Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thought Of The Day: Samsung NX200 Criticism

Samsung's NX200 compact interchangeable-lens digital camera has caused much division. It seems like you either love it or you hate it.

The NX200 is a relatively small, lightweight and inexpensive camera with a lot of resolution--20 megapixels on an APS-C sized sensor! At low ISO, it's really tough to beat the image quality from this camera. In fact, for the $900 MSRP, you simply cannot beat the image quality. If you double that price you will find cameras with similar image quality and if you triple that price you will find cameras that beat it (but not by much, really). You can read my full review by clicking here.

The NX200 is not a perfect camera (no camera is, not even the Nikon D800, which might be the best digital camera ever made). It's in that imperfection that we find the division. So let's take a closer look.

The biggest criticism is that Samsung left off an electronic viewfinder. Some people absolutely must compose their images while looking through a tiny viewfinder. And that is OK, since that is what they are used to. Since the NX200 doesn't have a viewfinder, those who must have one will never like this camera.

Samsung did, however, include a great 3" screen on the back of the camera, perfectly capable of composing images on.

Viewfinders make no difference to image quality (which is what is truly important, right?), so as long as you are able to compose your images somehow, that is good enough. Or, at least, it should be. I think some have made a mountain out of a molehill by being completely inflexible. What difference does it make on what type of screen images are composed?

Some will hate the NX200 always and forever because of this. I find it to be a non-issue.

Another big complaint about the NX200 is that digital noise (the equivalent of film grain) is average to below-average at high ISO. 95% of photographs by 95% of photographers are captured at fairly low ISOs, so performance at high ISO is not nearly as important as low ISO performance. Low ISO performance on the NX200 is outstanding.

The photographers that need good high ISO performance are those that do a lot of low-light photography. Those photographers should consider full-frame DSLRs or an APS-C sized sensor camera with fewer megapixels. No one should expect 20 megapixels on an APS-C sensor to be good at high ISO. But since most photographers don't do a lot of low-light photography, it's not a big deal.

If you need to do some low-light photography with the NX200 (and we'll assume that you cannot add light to the scene), one solution is to save your images in RAW format instead of JPEG. Fiddle around with the images in post-processing and you can get good looking photographs at high ISO, but it will take more time (and time is important).

One other complaint is that the camera saves RAW slowly. This is only a big deal if you are capturing images in rapid succession (for example, if you are a sports photographer).

I'm a big proponent of JPEG and I believe RAW is rarely necessary. With JPEG, the trick is to get all the settings the way you want them before opening the shutter. A few seconds of care in the field can save you several minutes of farting around in front of a computer later (again, time is important). If you save as JPEGs, then it doesn't matter how slow RAW save times are. If you save as RAW, it will matter to you only if you are trying to quickly capture a lot of images.

Some have complained about JPEG quality vs. RAW quality from the NX200, saying that JPEG quality isn't all that good. This is true only at high ISO, which, if you save in RAW and fiddle on a computer, you can get sharper images with less digital noise and a larger dynamic range. At low ISO, it's simply not the case--there is very little to no improvements that can be gained by saving in RAW instead of JPEG. At ISO 800 and 1600, you will have to decide for yourself if the minimal improvements from saving in RAW are worth the extra time and effort it takes to post-process RAW.

I believe this complaint is more user-error than anything else. With JPEG, you have to make sure all of the settings are the way you want them. Read the user's manual and be sure that everything is indeed as you want it.

Now that we are through with that, now onto the good.

At low ISO (which most photographs by most photographers are captured at low ISO), the image quality is exceptional for an APS-C sized sensor camera. The NX200 surpassed almost all APS-C sized sensor cameras and gets right up there with full-frame digital cameras. If you photographed exclusively at ISOs 100, 200 and 400, no one would ever be able to tell that you didn't use a full-frame DSLR.

Samsung has made nine quality lenses for their NX cameras, which is more than most other compact interchangeable-lens camera manufacturers have made available for their cameras. And the Samsung lenses are well above average--in fact, they are quite good (which is more than you can say about Sony's ho-hum lenses).

The NX200 has a great user interface, which makes the camera a blast to use. Any and all adjustments are quick to find and easy to make. No searching through seemingly endless menus to change some setting!

Last but certainly not least is the price. The NX200 with a lens has an MSRP of $900, but if you shop around, you can find it for as little as $750. That's a very small price to pay for a camera that delivers so much.

In conclusion, for the price, you cannot find a better digital camera than the Samsung NX200. If you pay double the price of the NX200, you can get a camera that produces image quality that is similar to it. If you pay triple the price of the NX200, you can get a camera that produces image quality that is similar at low ISO but better at high ISO. As you can see, the NX200 is a great value!

Is the NX200 perfect? Of course not. But it is a darn good camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment