Samsung NX3000 review - incredible value at £200
Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5x15.7mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: No, LCD screen: 3in (460,800 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Samsung NX, Weight: 386g, Size (HxWxD): 67x126x78mm
The Samsung NX3000 continues to impress us, this great camera packs a big DSLR-sized APS-C sensor into a compact body, but more impressive is how much prices have dropped since its launch. It's now down to an incrediblly low £200 from Argos, which is an insane price for a camera that takes photos this good, if you're in the market for a new camera, buy this one now before it all sells out.
The NX3000 demonstrates how sometimes it's gradual refinement rather than radical design that delivers something special. There's nothing particularly remarkable about this compact system camera (CSC)'s design or features, but by retaining past strengths and learning from the best of the rest, Samsung has delivered a superb all-rounder at an extremely competitive price.
The most significant development is the introduction of a new kit lens. The Samsung 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 Power Zoom is a typical kit lens in terms of optical specifications, but it's smaller and lighter than Samsung's previous kit lenses. Unlike the 20-50mm that accompanied previous lower-priced NX cameras, it doesn't skimp on optical stabilisation. The zoom function is motorised so it doesn't have the same direct response as a mechanical lens ring control. It isn't as responsive as the similar Sony 16-50mm lens either, but we didn't find it to be a hindrance.
There's only one lens ring, but the two zoom buttons on the lens barrel take over when the ring is assigned to other duties (more of which below). These zoom buttons are particularly welcome for performing smooth zooms while shooting video. The motorised zoom also means it's possible to zoom in and out using an Android or iOS device in remote viewfinder mode.
The camera itself looks unusually stylish for an entry-level model, with a chunky metal-effect top plate (which we thought was aluminium until our mistake was pointed out to us) and leather-effect plastic below. The leather neck strap is a step up from the norm, too. There's a small detachable flash unit rather than an integrated flash. Attaching it upsets the clean, slim design, but you can always leave it at home. The upside is that the hotshoe can also be used for a more powerful flashgun or a wireless flash trigger.
The slim handgrip doesn't offer much to hold onto, but flipping up the screen a little and tucking a thumb under the hinge made it feel much more secure. An articulated screen is a feature you only really appreciate once you've got used to it, but from then on it becomes hard to live without. This one only flips upwards and not down or to the side, but it's still a huge improvement on a fixed screen, making it easy to shoot at elbow or waist height. The screen also flips right over for self-portraits, whereupon a Wink Shot mode kicks in, capturing a photo three seconds after a detected face gives the camera a knowing wink. Other options include a Smile Shot mode (which dispenses with the three-second delay) and a Beauty Face mode that applies some digital airbrushing to smooth out skin textures.
Our favourite shooting mode is reserved for times when you're happy to point the camera away from yourself. Best Face mode helps to avoid blinks and grimaces in group portraits by taking five frames and letting you choose the best shot for each face. The camera then stiches a composite shot together, which each person looking their best.
Physical controls have always been a big strength of NX cameras, and this one is no exception. It's great to have a mode dial for quick access to exposure modes, scene presets and so on. Exposure adjustment is handled elegantly, with a button cycling through the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation and ISO speed controls and the rear wheel adjusting the selected function. The iFn button on the side of the lens reassigns the lens ring to the various exposure-related functions and white balance. It's an unorthodox approach, but quick to use once we'd got used to it.
There are buttons on the camera for drive mode, autofocus area and focus mode, plus an Fn button that reveals 12 controls as a grid across the screen. The Fn menu is navigated with the four-way pad and settings adjusted with the wheel, but the camera is a little slow to respond here. It's more responsive if you press OK to show only the selected control before adjusting it.
Our biggest frustration with this camera is that settings can't be adjusted while the camera is saving photos to memory card. It's barely noticeable when shooting JPEGs one at a time, but more of an issue when shooting RAW or after capturing a burst of frames. It took nine seconds to regain control of the camera after a burst of RAW frames. It doesn't help that the NX3000 uses microSD cards, which aren't available at the fastest speeds offered by larger SD cards. It's slow to switch on, too, taking at least four seconds between hitting the power button and capturing a photo. Autofocus was responsive in most cases but sometimes struggled to lock onto subjects in subdued lighting. General shooting performance was up to scratch, though. It took 0.8 seconds between shots in normal use, 1.4 seconds for RAW and 4.2 seconds with the flash at full power. Continuous mode is at 5fps – a superb pace for an entry-level CSC – and lasted for 13 JPEGs or five RAW frames before slowing.
Wi-Fi features have long been another key strength of Samsung NX cameras. These are commonplace now, but Samsung still sets the standard with comprehensive control over settings in its remote viewfinder mode, plus lots of options to transfer photos during or after capture.
^ Samsung's app controls are excellent, with lots of settings you can control remotely
We're delighted to see that, even in this entry-level model, there's a bundled copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 included. We'd recommend this software to anyone who's remotely serious about photography, and it boosts the value of this camera to the tune of £100.