Hands on with the Samsung NX30

Samsung’s NX30 features an APS-C sensor, DSLR look and feel, but with an electronic viewfinder and a swing-out LCD.

If you like the look and feel of a DSLR, but are curious about mirrorless cameras, then you may be interested in Samsung’s NX30.

At first glance, the NX30 looks like a consumer DSLR. The kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS) isn’t much different than what you’d find on a Canon Digital Rebel. The oversized handgrip provides a secure hold, and should be appealing for those who feel that some mirrorless bodies sacrifice security in favor of portability. And the familiar “DSLR hump” with popup flash on the NX30 is an icon of traditional styling.

NX30 Top

But when you hold the NX30 up to your eye to compose a shot, you’ll notice s few important differences. Instead of an optical viewfinder to compose the photograph, you’re looking through a 2,359,000 dot EVF. Pull on the eyecup and the unit extends outward revealing the diopter adjustment.

And there’s more. The eyepiece rotates upward, positionable in 3 clickstop positions, including 90 degrees. Yes, you can look downward into the EVF, making low position shooting easier.

A second viewing option is the fully articulated, 1,036,000 dot 3″ LCD with touchscreen. Live view shooting is quite beautiful on this screen, especially indoors. And as a bonus, you can use it to control the camera too.

Under the Hood

Inside, Samsung uses a APS-C 20MP CMOS sensor. Combine that with the DRIMeIV processor, and the NX30 provides excellent image quality in a variety of lighting conditions. It excels when capturing in RAW format and processing carefully in Lightroom 5 (bundled with the camera), Adobe Camera Raw, or a comparable editor.

The built-in WiFi with NFC works well with Android devices providing a variety of features such as, AutoShare, Remote Viewfinder, MobileLink, Group Share, and even a Baby Monitor.

My experience with iOS devices wasn’t as positive. I could transfer images to my iPad by selecting the images on the NX30’s 3″ LCD, but it wouldn’t allow me to choose the images on the larger iPad screen and copy them that way.

Shooting in the Field

In bright sunlight, I preferred the electronic viewfinder that wasn’t affected by ambient brightness compared to the LCD. The info display inside the EVF kept me informed about the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation. If I wanted more information, I could press the DISP button to cycle through the different views. Screen refresh did lag a bit, but it wasn’t a major annoyance during shooting sessions.

For bright scenes like this, the electronic viewfinder was a blessing.

For bright scenes like this, the electronic viewfinder was a blessing.

Indoors, I relied more on the articulated LCD. As I mentioned earlier, the image looked great on the 3″ screen, and the same information overlays were available as with the EVF. But screen refresh also lagged a bit with this view.

The NX30 features plenty of buttons and dials, but the coolest of the bunch is the fn button on the left side of the zoom lens. By default, pressing it allowed me to cycle through exposure compensation, ISO, and white balance adjustments. Very handy and easy to use.

The NX30 handles scenes with strong highlights and shadows quite well. Photos by Derrick Story.

The NX30 handles scenes with strong highlights and shadows quite well. Photos by Derrick Story.

Autofocusing responsiveness, as well as the other camera functions, are good. And in general, the NX30 is a worthy performer in the field. Shooters coming from the compact camera world should be satisfied with the performance of the NX30. Enthusiast DSLR photographers might feel that this mirrorless body lags a bit behind what they’re used to in terms of focusing and processing speed. I noticed little delays here and there that did disrupt my flow.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the competition – Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic – the NX30 looks a bit plain on the outside by comparison. It’s also bulkier.

But the NX30 does produce excellent images with a few nifty tricks. The adjustable EVF, clever fn button, built-in WiFi, and articulated LCD definitely add sparkle to the shooting experience.

If you’re considering a Samsung NX30, I suggest you hold it and take a few pictures with it. In my opinion, the actual shooting experience is what will determine its fate with potential customers.

Author’s note: On Wednesday June 4 from 12pm to 6pm in Times Square in NYC (between 42nd and 43rd streets), Samsung is conducting a “DITCHtheDSLR” event where you can bring in your old DSLR and trade it in, straight up, for a new Samsung NX30. If you’re in town, you might want to check it out.

Derrick Story is an associate editor for c’t Digital Photography Magazine.

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