in jpg files in the camera by default, but makes it possible to turn off this fix. It is good that this possibility exists, but I would gratefully take advantage of the capability.

 

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Smart mode and panorama and bracketing

We find it handy that with the bracketing modes (bracketing, white balance, picture style) the camera with 1 press of a button makes the whole series with a gap of 0.2 seconds. You then get all the shots with virtually the same framing, and you can't forget to shoot the ladder completely full.
There are several modes where the camera helps you get the right shot. The user interface is nice, and the associated explanations are clear. A few possibilities are shown below to illustrate. 

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The Samsung Galaxy NX offers panoramic sweep, which lets you sweep both horizontally and vertically and in the portrait mode. In the picture below you can see a panorama of the Kinderdijk (NL), which was created without a tripod by turning the camera slowly around while in panorama mode. The Samsung Galaxy NX helps you with a preview frame, which helps keep you from getting the horizon too far off. If you create a 360 degree panorama and the sun is shining, you can be faced with a big difference in exposure. By starting the series directly into the sun, you can avoid bleached-out highlights. Much of the shot will be darker, but thanks to the large dynamic range and the good signal-to-noise ratio of the Samsung Galaxy NX, you can easily lighten the shadowed areas afterwards. The camera can pretty easily handle not-too-fast-moving subjects, such as walkers and cyclists at a bit larger distance, and it (fortunately)keeps the exposure constant. Click 2x on the image below for a larger version.

 

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To make a real panoramic photo, we set the Samsung Galaxy NX on a 13-meter Megaview Sonic camera boom and took the pictures by using the free Remote Viewfinder App on a Samsung smartphone. Don't forget to set up a connection between the camera and the smartphone before getting the camera to far up in the air. The functionality of the Remote Viewfinder App is a bit dry (you can't shoot in RAW and you can't customize the program mode, for example), but it does work!

Samsung Galaxy NX AF is lightning fast

 

 

The auto focus of the Samsung Galaxy NX is similar to that of the Samsung NX300 and is fabulously fast. The secret is the hybrid focus: there is contrast detection AF like we're used to on mirrorless cameras, but there are also certain pixels on the sensor, "dedicated AF-pixels", that, in sufficient light, handle focusing via phase detection. The image below was retrieved from Samsung. With this camera you have 105 AF points for phase detection AF and 247 AF points for contrast detection AF.

 

 

AF

It's really handy that you can set the AF point on the touch screen (if you choose to use the touch screen, because you don't have to). If you choose the "tracking AF" option, then the focus point follows the subject. This works well for not-too-fast-moving subjects or for images that move from a standstill. For passing cars, for example, it only works if you succeed in catching the subject. Because the touch screen responds with a bit of delay, you run the chance that the subject is already gone before the AF point "grabs it". Tracking the subject is based on color information. Therefore the camera won't always lock in on a subject if it doesn't have a very different color from the background. Once the Samsung Galaxy NX is locked on a subject, then the AF won't let go of the subject, and that's a very good performance.

If you choose Manual Focus, then you have two focus helpers: first, a zoom feature whereby a part of the image is enlarged to 8x, and further a color helper, whereby parts that are sharp get a colored border. The MF itself works electronically ("focus by wire") and feels somewhat rubbery. But it works perfectly.

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WiFi, GPS & NFC

 

Thanks to Wi-Fi, you can connect to your wireless network at home, but even without Wi-Fi you can get by, thanks to a 3G or 4G connection. For this you have to equip the camera with a SIM card and a mobile subscription. 4G is very handy/indispensable if you want to send large files. But check the cost of a subscription before you start!

The built-in GPS is not only convenient for tagging captured images with a GPS code, but you can also, thanks to Android, with help from an app find ideal photo locations in your immediate vicinity.
NFC  is useful. This is a standard for smartphones, with which you can exchange information between devices, without the hassle of passwords.

Near Field Communication is useful. This is a standard for smartphones, with which you can exchange information between devices, without the hassle of passwords.

 

IvosChoice

Resolution and dynamic range

We've measured the resolution of in-camera jpg files and RAW files that have been converted and sharpened by Lightroom and by Imatest. In all cases, the Samsung Galaxy NX fell in the top 10 of the 35 cameras we have reviewed so far. That says a lot, because we test only system cameras and SLR cameras. The resolution (detail sharpness) of the Samsung Galaxy NX at the lower ISO values in particular is excellent. The Samsung Galaxy NX scores in terms of resolution as well as much more expensive SLRs. The dynamic range is also excellent; the Samsung Galaxy NX performed equally as well as the Nikon D3200, Olympus OM-D E-M5 or the Sony A77, and it left the Canon APS-C cameras behind in terms of dynamic range.

Very little noise

 

The noise performance of the Samsung Galaxy NX is very good, just like the Samsung NX300 and the Samsung NX1000 in our previous reviews. This applies to both jpg and RAW files. The noise reduction of the camera can be set at different levels for jpg files, but remains anyway at an acceptable level. Certainly the resolution drops from excellent at low ISOI to good values at higher ISO values due to the noise reduction.

 

Color

Color accuracy Samsung Galaxy NX

The Samsung Galaxy NX gives up nothing in terms of color reproduction to other, often more expensive, cameras we've reviewed. The Samsung Galaxy NX delivers, just like the Samsung NX 1000 and the Samsung NX300, in daylight, beautiful, highly accurate, light supersaturated colors (image bottom left: Delta E 94 = 4.3). Practice shots from the Samsung Galaxy NX look very true to life, as you can see in the above practice shot.

In artificial light, the score for color reproduction is slightly less high. If you use the auto white balance in artificial light, then as with virtually all other cameras you see a visible orange cast and a higher saturation (image lower right; Delta E 94 = 17). If you shoot in RAW, then the white balance is simple to adjust afterwards without quality loss. 

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Conclusion Samsung NX Galaxy review

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Look in our overview of reviewed cameras for a comparison of this performance with that of other cameras.

Pros

Cons

  • Camera with Android 1.6 GHz quad core chip, 2 GB Android working memory, 16 GB of storage
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G, and NFC
  • Good built-in electronic viewfinder
  • Built-in hard drive
  • High image quality: high resolution, wide dynamic range, low noise
  • Lightning fast: both the auto focus and the camera (9 bps)
  • Beautiful, large touch screen
  • Includes Lightroom 
  • Fixed screen

  • Micro-SD card

  • Hefty price

If you're considering the switch from a smartphone to a full-fledged camera, then the Samsung Galaxy NX is a great choice. If you have a Samsung smartphone, the menus in the Android part will be familiar. That you get an advanced software package for managing and editing your (RAW) pictures (Lightroom 5) makes the transition extra easy. With a suggested retail price of 1500 euros, the Samsung Galaxy NX is not cheap. On the other hand, you get a unique camera in return and you save on photo software, external GPS module and memory cards and an additional notebook. Looking at it that way, the Samsung Galaxy NX is not even that expensive.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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