The Samsung NX100 is a natural evolution of the expanding NX-series, providing a more compact and lighter overall package than the existing NX10 model which competes more clearly with the Panasonic GF, Olympus EP and Sony NEX cameras. The NX100 isn’t quite as small or as well-realised as we’d have liked, but it’s currently by far the cheapest way to buy into the Compact System Camera revolution.
The reduction in the size of the NX100 has come at the cost of the loss of a built-in electronic viewfinder and, more crucially for its target market of compact camera upgraders, a built-in flash. While most of the NX100’s potential owners won’t mind the lack of an EVF, they will miss the versatility of a pop-up flash, something that several key rivals offer. Sure, you can fit an optional flash unit to the NX100 via the Smart Shoe, but its more inconvenient and also prevents additional use of either the EVF or the intriguing GPS unit at the same time. On a more practical level we also missed having a proper grip, especially given the NX100’s smooth surface, although in most other respects the user interface is commendably well-thought-out for such a new product.
The jury’s out on the new i-Function button, though, with opinions divided about whether it’s a genuinely useful innovation or just another way to differentiate the NX system from its competitors. Being able to change the camera’s key settings via the focus ring makes sense when holding it up to eye-level, but just seems plain awkward when it’s held at arm’s length, something that most of this model’s target audience will do by default. We think i-Function is a better fit for the NX10 with its built-in EVF, which has recently been made compatible with the two new i-Fn lenses through a firmware upgrade.
On the subject of lenses, the new 20-50mm kit lens that we reviewed the NX100 with is a lot smaller than the existing 18-55mm lens that ships with the NX10, with a couple of important caveats. Firstly its retractable design means that the startup of the camera is slowed down as you have to unlock the lens, and secondly this lens isn’t stabilised, an important oversight as the NX system doesn’t offer in-body stabilisation. Samsung have boosted the ISO speed up to 6400 on the NX100, but the results aren’t pretty and don’t make up for the lack of OIS in the lens.
As the NX100 shares exactly the same sensor as the NX10, it also offers all the advantages that a large APS-C DSLR sensor offers, namely better performance at higher ISOs than the smaller Micro Four Thirds format. I’d be happy to regularly shoot with any setting from 100-800, and even 1600 is handy at a push. The fastest settings of 3200 and 6400 are less useful though and not quite on a par with the high ISO results from the Sony NEX series. The movie mode is also not quite as sophisticated as some rivals, with no stereo sound or option to connect a microphone, no one-touch record button and no ability to change the shutter speed or take a still image during recording.
One factor that the Samsung NX100 certainly does have in its favour is price. The official RRP of £449.99 / $599.99 with the new 20-50mm kit lens is competitive enough, but we’ve already seen prices below £400 / $500 from reputable dealers, giving incredible value for money and the cheapest entry into the CSC market for a new product. The Samsung NX100 undercuts its main rivals by a considerable margin and also further blurs the boundaries between high-end compact cameras and Compact System Cameras. Despite our slight misgivings about the NX100’s size, lack of built-in flash and the new kit lens, it’s still a very good camera with a high-quality APS-C sensor and Samsung’s massive financial backing behind it, making it an easy recommendation if you want to test out the Compact System Camera waters without having to invest too much money.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||5|