Samsung NX2000 review

The Samsung NX2000 mirrorless camera has a huge touch-screen display and great Wi-Fi support, but it's a little slow to focus.

The Samsung NX2000 ($649.99 direct) is a mid-level body in Samsung’s NX mirrorless camera lineup. It’s aimed squarely at fans of touch-screen devices, as it eschews most physical controls in favor of a big 3.7-inch rear LCD. Its image quality is excellent, thanks to a big 20-megapixel APS-C image sensor that captures impressive photos through ISO 1600, but performance is slow and I found the touch-based interface to be cumbersome to use, especially when shooting in very bright light. But I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to camera controls; touch-screen aficionados will feel right at home. There’s another Samsung mirrorless camera that we liked more; the NX300 is our current Editors’ Choice for mirrorless cameras. It’s a bit more expensive, but also more capable, as it sports both a tilting touch-screen and traditional controls.

Design and Features
The NX2000 is pretty small, especially when you consider the big image sensor that it contains. It measures 2.5 by 4.7 by 1.4 inches (HWD) and weighs just half a pound without a lens. It’s not that far off in size or shape from the Sony Alpha NEX-3N (2.3 by 4.4 by 1.4 inches, 9.5 ounces). The 3N also uses an APS-C image sensor, but manages to squeeze a tilting rear display and an in-body flash into its body—the NX2000 offers neither, but does include a small external flash.

Unlike other interchangeable lens cameras, you won’t find a lot of controls on the NX2000′s body. There’s a control wheel on the top plate, along with the Direct Link Wi-Fi button, the power switch, and shutter release. You’ll find a movie record button, Home button, and image playback button to the right of the rear LCD, and an iFn control button on most lenses.

The control wheel takes a bit of getting used to. Simply turning it brings up an on-screen menu that allows you to adjust the shooting mode. You can do so by touch, or by turning the wheel to select a setting and pushing it in to confirm. Pushing the wheel in while shooting changes its behavior; if you’re in aperture priority or program mode, the first press gives you direct control over the f-stop, and the second changes that to exposure compensation. The behavior is the same in shutter priority mode, substituting the shutter speed for the f-stop. In manual mode you can only adjust the aperture orthe shutter speed; the exposure compensation bar moves on its own to let you know if your shot is over or underexposed. You can shoot in manual mode with the ISO set to auto, giving you the option of controlling the depth of field and shutter speed without having to constantly fiddle with the ISO in order to get a proper exposure.

The iFn button, located on most NX lenses, comes into play with this body more than with other NX cameras. It makes up for some of the shortcomings. Pressing it gives you access to control a number of shooting settings, including the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and digital zoom. Each press brings up a different setting. You can use the control wheel or the manual focus ring to adjust the setting, and press the control wheel in or half-press the shutter to set it and dismiss the menu.

The rear display is huge at 3.7 inches; it occupies almost the entirety of the NX2000′s backside. It’s quite sharp thanks to a 1,152k-dot resolution, and quite responsive to the touch. But I struggled to frame images when shooting outdoors on a bright summer afternoon. I also had the tiny Pentax Q7 with me, and its rear display was much easier to see in bright light. It wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the screen titled, like the one on the NX300, so that you could better adjust to avoid glare, or if there was an EVF available. Shooters who are interested in a mirrorless camera and don’t want to give up an eye-level finder should consider the Olympus PEN E-PL5; its rear screen tilts, and it has an accessory port so that you can add the inexpensive VF-3 ($180) or top-end VF-4 electronic viewfinder.

Touch controls are always active. There’s a big box that represents the focus area, and you can move it and refocus the camera with a tap on the display; the camera can also be set to take the shot with a touch, rather than just refocusing. There’s also a tracking option, where the camera will attempt to follow the object which you touched as it moves through the frame. All of these settings are accessed via the Touch AF setting on the left side of the display. Below that is a touch control that changes how much information is shown; you can set the camera to display the minimum, or to add current shooting settings, a live histogram, and a virtual horizon indicator. If you like the NX2000, but are turned off by the touch interface, consider the NX1100. It’s the same camera as the NX1000 that we reviewed last year, with the added addition of a copy of Adobe Lightroom.

