Terrific Wi-Fi features earn the Samsung NX20 a runner-up spot among compact system cameras. It makes it easy to share and post photos, use your smartphone to control your camera and more. But the NX20 feels sluggish next to its rivals, and its photos -- although very good -- aren't quite up to par with better competitors like the top-rated Olympus OM-D E-M5 (*Est. $1,100 with kit lens).
Looks and feels like a DSLR. The Samsung NX20 "so closely resembles a digital SLR [single-lens reflex camera], you sometimes forget it's not a DSLR," says Dan Havlik at Imaging-Resource.com. It's just as small as other compact system cameras -- a little bigger than an index card, and about 1.5 inches thick -- with a hefty, comfortable grip.
Like other high-end cameras in this class, the Samsung NX20 offers an electronic viewfinder. It gets mixed reviews, though: PhotographyBlog.com's Mark Goldstein loves it, but Havlik finds himself wishing for a real optical viewfinder. PCMag.com's Jim Fisher says it works fine in bright light, but it's "downright murky and choppy in dimmer environments," and it just can't match the better electronic viewfinders in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Sony Alpha NEX-7 (*Est. $1,200 with kit lens). Luckily, the Samsung NX20 has a 3-inch tilting, swiveling OLED screen that frames shots very nicely in tests.
Like other high-end compact system cameras, the NX20 "puts a great deal of control at your fingertips," Fisher says, with plenty of physical buttons and dials. One unique touch: A button on the kit lens lets you program the manual focus ring to control something else (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, etc.). "It's an innovative feature that gives new purpose to the manual focus ring in a world where most shooters rely entirely on autofocus," Fisher says.
Prepare for huge image files, testers warn. "The raw files are massive, weighing in at 37Mb each," Goldstein says. Even JPEG files are unusually large, Imaging-Resource.com says. Blame the NX20's hefty megapixel count, although other cameras with equal megapixels (like the Sony NEX-7) don't have this problem. At any rate, the NX20 takes a long time and a lot of disk space to copy files in tests.
Image quality and speed trail the competition. On paper, the Samsung NX20 looks like its image quality would beat other compact system cameras. The Samsung gets a bigger APS-C sensor (the same size as a compact DSLR) stuffed with 20.3 megapixels to capture fine details. But the Olympus OM-D E-M5 actually shoots better photos in head-to-head tests at Imaging-Resource.com and PCMag.com, despite its smaller, 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus' shots look crisper and sharper, with less grainy image noise -- especially in dim light. Still, experts say the NX20's photos look good overall.
Speed lags, too. "While the NX20 is generally a responsive camera, it is painfully slow to start up, focus, and capture a photo -- requiring about 3.3 seconds to do so," says Fisher at PCMag.com. Havlik at Imaging-Resource.com manages the same feat in 1.6 seconds, but that's still "a little slow," and "shot-to-shot cycle times were also not impressive." And while the NX20 can shoot 8 frames per second (fps), the buffer takes frustratingly long to clear those big image files in tests. PhotographyBlog.com's Goldstein manages to turn on the NX20 and shoot a photo in about 1 second, but he agrees that its "slow processing times" make it ill-suited for action photography.
Video mode "was easy to engage and produced excellent results in good light," Havlik says. Another source agrees that the Samsung's full 1080p video looks good, but not on par with rivals like the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Audio from the on-board stereo microphone is judged only fair in that test, and there's no external mic jack (although Samsung sells a $130 external mic that slides onto the hot shoe).
Battery life is rated at 360 shots per charge, about average for the class.
Plastic body isn't weather-sealed. Unlike its metal-bodied rivals, the Samsung NX20 is all-plastic. "The NX20 feels like more of a mass-market device than its price-tag might suggest, with an all-plastic body," says Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com. "This isn't to say that the NX20 isn't well-built though, and you'll certainly appreciate the NX20's lack of bulk during a long day's shooting."
It isn't weather-sealed, either, like the more pro-grade Olympus OM-D E-M5. Other experts and owner reviews say nothing about the NX20's build quality -- no praise, but also no complaints.
Outstanding Wi-Fi features. Wi-Fi is the big story on the Samsung NX20. "The Wi-Fi experience is one of the best you'll find in any camera," says Fisher at PCMag.com. While it doesn't make photo-sharing as effortless as an iPhone, "it had one of the best WiFi implementations on any camera we've tried," says Havlik at Imaging-Resource.com. "Once you had the camera connected to a WiFi signal, sharing photos and video via Facebook, Picasa, YouTube or even email was a snap."
You can also beam photos to your iOS or Android device, use your phone or tablet as a remote control and live viewfinder ("perhaps the coolest feature for our money," Havlik says) and more.
Like others in this class, the NX20 also lets you add special effects to your photos -- black-and-white, vignetting, miniature, etc. A panorama feature lets you sweep the camera across the scene to create an automatic panoramic shot. It works fine, Havlik says, although "when you zoom in on sections of the panorama, detail is lacking and the image is not particularly sharp."
The included 18 mm to 55 mm kit lens performs well in photo and video tests. Fisher finds it soft at 18 mm, but very sharp zoomed in. Havlik says its maximum f/3.5 aperture can't blur backgrounds very well. He recommends springing for one of Samsung's eight other NX-mounted lenses if you shoot a lot of portraits.
Review Credibility: Excellent This website reviews fewer point-and-shoot cameras than other sources, concentrating instead on superb tests of advanced cameras like the Samsung NX20. Experts here evaluate every aspect of the camera, shooting photos and videos in numerous conditions and conducting side-by-side tests with close rivals. The NX20 isn't quite as fast as better compact interchangeable-lens cameras, or as good in low light, but its generally good performance and outstanding Wi-Fi capabilities make it a good bet.
Review: Samsung NX20, Dan Havlik, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, Dave Etchells and Zig Weidelich, Oct. 19, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good PhotographyBlog.com names the Samsung NX20 to its list of the best compact system cameras. Mark Goldstein appreciates the DSLR-size image sensor and built-in Wi-Fi, but its "slow processing times make it less well-suited to action photography."
Review: Samsung NX20 Review, Mark Goldstein, June 21, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good The Samsung NX20 is a good -- not great -- camera, Jim Fisher concludes after a full test. It has a great Wi-Fi feature, but it needs faster performance, better low-light chops and a brighter viewfinder to compete with the much better Olympus OM-D E-M5, he says.
Review: Samsung NX20, Jim Fisher, Oct. 3, 2012
Review Credibility: Good ConsumerReports.org tests the Samsung NX20 alongside 28 other SLR-like digital cameras. Editors judge each camera's photo and video quality, ease of use and more, and then rank the cameras from best to worst. Each camera gets a written write-up, but these are very brief.
Review: Samsung NX20, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Fair The Samsung NX20 has amassed only a few owner reviews here, all rating it 4 or a perfect 5 stars. The owners do thoughtfully critique the camera, though, mentioning drawbacks as well as praise.
Review: Samsung NX20 Kit 20.3-megapixel Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens-Black, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2013
Review Credibility: Fair With just a handful of owner reviews posted here, the Samsung NX20 averages 3.9 out of 5 stars. Some complain about the slow buffering speed.
Review: Samsung 20.3Mp NX20 Mirrorless Wi-Fi Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black), Contributors to BHPhotoVideo.com, As of February 2013