In this review: hands-on with the new Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera.
This is my first mirrorless camera and so far I’m impressed. Samsung isn’t the biggest name in cameras right now, but after a weekend of pointing this camera at virtually everything in sight I think they really ought to be.
Read on as I share my first impressions and sample photos with you in this big, long, super detailed review!
Just so it’s clear, I was not paid or perked to write this review. I picked this camera on my own, paid for it myself, and am writing this review because I think the camera is awesome and wish a review like this existed when I bought mine! (It’ll also save me some trouble when friends ask me about the camera if I can just link them here. :D)
Samsung NX300 Camera Review: The Short Version
- Slimmer, lighter, and faster than DSLRs in same price category
- Under $500
- Sturdy build
- Fantastic kit lens and photo quality
- Manual mode and preset auto modes
- Easy photo transfer over WiFi to computers and smartphones
- Short battery cable
- Must charge battery inside the camera
Samsung NX300 Camera Review
Choosing the NX300
First off, you might notice that this is a mirrorless camera, not a DSLR. The difference is in the design. Mirrorless cameras allow light to hit the sensor directly, rather than via a mirror inside the camera. The lack of a mirror makes the camera body slimmer and lighter (sweet!), and many mirrorless cameras shoot faster than DSLR cameras. but in order to preview the image you must look at an LCD screen on the back rather than through a viewfinder like you can on a DSLR.
To learn more about the differences, check out this DSLR vs. mirrorless comparison on Tom’s Guide.
Bending/straining to look through a viewfinder isn’t my idea of a good time, so I would be using an LCD even if the camera had a viewfinder. The NX300 has a big flip-out LCD screen, which my back and neck are super happy for. Here it is at about 45 degrees (it can go all the way flat, too).
Mirrorless cameras used to lag behind DSLRs in terms of visual quality and lens variety, but they seem to have caught up in both regards, or at least they’ve caught up enough for my purposes (photographing crafts for Etsy, stuff for eBay, family vacations, pics of my dog, etc). More and more photographers are choosing mirrorless, so I wanted to try a mirrorless for myself.
I chose the Samsung NX300 over other mirrorless cameras like it for the following reasons:
- Price point: Just under $500 for body and kit lens
- WiFi enabled: Still a rare feature on DSLRs, WiFi lets me transfer photos quickly and painlessly from camera to computer and/or smartphone
- Excellent reviews: check ’em out on Amazon.com (at the time of my purchase, this camera was also Amazon’s best seller in the compact system camera category)
- Huge flip-out touch screen on the back: It’s bright and beautiful, and faster to update than my smartphone camera’s preview (!). It’s also great for shooting low without bending uncomfortably.
- Rechargeable battery: I’d rather recharge than replace.
The box is pretty classy looking: thick dark-colored cardboard, well-packed, and the camera and cables come individually bagged. At least, that’s what it looked like as I popped it open as fast as I could to get at the prize inside.
This camera is gorgeous. Its body is made of a nice faux black leather and its dials are stainless steel. It has a wonderful heft in my hands. I have larger than average hands, but I don’t find the buttons to be too small.
Here are some manufacturer photos of the camera, since my iPhone 4S photos don’t look nearly as good.
NX300 front (with detachable 18-55mm kit lens):
NX300 back (with flip out screen action):
Attaching the kit lens was a snap: just hold it up and twist and it locked on. It’s very retro in its design and reminds me a lot of my Dad’s old Canon AE-1 (also the first “real camera” I ever shot with as a kid).
I’ve used digital cameras for years and I was able to jump right into the NX300’s menus. Compared with some DSLRs I’ve tried, I think this Samsung has a better menu system. I didn’t even have to open the manual, I just turned the camera on and from the labels and buttons alone I could figure out how to start shooting.
Speaking of which…
Like most people with a new camera, as soon as I knew how to shoot a photo with it I immediately ran off in search of something remotely interesting to shoot.
I think my first batch of NX300 pics turned out AMAZING, especially since I put no effort whatsoever into lighting conditions. It’s winter here in the Pacific Northwest and the sun sets pretty early, so I my first shots were indoors with desk lamps and computer monitors as my primary light sources.
My dog Gadget was just as curious about my new camera as I was! She was sitting fairly still for this shot, but being a dog of course she’s a rather fidgety and prone to sudden movement so I was impressed with the NX300’s ability to keep up with my rapid-fire shooting and focus adjustments. Gadget is usually a blur in low light on point and shoot cameras, so the fact that this shot came out clear at all is pretty amazing to me.
Every hair on her head is crisp and sharp, even at the smallest photo resolution. The blankets are softly out of focus. And the lighting – wow. The room was pretty dim, and I think this shot would’ve been mostly grain had I taken it with my iPhone or Canon PowerShot without a tripod and longer exposure time.
The star of this next shot is one of my recent Etsy finds! (Blogging about Etsy entitles one to shop on Etsy, of course.) It’s a plush USA map ornament made by WoldyWorld.
Here, the ornament is backlit – the Christmas tree was probably the room’s brightest light source, and like the photos of my dog above, this shot also turned out way better than I expected. There’s no way I could have taken a photo like this without a tripod with my point and shoot, but the NX300 handled the low lighting with ease. I love the blurred background lights and the crisp rim lights on the edges of the ornament.
My shooting frenzy resumed in the morning. Neighborhood landscaping provided plenty of interesting photography subjects.
And Gadget’s back, of course – she’s probably my favorite thing to point my new camera at!
How about something tiny? Even with the kit lens, I was able to focus in on one HotWheels car, letting the other one fall out of focus. I was really impressed that I didn’t have to buy a different lens to achieve this effect. This photo (and all the other photos in this review) was taken with the 18-55mm kit lens!
Portraits of people look great with the NX300. Here’s a shot of my husband taken in aperture priority mode.
And finally, a few small items that might be similar to handmade crafts you’d sell on Etsy. (These plush veggies are from IKEA.)
Heck, even glittery threads and fabrics look good! Both pumpkins are made with black fabric, but the camera captures the dark fabric’s details beautifully and without noise.
Photo Transfer & WiFi Connectivity
Once I got my iPhone 4s, I found that I used my Canon ELPH point and shoot less and less. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the Canon, it was just SO MUCH easier to get photos off my iPhone than it was to take out the Canon’s SD card, crawl under my desk, copy/paste the photos over, and then (hopefully) remember to put the SD card back into the camera.
WiFi transfer isn’t a common feature yet on mirrorless and DSLRs, but it should be. Transferring photos over WiFi is THE BEST. Seriously folks, I’m ruined. Getting photos off the NX300 is fast, simple, and straightforward: set to WiFi and press OK. Done. (Note: The computer has to be on and probably on the same WiFi network. Don’t count on doing this while away from home.)
You aren’t limited to WiFi, of course. There are many ways to get photos off the NX300:
- Connect it to your PC or Mac with a USB cable
- Remove the SD card and plug it into a card reader
- Upload photos over WiFi to your smartphone (works great on my iPhone 4S)
- Upload photos over WiFi to your PC or Mac
- Upload photos directly to Facebook and other services
Normally, I’m pretty reluctant to put camera software on my computer. I’ve been burned by bad camera software in the past (especially in the early 2000’s) which was clunky, slow, had its own bizarre UI conventions, didn’t give me control over the photo destination, gave photos stupid names, tried (and failed) to be Photoshop, and other crimes not worth mentioning.
None of that has been true about Samsung’s i-Launcher.
The i-Launcher interface is small and elegant, it opens fast, and it doesn’t appear to have brought any unwanted junk onto my computer. It really exists solely to do the thing I want it to do, which is to copy files over WiFi into a folder of my choice on my computer’s hard drive. If there’s cruft here, I can’t find it. (Way to go, Samsung!)
Here’s what i-Launcher looks like on my Windows 7 64-bit computer.
Photos go onto my hard drive, exactly where I want them to. They are organized by date and photo number.
Transferring Photos from NX300 to my Windows PC
I’m on a Windows 7 64-bit machine and i-Launcher works perfectly for me. Initially, I installed the i-Launcher software from the CD but the camera and computer weren’t finding each other. I then plugged the camera directly into my computer via USB and lo and behold, the camera initiated installation of the WiFi sync software. Now, my PC and camera can see each other just fine.
Transferring photos over WiFi is lightning fast.
Transferring Photos from NX300 to iPhone 4S
The NX300 has a companion smartphone app, too. I downloaded the Samsung Smart Camera app onto my iPhone 4S. Connecting the camera to a smartphone is more steps than simply sending photos over WiFi, but it’s still pretty easy:
- Set the camera to WiFi
- Touch the Mobile Link icon
- Choose Select Photos from Smartphone or Select Photos from Camera
- On the smartphone, switch from my home’s WiFi network to the camera’s own WiFi network
- Open the Samsung Smart Camera app
- Select photos to copy to your smartphone
- Close the app to end the connection and return to your usual WiFi network automatically
Here’s what it looks like on my iPhone as I select photos to sync from my NX300.
This sync method uses “Near Field Communication” (NFC) technology, so the phone has to connect to the camera’s own little personal WiFi network to access the photos. Transferring is fast, and once it’s done the NX300’s photos are on my iPhone’s camera roll and ready to message, email, tweet, whatever!
I cannot overstate how awesome it is to just transfer photos with the flip of a switch and a couple screen taps. Living in the future is everything I hoped it would be.
Special Shooting Modes: “Smart” Mode
The NX300 has a bunch of shooting modes (presets, really) that will look familiar to photographers coming from a point and shoot camera. These Smart options include:
- Beauty Face
- Action Freeze
- Rich Tones
- Light Trace
- Creative Shot
My favorite so far is Beauty Face, which actually takes really great pictures of me, even when the camera is in the hands of my very-non-photographer husband (he is loved anyway). It’s pretty rare I like a photo of myself enough to actually stick it on the Internet, so there you go – Beauty Face rocks.
(Sadly, Beauty Face does not detect dogs as having faces.)
