Samsung NX20 review

Samsung's top-end CSC gets Wi-Fi

Samsung NX20 review
The NX20 is Samsung's flagship CSC and it's the first to have an articulating screen

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Following the trend set by almost every current compact system camera and DSLR available at the moment, an incredibly wide range of ISO sensitivities up to ISO 12800 are selectable on the Samsung NX20. This should be great for shooting in low light conditions, or for forcing faster shutter speeds when needed.

Thanks to the use of a hybrid system that uses both a mechanical and electronic shutter, the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000sec. Also 15 full resolution JPEG images can be taken continuously at eight frames per second, which should take some of the guesswork out of capturing fleeting moments.

A useful Auto ISO customisation setting is also included, which enables you to specify a maximum ISO and whether the ISO is changed in 1 or 1/3 stop steps.

Samsung NX20 review

The usual manual creative exposure modes are provided to satisfy the needs of advanced photographers, alongside a raft of automatic options for those requiring a little help. A 'Smart' automatic mode analyses the scene and applies an appropriate scene program, whereas the 'I' and Scene modes enable you to choose the automatic preset.

Also on the dial are a dedicated video recording mode and a Wi-Fi mode. Evaluative, Centre-Weighted and spot metering options are also provided.

Since this camera includes wireless connectivity, supporting the latest 'N' network technology, the Wi-Fi mode provides access to various functions for transferring images, or even remotely operating the camera via an Android smartphone or tablet.

Samsung NX20 review

Android device users can download the MobileLink and Remote Viewfinder apps from Google Play to connect to the camera. The MobileLink app enables images to be transferred to your phone or tablet for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or to be edited in Photoshop Express or similar software.

The Remote Viewfinder app turns your smartphone or tablet into a wireless remote control, with live view, which could be especially useful for shooting timid wildlife, or for taking self portraits with a group. Unfortunately the only control available in the Remote Viewfinder is over whether the flash fires automatically, the self timer duration and resolution. Control over some aspects of exposure will be very welcome here.

Although Samsung specifies that the apps are compatible with its Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 smartphones and Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets, in theory, any smartphone running compatible Android software should be able to work with the camera. To test the connectivity with Android-powered devices we tried three smartphones - a Motorola Milestone 2, a Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S and an HTC Desire Z - all running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

Samsung NX20 review

The Motorola phone enjoyed the greatest compatibility with the Samsung NX20, with both apps working successfully. Problems were encountered with the MobileLink transfer app on the Xperia Arc S, but Samsung Remote Viewfinder worked flawlessly. Finally, nothing worked with the HTC Desire Z. The camera had real issues connecting with this phone, connecting sometimes only to drop to link almost immediately.

If the remote app features are of particular interest, it may be worth trying them out first with your particular tablet or smartphone to ensure smooth operation.

Software for wirelessly backing images up to a Windows PC is also included, along with widgets built into the camera for emailing images or uploading to social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Picasa and Photobucket direct from the camera. The Samsung NX20 can be connected to a network by entering the password for your network, or via WPS, where a button on the access point is pressed to link the devices.

Samsung NX20 review

Selecting images for upload is easy, and the transfer takes seconds. Entering passwords, email addresses and messages can take some time, though. A touchscreen interface could be a real asset here, rather than the cumbersome and time consuming text entry system, which is reminiscent of those found on arcade games for entering your name next to a high score.

Once everything is set up, only messages take time to enter. The Samsung NX20's built-in GPS can also geo-tag images automatically, so your Facebook friends will know that the picture you just uploaded of your lunch was taken in an exotic foreign setting.

Because shooting high contrast scenes can be difficult, Samsung has provided a 'Smart range' feature that aims to increase the dynamic range visible in the final image. This feature isn't customisable, and only 'On' and 'Off' settings are included. This feature brightens shadows and darkens highlights, but without the result looking too obvious, resulting in natural-looking images.

Samsung NX20 review

A fully articulated 3-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 614,000 dots provides a clear and vibrant view for composition, even when taking images from difficult angles. The AMOLED technology makes for a bright, clear image, but the reflective protective coating applied to the screen can make this screen difficult to see clearly in very bright conditions.

Luckily an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 144,000 dots is provided on the Samsung NX20, which makes composing in bright conditions much easier. A proximity sensor automatically switches the view between the screen and EVF as your eye is brought to the finder, which saves fiddling around with switches every time the viewfinder is used.

1080p high-definition video clips can be recorded at 30 frames per second for up to 25 minutes in MPEG-4 format. Autofocus is engaged during recording, although it can be a little slow to keep up with rapidly changing distances.

Samsung NX20 review

Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes are all selectable from the menu, and values can be set before recording. Stereo sound is recorded by the camera's built-in microphones, and an additional EM10 external mic can be attached to the hotshoe for better sound quality. Unfortunately there is no standard connection for 3.5mm or XLR microphone connections.

A small pop-up flash is built into the Samsung NX20, which provides enough illumination for fill-in at close quarters. Because a hotshoe connection is provided, a more powerful dedicated flashgun such as the Samsung ED-SEF42A can be used to provide greater flexibility.