NX10 Tests - some thoughts

Often you get a "gut reaction" about how a camera or lens performs and its interesting to see whether those reactions are accurate. We have been doing extensive tests on the NX10 to see how our initial impressions stood up to some more thorough testing.

After reading David Clapps article on his use of a GF1 as a light, small, tripod mounted landscape camera http://www.davidclapp.co.uk/blog/reviews/43-panasonic-gf-1-in-the-landscape.html we were interested in exploring the possibility of something similar. We had a couple of reservations about using m4/3 however. One was the size of the files produced and the other was the dynamic range of the m4/3 sensor. The Samsung NX10 seemed to offer advantages on both counts while still offering the size and weight bonus. This being very important when a tripod is carried around. Initial use of the NX10 gave encouraging results, though this was only on the basis of jpgs. Now that we are able to use and process raw files via our preferred option of Photoshop it seemed a good time to do some testing.

Since getting the NX10 the most used lens has been the 30mm F2 pancake lens. Its size and weight being very attractive. However for the purpose in mind the 18-55 zoom would be a more useful option. With this in mind we tested the zoom at 30mm against the 30mm prime.

We certainly expected the 30mm to perform better and were pleased and surprised to find that the zoom was virtually indistinguishable in terms of results. It also has a slightly "warmer" look to the results. A bit like adding an 81A filter in front of the lens. Used on the tripod it produced sharp results and overall performed well.

We tested the 50-200 zoom on its own, including stopped down to f22 and again were pleased to see an excellent set of images. Again excellent sharpness was observed, including images shot at 200mm and f22.

Our conclusion was that both zooms will be "up to the job" and give us files that can be interpolated to 48MB with no problems.

A final test was carried out comparing the NX10 + 30mm F2 to a Panasonic GH1 + 20mm f1.7. Though having different focal lengths we felt it would be a good test as these lenses are regarded as the stand out optics of their respective systems. Initial viewing of the results seemed to indicate that the GH1/20mm files were "punchier". They certainly seem to have a warmer look. However closer examination showed that the NX10/30mm files were slightly sharper * to our eyes. There is very little in it, however bearing in mind that we will be enlarging the files, this was important.
(* Our suspicion is that that the Samsung AA filter is weaker than the Panasonics. Certainly there is a little more luminance noise visible)

Two final thoughts. The Samsungs colour balance is quite "cool" when the files are processed via Photoshop. (In contrast to the jpgs which are certainly more saturated) How much this has to do with this first attempt at NX10 files on Adobes part, we cannot say. Certainly they have made no announcement that ACR 5.7 works with raw files and neither the Lightroom 2 update or the Lightroom 3 beta will recognise NX10 files, leading to the suspicion that there may be more to come from Adobe in terms of NX10 raw conversion.

Secondly, we preferred the layout of the Samsung. Having always found the layout on Panasonic cameras a bit fiddly, the NX10 is laid out well. Manually focusing the lenses, for example, involved less button pushing. The AMOLED screen is also much better to use outdoors in sunlight. While still not perfect its a lot clearer than the Panasonic, whose articulated screen becomes less of an advantage when you can't see it!

Whether the NX10 sells in enough quantities to keep Samsung interested in it remains to be seen. At the moment its a system with only three lenses, though all seem to be good performers.
Whether using 3rd. party MF lenses becomes an option we cannot say. However there is somewhat waning enthusiasm for the whole MF lenses + adapters scenario for stills round here currently. Still it would be nice to see how our Nikon lenses perform with the NX10.

Hopefully some decent light in the next few days will allow a good "real world" test of zooms + tripod.

N.B. it is still our intention to post the raw files from the NX10/GH1 comparison test. However there's 500MB+ of data to upload to facilitate this and we need to find a time when we are not uploading images to stock sites, which is currently most of the time!

As ever this is a personal commentary and not intended to influence or criticise others choices and prefereces.