What's working and what's not...

 Life is always interesting. I've been playing around with a new camera and it usually doesn't happen quite this way. Usually I'll become interested in a camera because of the anticipatory buzz on the web and I'll get in touch with the camera brand's public relations company to request a test sample. Sometimes I bond instantly with a camera and sometimes it takes me a little while. Sometimes I never bond with a camera. Example? I could never get used to the Leica M8. The way it showed frame lines was a bit confusing and the impact of the shutter going off felt like a weight lifting chipmunk trapped inside the camera body throwing its weight against the side in an impassioned attempt to escape. Sometimes I'll get a camera to review and I'll think, "Why did they bother to make yet another one of these?" and I'll box it up and send it back.

There are some cameras I desperately wanted to love. The Leaf Aptus 7i comes immediately to mind. The folks at Leaf sent it along with a normal (80mm) lens and an $8,000 Schneider 180mm 2.8 lens that was so beautiful I almost cried. But the camera had it's share of failings. The battery life was almost non-existent, the AF might as well have been non-existent and the camera was ultra-kludgy to carry around and operate. When I sent it back I breathed a sigh of relief but I still have pangs of regret when I look at the several stunning files I was able to make with the system. When the stars lined up that medium format camera could be be breathtaking.

And that brings me to the Samsung NX 300. When my friend at the PR agency asked me if I wanted to test the camera I was hesitant. I thought that it was basically a copy of the Sony Nex 6 but without the grace note of an EVF. But, of course, I was wrong.

When I unboxed the camera and started playing with it I was impressed at how easy it was to learn. I intended to take it out from time to time and shoot it out of a vague sense of blogger duty but I was pretty sure I'd still spend most of my time with a Sony firmly in hand. But I was wrong. Once I took off my "water wings" (my need for an EVF at all times) and started (metaphorically) to swim along with the camera's current I found it to be an addicting little camera. Now, a week and half onward I am taking it everywhere. It's sitting on my desk waiting for my afternoon walk. It will be in the camera bag (alongside the Sony a99) for a shoot tomorrow at one of my favorite, boutique ad agencies here in town.

And I'm questioning why.

But it's really all the little stuff that I find I like. It's almost like a human designed the interface instead of a Cylon engineer hell bent on torturing earthlings. I like the deco/disco rounded amoeba shaped hand grip on the right side and I'm now fond of the files. But mostly I'm impressed by the performance of the sensor and metering. Someone just a day or two ago mentioned that the files looked a little flat from the NX300 and I thought that was quite a compliment for a consumer oriented camera. I can easily add as much contrast and saturation as I want during post production but it's hard as hell to scrape that stuff off a file when you camera starts out too over the top.

I read all kinds of crap from people who equate the big bodied cameras of yesteryear with "professional" photography. They dismiss really great image making machines like the OMD, the Fuji EX1, the whole Sony Nex line (but especially the Nex 7) as amateur "tools" just because they don't conform to the design aesthetics that had their genesis in the film days. It's also amazing to me that most people seem to think that a camera has to excel in the capture of fast moving sports to even be considered for professional work. Yes, that's about 1% of the professional market and wildly, in the minds of hobbyists, it comprises the entire big tent of paid photography.

It's all so much BS.  For decades the image makers I admired most worked with single sheet view cameras that shot at one frame per minute and focused, at times, in a couple of minutes (with some hard work and eye strain). Of course I am talking about the 4x5 and 8x10 cameras of ultra high dollar professionals like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. And all my favorite fashion photographers who came after them were cranking film through their Hasselblads at the rate of maybe one frame per second and with slow going focus. The idea that we can't realize our unique visions with the whole continuum of mirrorless digital cameras (or even good point and shoot cameras) is patently ridiculous.

So, what have I posted below? These are images of Colin and his associate making psychedelic patterns on an overhead projector so they can record them on high res video for a stage production at the theater. I posted them because I was pretty amazed at how the NX handled the bright faces in the middle of blackness (metering) and the skin tones on a scene lit by only an overhead projector (color balance).

Additional plus points are: low noise at 1600 ISO and pretty darn good image stabilization.  Does this mean I am now in love with yet another camera system? Whoa, slow down there, dude. I like it. It's really good. But it's one member of a rich community of new cameras that seem to deliver great results in spite of not following camera design dogma. My respect is for the whole category of mirrorless, EVF enhanced cameras. So there.


  1. I have been enjoying your series of posts on this often ignored Samsung camera. I have the older NX1000 and except for the slow autofocus, I like everything about it. Looks like they improved autofocus and added a tilting screen.

    Apart from the very good quality of the stills, I like the fact that Samsung gives the option of shooting 24p in cropped 1920x810 resolution. It makes the footage look like it was shot with anamorphic lens. I believe, you actually get a little more horizontal coverage than in stills when shooting video in this mode.

