Samsung NX100: First Look

Today, Samsung Singapore passed me the NX100 for first-hands experience, allowing me to work on my upcoming training workshops for them. Here once again, practicing my "review-within-a-day" philosophy, I offered as much initial opinion as I could.

The NX100 is a modern twist to the retro rangefinder camera design. Admittedly when I first saw the NX100 from the online press release, I was rather skeptical about its non-DSLR form factor, especially the absence of flash. In my mind then, I felt that the NX10 would still be a more usable camera .

When I held the NX100, my opinion changed instantly. Despite the modern design, the handling is improved to the extent that I feel I am even able to manipulate the exposure controls much faster than the NX10.

Firstly, the test set comes with the jacket case, which offers a much better ergonomic grip. I recommend serious photographers to get this accessory for the handling advantage and protection.

The leather jacket case certainly enhances the retro look (though it might look more cohesive on a black NX100 body)
Second, the new rotation dial around the 4-way navigation button allows me to control the aperture, while the commander dial behind the shutter button controls the shutter speed. Now, I can adjust both settings at the same time, instinctively!
The shutter release button lights up in Samsung-blue when power is on
Thirdly, the relocation of buttons appears to be well-thought and sensible. The bottom 2 buttons are for playback and delete, placed away from the other shooting buttons. The MENU and Fn buttons are placed immediately above the 4-way navigation button, for intuitive access. The 2 less-common used buttons, exposure compensation and AEL, are positioned above the MENU buttons. The DISP button is placed at the left of the camera, above the AMOLED screen. The depth-of-field preview button is, interestingly, positioned at the left side of the camera, but nonetheless easy to access (I like to customise this button to do manual white balance).
Image courtesy of Samsung Singapore
I really like the "green button" found in all the Samsung NX cameras. Basically it is a reset-to-default button. The beauty of NX-series cameras is that all the function settings you select do not require you to "commit" or click "OK". The moment you select the value, you can use it. But what if you do not intend to keep the setting? Just press the green button! I find it so easy to use this green button to, say, return my AF area to the centre of the frame, or to return the exposure compensation from the extreme +/- 3 back to 0, or reset all the 4 Picture Wizard parameters back to 0 at one button.

The biggest selling feature about the new NX100 is the i-Function lenses. It is indeed useful to adjust camera settings on the lens, but I feel it does not provide added efficiency, as all the functions offered by the i-Function (aperture, shutter, ISO, EV, WB) can already be accessed easily from the NX100 itself (shows that NX100 is well-designed).

Post edit: I have written a separate blog entry to share how a beginner (as opposed to an advanced user like me) will benefit from i-Function. Read it here

But I must commend that the i-Function button is correctly positioned near the focusing/value ring (as opposed to behind the zoom ring, where most lenses would put the OIS or AF/MF switches). I reckon the i-Function would be more useful for someone using the optional electronic viewfinder, as it would allow the user to modify the functions without leaving his eye off the viewfinder. The i-Function is currently available on 2 lenses: 20mm f2.8 and 20-50mm f3.5-5.6. The latter is smaller than the current 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 but lacks the optical image stabiliser.
Left, 18-55mm lens at the minimum size. Right, 20-50mm at the maximum protrusion.

Other comparisons between NX10 and NX100 are:
- NX100 is lighter
- NX10 feels more rugged and solid
- NX100 focuses faster (plus point!!!)
- NX100 can shoot up to ISO 6400 (albeit very noisy)
- NX100 has some additional software feature enhancements like Smart Filter (vignetting, miniature, fish-eye, sketch, de-fog, halftone dots, soft-focus), Sound Picture
- NX100 has new Smart Shoe that supports optional GPS module and viewfinder

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