Samsung NX30 – Kit with 18-55mm Lens Review

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NX30 SUMMARY

The Samsung NX30 is a strong contender for those looking for a relatively compact, high-performance camera at a great value. With excellent overall image quality and solid performance for all but the most extreme shooting scenarios and subjects, the NX30 will fit the bill very nicely for everything from general lifestyle, portrait and travel photos, to even a good amount of action and sports, all without breaking the bank.

PROS

Very good image quality at low to moderately high ISOs; Blazing fast single-shot autofocus; Fast 9fps burst with RAW and JPEG files; Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC; Good build quality; Tilting EVF; Articulating touchscreen monitor; Bundled with Adobe Lightroom 5 software; Excellent value.

CONS

Dynamic range not as good as the best APS-C models; Slow buffer clearing even with fast UHS-I cards; Buffer depth with RAW files is underwhelming; Native lens selection is still fairly limited.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

The Samsung NX30 18-55mm kit has been available since February 2014 with a list price of US$999.99, however the street price at time of writing is as low as US$799 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS III lens.

IMAGING RESOURCE RATING

4.0 out of 5.0

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Samsung NX30
Resolution: 20.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.7mm)
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
18-55mm
(27-84mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / OLED
Native ISO: 100 – 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 – 25,600
Shutter: 30 – 1/8000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.0 x 3.8 x 1.6 in.
(127 x 96 x 42 mm)
Weight: 23.1 oz (654 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $1,000
Availability: 02/2014
Manufacturer: Samsung
Full specs: Samsung NX30 specifications

Connected Flagship

Samsung’s NX-series of mirrorless compact system cameras welcomes a new flagship with the NX30. Like its predecessor, the NX20, this new Samsung is styled like an SLR and it sports an improved version of the older camera’s 20.3-megapixel APS-C format CMOS sensor. Much else is new, including Samsung’s latest connectivity features, the improved hybrid AF system from the NX300, an extendable and tiltable electronic viewfinder, and a 3.5mm jack for external microphones.

Although it retains a characteristic family look, Samsung has taken a fresh pencil to the NX30’s design, making it a bit bigger and heavier than the NX20 (13.2 oz without batteries compared to 12.0 oz for the NX20), however it’s still relatively small and light when compared to most DSLRs. Among the biggest changes is the new deeper grip, which gives the camera a very secure feel in the hand. We like the Samsung NX30’s handling and build, and aside from the slightly flimsy tilting EVF mechanism, the camera feels precisely and solidly made. However the same can’t be said of the 18-55mm III kit lens which feels less robust, particularly when zooming, though that’s not unusual for a kit lens.

Many of the NX30’s controls have been slightly tweaked or repositioned, but the overall layout is largely the same as the NX20. One exception is a new top-deck drive mode dial, which lets you directly select single image or burst shooting as well as bracketing or the self-timer. Nice.

Samsung NX30 Review -- front view

While the sensor in the Samsung NX30 continues with the 20.3-megapixel resolution we’ve seen in several previous NX cameras, the company says its performance has been improved, by moving to a new manufacturing process that uses copper, rather than the more common aluminum metal interconnects. The practical result is lower noise overall, which Samsung says allowed the increase the camera’s maximum ISO to 25,600, and a claimed improvement to dynamic range at lower ISO settings. Although not exactly an intrinsic camera feature, we’ll note here that the Samsung NX30 comes bundled with Photoshop Lightroom 5 in the U.S., rather than the Samsung Raw Converter 4.0 software that came with the NX20, a nice bonus for those who don’t already own the Adobe software.

Samsung NX30 Review -- top view

The NX30 also gets Samsung’s latest AF system, a hybrid of contrast detection and on-chip phase detection, dubbed “Samsung NX AF System II” and first seen on the NX300. The system is comprised of 105 phase-detection AF points and 247 contrast-detection AF areas, and includes what we believe are three cross-type PDAF points arranged in a column in the center of the frame. 74 horizontal-type PDAF points surround the cross-type sensors, and 28 vertical-type points are arranged in two columns on the extreme left and right sides of the PDAF area. (We’re still waiting to hear back from Samsung for confirmation and additional PDAF details, and will update this section when we do.) Together they form the basis of the same impressive hybrid AF system found on the NX300, where phase-detect AF points are used to focus very quickly, and contrast-detect AF is used to fine-tune focus for maximum accuracy. Also on the performance front, the NX30’s maximum shutter speed is 1/8000s, and it can shoot at a burst rate of up to ~9 frames-per-second (up from ~8 fps on the NX20).

