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Samsung NX300 Review
by Laura Hicks -  7/10/2013

My guess is that some people are a little wary of Samsung cameras. Whether they are unsure of the image quality or uncertain of the build and design of the camera, those that are hesitant can cite reasons that are founded in truth...at least up until recently. 

Samsung has recently taken the opportunity to reinvent themselves in the camera market. Over the last year or so, they have released a hoard of new cameras that embrace Samsung's dedication to digital imaging. Samsung has increased their sensor technology, lens quality and overall speed of their cameras to a point where they are serious contenders in the mirrorless camera race. The NX300 is leading the Samsung pack with its 20.3-megapixel APS-C sensor, fast autofocus and growing line of high quality lenses.

The NX300 is the flagship model of the NX lineup of cameras--and with great reason. The camera has a large 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a new hybrid autofocus (phase and contrast) that proves to be fast and reliable.  The NX300 has a 3.3-inch AMOLED tilting touchscreen. It also offers users ISO sensitivities from 100 to 25,600 and a respectable 8.6fps continuous shooting speed. It has a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000th of a second for better action photography. The NX300 can shoot RAW or JPG files and takes SD, SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-1 enabled memory cards. The camera has an MSRP of $800 and includes either the 18-55mm or 20-50mm lens. However, we were able to find deals at B&H and Best Buy for $698 and $650, respectively. 

Build and Design
Maintaining the same shape and basic design as many other NX cameras, the NX300 comes in a variety of colors including the brown leatherette that we reviewed. The camera measures 4.8 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches (WxHxD) and weighs just over 0.7 pounds (11.5oz). This weight comes from its metal alloy body--a load we are happy to carry if it means foregoing a cheap plastic exterior. The top of the camera features a sleek chrome finish. The camera offers a nice size hand grip for its overall dimensions. Carrying around the NX300 all over NYC was never a problem and my hands or neck did not tire from the extended shooting spree that day. 

Ergonomics and Controls
The NX300 offers users a nicely arranged user interface that is similar to other NX cameras--logical and uncomplicated. All buttons and controls are simple to reach and easy to navigate. The top of the camera houses an on/off switch, a zoom dial, a mode dial and a direct link button to access Wi-Fi connectivity. The back of the camera has a bunch of buttons including: exposure compensation, direct video access, menu, function (Fn), display, autofocus, ISO, continuous shutter/timer, playback, delete and OK button. The side of the camera has a door which encloses the HDMI and charging cord. The bottom of the NX300 has a tripod mount. The battery and SD card slot are also located on the bottom of the camera.

 

Menus and Modes
I'm always a happy girl when I have a compact mirrorless camera with a shooting mode dial. The NX300 delivers this and more. On the top of the camera sits a simple mode dial with P,S,A, and M modes. The dial also houses an auto mode, a lens priority mode (i), a smart mode for accessing a plethora of effects and a Wi-Fi mode for quick uploading to Samsung's mobile link, social media sites or email. The menu consists of 4 simple-to-navigate pages. 

Display/Viewfinder
The NX300 lacks a viewfinder, but makes up for it with a very sharp 3.3-inch AMOLED LCD touchscreen that is tiltable. The screen has 768k dot resoltion which displays very nicely indoors, but can have a bit of trouble outdoors in the direct sunlight. That being said, the screen is easily tilted for better viewing when faced with this situation. In the shade, the screen looked great. The touchscreen on the Samsung NX300 was extremely responsive and I did not experience any lag. The screen has approximately 100% field of view. While composing and viewing images you can choose to view one of four grids, the histogram, the distance scale or the icons. 

Just can't live without a viewfinder? Check out the Samsung NX20 here.

 

Samsung NX300Performance
The NX300 is a real champ. The new hybrid autofocus system works quickly and the variety of lenses make this camera soar to the top of the charts.

Shooting Performance
The Samsung NX300 has a quicker autofocus than I expected--generally taking a fraction of a second to capture it. Choosing to include both contrast and phase detection autofocus was a good move for Samsung because it has clearly positioned itself to be a major contender amongst the Olympus and Sony mirrorless cameras. Startup is also fast on the NX300. It takes about a second to turn on the camera and snap your first shot and the shutter lag is unnoticeable. 

The NX300 comes with a hot shoe flash. It flips up for use or flips down when you want to store it on your camera, but not use it. 

