- Review Date: 02/09/2012
- Bottom line:
A speedy mirrorless camera capable of grabbing sharp images and shooting in lower light, the Samsung NX200's high price is its biggest barrier.
Sharp kit lens. Fast burst shooting. Excellent high ISO performance. Crisp AMOLED rear display.
Pricey. Fixed rear display. No EVF option.
The 20-megapixel Samsung NX200 ($899.99 list with 18-55mm kit lens) is the latest addition to Samsung's NX line of compact interchangeable lens cameras. Like our Editors' Choice Sony Alpha NEX-C3 ($649.95, 4.5 stars), the NX200 has an APS-C image sensor, the same size found in most consumer D-SLRs. Its slim body eliminates a viewfinder like the one found in Samsung's mirrorless NX10 ($699.99, 3.5 stars). The NX200 is capable of producing some very fine images, and should appeal to to NX owners who are looking for a higher-resolution body, but the high cost of entry makes this camera tough sell when there are more affordable mirrorless options available.
Design and Features
Like most mirrorless cameras, the NX200 has a slim body that is more reminiscent of a point-and-shoot than an SLR. The included 18-55mm (27-82.5mm equivalent) zoom lens is only slightly smaller than the kit zoom included with most SLRs, as the lens has to be able to capture enough light to cover the camera's image sensor. The NX200 body measures 2.5 by 4.6 by 1.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 7 ounces. This puts it in the same class as the Olympus E-PL3 ($699.99, 3.5 stars), which measures 2.5 by 4.3 by 1.5 inches and weighs 9.3 ounces. The camera body is too small to accommodate a built-in flash, but a pop-up flash that slides into the hot shoe is included.
You get enough physical controls to keep enthusiasts happy, but the camera can also be set to automatic modes that will appeal to users who are moving up from point-and-shoots and who may still be learning the ropes. Rear buttons include Movie Record, Exposure Compensation, Drive Mode, ISO, and Function (Fn). The camera's menu system is very easy to use—its' responsive and settings can be changed very quickly. Hitting Fn brings up an overlay display which allows you to adjust common shooting settings including EV Compensation, White Balance, and ISO. There is also an iFn button on that lens that allows you to change shooting settings. You can configure which options show up when using it. Tapping the button cycles through the settings that can be adjusted and turning the focus ring changes the value.
The NX200 doesn't have a built-in electronic viewfinder, and there's no option to add one like there is with the Sony Alpha NEX-5N ($699.95, 4.5 stars). The 3-inch 614k-dot AMOLED screen is fixed, unlike the tilting displays on the NEX series cameras. It looks great, but isn't quite as sharp as the 921k-dot screens found on the NEX-C3 and NEX-5N. It's also very bright, although the lack of tilting ability can make sun glare a bit of an issue when using it outdoors.
Performance and Conclusions
The NX200 is a speedy little camera. It starts up and takes a shot in about 1.5 seconds, requires only 0.15 second between photos in continuous drive mode, and delivers a 0.3 second shutter lag. Its burst shooting is limited to 11 photos before the buffer fills, and you'll be unable to grab more shots until all photos have been written to the memory card. It works out to a bit faster than 6 frames per second, which is very impressive for a compact camera. The Olympus E-PM1 ($499.99, 4 stars), one of the faster mirrorless cameras we've tested, is also limited to grabbing 12 shots at 4 frames per second. That camera can start up and grab a shot in 1.2 seconds and records a very short 0.2-second shutter lag.
I used Imatest to test the sharpness of the included 18-55mm kit lens. A score of 1,800 lines per picture height is considered to be acceptably sharp, and kit lenses sometimes have trouble keeping up with high-resolution cameras like the NX200. The lens recorded 1,958 lines at 18mm, 2,120 lines at 35mm, and 1,701 lines at 55mm. This outperforms the 18-55mm lens that is included with the Sony NEX-5N, which was only able to record 1,786 lines at 18mm.
Imatest also measures image noise that typically becomes apparent as you increase the camera's sensitivity to light. Noise, which can be likened to film grain in appearance, can make an image look overly grainy when it rises above 1.5 percent. The NX200 does a fantastic job keeping noise under control, producing clean images through ISO 6400. This matches the performance of our Editors' Choice Sony Alpha NEX-C3. Many mirrorless cameras we've tested, including the Nikon J1 ($649.95, 3.5 stars), are only able to control noise through ISO 1600.
The camera can record HD video in 1080p30, 720p60, and 720p30 resolutions. Files are recorded in MP4 format for easy online sharing. Colors are bright and the camera can focus while recording. The lens is quiet enough where the focus noise is not picked up on the stereo audio track, although you'll pick up some sound if you opt to adjust the zoom while recording a video. Standard micro USB and mini HDMI ports are available for computer and HDTV connectivity. The NX200 is compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
Overall, the Samsung NX200 is an impressive camera, capable of producing sharp photos in varying lighting conditions. It handles very well and its 20-megapixel sensor gives you enough resolution to make very large prints. If you've already bought into the NX lens system, the NX200 is worth consideration as an upgrade, as long as you can live without an eye-level viewfinder. If you're looking for your first mirrrorless camera, take a look at the Sony NEX-C3, which is a full $250 less expensive and offers similar low-light performance. You could put that money towards a second lens, or simply keep it in your savings account. If you do see yourself shopping for lenses, you may want to take a look at a Micro Four Thirds camera like the $500 Olympus E-PM1. It won't do as well in low light, but that system has been available for a longer time period and offers more lenses and accessories.