Samsung NX30 review -- three quarter shot from rear

Perhaps the most noticeable new feature on the Samsung NX30 is its pull-out, tiltable electronic viewfinder, which boasts 2.4 million dot, XGA (1024×768) resolution. It can tilt up as far as 80 degrees, and offers 100% coverage, a magnification of about 0.96x (APS-C, 50mm eq.), an eye relief of 18.5mm, and a diopter adjustment of -4 to +1.0 m-1. (The NX20 had a fixed EVF with 1.44 million dot SVGA (800×600) resolution, but a higher magnification of 1.04x and a more generous diopter range of -4 to +4.0 m-1,) Like the NX20, there’s an eye sensor, to automatically switch between using the EVF and monitor (though you can manually select the active display if you wish).

The EVF’s tilting function works very handily, and it’ll be especially useful for tripod and macro shooting in bright light where the articulating monitor might not be as easy to view.

Samsung NX30 Review -- back view

That monitor is a new 3-inch Super AMOLED tilt-and-swivel touch sensitive display with 1.04 million dot resolution (288 ppi) in a 720×480 S-Stripe array, a significant upgrade from the NX20’s 614k-dot PenTile AMOLED display which was not touch sensitive. The NX30’s monitor can swivel 180 degrees horizontally and 270 degrees vertically.

Samsung NX30 Review -- bottom view

Sitting above the EVF is a built-in flash with a guide number of 11 (meters) at ISO 100 offering the following flash modes: Smart Flash, Auto, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Fill in, Fill-in Red-eye Reduction, 1st Curtain sync, 2nd Curtain sync and Off. Coverage is rated at 28mm equivalent, and +/-2 EV of flash exposure compensation is available. X-Sync speed is 1/200s, and Auto FP High-Speed Sync for shutter speeds above 1/200s is available when Samsung’s new SEF580A external flash is mounted in the NX30’s standard ISO 518 hot shoe. The NX30’s built-in flash can also act as a wireless commander to multiple off-camera SEF580A flash units, supporting 4 channels and 3 groups. Note that the NX30 is not compatible with Samsung’s hot shoe-mount GPS10 GPS module and EM10 external microphone accessories.

Samsung NX30 review -- three quarter from right view with flash extended

Samsung has been a leader in providing its dedicated cameras with features for Internet connectivity and image sharing, and the NX30 introduces the next generation of these capabilities. They include “Tag & Go” and “Photo Beam,” which let users transfer images to NFC enabled smartphones and other devices with a tap. Other capabilities include remote viewing and control of the NX30 from a smartphone, the ability to broadcast images to up to four smart devices simultaneously, automatic transfer of images to a smartphone or tablet, and Dropbox and Flickr integration in selected regions.

Several video enhancements round out the Samsung NX30’s list of features. Like most cameras these days, the NX30 can record HD video with stereo sound, though the NX30 can record Full HD at up to 60p. Resolutions and frame rates supported are: 1920×1080 and 1280×720 both at 60p and 30p (the NX20 maxed out at 30p), 1920×810 at 24p, 640×480 at 30p, and 320×240 at 30p. Video files are in MP4 format (H.264 compression with AAC audio), with two quality options (High Quality and Normal, though bitrates are not specified). A number of Smart filters are supported in video mode including: Vignetting, Miniature, Colored Pencil, Watercolor, Wash Drawing, Oil Sketch, Ink Sketch, Acryl, Negative, and Selective, and may reduce frame rate. Maximum video file length is 29m:59s or 4GB for most modes, but 1080p60 is limited to 21m:15s recording time per clip.

A dedicated video record button is provided, and because there’s no dedicated movie option on the mode dial, you can record video in any of the PASM modes, and make exposure adjustments like shutter speed and aperture during recording on the fly (though you can’t change ISO during video recording, only beforehand). There is also a nice video recording “pause” feature, letting you combine multiple clips into one video file (you use the record button to initialize video recording, then use the OK button to pause/resume as you see fit, then finalize the video clip by pressing the record button again as you would normally).

