There's no two ways about it. The NX100 looks good. Really good, even. Really, really good when you compare it to the NX10 that came before it. This guy's finally creeping down into pocket-friendly territory in terms of size, but if we're being frank, it's not quite where we'd like it just yet. If you've had a look at Olympus' Zuiko-equipped concept compact that was also here at the show, that'll give you a good idea of where we'd love the NX100 to be sized it. Alas, that ain't happening anytime soon in the mirrorless / interchangeable lens class, and the NX100 is about as diminutive as they come for the moment.
The weight and build quality are a mixed bag. On one hand, the NX100 is exceedingly rigid and solid. There's no flex, and no indication that any of the materials were skimped upon. We're fairly certain this one could withstand a few short drops if it had to. But the downside to that rigidity is the weight; this thing is dense
, and it feels far heavier than you'd expect when you grab it. Though, we aren't so sure that's outside of the norm -- Fujifilm's FinePix X100 was equally hefty when we toyed with it following the firm's press event. We'd still rather have solid and heavy rather than flimsy and light, but considering how hard Samsung is pushing this as a truly mobile camera, we just had to be up-front about it. It's not as light and portable as a classic point-and-shoot; hate to burst your bubble, but it's just not.
Now that we've got that off of our chest, let's talk about the button layout and comfort. Samsung has done an outstanding job creating a camera that's genuinely easy to pick up and use. It just fits in your hand, and the comfort level improves tenfold once you get into the habit of using the new i-Function lens -- a point we'll touch on more a bit later. The buttons are all well placed, and it's simple to figure out what leads to what at a glance. There are plenty of advanced features underneath, but anyone from a newbie right on up would have no issue getting acquainted. The lack of an optical viewfinder is going to annoy some people, but the gorgeous, spacious AMOLED screen on the rear does live view about as well as any camera we've seen. In closing here, the lack of SDXC support is somewhat of a disappointment, but the start-up time and general snappiness in use is well above average.
Image and video quality
Here's the thing -- the NX100 may be a bit quicker operationally, and it may present the user with a few more advanced settings compared to a traditional point-and-shoot, but we aren't completely sold on the value proposition. The fact is, images from the NX100 can look fantastic if it's used in ideal circumstances and the images are post-processed effectively. But the same can be said for just about any camera, ever. A camera is really only as good as it is during trying times: low-light predicaments, shooting fast moving action, etc. When we pressed the NX100 to deliver as the sun was setting, we were continually flustered by the automatic mode's refusal to edge up the ISO beyond 100 in order to hasten the shutter to 1/250 of a second. Seemingly, the NX100 would rather you have a noise-free image with oodles of blur than a dotted image of something that you can at least make out what it is. That doesn't feel so intelligent to us. The image below was shot about 20 minutes after sunset, and rather than attempting to keep the feel of the evening, the NX100's intelligent mode attempted to turn it into daylight while blurring everything in the process.
When we switched over to full manual mode, we were able to force up the ISO to 3200 (maximum sans boost) and set the shutter at 1/250 of a second -- which is about as slow as we can reasonably go when shooting handheld while ensuring that we don't introduce blur -- we were able to get a recognizable image, but there's nothing pretty about shooting at ISO 3200. That's a shame, really. Quite a few other cameras in the mirrorless segment are already pushing the ISO 10,000 mark (NEX-5
, anyone?), and the NX100 simply can't produce delightful shots above ISO 1600. We're stoked that ISO 3200 is an option, though, and for casual shooters who are just collecting memories from their vacation, it's fine. Also, when you recall that this thing costs just $599 with a lens, the image quality seems infinitely more acceptable. In fact, we'd be far less inclined to nitpick the negatives of the image quality if not for Samsung's shameless marketing of the NX100. It's not a DSLR replacement, it's a point-and-shoot replacement, and the sample images below should more than tell you that. Naturally, you'll get better images with copious amounts of setup time, but we're guessing most prospective buyers of this just want something that at least works
like a point-and-shoot.