    Another nice feature is how they handle microphone input. It simply plugs into the hotshoe without having to insert cables anywhere. Samsung's microphone then provides a headphone jack for monitoring. Not suitable for professional use by any means but great for home videos.

  2. Well, it's encourageing. I have my reservations about the NX300 for two excellent reasons (at least in my opinion) : 1) I tried the NX200 and while I liked the interface well enough the sensor was horrid, and the 18-55 lens that came with it was poor bordeline on defective (or I hope to God it *was* deceptive). 2) I own and love both the NEX 7 and 6. I truly adore the 7, namely. I consider it a groundbreaking camera, and severely capable. BUT, I had a little reality check three days ago slapping the Sigma 30/1.4 on my FIVE year old consumer grade D90 and being shocked to realize that, at ISO400, it still blows the NEX out of the water for crispiness, colors and just overal IQ. Yes, a D90 I couldn't get 400 bucks off on the used market still outdoes my beloved 24MP top of the line, NEX 7 ar lower ISOs....
    So the NX300 with its reported bugs and annoyances ? I think I'll skip. But of course I might be blinded and let a fabulous camera go. Who knows ?

  3. I will very interested to read your opinions of the New Olympus EP5, particularly the fantastic V.F 4.

    1. Cant wait. The news papers nowadays are totally depressing. So at breakfast I turn to your column to start my day with a good frame of mind. Plus the weather in Britain is freezing thanks paradoxically to global warming. So we hang on your every word. We are reminded this is the future and the futures bight.

    2. One of the VSL board members has one on order. I'm hoping to snag both his GH3 and his EP5 when he gets back in town for a monster evaluation and test.

  4. I had the same reaction to a Panasonic GH3 that I had for a (regrettably) brief period. The conventional wisdom suggested that it wasn't going to be good to use for people who like control, but it was remarkably easy to use and welcoming to hand. So much so that it took the place of the DSLR for a while. And the image quality was surprisingly good even with kit lens. I miss it now, sometimes.

  5. It's good that you are coming around the the merits of the stinky-baby-daiper hold.

  6. I haven't dipped my toe in Samsung waters as of yet, but maybe one day. Who knows? As for little-system cameras, I've had many of them. I sold my EM-5 and yesterday purchased an E-PL5. Same sensor as its older brother, smaller foot(or should that be hand) print, slapped the 45mm on the front and off we go. As for the E-P5, should be interesting indeed, but pricey.

    1. Sorry to be anonymous Kirk, but I keep forgetting my Google/Wordpress/etcetera passwords.

      Max (from down under).

  7. Heh, not suprised you like it. I think bit of that "human engineering" comes back from times when they did dSLRs with Pentax (they ended working together with K-7, K20D was last one which had Samsung version, GX20). Thats most likely why is NX system quite photographer friendly. Very undermarketed but they try to improve that lately.

    One of system pluses is quite nice selection of lens (and very small cheap pancakes). And one not-so small (neither cheap) 85/1.4 which is only one in mirrorless world. Not terribly sharp, but pretty beautiful bokeh and rendering.

    Looking forward to see more about this camera.

    And about that medium format, hm.. ever heard of Sinar? :) (rhetorical question, I know you did) I think you would like it..

  8. "...the impact of the shutter going off felt like a weight lifting chipmunk trapped inside the camera body throwing its weight against the side in an impassioned attempt to escape."

    Kirk: Seldom have I read photography prose to equal this! I have never used a Leica M8, but this creates such an exquisite visual in my mind. THIS is why I keep coming back to your site.

  9. You are absolutely on point about the bias toward "pro" bodies.
    I have been watching the m43 cameras quite closely as a lot of my event work requires shooting without flash in very dark venues. With my FF Canons I have to resort to high ISO and DOF wrecking apertures.

    The fashion of shallow DOF ignores that the majority of the scene is out of focus whereas my clients want things in focus.

    The m43 allows me to shoot at 3200 and 6400 at large apertures and in the case of Oly with IBIS and still get way more useful DOF. In addition they are quieter. Most importantly I can carry two all day without having to OD on ibuprofen.
    At 16MP I still have way more usable resolution for any client.

    When I visited my local camera shop (excellent people and Oly dealers to boot) the sales person really felt I was barking up the wrong tree and tried to move me to faster glass for my "pro" camera.

  10. I can never understand why there is so my time spent in online forums debating how mirrorless cameras stack up against dSLRs for focus tracking of moving subjects. Inevitably no one has any examples because we are busy shooting other stuff!

    Must be fun getting to try out so many systems :). Every time I get a chance to try someone's camera I do - so much different than just looking at specs online...


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