Continuous AF is the only autofocus method available during movies, as there is no single-shot AF option. However, if the lens has an AF/MF switch (like the 18-55mm kit lens does), you can manually focus while recording videos (though you don’t get magnified view or focus peaking during recording).

The NX30 also offers a “Multi Motion” option, which lets you select the playback speed of your videos. You can choose from 0.25x, 0.5x, x1, x5, x10 and x20, but the 0.25x setting is only available for VGA and QVGA resolutions, while the 0.5x option is supported for 1080p30, HD, VGA and QVGA. There’s also an optional Digital Anti-Shake option (OIS is still supported if the lens offers it), and a Wind Cut filter as well.

Samsung NX30 Review -- ports

The Samsung NX30 has built-in stereo mics and a 3.5mm jack for a standard external mic, as well as an audio level meter that appears on the display. Even better, audio input levels can be manually adjusted, however there’s no headphone jack for monitoring. (And as mentioned previously, the NX30 does not support Samsung’s EM10 external hot shoe mic which has a monitor jack.)

The NX30 can also stream uncompressed 1920×1080 30p Full HD video output through its Micro HDMI port, letting you connect it to large-screen displays, external video recorders, and other HDMI devices.

Other connectivity options include the aforementioned built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) with NFC, and a Micro USB 2.0 port which also provides for in-camera battery charging and supports an optional wired shutter release.

Samsung NX30 Review -- memory card and battery compartment

The Samsung NX30 uses Secure Digital memory cards for storage, with SD, SDHC, SDXC and UHS-I compatibility. Samsung recommends using a Class 6 or faster card, and up to 128MB capacity is guaranteed to be supported.

For power, the Samsung NX30 uses a proprietary BP-1410 rechargeable 7.6v 1410mAh lithium-ion battery pack with a CIPA rating of 360 shots per charge, and an AC adapter is included in the bundle for charging via USB. There’s also a small flap in the battery compartment cover presumably for use with a dummy battery adapter, although we have not seen such an accessory announced.

The Samsung NX30 has been available since February 2014 bundled with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS III kit lens, at a suggested retail price of US$999.99, though current street price, as of August 2014, has dropped to as low as US$799.

Samsung NX30 Image Quality Comparison

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Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Samsung NX30 against the Samsung NX20, Canon T5i, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7 and Fujifilm X-E2. All of these models sit at relatively similar price points and/or category in their respective product lineups.

These comparisons are somewhat tricky to write, as the cameras vary in resolution, so bear that in mind as you’re reading and drawing your own conclusions. (We generally try to match cameras in these comparisons based on price, given that most of us work to a budget, rather than setting out to buy a given number of megapixels.)

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera’s actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera’s respective sample image thumbnail page: Samsung NX30, Samsung NX20, Canon T5i, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7 and Fujifilm X-E2 — links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Samsung NX30 to any camera we’ve ever tested.

Samsung NX30 versus Samsung NX20 at Base ISO

Samsung NX30 at ISO 100
Samsung NX20 at ISO 100

Sporting a similar 20MP APS-C sensor, the detail captured by the new NX30 and its predecessor is very similar. Both the bottle and mosaic crops display a very high amount of detail at base ISO. The big apparent difference is in the fabric swatches; the NX30 does slightly better with the red fabric and the subtle leaf pattern, while the NX20 handles the pink one a little better.

Samsung NX30 versus Canon T5i at Base ISO

Samsung NX30 at ISO 100
Canon T5i at ISO 100

While both cameras here show clean, crisp detail in the bottle crops, the NX30 has the edge in sharpness in areas of fine detail such as the tile mosaic pattern. In the fabric crops, both cameras are very similarly matched, especially with the pink fabric, though the NX30 does ever-so-slightly better with the leaf pattern in the red swatch.

