Saturday, 4 May 2013

My personal review of the Samsung NX300

I am not going into a lot of technical detail here, but detailing my experience with the camera after a months fairly heavy usage including a two week trip in Costa Rica.

I feel the need to state here, I love the NX1000. Sure, it may not be the fastest beast out there with the best low-light performance, etc, etc, but for the price I got it, it's one awesome little camera!

Why do I mention the NX1000 in an NX300 review? Well, I only like the NX300 at the moment. Very much, I will add, but I don't love it yet. I want to though.

My first disappointment hit fairly quickly, as within minutes of turning the camera on, the captured image would degrade into a green mess on the screen. It would right itself and repeat intermittently.

OK, so I got a bad one. It happens.

So I returned and got a replacement, but with the 2nd one, the screen just doesn't feel as sensitive to touch, with me frequently having to tap several times to get a response. Hell, one day it stopped responding entirely until I powered down.

OK, so maybe I got two bad cameras. It really shouldn't happen...

So......... I have now returned camera 2, and have camera 3 sitting next to me. Touch screen is nicely responsive, and so far, not noticed any issues. Not had much time to test thoroughly yet though! Wish me luck!

Anyway, I will assume for the purposes of this review that people who buy will land up with a good one, or be able to return a duff one anyway, so I will ignore those two problems mentioned going on.

So on to the details.


Some will complain about the size. It's far chunkier than the NX1000, and I think many of the other compact system cameras out there, but I find the size just perfect.

It makes it nice and comfortable to hold, without being cumbersome. And if I stick on the 30mm pancake, or even the 20-50mm, it will fit easily in many pockets - though definitely not trouser pockets. And it's still a far less bulky affair than a DSLR.

It also feels far better balanced with some of the larger lenses attached, such as the 60mm macro, or the 18-200mm.

Buttons are well placed, and the video button is now far more difficult to hit accidentally.

Sometimes I do miss the jog dial on the direction pad of the NX1000, as it just felt far easier to adjust than the little jog wheel on top. But that is not a major isssue, and I guess I will get more at ease with using the touch screen over time.

There are far less mode dials on the NX300, which I initially took to be a good thing, until I realised the down side of no longer having a video mode dial - and I will go into why in the video section.

There is at least one thing missing from the "function" menu, that I quite liked having easy access to, and that is swapping between capture modes, such as RAW or RAW+Super fine. You now have to delve into the menus a bit for that. There is the ability to assign RAW+ to the custom button, but this will only keep the setting for one capture, and then revert. It would be far nicer if this was a toggle.

It would also be nice to have the "function" menu option for changing between smartrange+/HDR/none.

The touch screen, combined with Samsung's great menu's, is a joy to use (when you get a good one). Changing settings, and quickly navigating menus can be far quicker than using the d-pad and jog dial on top. Though I still find myself going for the d-pad and dial, forgetting that I can touch the screen :)

The fact that it can tilt 45 degrees down and 90 degrees up is a real plus. It has come in handy on many occasions.

Using the touch screen for focus makes it considerably quicker to frame your shot, without having a use direction pad for moving focus point.

And one touch shot can be good for saving some time in a pinch, but shot to shot time using this method is not brilliant yet.

Focus tracking, I am not sold on yet though. It's implementation I can only describe as OK for now. It loses subjects too easily, even if good lighting/contrast situations.


Generally, this is one snappy camera.

Combined with the right lens, focus can be really fast.

Exactly why Samsung chose to bundle the 20-50mm with it here in UK, I don't know - it's slow, noisy and has no OIS. OK  some places offer the 18-55mm, but you have to hunt for it.

I do still think there is a lot of room for improvement. There is still a tendency to hunt a bit for focus, which I thought would go with the PDAF, but I don't know enough about that technically, so maybe my expectations were off.

Samsung have already released an updated firmware for at least one lens (30mm pancake), and I imagine more will follow.

There seems to be a problem with firmware 1.1 and writing RAW files (at least I think only updated firmware), as burst seems limited to about 5 snaps before it starts pausing to flush the buffer. But given that Samsung fixed such issues on the previous generation, I am sure they will sort it.

I am sure I remember on holiday I could get more than 5 fps on a burst with RAW.

Improved ISO performance is also most welcome on the camera. All the way up to ISO 6400 is good, and even in a pinch I would resort to 12800, which may be noisy, but if it's not for large prints, should do well to capture those memories.

The improved ISO performance came in very handy using the 18-200mm zoom, as it's a slow lens, aperture-wise, and any boost to keeping the shutter speed up, especially as I am usually photographing wildlife, is most welcome.

Of course, this all means that low light performance, especially when combined with the faster lenses, is much improved over last gen, making getting some challenging images where I didn't think I stood a chance.

Battery performance is, sadly, is just OK. I can't tell you how many shots you will get off a charge, but if you are diligent about turning camera off when you are sure you won't be taking a photo, you should manage OK for a few hours, or a few hundred shots. It is largely dependent on lens also though, so hard to be specific - for example, if you stick the 18-200mm on, that thing sucks the life from batteries!

