Recently I exercised my utter lack of brand allegiance in general by liquidating my, very much enjoyed, assemblage of Olympus gear. Why? Simple. Having an E-P5, many sundry lenses, and a very nice flash larger than my camera I was next planning to purchase:
- Either an OM-D E-M10 ($699) or OM-D E-M1 ($1,399). A built in EVF to use in conjunction w/ my flash and fulfills my wish for having 2 camera bodies.
- The very nice Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO ($999). Nice low light, lens envy. But would still give me only 1 camera body.
So I of course traded a few lenses for a Nikon D3300 w/ a 18-55mm kit instead (**since traded for an NX30 so I could share lenses across 2 cameras) with no out of pocket expense. Eric logic. I love a good deal far more than acquisition for acquisition’s sake.
Then I rather enjoyed the Nikon so for a moment I thought of trading the balance of my Olympus gear for a D7100 so as to have a 2nd body. But I liked having a mirrorless camera so I instead traded for 35mm f1.8, a 55-300mm and had a few coins left over for whatever CSC I decided upon. Nothing wrong with the E-P5 or the D7100. Great cameras. Just wanted to see what else was out there, and had become
obsessed with interested in obtaining a tidy little CSC with an APS-C sized sensor like my newly acquired Nikon. I realized my initial issue was trying to get one system to do all things which was fair to none. My personal preference was to have a mirrorless to exploit it’s strengths of small size and lightness AND also a DSLR to gain it’s strengths of a burly hand grip for my mitts when using a zoom and a built in viewfinder. After a brief, but obsessive search I settled on trying out an NX300. Let’s get the negatives out of the way:
- No EVF, on board or even optional. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Personal preference.
- No built in flash, with a clip on included. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Again, personal preference.
Now on to why I gave it a shot.
- $499 for the 45mm kit?!? (I chose to go with Adorama for the 1st time and had a great experience with them.) The 45mm lens alone is $384. Works out to a $115 APS-C camera.
- **Note** Since I posted this it appears the 45mm kit is no longer available. The most reasonable NX300 package I found after a quick search is the 18-55mm lens kit. This is the lens that came with my NX30 and it is also a great lens. I recommend this over the smaller non-OIS lens since I find the image stabilization to be very effective.
- Some impressive reviews here, here, and here.
- A plethora of wifi/NFC upload, mobile phone sync/remote viewfinder app, email and cloud connectivity options. I likey.
- Some nice fixed focal length lens choices. Nothing against Samsung’s zoom lenses, but that is what I bought the Nikon for.
The zoom kits (20-50mm non-OIS kit and 18-55mm OIS kit) are nice, but that focal range was well covered by my D3300 kit lens, furthermore by the 55-300mm and I am a sucker for fixed focal length lenses so the 45mm was the way to go kit wise. I expected to like the NX300, but it has performed well above price and my expectations so far. Because of the price gap I was not expecting it to hang in the same realm of the E-P5, but as this comparison shows the NX300 holds it’s own quite well in fact.
I now have a nice balance. A very nice family event (soccer, recitals, etc.) and long zoom camera in the Nikon D3300 (since traded in for a Samsung NX30) and a very nice compact walkabout camera in the Samsung NX300.
In fact I like the NX300 so much I have already ordered a Gariz half case and will soon be picking up a 30mm f2 lens (since purchased) for that added bit of portability while giving the closest Samsung equivalent to my favorite focal length. Plus instead of potentially laying out an additional $699 to $1,399 to obtain a second body I acquired 2 bodies and 4 lenses on an even swap without a penny spent. Some last thoughts and some sample shots:
- It takes really nice pictures.
- A very balanced body with the prime lenses.
- Manual controls via the i-Fn which makes great use of the focus ring (unused during AF anyway) and is an execution many should take a look at.
- I really cannot say enough good things about the control layout. Quite impressive given the real estate available.
- Viewed as what it is, a DSLR sized sensor teamed with compact camera dimensions (assuming you stick with fixed lenses), and well thought out controls, it does not disappoint. It is not a small DSLR, nor do I believe it was meant to be. Even Samsung acknowledges this by producing the NX30.
- Well implemented Panorama vertical or horizontal.
- Very nice in camera edit mode for effects (the color edits are my favorite), cropping, and more are very intuitive to use.
- Great full auto implementation.
- Touch screen focus very snappy.
- Power on to ready to shoot quite snappy.
- Sensor clean can be set for power up, power down, or manual.
- Continuous near 9fps shooting.
- Burst folders stored in folder in camera.
- Likely owing to a bright aperture and quick shutter release, but camera shake is a non issue even for a near 70mm full frame equivalent lens.
- Having variable playback speed recording in camera (slo-mo to Benny Hill) is a nice touch.
- In camera video fade in/fade out.
- Quick AF.
- Manual focus aids like focus peaking and auto zoom with available always on hybrid manual focus override are executed here better than I have seen before. Want to tweak the autofocus lock? Simply twist the focus ring during shutter half press to automatically zoom in (5x being my preference) and activate focus peaking. Here is the nice piece. Focus zoom location is driven by the last autofocus point.
- Very small and light.
- One touch ‘Direct Link’ is a simple add, but very effective.
- Capture still during video playback in camera is another nice touch I have not noticed on other cameras before. May have been available, but implemented well here.
- Subtle back thumb grip, shape of the front right of the camera, and the leatherette covering around the middle makes for a camera that is very comfortable to hold and walk around with.
- Overall it looks like Samsung developers sought to integrate features in a seamless manner that made them quite intuitive to use and easy to discover rather than seeming like afterthoughts. On other cameras features may have been available, but at times they seemed difficult to find and activate or slightly clumsy to use.
- A few things I am forgetting I am sure, but will add as need be.
- A great bargain in my book.
- And… it takes really nice pictures.