The other major touch areas on the display are the Menu (bottom left) and Fn (bottom right) controls. Menu does what you would expect it to; it gives you access to a detailed list of camera settings, including control over manual focus peaking, sound controls, and video quality options. The Fn menu brings up the Smart Panel, which allows you to see and adjust shooting settings from one place. From here you can adjust the shutter speed, f-stop, exposure value compensation setting, ISO, white balance, JPG color settings (including some art filters that will make Instagrammers happy), metering pattern, autofocus mode, drive mode, and flash settings.

Wi-Fi is built into the camera, and like recent Samsung models, it’s one of the best implementations you’ll find. There are numerous ways to share images, including integration with Facebook, email, Picasa, YouTube, and SkyDrive, all directly from the camera. You can also set up files to back up automatically to your PC, and use the free Samsung Smart Camera app to send photos directly to your iOS or Android device. If you have other Samsung Wi-Fi devices in your home, you can use Samsung Link to share photos with them via the DLNA protocol. There’s also a Remote Viewfinder function; it works with an app on your phone or tablet and allows you to control the camera via your phone’s screen. NFC pairing is supported if your phone or tablet supports that technology. The NX2000 also supports the company’s unique 45mm f/1.8 2D/3D lens; the NX300 is the only other body available with support for this lens.

Performance and Conclusions
The NX2000 starts and shoots in about 1.3 seconds, records a 0.4-second shutter lag, and can rattle off short bursts at 7.8 frames per second. Burst shooting is limited to about 13 JPG or 5 Raw images before the camera slows, and writing those photos to a SanDisk 80MBps microSD memory card requires about 15 seconds. The shutter lag is the real issue here; other mirrorless cameras, including the Olympsu PEN Mini E-PM2 lock on and fire off a shot in as little as 0.1-second. The PEN is comparable in startup time (1.6 seconds) and burst shooting capabilities. Both cameras slow down when shooting in dim light; the PEN requires about 1.3 seconds to lock on and fire in darker conditions, but the NX2000 manages to do the same in just a second.

I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the bundled 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 ED II NX zoom lens. It’s a 2.5x zoom design that covers a 30-75mm (35mm equivalent) field of view. The lens is compact, collapsing a bit when not in use, but lacks image stabilization. It’s plenty sharp, though; at 20mm f/3.5 it manages to record 2,393 lines per picture height using a center-weighted test. That’s better than the 1,800 lines we require for an image to be considered sharp, and even the edges of the frame beat that mark at 1,865 lines. Stopping down to f/5.6 improves the score to 2,463 lines, with edge resolution that’s better than 2,000 lines.

Zooming to 35mm reduces the maximum aperture to a modest f/4.5. But the lens holds up in terms of sharpness, notching 2,223 lines, and improving to 2,343 lines at f/5.6, with impressive edge performance at both settings. At 50mm the maximum aperture is f/5.6 and the resolution is a little less, but still an impressive 1,938 lines with edges that hover just under 1,800 lines. Stopping down to f/8 improves performance; the center-weighted score is 2,278 lines there with edges that top 1,900 lines. Distortion is nonexistent; the camera applies correction for barrel and pincushion distortion to both JPG and Raw image files. Even though it’s not stabilized, the 20-50mm is a much better performer than the stabilized Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that is bundled with the NEX-3N. That lens produces images that are a bit soft, and shows an incredible amount of distortion when shooting in Raw format. If you’re a JPG shooter, the 3N and other NEX cameras will apply automatic corrections to those files.

