Samsung Galaxy NX: Performance

February 12, 2014 by Jim Keenan Reads (22,302)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Shooting Performance
The Galaxy NX starts slowly, owing at least in part to the existence of the Android operating system–about 22 seconds to present a camera shooting screen. There is a sensor cleaning option available automatically on startup or anytime manually, and if enabled as part of the start sequence extends start up time to about 28 seconds. With an already lengthy startup time, an automatic sensor cleaning operation during shutdown makes more sense.

Single shot to shot times with the Galaxy NX are basically as quickly as you can take a shot, reacquire focus and shoot again. In this regard, however, the Galaxy NX AF system seems on a par with, or perhaps just a bit slower than an entry-level DSLR in good light; in dim light it seems a bit slower and tends to hunt unless presented with a high contrast point upon which to base focus. Samsung lists shutter lag for the Galaxy NX as 40 microseconds, and the shutter feels just a hair slower than an entry-level DSLR, although this perception may be based on the shutter sound relative to the actual instant of capture. Overall the Galaxy NX impresses as being in the entry-level DSLR league as far as speed in acquiring focus in shooting, albeit towards the slower end of that scale–not a bad performance per se, but just enough to be apparent.

Continuous shooting speed performance is pretty good, and Samsung has included a relatively decent buffer to go with a frame rate advertised as being up to 8.6 fps. Image quality and size have a direct impact on the buffer performance in this regard: JPEG images captured at highest resolution (20 MB) and image quality (superfine) that, depending on the nature of the scene can come in anywhere from 6 to 10 MB in size; ramping resolution down to 13 MB and normal image quality produces JPEGs of around mid-3 to low 4 MB size. At highest resolution/quality the Galaxy NX managed about 22 JPEG images at high speed before the shooting rate slowed; 13 MB/normal quality produced 32 images at high speed before slowing. 5 RAW files were all the camera could manage. Write times for the high resolution JPEGs ran about 45 seconds; the RAW images took about 17 seconds. These figures were obtained using an 8 GB class 4 microSD card provided by Samsung.

Swapping in a 16 GB class10 microSD card added one image to each of the bursts when shooting high resolution JPEG and RAW: 23 and 6 images, respectively, before shooting slowed or stopped. However, big gains were realized in write speeds, with the faster card clearing the buffer in 17.5 seconds for the JPEGs and 12 seconds for the RAW. No matter the speed of the memory card, the camera will allow you to continue taking photos in high speed rate as soon as there is sufficient buffer capacity during the writing process.

Samsung doesn’t list a guide number for the built-in flash in the specifications table for the Galaxy NX, but experimentation leads me to estimate it as approximately 40 feet at 100 ISO. Best case flash recycle times are about five seconds, and the camera will not allow you to take an additional photo as long as the flash is recycling. Flash sync speed is less than 1/180 of a second, slower than you’d like to see.

The Galaxy NX battery provides 4360 mAh of capacity, which Samsung indicates is good for any of the following: capture of up to 440 still images; 190 minutes of video recording time; 104 hours of audio playback time; 14 hours of video playback time; up to 13 hours (3G) or 16 hours (Wi-Fi) Internet usage time. The 440 images standard is the concern here–I’d take a second battery for all day outings with the Galaxy NX. Unfortunately, Samsung does not at this time provide an external battery charger for the Galaxy NX–the battery must be charged in the camera.

Lens Performance
The 3.5/5.6 18-55 III OIS kit lens is stabilized and showed a bit of softness in the corners when set to maximum aperture at both the wide and telephoto ends of the lens, with the wide end being a bit softer than at telephoto. Closing down to f/5.6 and f/8 at the wide and telephoto ends, respectively, improved corner sharpness a bit. There is a bit of barrel distortion present at the wide end of the lens, and pincushion distortion at telephoto. The Galaxy NX has a lens distortion feature that, when enabled, nicely corrects both of these defects. There’s a bit of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) present in high contrast boundary areas at both the wide and telephoto end of the lens, with the effect being a bit more pronounced at the telephoto end. However, this defect is relatively benign and requires enlargements of 200 to 300% to become noticeable with careful scrutiny. Overall, lens performance was in keeping with most kit lenses of similar specifications from other manufacturers.

Video Quality
Video quality out of the Galaxy NX at the highest quality setting in the NTSC format was quite good. Continuous autofocus performance of the camera is about average, which is to say the camera hunts a bit when dealing with moving subjects that are closing or opening distance relative to the camera’s position, or when panning from a one subject to another that are not situated at approximately the same distance from the camera–autofocus performance on moving subjects that are staying at approximately the same plane relative to the camera was good. The camera’s built-in microphone is wind sensitive but there is a wind cut feature that may be enabled by the user.

Because it is equipped with a CMOS sensor, the possibility of rolling shutter effect when involved in video capture with the Galaxy NX exists, but Samsung has done a good job dealing with the effect in all but the most exaggeratedly fast pans.

Image Quality
Default image quality out of the Galaxy NX was quite nice as to color rendition and detail, but a bit too soft for my liking. Ramping up sharpening to the maximum in-camera produced very pleasing JPEG images out of the camera. Given the connectability provided by the Galaxy NX Android operating platform, this camera has the potential to share/transmit some very high quality images within seconds after capture.

In the professional operating type Samsung provides adjustment for color, saturation, sharpness, and contrast via menu, but the camera doesn’t have a color palette per se, such as Canon’s “picture style” or the Pentax “color effects”. However, the Galaxy NX offers smart mode shooting options such as landscape, sunset, and dawn that fulfill a similar purpose. Here’s a look at the default color standard along with the preceding three options.

DEFULT                                                     LANDSCAPE

SUNSET                                                           DAWN

You can also opt to capture images using filter effects such as vignette, greyscale (B&W), sepia, vintage, faded colors, turquoise, tint, cartoon, moody, rugged, oil pastel or fisheye – but at reduced resolution. Here’s a look at the color default setting along with greyscale and sepia filter effects shots. The original was at 20 megapixel resolution but the camera captured using the filter effects at 10 megapixels.

If you have the Galaxy NX set for either 20 or 16MP resolution still image size, you’ll get a notification from the camera when you go to the filter effects screen and apply a filter that filtered images will be output at either 3888 x 2592 (3:2) or 3712 x 2088 (16:9) resolution. The practical effect of this is 20 or 16MP images are captured at 10MP resolution; if your Galaxy NX is set for 10 or 13MP as the base resolution, filter effect images will be captured at that resolution and you don’t get a prompt. After finishing with filter shooting, make sure to go to the “no filter” panel and select that before returning to normal image capture–you’ll be limited to 10 or 13MP size resolution options if you don’t; the Galaxy NX returns to your original resolution once filters are disabled.

The Galaxy NX also features a panorama shooting option in the smart mode that will capture up to eight images with a single push of the shutter as the camera is slowly panned and then combine them into a single image. You can also apply filters in the post processing phase via the Galaxy NX2 gallery, but the post processed filter images weren’t recognized by my Photoshop CS5 despite being JPEGs. However, my PhotoNinja RAW Converter did, so apparently the post processing produces a JPEG format not recognized by my older software–and this probably explains why Lightroom 5 is included with the Galaxy NX. If you’re running older photo software be aware that you may encounter some problems with post processed JPEGS out of your Galaxy NX, or plan to get up to speed on Lightroom. One other thing–post processed JPEGs were all downsized to the 600-700KB range, and the panorama came out of the camera about that same size as well. I couldn’t find anything in the manual about changing/keeping the original resolution, and couldn’t find anything in the menus as well.  Of course, the downsized images make for easier sharing, which is of course part and parcel of the Galaxy NX platform in the first place.

The camera also allows you to set it up to produce a single HDR (high dynamic range) image out of three shots bracketed automatically by the camera with a single activation of the shutter button. The camera saves the first image of the exposure bracketing along with the image produced by combining the three shots. Here’s a look at the inside of the two shots saved of the interior of Mission San Luis Rey.

Multi metering is the default setting in the Galaxy NX, but there are center weighted and spot metering options available. In practice, multi did a fairly good job across a wide range of scenes but as is typical with many cameras tended to lose highlights in high contrast situations.

I used auto white balance for all images captured for this review and it did a very good job across a range of light including daylight, overcast, open shade, flash, and tungsten (3200 K temperature). In addition to auto there are presets for daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten and flash, along with user established custom and Kelvin temperature options.

ISO noise performance in the Galaxy NX is quite good, with 100, 200 and 400 sensitivities virtually identical, although some very strict pixel peeping will show just the tiniest hint of grain in the 400 setting. Slight grain increases are noticed at 800 and 1600 but both of these settings are still quite clean. The apparent increase in grain observed in the jump from 1600 to 3200 is the most significant to this point, and the jump from 3200 to 6400 is a bit more dramatic, but even at 6400 the Galaxy NX is doing a fairly good job dealing with noise. A definite tipping point is apparent as 6400 gives way to 12800, with the latter setting showing the first signs of color blotching as well as fading. 25600 is significantly worse than 12800, with pronounced color blotching and graininess.

ISO 100                                                                              ISO 200

ISO 400                                                                              ISO 800

ISO 1600                                                                            ISO 3200

ISO 6400                                                                              ISO 12800

ISO 25600

The ISO images were captured with the camera set for default noise reduction, which is to say “normal” high ISO noise reduction.

Additional Sample Images

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