Samsung NX30 versus Nikon D5300 at Base ISO

Samsung NX30 at ISO 100
Nikon D5300 at ISO 100

Both cameras here show impressive detail at base ISO. The D5300’s 24MP APS-C sensor lacks an anti-aliasing filter, and with that comes a lot of resolving power. However, the NX30, even with a more traditional sensor, isn’t hurting in the detail department. Default sharpening is a bit strong in the images from the NX30, though, particularly in the mosaic detail, while the D5300 looks a bit more natural but still crisp.

Samsung NX30 versus Panasonic GX7 at Base ISO

Samsung NX30 at ISO 100
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200

The larger, higher resolution APS-C sensor of the NX30 compared to the Four Thirds sensor in the GX7 is able to produce slightly cleaner, crisper fine detail for the most part. However, the GX7 is certainly no slouch here at base ISO. The shadows and bottle surface in the first crop are a little cleaner from the NX30, and the mosaic pattern is noticeably sharper. However, both cameras handle the fabric swatches very well, with the GX7 actually producing a slightly cleaner, more distinct leaf pattern in the red fabric.

Samsung NX30 versus Fujifilm X-E2 at Base ISO

Samsung NX30 at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-E2 at ISO 200

It’s a tough match-up between the Samsung and the Fuji here. Both cameras display impressive fine detail. While the NX30’s sharpening is stronger, fine detail from both cameras is excellent. And the X-E2, in fact, does an outstanding job at the leaf pattern in the red fabric, however it struggles with the pink fabric. The Fuji does, however, eliminate some of the colors found in the monk’s clothes and mosaic pattern that are a result of the offset printing process used for the bottle label.

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Samsung NX30 versus Samsung NX20 at ISO 1600

Samsung NX30 at ISO 1600
Samsung NX20 at ISO 1600

While the base ISO comparison was quite similar, the difference now at higher ISOs is more apparent. At ISO 1600, the NX30 does noticeably better than the NX20. The default noise reduction processing is a little strong on the NX30, though it does well to remove luminance and particularly chroma noise, while still leaving a lot of find detail.

Samsung NX30 versus Canon T5i at ISO 1600

Samsung NX30 at ISO 1600
Canon T5i at ISO 1600

It’s a pretty close comparison here at ISO 1600. The NR on the NX30 is strong, but it does a great job at removing almost all noise, while the T5i shows a small amount. The fine detail is very good from both cameras, though the edge goes to the NX30 with slightly sharper detail. The NX30 also handles the fabric swatches better than the T5i, with a more realistic attempt at the red leaf pattern.

Samsung NX30 versus Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600

Samsung NX30 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600

Quite an interesting comparison here. While the noise reduction processing appears stronger on the NX30, it’s effective at cleaning up a significant amount of noise while leaving lots of fine detail. However, the D5300 on the other hand opts for a more “natural,” grainy look with lower noise reduction. Both provide excellent detail, but the NX30 looks a bit crisper.

Samsung NX30 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

Samsung NX30 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

Despite the smaller Four Thirds sensor, the GX7 does quite well up against the APS-C NX30 at ISO 1600. However, the Samsung does take the prize for fine detail, as noise from both cameras is fairly evenly matched and quite low at default NR settings.

Samsung NX30 versus Fujifilm X-E2 at ISO 1600

Samsung NX30 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-E2 at ISO 1600

At the higher ISOs, the Fuji shows its famous high ISO performance. Other than the difference in resolution, both cameras are pretty evenly matched in terms of low noise and fine detail in the mosaic. The big difference is in the fabrics. The X-E2 does very well at resolving the leaf pattern in the red fabric, whereas the NX30 struggles with that difficult pattern.

Today’s ISO 3200 is yesterday’s ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Samsung NX30 versus Samsung NX20 at ISO 3200

Samsung NX30 at ISO 3200
Samsung NX20 at ISO 3200

Similar to the ISO 1600 comparison, the NX30 shows significant image quality improvements over the NX20 at higher ISOs. The NR processing, while strong and displaying some artifacts, is very good at removing luminance and chroma noise. The NX20 in fact displays quite a bit of cloudy chrome noise. The NX30 still manages a lot of fine detail in the mosaic tile pattern, though it struggles with the red and pink fabrics a little more so than the NX20.

