Features and Specs
One of the Samsung NX10's key features its 921k-dot electronic viewfinder. It offers an alternative to a nice 614k-dot 3.0-inch AMOLED on the back panel, which is difficult to use in bright sunlight. As the user makes changes to exposure settings, the image displayed in either the viewfinder or the monitor will show a live preview with those changes in place.
The NEX-5 does not offer a built-in viewfinder. It uses a 3.0-inch LCD with a 921-dot resolution. The monitor tilts upwards through 80 degrees of motion and downward by 45 degrees for tricky compositions. A clip-on electronic viewfinder is offered as an accessory.
Both are equipped with similar 14.6 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, and being Live View-based cameras, they both employ a Contrast AF system. Sony lists the NEX-5's burst shooting rate at full resolution as 2.3 fps. We clocked it at 2.6 fps in our own studio tests, and it never stopped to clear the buffer. The NX10 shot 12 full-resolution frames at a rate of 3.3 fps.
Both cameras introduced a new system of lenses for their respective manufacturers. The NEX-5 has an "E" mount, and the NX10 features a proprietary NX mount. Currently, there are two E mount Sony lenses on the market - the f/2.8 16mm pancake and the f/3.5-5.6 18-55mm zoom. The 18-200mm zoom lens is due later this year. An alpha-mount adapter is available from Sony to expand the selection of available lenses.
The NX10 launched with three lenses - the 30mm f/2, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, and 50-200mm f/5-5.6 - and five more are promised, including a 50mm f/2.8 macro and a 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 compact zoom. A Pentax k-mount adapter has also been developed, expanding the lens selection to include Pentax's fine prime lenses. Novoflex has also announced plans to develop adapters for various lens systems.
Lens selection and quality will be important factors. Kelly Cook, DCR forum member, agrees. "As both systems are in their launch phase, I would say lens performance is critical. Low budget cameras have not had a great history for great lenses."
Sony provided DCR with the 16mm and the 18-55mm for our NEX-5 review, though the pancake lens was still in pre-production. Overall lens performance was fine, though saw some significant distortion at wide angle and telephoto using the 18-55mm lens. And unlike Sony's DSLR line, stabilization is in the lens, not the camera body.
The quiver of Samsung lenses we were provided with (30mm, 18-55mm and 50-200mm) proved quite capable, though victim to the usual kinds of barrel and pin cushion distortion we saw in the Sony lenses.
Sony has a much longer history in lens manufacturing than Samsung does, though the new E-mount presents an entirely new line of lenses. The alpha adapter allows use of quality Zeiss optics, but they must be manually focused. Similarly, the brand new Samsung NX lenses are still a wild card, though Samsung has taken a committed stance in developing more lenses for the system. As it stands now, these two new systems seem to be on equal footing in terms of optics.
So what features make either of these cameras stand above the other? The NEX-5 has Sony's popular and mindlessly easy-to-use Sweep Panorama feature. It records 1080i (or 1080p MP4 files) HD video. The NX10 records 720p HD video. They both offer in-camera dynamic range tweaks - Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer and Samsung's Smart Range.
Both cameras have plenty to offer. While the Sony's panorama mode and tilting LCD are great features, it's hard to pass up the Samsung's pop-up flash and EVF. By a narrow margin, the NX10 beats out the NEX-5 on feature set.
Advantage: Samsung NX10
Ease of Use
The NX10 and NEX-5 are both equipped with enough automatic shooting options and scene modes to give any beginner the tools they need to start snapping photos. As mentioned earlier, the Samsung design offers more dedicated buttons for the user, while the NEX-5 offers almost none.
The soft keys that Sony has implemented in the NEX-5 are easy to use. The on-screen prompts cue the user as to which button has been assigned which function. The big scroll wheel is another nice feature.
The NEX-5 is by no means hard to pick up and start using, but diving into the menu system is another story. If you're a photographer who likes to make frequent changes to white balance, ISO and image processing settings, you'll struggle more with the NEX-5 than with the NX10. The NEX-5's menus are dense, while most of the NX10's control options come quickly to hand.
The NEX-5 does have an ease-of-use advantage in that it's physically smaller than the NX10, so it's more manageable to squeeze into a small bag or purse. Looking at the whole system though, the NX10 is just plain easier to operate. To make a smaller camera, some concessions had to be made. Doing away with many conventional controls may have whittled the NEX-5 down into the smallest camera in its class, but it made for a sometimes frustrating user experience. Advantage to Samsung in this category.
Advantage: Samsung NX10
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