Imatest also checks photos for noise, which can add an unwanted graininess and rob photos of detail at higher ISO settings. The NX2000 keeps noise at 1.1 percent at ISO 1600, and does a good job with fine detail and texture at this setting. At ISO 3200 the noise increases just a bit to 1.6 percent, just over our 1.5 percent cutoff, but some detail is smudged away. There’s more smudging from noise reduction at ISO 6400, but the overall noise level is still only 1.6 percent; it doesn’t make a significant jump until ISO 12800, where it hits 2.2 percent. If you opt to shoot in Raw, you’ll get more noise at high ISOs, but you won’t lose picture information to in-camera noise reduction. Shooting in Raw at ISO 3200 and processing images in the included Lightroom software is a viable option when lighting conditions call for it; it isn’t until ISO 12800 that Raw files become insanely noisy. The NX2000 is very good, but it’s not the best high-ISO camera in its class. The Sony NEX-3N balances noise reduction and detail through ISO 3200, one stop better than the NX2000.

Video is recorded at up to 1080p30 quality in MP4 format. The footage is crisp and detailed, with accurate colors. The NX2000 refocuses quickly, though it does exhibit the in-focus/out-of-focus/in-focus stutter that contrast-detect autofocus systems exhibit. This is because the lens must go slightly past the ideal focus point in order to determine the proper focus. There’s no mic input, but the sound of the camera adjusting focus is not evident on the soundtrack. Available connectors include a micro HDMI port and a micro USB port that doubles as a charging port; you have to plug the camera into the wall to charge it, as no external battery charger is included. The only memory card format supported is microSD; we used a 64GB SanDisk card in the camera without issue.

If you’re a fan of touch-screen devices, you’ll likely feel right at home with the svelte Samsung NX2000. It’s a great camera for shooters who prefer to tap away at the screen to adjust settings and capture photos, but photographers who prefer a more traditional interface will be left wanting. The image quality is excellent, and though the included 20-50mm lens lacks stabilization, it delivers sharp images. The Wi-Fi in this camera is the best we’ve seen outside of Samsung’s always-connected Galaxy Camera; if you want the Android experience in an interchangeable lens design, save your pennies and wait for the Galaxy NX, which will go on sale later this year for an as-of-yet unannounced price. The Galaxy NX uses the same image sensor and processor as our Editors’ Choice NX300, with a control scheme that is more similar to the NX2000.

The NX2000′s real drawbacks are a relatively lengthy shutter lag and a display that is just hard to see in bright light. If you’re considering buying into the Samsung NX system—and it’s a good one, especially when you consider the comparatively low cost of lenses that are consistently good performers—you’re better served laying out a bit more money for the NX300. It can be had in a kit with the same 20-50mm lens, or with a stabilized 18-55mm zoom; the former is $100 more than the NX2000, the latter $150. If you’re not set on the NX system and don’t have the budget for the NX300, consider a less expensive camera that is a better performer in terms of focus speed. The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2 and Sony Alpha NEX-3N both sell for less and are similar in size to the NX2000.

Specifications
Dimensions 2.5 x 4.7 x 1.4 inches
Interface Ports micro USB, micro HDMI
Megapixels 20 MP
Battery Type Supported Lithium Ion
Recycle time 0.13 seconds
LCD dots 1152000
LCD size 3.7 inches
Lines Per Picture Height 2393
Touch Screen Yes
Media Format microSD
Maximum ISO 25600
Type Compact Interchangeable Lens
Sensor Type CMOS
Optical Zoom 2.5 x
Boot time 1.4 seconds
35-mm Equivalent (Wide) 30 mm
Weight 8 lb
Lens Mount Samsung NX
Video Resolution 720p, 1080p
Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated) 0 feet
LCD Aspect Ratio 16
Image Stabilization None
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto) 75 mm
Shutter Lag 0.4 seconds
Sensor Size 18 x 24 (APS-C) mm
GPS No
Viewfinder Type None

Verdict
The Samsung NX2000 mirrorless camera has a huge touch-screen display and great Wi-Fi support, but it's a little slow to focus.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc