Review: Samsung NX300–a great camera for the prosumer

Samsung NX300Samsung NX300

An essential part of the equipment that I carry is a Digital SLR camera. I use the camera at events, launches, presentations  to augment and enhance the posts that I upload to the blog. So when I was asked to check out Samsung’s new NX300 camera, I jumped at the opportunity.

A Disclaimer before you read my review. As you know is not a camera blog and nor am I a professional photographer and so the review below is purely from my hands-on experience with the device. Whilst I will go into some of the technical elements of the NX300 I am approaching this review as I do my mobile phone reviews – from the point of view of the consumer who is looking to purchase it. I am less concerned about the technical jargon and more about the practical day to day usage and what I experienced. If you are looking for the technical specs then head over to Samsung’s NX300 webpage here.

On that note, here is my hands-on review of the Samsung NX300:

The look and feel

The NX300 device has a back-to-retro look to it with its faux leather look that takes you back to the 35mm film days of photography.  Everything you need comes in the box including the 15-55 lens, the top-mounted flash and even a copy of Adobe Lightroom to edit your photos which is a superb application.

When you initially hold the NX300 you notice that it has a bit of weight to it especially when you add the lens, flash and battery although the weight does give it a real solid feel in your hands when you shoot. As you handle the device numerous time you tend to forget about the weight so it becomes a non-issue.

Samsung NX300 Samsung NX300

The on/of buttons and the programming modes buttons are on the top-right side of the device which even I, as a left handed person,  had no problems operating or changing modes without losing the shot. The back of the camera is the full 84mm AMOLED touchscreen that can tilt up 90 degrees and down 45 degrees. This screen is bright and acts as the view finder so you can frame your shot with ease. The touchscreen is responsive allowing you to change menu options with a few simple taps.

Samsung NX300 - tilt screenSamsung NX300 - dials

There are several modes that NX300 has that will allow both professional and amateurs to feel right at home. For the amateur photographer: simply set it on Auto and let the camera set the options for the desired scene. You can also choose Smart mode where you set the scene you want to shoot such as landscape, best face, action freeze, panorama, silhouette, sunset and night modes are amongst some of the scenes you can choose.

Professional who want more control are able to set the NX300 to Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual where you set both the shutter and the aperture, or Lens priority that lets you play with the Depth of Field  and Zoom at a touch of the iFN button on the lens.

Regardless of the mode you have chosen, when you tap the FN button next to the screen or when you tap the iFN button on the lens (a great feature) you can instantly adjust the brightness of the photo (EV) , the ISO speed, and then the common features that apply to that mode such white balance, metering, flash, type of shot (burst or single) etc.

Samsung NX300 - iFN buttonSamsung NX300 - modes

The one feature that really excels in this camera is the constant help you can get at any point. If you are not sure what a feature is or what it does simply tap on it and wait a second of two. The NX300 then pops up a bubble with an explanation about that feature. This is really neat and yet doesn’t get in the way as you become more proficient with the device.

The speed:

This is where the NX300 really excels. When you have a slow camera that takes forever to take the photo when you press the button, this often results in you missing the shot you wanted or the subject has moved so the shot is now blurred. To compensate for this most photographers set the camera on the mode that takes a burst of photos when you press the shoot button. This results in lots of photos you don’t want but amongst them is the one photo you do. The NX300 has a top shutter speed of 1/6000 sec which is just ridiculously fast for a camera of this type. This means that you can set two types of Continuous shooting modes: Normal which allows you to shot at 5 frames per second and High which allow you to shoot at 8.6 frames per second. What is also very cleverly done is  that any shots that you take in Continuous modes are kept in folders and not one next to each other. This not only groups them together but also saves you the hassle of scrolling through multiple pics of what looks like the same images. See below for sample set of continuous shots.

The Focus:

The NX300 has adopted the same Touch AF mode that we have come to expect from cell phone cameras. Simply touch anywhere on the screen and the camera automatically focuses the images on that spot. I also likes the Tracking AF option. Select the object you want and the camera will automatically follow that subject keeping it in focus all the time. This is really handy when shooting pics little kids or pets who don’t stand still for a photo.

Samsung NX300 - focus

Sharing your masterpieces:

When it comes to getting the images off the NX300, you can go “old school” and simply take out the SD card which is located by the battery pack. However, Samsung has taken a smarter step that allow you to share your photos with the world. If you have an NFC enabled Android or iOS phone install the Samsung Smart Camera app. You will then be able to wirelessly view the photos that you took with the camera and then do with them as you please such as upload to your favourite social network.

If you are on the same WiFi network at home/ office, you can set up the NX300 to connect to that and then you have direct access from the camera to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and SkyDrive. You can use Allshare Play to access any DNLA devices on your network such as your media player, tablets or smart TV.

There is even an automatic backup software option so you can back up your photos to your pc or Mac over the WiFi which is pretty great when you just come back from a shoot and want to make sure you don’t loose your pics.

Samsung NX300 - sharing

Make a Movie:

Sometimes you want to capture the scene in video format. The NX300 can record high-resolution Full HD 1080p 1920×1080 and 720p 1280×720 movies. You also get great stereo sound from the mic that is located on the top of the camera. Initially I couldn’t find how on earth to access the movie mode as I expected it to be part of the dialer-modes. However when you look just below the dialer there is a little red button which is the dedicated one-touch record button.

When you press the red button it starts to record your movie immediately ensuring you never miss the action. However you have to remember to set up the options such as fader or movie size or movie quality  before you press the record button.

Here are two sample movies I made. Note the picture quality is great despite being uploaded onto YouTube (so it is scaled down) and a grey day too so lighting conditions far from ideal. Also note the sound quality too:

So in summary:

I must say I am really impressed with this camera. The features are very smart and the integration of “help” into everything is superb as, lets face it,  none of us really read the manuals.

The NX300 has everything going for it,  but the price does put it up against some of the established SLR heavy hitters. The recommended retail price is R8,999  from Samsung Brand Experience Stores however, but at that price bracket, a consumer who is looking for a great camera has many choices such as the Nikon D5100 that comes with a 18-55mm VR and 55-200mm VR lens kit and retails at R8,695 form SA Camera . Although, one needs to remember that the Samsung NX300 has many built in tech that these other brands don’t have such as GPS, WiFi, faster video recording and better battery life. So you do have to go just beyond price when comparing to other devices.

I believe that the NX300 can hold its own against the SLR players and for those who are looking at a great camera which has much to offer, the Samsung X300 should definitely be part of the decision process.

Sample Shots:

Here are some sample UNEDITTED photos taken with the Samsung NX300 – these were simply copied off the memory card:

Samsung NX300 - sample shotSamsung NX300 - sample shotSamsung NX300 - sample shot

Samsung NX300 - sample shotSamsung NX300 - sample shotSamsung NX300 - sample shot

Here is a set taken using Continuous Mode set on HIGH – note how it captures every detail even if the action is  fast:

Samsung NX300 - Continuous Mode set on HIGH Samsung NX300 - Continuous Mode set on HIGH Samsung NX300 - Continuous Mode set on HIGH

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