Samsung NX200 review - Part 15 - Conclusion

Samsung NX200 18-55mm zoom

This has been the longest review / user experience that I've ever done. Partly because its a camera thats been far from over-reviewed and partly because its an interesting development from a company that was relatively early into the CSC / Mirrorless marketplace, but since then seems to have been "treading water" somewhat.

I left writing this conclusion for a few days, because I wanted to be sure of how I felt about the camera and to try and balance my usual "new toy" enthusiasm with a more objective assessment.

To that end, I must say that I'm beginning to drift back to using my Sony NEX-5n's again. Not because I have any doubts about the image quality that the NX200 produces, but as you will be aware from my previous posts, the issue of the absent viewfinder does significantly affect my views on this camera.

But lets start with the good stuff!

THE SENSOR

Very impressive indeed. In terms of comparing it with everything else I'm familiar with using, for me it doesn't come out as the best I've used in any particular catergory, but is pretty much the best I've used overall. 

Its not as "clean" and noise free as the Sony NEX-5n, but it seems to have a weaker anti- aliasing / low pass filter which allows for sharper results plus it has those extra 4MP's. 

It doesn't have the glossy colour of m4/3 that I like so much, and the potential to use a wide range of lenses, but it has better low light performance, slightly better dynamic range and again those extra pixels.

It is "pixel-challenged" compared to the a77, but because of the weaker AA filter it produces sharper, punchier images.

It doesn't have the wonderful sharpness and colour depth of a Leica M9 sensor, but it doesn't show any evidence of moire and of course doesn't drag in dust all the time. Plus again those few extra MP's do help.

So on the sensor front, a great success I think. 

THE BODY

Its also pretty well made, handles well and has a common sense menu system. All the Samsung cameras I've used have been straightforward and relatively "gimmick free". Certainly I've had no problems navigating around it. The new firmware has added AE lock which was sorely needed and overall I've found it comfortable to use.

The 18-55mm kit lens also works very well with the sensor, giving really well detailed images for a kit lens.

THE PROBLEM

I looked around on various forums and websites to see what others were feeling about the camera. The majority of what I read agreed with me that the sensor is something special and the IQ of the camera is right up there with the very best that an APS-C sensor can offer. But time and time again there were negative comments about the lack of a viewfinder and the fact that one cannot be added. 

Using my partial solution of the Voigtlander optical viewfinder for the wide angle section of the zoom improved the camera so much for me. For example, using the 20mm pancake plus the OVF would make it a really nice (if somewhat restricted) camera. I was interested in the 16mm, but reading some of the results of that lenses distortion problems, I've ruled that out.

This is basically the dilemma. Do I want to use it as a 20mm single lens camera, or as a camera with an (admittedly good) kit zoom with the option to use it with a viewfinder at certain focal lengths, but be forced to use it as a point and shoot compact for everything else?

With a viewfinder I would have seriously contemplated buying more Samsung lenses. But there's no way I'd even consider a telephoto lens without a viewfinder. Yes I'm aware that there is probably going to be an NX20 with a built in EVF, but if its the same miniaturised DSLR / Bridge Camera type design of the NX10/11, then I'm not interested. Call me a camera snob if you like, but that style of body is my least favourite by some distance, and as far as I'm concerned if its going to be small, then it has to have "rangefinder" styling. Just my personal preference, but thats the way it is.

I still feel this camera is a missed opportunity and that Samsung have misread the market for this camera. I'm convinced that all camera manufacturers are mistaken in putting all their energies into marketing these CSC's at point and shoot upgraders almost exclusively. Much as I dislike the NIkon 1 system, I do think that they have got more of an idea of what this market will go for. Superb 20MP sensor quality available via expensive and complicated extra software packages, doesn't strike me as a great selling point for family snapshooters and teenage facebook enthusiasts.

I really do feel that this camera could have been great. A real competitor to the NEX-7, which I suspect it may better for image quality, if my results from the a77 are anything to go by. I imagine it with a viewfinder similar to the NEX-5n or Olympus Pens and that would be a camera I would use a lot. As it is currently I have doubts whether I will actually even keep it for any length of time. Yesterday I was out shooting with a NEX-5n and I went back to multi-image shooting and stitching them together into high-res files, thus eliminating the need for those extra MP's. But there are situations where I want to take single shots and I want them to be the highest quality I can get. The NX200, with a viewfinder would have been great for that, but currently unless its at 18mm or 24mm, forget it.

So for me its 9/10 for the sensor and 5/10 for the body, which despite its other virtues has something really rather important to me missing. 

However if no viewfinder isn't an issue for you and you want a high quality, light, small camera capable of sensational IQ at low ISO's then do check out the NX200. For that, its just about the best on the market, as far as I'm concerned. 

But Oh! What it could have been!!


UPDATE.

Just a brief update to say that Photoshop and Lightroom now support the NX200 raw files. I've processed a few and everything seems fine. Its not that different to the results from Capture One and I see no reason to change any of my comments. Perhaps there is a slightly better colour balance and certainly everything is quicker and I can import the files into Photoshop without having to save tiff files all the time. All I would say is that this confirms what I have believed from my review, that this is indeed a fine sensor.