Today’s choices can make shopping for an entry-level digital camera a daunting task. With dozens of models by almost as many manufacturers a wise buyer would safely assume that you get what you pay; the pricier the camera the more features, right? Well, maybe, but the NX20 Samsung seems to break that rule.
A feature-packed update to the older NX10 model, this little camera would be well matched in any showdown with models three or four times its price.
At first glance the NX20 looks like most entry-level viewfinder-based DSLR cameras. On closer examination users will find an almost endless range of features. I say endless since it would be impossible to find a user that would outgrow this camera anytime soon.
The tech specs are impressive. Along with the usual features found on similarly priced cameras like full HD video, a host of exposure modes and built in flash, the NX20 also boasts a top shutter speed of 1/8,000th of a second, a speedy 8 fps capture, 100 to 12,800 ISO range, interchangeable lenses and a Cine 24fps video option to name just a few, all powered by a 20.3 megapixel sensor.
There was one new feature really got my attention, and it sets the NX20 apart from its competitors: a built-in WiFi function. We’ve all witnessed the rapid growth of smartphone camera capabilities, but getting your digital images from your DSLR camera has never been easy. With the NX20 you can connect to any available WiFi network to e-mail your photos, upload to your favourite social media site (such as Facebook) or even post your video clips to YouTube – all directly from the camera. Using the MobileLink App you can also bounce photos to another mobile device like your iPad, phone and even to your TV using Samsung’s TVLink App.
Setting up the connection was simple. Once the WiFi mode is selected the available networks are displayed and logging in is the same as using your smartphone or tablet. An easy to use on-screen keyboard allows you to type in the network password, or type comments when posting photos to Facebook. Although you still need a nearby wireless network to tap into, the fact that Samsung also happens to be one of the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturers might provide a hint of what’s to come. Could we see maybe a 3G or 4G wireless chip in future editions? Here’s hoping.
There’s also a very nifty remote control feature that you can use with iPhone, iPad or Android device with Samsung’s Remote Viewfinder App.
In shooting operation the NX20 did not disappoint. As a daily user of professional gear I found the controls on this camera to be well placed and instinctive. The three-inch swivel screen offers a continuous mirror image of the viewfinder display providing all the necessary information from any point of view. I prefer to shoot in manual mode and the NX20 provides a live-view of the exposure, which is very useful for visually dialing in the right setting. Final exposures will vary a bit from the on-screen preview but it does help guide you.
Even with its small size the body sits well in the hands, allowing easy access to dials. My only complaint would be a fairly busy on-screen menu with explanatory bios for each setting when making mode selections. But if you’re like me you’ll probably find your favourite modes quickly and can ignore the others until you get more familiar with the display. Navigating the settings menu is thankfully less animated and customizing your camera preferences takes just a few minutes.
In addition to full Program, Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority automatic shooting modes, Samsung offers a host of automated settings called “Scenes” that provide preset handling of various shooting situations like, sports, children, night, closeup and even specialized scenarios like fireworks, beach & snow and one called Beauty Shot. Although its doubtful that using it will turn us all into supermodels, these modes can take the guesswork in some of the more unique and challenging lighting situations.
A live panorama function is also lots of fun to use and takes the hard work out of stitching images together by doing it for you. Just frame, press and hold the shutter, pan the scene and you’re done.
As part of Samsung’s NX line, the NX20 draws from a decent but not great variety of available lenses including a number of prime (fixed focus) lenses and the usual stable of wide and tele zooms. My test camera came with the often standard 18-55mm zoom which I found to be useful but I was disappointed with the uneven and stiff feel of the zoom and aperture rings. It’s nice to see metal mounts for added strength and durability, but turning the rings felt subpar when compared to the decent build quality of the camera.
As a professional photographer I often get asked what camera to buy. I can say that after just a few days with the NX20 I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the NX20 to both pros who want a lightweight but feature-packed alternative and to the serious amateur looking for an affordable camera to grow with. With the inclusion of onboard WiFi Samsung has no doubt upped the ante with the NX20 that others will be soon to follow.
MSRP: $1,099 (with 18-55mm zoom lens)
PROS: Feature to price ratio, onboard WiFi capability, instinctive control layout, ease of use.
CONS: Busy on screen icon menus, stiff zoom lens, limited lens choices.