Macro Mode is another great shooting mode on the NX300. Just like macro mode on point and shoots, it’s good at focusing on a small object and letting the background become a beautiful bokeh.
This shot was taken in “Macro” mode and the subjects are two Monster High dolls sitting on a window sill.
It’s worth noting that the Samsung NX300 lacks the overwhelming (100+) lens variety offered by big names like Canon and Nikon. That didn’t worry me, though, mostly because that many lenses is complete overkill for me. I’m not going to buy buckets of lenses, I’m going to buy a couple that meet my needs and go from there.
Plus, the kit lens is really good. All the photos in this review were taken with the kit lens and I don’t feel a strong need to upgrade.
The NX300 has around 18 Samsung branded lenses to pick from. These are just some of them! The following links are Amazon Affiliate links.
- Professional standard zoom lens: Samsung NX 16-50mm f/2.0-2.8 S Series Zoom Lens (Yes, it costs more than the camera)
- Extremely high quality videos and super zoom: Samsung Movie Pro 18-200mm lens for NX Series Cameras
- Standard 30mm prime lens for portraits and low light: Samsung 30mm NX Pancake Lens for NX Series Cameras (I’ve got one of these on order!)
- Action shots with in-lens image stabilization: Samsung NX 50-200mm f/4.0-5.6 OIS Zoom Camera Lens
- Wide scenery and 180 degree shots: Samsung NX 10mm Fish Eye Camera Lens
- 2D/3D stills and video: Samsung NX 45mm f/1.8 2D/3D Camera Lens
- Ultrawide prime lens for wide scenery: Samsung NX 16mm f/2.4 Ultra Wide Prime Lens
- Versatile 20mm prime lens for anything: Samsung 20mm f/2.8 NX Pancake Lens
- Telephoto with fast autofocus and precise manual focus: Samsung NX 85mm f/1.4 Camera Lens
- Compact and lightweight portrait lens for low light and action: Samsung NX 45mm f/1.8 Camera Lens
All of the above lenses are highly rated and well-reviewed at all price points. The right lens(es) for you depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your photography.
I want to see how Samsung’s prime lenses perform, so I ordered one of the standard 30mm prime lenses and I’ll add a separate review of that lens once I have a chance to put it through its paces.
Eh, not really. If I have anything to complain about it’s that this camera doesn’t have the following it deserves, which made me second-guess my decision to purchase it before I went ahead and bought it anyway.
Battery & Charge Cable
I love that it’s a rechargeable battery but for power users, having to charge the battery inside the camera could slow things down. (Ie: you can’t buy a bunch of chargers and charge multiple batteries simultaneously.) Some reviews complained of short battery life but I shot hundreds of photos and transferred them over WiFi before dropping to 1 bar (out of 3). For my needs, the battery it ships with has been sufficient.
The battery’s charging cable could have been longer -it’s about a foot long and the battery only charges inside the camera. On the bright side, it’s just a micro USB cable and 10 foot micro usb cables are cheap (and colorful!).
Oops, almost forgot – you’ll need to buy a memory card, as this camera doesn’t ship with one (and it has no internal memory of its own). For my NX300, I got a Transcend 64GB SD card.
Card write speed is important (it affects how quickly you can take successive shots) and Transcend’s been a good brand for me. This is probably my 5th Transcend card in a decade and I’ve yet to have one fail. I really only get new ones to keep up with growing capacities and speed.
The 64 GB card promises over 12,000 shots on the 5.9MB setting (2976px x 1984px 3:2) and 8,400 shots at 10.1MB setting (3888px x 2592px 3:2) and that’s really enough for me, but if you want more, check out the gigantic 128GB Transcend SD card.
AND ANOTHER THING! You can use the app as a remote shutter button! Here’s what the app looks like (screenshot taken from my iPhone 4S) along with the live feed from the camera (the NX300 was pointed at me).
This isn’t the world’s most exciting shot. I can’t wait to use remote shutter somewhere practical, like on a vacation!
More Samsung NX300 Reviews
- Samsung NX300 manufacturer’s site and DSLR comparison
- Samsung’s NX Lenses page
- Samsung NX300 Review on DigitalCameraReview.com
- Samsung NX300 Amazon.com reviews
My NX300 came from Amazon.com, and prices and stock vary. Be sure to compare the prices on the various colors as sometimes one color is less expensive than the others. (For example, at the time of this writing the white one is the least expensive, but when I bought mine a week ago the black one was the better deal.)
- Samsung NX-300 Camera with 18-55mm Kit Lens in BLACK/WHITE/BROWN (Amazon.com)
- Amazon’s Best Selling Compact System Cameras (for more popular mirrorless cameras)
- Samsung NX300 on B&H (bhphotovideo.com)
The Bottom Line
I’m kicking myself for not getting this camera sooner! I could have been shooting great photos all summer! Better late than never, I guess, right? Happy birthday and Merry Christmas to ME! 🙂
Thanks for reading this far! If you have any questions, please ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!
Okay, one more Gadget:
Some links in this article are Amazon Affiliate links. Read DIYCraftPhotography’s full disclosure here.