The battery in the NX300 is rechargeable BP 1130 rated for 160 minutes of video or 320 shots. We found this to be true, but if you like to delete your images in camera, be aware that you will have less battery for capturing your images. Also, the more you use the Wi-Fi, the fewer shots you will be able to capture. That handy little feature can eat up a lot of power. The battery is charged in camera via the included micro USB charging cord. It does not have an additional external charger. Although this is a more common occurrence (especially with Samsung cameras), it does pose a problem if you intend to shoot more than 300 (or so) images at one setting. The only way around this is to purchase an additional battery and charge both of them before you head out to your shoot. Once one of the batteries is depleted you can swap it out and then recharge them both later. 

Lens Performance
The Samsung NX300 has a wide variety of lenses from which to choose. Although I can't say the 18-55mm is my all-time favorite kit lens ever, it does function very nicely with the camera. It is highly responsive and is useful in a multitude of photographic situations. But the best part is it produces some pretty sharp images for a kit lens.




Don't feel like using the kit lens? No problem. Samsung offers a growing lineup of NX lenses. And, the NX300 just happens to be the first camera to support the 45mm f/1.8 2D/3D lens. My personal favorite NX lenses are the 30mm f/2.0 pancake, the 85mm f/1.4 and the new 10mm f/3.5mm fisheye.

Some of the Samsung lenses are equipped with a cool feature called "i Fn." The i function feature allows the camera to control aperture, shutter speed and ISO with the twist of the ring around the lens.  

Wi-Fi/GPS
I am happy to report that the Wi-Fi mode on the NX300 is easy and seamless. With no trouble at all, I accessed my Facebook account and downloaded 2 images in less than 10 seconds. After that, I tried again with 7 more images. Again, each one took about 5 seconds to upload. Obviously, your upload speed will depend on your internet connection, but the moral of the story is the Wi-Fi connectivity of the Samsung NX300 is top notch.

The Samsung NX300 is equipped with NFC (near field communication). Simply tap the camera to a device that has NFC. The image will be transferred wirelessly.

The Samsung NX300 offers geo-tagging with the optional GPS module (WGS84). We did not test this module.

Video Quality
Video is captured as an MP4 file. The camera records Full HD 1080p at 60fps. It can also record 30fps or 24fps. Sound is captured with in-camera stereo sound. If you like better sound quality than you can get in-camera, the EM 10 microphone is available as an accessory for $130. 

The Samsung NX300 produces just as good video results as it does still images. The colors are represented accurately and the subjects are sharp. The camera does a great job at capturing and maintaining focus even with a moving subject. 

Image Quality
We were very impressed with our real world testing of the NX300. Colors were well represented and came out beautiful. Images are sharp with very little noise throughout ISO 3200. ISO 6400 started to show noticeable noise. By the time you reached ISO 25,600 the noise was immense and the pixel smudging was intense. If at all possible I would recommend keeping the ISO below 6400 as much as possible. Just because the camera can shoot at ISO 25,600 doesn't mean you should. 

The camera offers 8 while balance settings: auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten flash, custom and K (Kelvin). 

The camera has a mulitiude of creative shooting modes including: Beauty Face, Landscape, Macro, Action Freeze, Rich Tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light Trace, Creative Shot, Best Face. It also has a bunch of effects pallets including: Vignetting, Minature, Colored Pencil, Watercolor, Wash Drawing, Oil Sketch, Ink Sketch, Acryl, Negative, 4 Selective Color options. 

Check out these real world samples of the NX300. We are pretty sure you will be just as happy with the image quality as we are.

Samsung NX300

Conclusion
The Samsung NX300 really does earn the title of the flagship NX mirrorless camera. It offers a classic leatherette skin draped over a sleek metal body. It is solid and sturdy--the best made NX of the entire lineup. Its image quality is clean and sharp, only giving way to serious pixel degradation at ISOs above 6400. 

The Wi-Fi functionality is simple to use and unable to be beat by any other camera except for Samsung's own Galaxy Camera. So far, no other camera company has been able to create an easier Wi-Fi experience. This is great news for those that desire great image quality and want to have their images available on the web with the blink of an eye. 

In addition to a great camera, Samsung is now packaging the NX300 with Adobe Lightroom giving users $150 worth of free software ($80 value if you already own a previous version of Lightroom). 

We have found way more pros than cons when it comes to the NX300. Besides a couple issues surrounding the battery, we are very content with the way the NX300 feels and performs. The camera has an MSRP of $800 and includes either the 18-55mm or 20-50mm lens. However, we were able to find deals at B&H and Best Buy for $698 and $650, respectively.   

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