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Samsung NX100

When you remember that a camera’s main purpose is to properly capture what’s in front of it, it’s a little ironic how much attention is paid to camera design nowadays. After all, how a camera looks – and we’re not talking about ergonomics – is supposed to be irrelevant to how it takes pictures. But judging by the new cameras coming out lately, design is an integral part of a camera’s marketing appeal. And the Samsung NX100 is proof of that.

Samsung’s new snapper is a product designed to be pleasing to the eye. People are drawn to the curved white design in the wide-eyed wonder typical of desirable gadgets. It is a look we know all too well, because it’s often seen on our faces, too. It’s also easy to hold; the heft and size make for a comfortable grip.

The NX100 is Samsung’s latest entry in the interchangeable-lens camera category. It is a segment driven by cameras trying to straddle 2 previously disparate features – the photo quality of a DSLR and the compact size of a point-and-shoot.

In terms of size, the NX100 is a lot more portable than a DSLR, but it’s far from pocketable. It’s about the same size as its main competitors – the Panasonic GF and the Olympus PEN series; this is using the 20mm pancake lens, the 20-50mm zoom lens bulks up the package. That means the NX100 can fit in large purses (for women), but guys need to bring a messenger bag or buy a dedicated case to carry it.

When it comes to picture quality, the NX100’s large sensor really comes into play. Taking shots in broad daylight using the 20-50mm lens on automatic setting is a no-brainer. You can see every pimple and wrinkle on people when viewed on computer monitors, although this level of ease and quality is expected in this price range.

It’s a shame the AMOLED monitor on the camera is so good, because while viewing photos in normal size is a visual treat, zooming in is inconvenient and unintuitive because of the scroll wheel Samsung chose to use. It also takes time to zoom in; there’s noticeable lag when scrolling through photos in the memory card.

During nighttime, the NX100 has a difficult time focusing. This is a common waterloo of all digital cameras, and this is where the power and intelligence of their imaging chips also come into play. We tested the NX100 during an evening car show, and the cornucopia of banners, cars, uneven lighting, and people gave the camera a hard time taking a clear picture.

But this is where the versatility of having manual controls came into play. The NX100 has an interesting feature called iFunction. Certain compatible lenses have a button on the side of the lens that activates options like shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation. To change through the different levels of the predetermined setting, you just turn the focus ring.

Like the Olympus E-P2, the NX100 has no built-in flash, just a hotshoe. Thankfully, when a photo was too dark, a quick press of the iFunction button and some adjustment of the EV compensation easily brightened up a picture. (Make sure your hands are steady because the 20-50mm lens isn’t stabilized.) It’s an innovative move to make manual adjustments more accessible to those stepping up from point-and-shoots.

The last sentence best encapsulates the Samsung NX100. It’s ideal for those who have outgrown point-and-shoots and want to explore photography some more.

Click here to see the Samsung NX100 in the Buyer's Guide.

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