With excellent photo quality, solid performance, and a very nicely designed body, the Samsung NX200 distinguishes itself in an increasingly crowded field. But $900 still seems like a bit much to ask for a camera that's not at the front of its class on all counts.
I've felt guilty about not getting to this camera sooner given how much I liked the photos from the preproduction unit I'd tested. It really does produce excellent photos, given its price tag of less than $1,000. Combined with its relatively clean images off the sensor, its noise profile is quite good. The eagle-eyed will still see artifacts—especially in dark stretches of high-ISO-sensitivity photos, like this and on edges. But overall I was really impressed with the quality of the noise reduction and JPEG compression, as high as ISO 1600 on some photos.
The NX200's images come off the sensor with a very good noise profile given its price and class. This is a low-light ISO 800 photo with no noise reduction applied. There's obviously a lot of color noise, but it's got a relatively unobtrusive "grain."
Color accuracy looks quite good, the metering and exposure are generally both consistent and appropriate, and the sensor handles bright, saturated colors well (though the JPEG algorithms don't always), as long as you're willing to put in some work recovering highlights from a raw file. Blown-out light colors don't fare quite as well, however; there's no detail there.
With the right lens, the camera delivers sharp images, too. I shot with several—the 18-55mm kit f3.5-5.6 OIS lens plus a couple of primes—and they're all pretty good. The kit lens is typical; it's just good enough (vis-à-vis sharpness and brightness) to match competitors but leaves you craving something better. The 85mm f1.4 and 60mm f2.8 OIS primes produce lovely images, and are sharp, bright, and comfortable to use. Samsung has redesigned its i-Function lenses from the previous generation, and the newer kit lens, while slow as all the other kit lenses, operates much more smoothly and feels better-constructed than its predecessor's 20-50mm model. It's not nearly as compact, though, which puts it at a slight disadvantage compared with, say, Panasonic's Lumix X Series collapsible lens. And the other two lenses are huge compared with the body. In fact, the barrel of the 85mm lens is so wide that Samsung's hot-shoe-based GPS unit can't clear it; the bundled flash has a longer neck, though.
Video in good light is very consumer-friendly; bright, saturated, and sharp. There's a little bit of moiré, aliasing, and rolling shutter, but it's fine for personal videos. It doesn't fare as well at night, though. There's just no tonal range to speak of.
The camera performs well, with just a few disappointments. It wakes and shoots in about 1.6 seconds, which is on the slow side for its class. Single-shot focus-and-shoot speed is fairly zippy at 0.3 second in good light, increasing to 0.6 second in low-contrast conditions. Its biggest weakness is image processing, resulting in a shot-to-shot time of 1.3 seconds—better than its predecessor but not as fast as the best in its class. When reviewing photos, it's pretty good about displaying JPEGs, but if you shoot raw+JPEG it gets really bogged down. And while it has a seemingly great burst speed of 6.9 frames per second, that's only for 11 frames—less than 2 seconds' worth of shots—after which you have to wait for it to finish processing. I'd prefer a moderately slower burst for a little longer run. That said, I don't know that this is a great camera for continuous shooting, anyway; without an EVF, it's kind of awkward.
Initial models of the camera had some autofocus speed and accuracy issues, but just before writing this Samsung released new firmware (ver 1.04) that seems to have fixed the problems I had during testing; it's now faster and more accurate.
Furthermore, while the AMOLED display is bright, with good contrast, and doesn't wash out in sunlight, it's very reflective. Occasionally, all I could see were the stripes of my shirt. At moments like that I wished it had an articulated, or at least tilt-able, display. And I think people will really miss the option to add an EVF; dropping the connector is the one potentially big boo-boo the company made when updating from the NX100.
Design and Features
Thankfully, there's more to the NX200 than just a lot of pixels. It's much better than the NX100; it's smaller, yet more comfortable to grip, and more solidly built. For those unfamiliar with Samsung's i-Function system, it consists of a button on the lens, which invokes shooting settings, such as ISO sensitivity or shutter speed, which you then change using the manual-focus ring. The system works well, and it feels much like shooting with the Canon PowerShot S100 or Olympus XZ-1. It distinguishes the NX cameras from the other ILCs in a way that adds to the shooting experience rather than detracts from it.
If you choose to go the traditional route, Samsung introduces a new (for it) Smart Panel interactive control panel interface that you pull up with the function button. It's easy to use, but I found myself missing the type of customization control that Panasonic's cameras offer over the interface, as well as the capability to save custom settings. You can program a raw override (as well as which options appear on the i-Function ring), but that's just not as much as I'd like.
The camera supports full manual exposure controls during movie recording, and has a Multi Motion mode that records and plays back both faster and slower than normal, though the slow-mo mode only works at reduced frame sizes and frame rates.
Aside from what I've already mentioned, there aren't many standout shooting features. I really miss a tilting or articulated LCD, there isn't even an option for a viewfinder, and there are no useful tools like an intervalometer. As I've mentioned, there are some novel effects, but you can't adjust the parameters. And if you use its Magic Frame, which overlays some huge preset designs over your shot, it reduces the photo's resolution to 2 megapixels.
With excellent photo quality, a nice shooting design and interface, and solid performance, the Samsung NX200 makes a nice package. But it also means buying into a lone-wolf lens system without much third-party support, and because the image stabilization is in the lens rather than the sensor, you're subject to Samsung's whims for OIS-capable lenses. (In contrast, all the other manufacturers have either some third-party lens makers or use sensor-shift stabilization.) That, combined with a ho-hum feature set, makes the NX200's price seem overly high.