Samsung NX30 versus Canon T5i at ISO 3200

Samsung NX30 at ISO 3200
Canon T5i at ISO 3200

Like we saw with the ISO 1600 comparison of these two cameras, the NX30 takes the prize here with less noise and better fine detail, particularly in the mosaic tile. The fabric swatches are troublesome for both cameras, though the T5i still struggles with the fine, low-contrast pattern more than the NX30.

Samsung NX30 versus Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200

Samsung NX30 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200

While both cameras show impressive detail at ISO 3200 — especially in the mosaic tile — the D5300 images are noticeably noisier than the NX30’s, thanks in part to less aggressive NR processing.

Samsung NX30 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

Samsung NX30 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

The GX7 is definitely holding its own against the NX30 here at ISO 3200. While noise and NR processing is taking its toll on tricky areas like the fabrics in images from both cameras, fine detail in the mosaic holds up well from both cameras, with just a slight edge going to the NX30 overall.

Samsung NX30 versus Fujifilm X-E2 at ISO 3200

Samsung NX30 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-E2 at ISO 3200

The X-E2 is impressive at high ISOs — clean shadows with very low noise and lots of fine detail, even in the notorious fabrics. While the NX30 is low on noise as well, its NR processing is strong with visible artifacts, whereas the the X-E2 less so. The mosaic areas in both cameras’ images is very good, however.

Detail: Samsung NX30 vs. Samsung NX20, Canon T5i, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7 and Fujifilm X-E2.

Samsung
NX30

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Samsung
NX20

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
T5i

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D5300

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GX7

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-E2

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. This lettering allows us to really examine fine, high-contrast detail. At base ISOs, all cameras here show sharp, crisp fine detail, despite the different resolutions between cameras. As the ISO rises, the differences in image quality become more apparent. The NX30 is certainly an improvement over the predecessor, the NX20, which struggles significantly to capture almost any fine detail at ISO 6400. Compared to the rest of the cameras in the lineup, the NX30 certainly holds it own, even against the high ISO prowess of the Fujifilm X-E2.

Samsung NX30 Print Quality

Overview: Very good 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISOs 100 and 200 yield very nice printed images up to a large 30 x 40 inches. Depth, color reproduction and fine detail are all excellent here, and wall display prints are possible up to 40 x 60 inches.

ISO 400 prints are terrific at 24 x 36 inches. Fine detail is excellent and there is no sign of noise in sight.

ISO 800 produces a gorgeous 20 x 30 inch print, quite a large size for this ISO. There is still virtually no sign of noise even in the flatter areas of our target, and the only apparent issue is the very typical loss of contrast in our target red swatch of fabric, which most cameras struggle with as ISO starts to rise.

ISO 1,600 images begin to show moderate signs of ISO strain, and warrant a reduction in size to 13 x 19 inches in order to achieve good-looking prints. This is still a fairly good size for this ISO.

ISO 3,200 shows aggressive noise reduction becoming apparent in printed images, and there’s a bit of a washed out look from the noise processing and JPEG rendering here. 13 x 19’s are usable for less critical applications, but we’ll tag 11 x 14’s with our “good” seal for printing at this ISO.

ISO 6,400 prints a nice 8 x 10. All contrast is now lost in our tricky red swatch, but it’s otherwise a good print with nice detail.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6 inch print. There is minor noise visible in a few areas, but still a worthwhile print for such a high ISO.

ISO 25,600 prints are not usable and this setting is best avoided when possible.

The Samsung NX30 does a fine job in the print quality department indeed. For an APS-C sensor size, these print sizes rank up there with most of the better cameras in its class. Due to the high resolution 20MP sensor, prints at lower ISOs are possible at 30 x 40 inches with no visible signs of the pixelation seen in cameras with resolutions of 16MP and below, which is a good thing to keep in mind if these really large print sizes matter to your work. After about ISO 1,600, noise reduction starts to take its toll, but no worse than in most APS-C cameras, and looks far better than some. In fact, Samsung’s noise reduction algorithms tend to smooth images as the noise reduction ramps up, rather than creating splotchiness like some of the other manufacturers. The smoothness eventually becomes washed out looking, but for some prints this is still acceptable, even sometimes larger than the sizes mentioned above.

(imaging-resource.com)

 

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