I have always preferred using DSLRs for taking important pictures, no matter how chunky they are. Meanwhile, for everyday snapshots, there’s my trusty point-and-shoot camera. The middle child, the compact system camera, hasn’t been able to win my affection just yet, but the NX300, in particular, was a CSC that I decided I wanted to spend time with upon reading through the list of things it can do.
The Samsung NX300 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that features wireless capabilities, the capacity to shoot 3D when coupled with a special lens, and a touchscreen, among others. The front area of the camera is wrapped in faux leather (that comes in three variations: brown, white and black), and the top area is plated with brushed aluminum, giving the NX300 a very sophisticated look and feel. Shelled inside the device are a 20.3-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor and the new DRIMe IV imaging engine.
Onboard the NX300 is a 3.31-inch AMOLED touchscreen that’s incredibly responsive, particularly when locking in AF on a subject. Interestingly, t locking in on a subject is faster whenever I use the screen rather than when I use the shutter release button. It comes in a foldout structure so you can adjust it to make it face upward or downward to help you monitor the shot at odd angles.
Samsung reckons its hybrid AF system can lock in on a subject in 0.08 of a second, and while we can’t really verify that claim (None of us can really count that fast. We usually start at 1.), we can say that it generally performed well and was incredibly reliable whenever we needed to quickly get a shot. This was true even in low light and overcast scenes. On top of that, the metering is accurate majority of the time. 1 /6000th of a second is the maximum shutter speed at which the NX300 can operate, while the ISO ranges from 100 to 25600-a step up from the NX1 000, whose maximum ISO is only 12800.
While a flash isn’t integrated in the device, inside the box is a small external flash that you can mount on the hot shoe. Despite being given the ability to position the flash head at a higher angle, I wasn’t too crazy about it because no matter how you look at it, it’s still a separate device to carry around. If you forget to bring it and it turns out that the shooting conditions are dim, you’d have to resort to higher ISO values and longer exposures, which in turn affect the output.
Luckily, noise only becomes noticeable at ISO 1600. Shooting at ISO 800 will still give you crisp detail in your images, which means that you’ll still be able to get decent medium-sized prints, although it is clear based on the features of the device that it is intended for web upload rather than generating prints. Nevertheless, enthusiasts will be happy to know that the NX300 can shoot in RAW and RAW+JPEG.
Aside from the auto and PASM modes, the camera features 14 scene modes, including portrait, night, landscape, panorama and the rest of the usual suspects. It also has a Best Face mode in which the camera takes a series of shots when you fire the shutter release button and lets you select the shot with the best face and save the final image as such.
In addition to these modes, the NX300 also features a Lens Priority mode thatis used in tandem with a Samsung iFunction lens. The mode gives you access to an array of settings-such as shutter speed and aperture-that are controlled by twisting the focus ring on the lens. Pressing the iFn button on the lens launches an onscreen Defocus/ Sharpen slider that you can adjust by touching the screen or by twisting the focus ring as well.
To top it all off, the NX300 has a dedicated Wi-Fi mode, which, when selected, shows you a menu of options as to what you can do with your images when connected to a wireless network. Connecting to a wireless network is simple, and after being notified that your connection is successful, you will then be able to link the camera to your smartphone or tablet (which must already be armed with the Samsung Smart Camera app) to enable you to send photos wirelessly to your mobile device or use it as a remote viewfinder. You can also email your images or upload them to a social networking site (Facebook, You Tube, Picasa) or your cloud space (SkyDrive). One other thing you can do in Wi-Fi mode is to wirelessly transfer up to 1 000 recent photos and videos to your PC using the Auto Backup function. However, you would have to install the i-Launcher and PC Auto Backup programs in the provided CD.
Aside from being Wi-Fi-capable, the NX300 is also equipped with NFC, meaning you can share photos with a compatible smartphone or tablet with a single tap of your mobile device.
The NX300 can take 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) and 1280 x 720 videos both at 60 and 30 frames per second (fps), 1920 x 810 videos at 24fps, and 640 x 480 at 30fps. There’s also an option to record 320 x 240 video at 30fps for faster upload to the web.
As I previously mentioned, there’s one other exciting bonus that comes with the device-the capacity to shoot 3D photos and videos when used with Samsung’s new 45mm 2D/3D lens that is, as of press, exclusively compatible with the NX300.
Battery life is so-so, as you’ll only be able to shoot stills and videos for roughly half a day without having to scour for a socket. Using the camera with constant use of the Wi-Fi connection, though, eats up more power, but that’s already a given tradeoff in Wi-Fi capable devices.
The NX300 is offered in two bundles: one with an 18-SSmm iFunction lens (equivalent to 27.7-84.7mm in 35mm format) and one with a 20-SOmm NXmount lens (equivalent to 30.8-77mm in 35mm format).
Photo quality may not be as stellar as cameras from other brands, but it is important to remember that its magic lies in its array of features, for where else can you get a compact system camera that not only lets you share, transfer and upload photos and videos to the web and your other devices, but also gives you a variety of lenses to use, including one that lets you shoot in 3D?
First published in Gadgets Magazine, June 2013
Words by Racine Anne Castro