Picture quality

I feel there have been large strides made in the sensor department by Samsung, when comparing to the NX1000.

When zooming in on images, it's astounding how much detail can be captured, especially in combination with the prime lenses, such as the 30mm and 60mm - there are plenty of examples on the blog, so I won't repeat here.

Where I most noticed improvements on image quality though is, oddly, when using the 18-200mm.

I noticed this initially when photographing my friendly neighborhood Robin, as below. From the same distance, using the same lens, taking photos of this guy would always look like smudgy messes with the NX1000. With this camera, I can now get a decent shot.

I am not sure why this is.
Larger image here

There have also been nice improvements to the jpeg engine, which used to be a bit heavy on the noise reduction. I will likely use just jpeg a lot more on this camera.

We now get to choose a level of NR we want applied, and it does a good job of preserving detail.

There's a bunch of presets for jpeg processing, and most of them useful, and rather nice.


OK, here I have some issues.

One of my initial problems with the camera has partially been addressed in firmware V1.1, in that there was no manual ISO control available for video. Silly omission!

With firmware V1.1, it has now been added at least to full manual mode, though still not Aperture/Shutter priority nor Program AE.

And it will only allow usage of ISO up to 3200. Again, let ME choose, please, Samsung.

Then there is the removal of the video mode dial. This is a problem, because it is now impossible to frame a scene properly, as you get no 16:9 preview.

It's pure guess work on how the scene will look in 16:9. How, or whether, Samsung will address this, I have no idea, but I hope they do! It could easily be handled by giving the user the option to replace the auto share icon with a video preview icon, or to assign the custom button the option.

Apart from that, video quality is mostly good.

The fact that it's now 50/60 fps allows for smooth motion, and if you set the fps to 25/30, you can now do slow lotion (half speed) at full 1080p. It would be nice to have a quarter speed option in 720p, as well though.

The microphone picks up wind noise very easily, even with the noise reduction on.

It would also be nice to have a higher bit-rate option, as compression artifacts can show up a fair amount.

Oh, and some of us would like focus tracking and focus peaking in video too, Samsung :)

Overall, I think Samsung have a long way to go in the video department.

I wish they would get it into their heads to compete with the likes of Panasonic in this regard (though without that annoying tendency of Panasonic to remove manual control from their reasonably priced cameras)


I was skeptical about the WiFi on the NX1000, and to be honest, barely used it on that camera. However, the host of sharing options have been made far more user friendly on the NX300, and the touch screen makes typing simple.

There is also near field communication (NFC), but I can't comment on this as I don't have another capable device.

In the end, I used the WiFi a fair amount on holiday for sharing my photos as I went along. I just wish it would have allowed uploading 1080p video.

I just wish I had used the remote viewfinder on the app to get more photos of me in some of the brilliant places I visited. The viewfinder may not offer a lot of functionality, but it's better than anything anyone else has given us in this regard (I think)

The NX300 also introduces 3D to the NX300. For my third camera, I did get the bundle including this lens, but only because it brought the price in line with the 2D version, which I was likely to pick up anyway. Not sure it will be much use to me. For now at least.


Ok, The 2nd camera I only had for a few weeks, but I just wanted to give a brief run down on how it served me in the field on holiday, ignoring touch screen responsiveness.

Overall, the camera was quite reliable.

Firmware V1.0 definitely had some issues, but a number of them seem to have been addressed by V1.1. For example, with the 18-200mm, the camera would get stuck in this cycle of opening and closing the aperture.

I was travelling in Costa Rica, from cloud forests to humid beach locations, and not once do I think it had any performance issues as a result of humidity or heat. the camera could get a bit warm on occasion, but nothing that had me too worried.

As heavy as it can be on battery, especially with the 18-200mm, I rarely had to change batteries, as I made sure I turned camera off when not in use.

There were a few times, such as when trying to photograph some birds, when I found it took a bit too long to write files and be ready for the next shot. I was just lucky in that I didn't lose too many shots as a result, and I hope Samsung improve upon this.


Overall, I am happy with the camera. If I wasn't, I would not be on my third.

It has amazing potential, and with a few updates from Samsung, I am sure this will be one of the top compact system cameras out there for a little while.

For video users, this camera has some serious niggles/problems currently, but hopefully Samsung can find a way to address those - though the 16:9 preview I get a sneaking suspicion they will ignore.

It may not be the cheapest, but considering this has launched at the same price the NX1000 did, I think Samsung are being a lot more sensible on their pricing, and while I would normally suggest waiting for a price drop, don't think anyone would have any major regrets paying the RRP currently.

I do recommend the camera, but would suggest people think hard about it's shortfalls in certain areas before committing - though what's important to me, may not be important to you, and I am sure there are many out there for whom this camera is already very close to perfection - namely those not worried about video or high burst shooting.

I would give the camera 7/10 for now, with the hope to upping that should Samsung address some of the issues I have. If they addressed them, it would be at least an 8, possibly a 9.