Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

Samsung NX11, 18-55mm - £340

The mini-DSLR style Samsung NX11 is similar in dimensions and weight to the Panasonic Lumix G3, although the EVF doesn't extend so far from the rear. The EVF features a proximity sensor, so the display automatically switches from the LCD to the viewfinder as you put your eye to the eyepiece, but it's much more jittery when panning than the Panasonic's viewfinder.

Continuing the upsized theme, the image sensor is also larger than those of the Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic cameras in this test, and is matched only by the Sony in its APS-C dimensions. Image resolution is a respectable 14.6MP, although the maximum video resolution is relatively disappointing at just 720p.

The Samsung NX11 features an AMOLED screen rather than a conventional LCD, which is clear, bright and reasonably unreflective, but lacks the touchscreen facility of the Panasonic GF3 and G3. As a substitute, direct-access control buttons are plentiful, but this makes the camera quite cluttered around the back.

Another neat twist, literally, is the i-Function system, which enables you to alter shooting parameters via the focusing ring of compatible lenses. Pressing the button repeatedly cycles through options such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation, depending on what shooting mode you're using. The shooting mode dial offers a wealth of options from 'smart' automatic scene selection to dedicated scene modes and PASM shooting.

Performance

Handling feels quite natural, thanks in part to the newly designed handgrip. The larger than average body feels balanced when using the 18-55mm kit lens. Optical image stabilisation works well and image quality is good, although dynamic range falls off quite noticeably when you push the sensitivity to its higher settings.

Outdoor image test

Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

White balance is a little off, giving this landscape scene a slightly cool look, but exposure levels are pretty much spot on.

Resolution test

Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

ISO 200

Despite the NX11's higher-resolution APS-C sensor when compared with the GF3, the benefit is only really apparent in high-sensitivity JPEGs.

Noise

Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

ISO 200

Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

ISO 1600

Despite its comparatively large APS-C sensor, JPEG images from the NX11 are particularly noisy at high sensitivity settings in low light.

Colour error

Best budget compact system cameras: 6 tested

A little too restrained, the NX11 often delivers dull, muddy-looking colours that can make images look a bit gloomy.

Image test verdict

Good metering isn't matched by accurate AWB, making colour rendition a moveable feast. High ISO shots in low light are disappointingly noisy.

Read the full Samsung NX11 review