Image Performance, Conclusion
The NX300's image resolution clocks in at an average 2400LPH (horizontal and vertical) on our resolution chart. The colors in Standard photo style lack the oomph and vibrancy you'd find in, say, the Standard photo style from Canon's DSLR cameras, but you can always set the photo style to Vivid for stronger hues.
ISO performance compares well against an old favorite, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 which has a smaller sensor. The NX300 employs some heavy noise suppression, which results in smoother images at high ISO with less detail but also less noise. Images look clean up to ISO 1600, and at ISO 3200 you can start to see some detail loss (if you squint) due to the in-camera noise suppression but also a nice lack of noise. At ISO 6400 there is a jump in noticeable noise but the camera handles it well; the noise is mostly luminance (black and white) with little if any chroma (color noise).
Auto-focus is speedy and responsive, and Samsung deserves credit for it. However, it still tends to struggle in low-light, which is puzzling because the NX300 comes with an AF assist lamp. On another note, the NX300 comes with focus peaking which helps when you want to focus manually.
Sample Test Shots
These are sample photographs shot with the Samsung NX300. The photos have not been post-processed, are saved in AdobeRGB, and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for full-resolution images.
The Samsung NX series has come a long way since the NX10 was first released in 2010. Since the NX11, auto-focus speed and accuracy has been vastly improved, and the NX300's image sensor boosts ISO performance up to a respectable degree. The camera also comes with built-in Wi-Fi, which makes it easy to share and transfer images over, important in this day and age when no photo seems to have been really taken until it's up on Facebook.
However, your mileage might vary with how easy it is to use the built-in Wi-Fi, as the app for iOS appears to be underdeveloped compared to the app for Android. And while the internals of the NX300 perform quite well, the externals are a mix of good and bad. The NX300 has some good handling ideas; the dedicated buttons on the back for controls like AF and ISO, and the Fn button which takes you into a Quick menu with the most important settings. The i-Fn button on the lens also does the same, although we have to admit we don't use it much - it takes some ingraining of muscle memory to tell yourself that a lens comes with a function button.
But the control dial, which is probably the second-most important control for a mid-range enthusiast camera next to the shutter release, is placed in an awkward position that's hard to reach. The edges of the camera are sharper than most, and for no good discernible reason other than someone somewhere thought it'd be a cool idea. These oddities hold the NX300 back from getting a better overall rating.
Another reason why the NX300 doesn't get a higher rating is one you might not care about - the ecology of lenses you can play with. With a total of 12 lenses, Samsung has one more than Sony's total number of NEX lenses, and more than Nikon's 1 system (nine lenses), Fujifilm's XF system (seven lenses), or Canon's M system (two lenses).
All of which still pales in comparison to Micro Four Thirds (MFT), which has a staggering total of 40 lenses (not counting the three discontinued lenses). MFT also has competitive cameras from both Panasonic and Olympus, like the Lumix GX1, GF6, the Pen E-PL5 and E-P5. Granted, the MFT cameras have smaller sensors than the APS-C sized sensor found in the NX300. Still, it's something to think about.
On the subject of lenses, the Samsung NX300 is one of the few mirrorless cameras that is 3D photography-ready through the optional NX 45mm F1.8 2D/3D lens - the world's first one-lens 3D system capable of capturing both still images and full HD movies in 2D or 3D. This will set you back an additional S$649 just for the lens, although we're not quite sure how many people will buy into the 3D photography idea when you need glasses to enjoy them and a 3D TV. As such, this extra functionality will remain a niche. For those interested, you can find out more about it in our earlier hands-on article.
Last but not least, the Samsung NX300 commands a price of S$999, which is priced in the same range as other more competitive cameras mentioned above. Fortunately, Samsung cushions this somewhat by bundling the camera with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (valued at S$178). For novice photographers stepping up, the software bundle will come in handy, but not so for more regular photographers who are quite likely to have a decent image editing application at hand.
Note: This review was completed before the release of the latest firmware update for the NX300, which may have addressed some of the handling issues we describe.