GEAR & TECHNIQUES PRODUCT REVIEWS
Samsung adds some smart new features to its
top-of-the-line mirrorless camera.
The Samsung NX30 is not really a professional camera, but it has many
features I’d love to see turn up on more serious pro models. For one: Of
all the imaging companies out there, Samsung is the best at integrating
easy-to-use wireless connectivity into its camera line-up. This is
partially because of Samsung’s experience in the mobile market, but
it’s also because they seem to respect the user experience more than
some competing manufacturers. If you’ve ever tried to figure out
the confusing built-in Wi-Fi features in some of the leading photo
manufacturers’ cameras, you’ll know what I mean.
With smartphones continuing to decimate the camera market
thanks to their ubiquity—“the best camera is the one you have with
you”—and the ease of wirelessly sharing images from them to social
networks—“sharing is caring”—you’d think the camera companies
would get it by now. Perhaps they should take some lessons from
Samsung, which packs a host of cool tools into the NX30. While these
might not be truly revolutionary features, and while Samsung doesn’t
get everything right with the NX30, it shows the company is thinking
seriously about photographers’ needs.
Compact, mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras have been
slow to catch on in the United States, and that’s probably because
it’s still hard to explain to photographers just what they are and
whom they benefit. A year ago, these models were being referred to
as compact system cameras (CSC) but that nomenclature seems to
have gone out of vogue in favor of, simply, “mirrorless.” (Not exactly
I’m assuming most PDN readers are familiar with mirrorless
cameras and already know the positives (compact camera bodies and
lenses) and the negatives (expensive and require you to use a grainy
electronic viewfinder), so I won’t go into that. Let me tell you what
I liked about the NX30, which is the follow-up to the NX20 that I
reviewed in 2012.
The Samsung NX30 houses a 20.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor inside a
relatively compact (yet far from pocketable) camera body that looks
like a shrunken digital SLR. The sensor’s resolution is the same as the
previous model, but Samsung says the chip has been redesigned to
improve its low-light shooting ability at higher ISOs and, in my testing,
it seems to have done that.
The NX30 can shoot at up to ISO 25,600 but I wouldn’t recommend
going over ISO 6400 in low light if you want your images to look
low-noise and sharp. That’s above average for a mirrorless camera and
about on par for a medium-tier, APS-C sensor-based DSLR.
The NX30 did even better in decent light at lower ISOs, especially
if you pair it with one of Samsung’s better NX lenses. The company
has some impressive-sounding new optics, including a 16-50mm
f/2-2.8 lens and a 85mm f/1.4 portrait lens. Unfortunately, neither of
those was available for testing, but I did well with the 60mm f/2.8
Macro lens and a small 45mm f/1.8 lens that can also shoot in 3D.
(Remember when 3D was big?) I also tried the 18-55mm kit lens, but
that was just mediocre and won’t interest pros.
I brought the NX30 on a trip to Rome, and it was all I needed for street
photography, cityscapes and macro photography. While, as mentioned,
the NX30’s image quality alone won’t make you want to turn in your
trusty pro DSLR—despite Samsung’s clever #DitchtheDSLR promo
where hundreds of people did just that—it’s a great alternative if you
want to lighten the load.
The camera weighs just 23 ounces despite having a bigger, more
comfortable grip than the previous model. Attaching Samsung’s high-end glass, however, adds some significant heft. For instance, the 60mm
f/2.8 Macro ED OIS will add about a pound to the set-up.
The NX30 and the trio of lenses I tried took up very little room
in my camera bag, however, and they were easy to pop out for quick
shots. The 60mm Macro was perfect for an international rose
competition I photographed in the Municipal Rose Garden on the
Aventine in Rome and also fared quite well as a portrait lens.
I appreciated the NX30’s ability to shoot from a variety of angles
thanks to its 3-inch, tilt-and-swivel rear touchscreen. Touch
responsiveness was good on the AMOLED display—though not quite
on par to an iPhone’s—and menus were clear and easy to read. While
it looks a bit awkward, the NX30’s tiltable electronic viewfinder was
a helpful tool as well. It looks just like the viewfinder eyecup you’d
see on most cameras, but give it a pull and it’ll extend out the back of
the camera. You can tilt it up by 80 degrees, offering another way to
compose a shot without looking directly at the subject.
Where the NX30 really impresses is in its connectivity. After a day
of shooting, it took just a turn of the mode dial to the Wi-Fi setting and
a couple of button presses to find the wireless network in the Rome
apartment we were staying in. Once I easily tapped in the password via
the touchscreen keyboard on the camera, I could access the camera’s
We loved the Samsung
NX30’s ability to shoot
from a variety of angles
thanks to its swiveling
and tilting electronic