A Cycling Photographer’s Review of the Samsung NX300 Camera

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My first digital camera, was a point-and-shoot which was small, beautiful, took decent pictures. As enticing as they were, I’ve never really turned to the Digital SLR cameras. Why? My logic was that if it’s too clunky, there’s a high chance I won’t be taking it out.

In recent years, with the advent of mirrorless cameras (I prefer the moniker EVILElectronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens), this gap between portability and functionality has pretty much narrowed. Throw in these camera’s unique feature to use almost any available camera lens out there as long as you have the right adapter, and you’ll pretty much have killer system to tinker with.

Being one of the first to enter the marketplace, my first EVIL camera was the Sony NEX-5. Since cameras are only as good as the lenses you’ve got, I slowly built up a collection for any occasion. Since then I’ve upgraded to the NEX-7, which has a ton of features I’ve yet to fully master.

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to shoot the living daylights out of the Samsung NX300. Frankly speaking, I knew Samsung largely for their computer displays, smartphones and tablets, but to get a camera by Samsung took a bit of getting used to.

So how did it fair?
The first thing that struck me was how much was stuffed into a camera in this S$1,000 range. The Samsung NX300 has:

• 20.3-million-pixel, APS-C CMOS sensor (pretty high!)
• DRIMe IV image processing engine (processes images decently fast)
• Hybrid AF system
• Dual-band Wi-Fi (tons of connectivity options, especially to smartphones)
• 3-inch rear tiltable LCD touchscreen (borrowed from the Sony NEX)
• Supplied with full version of Adobe Lightroom (this I love!)

I consider myself an intermediate-level photographer & geek, where I know the basics (e.g. shooting at night without flash), but I won’t know every setting on a camera. As part of the Samsung Singapore NX300 campaign, I was told to showcase the NX300’s fast shutter capability through my cycling adventures.  I’ll run through the process by which I conduct my shoots, just to let you understand the ease of use and versatility of the Samsung NX300.

Thrills & Spills at Tampine Bike Park (181 of 188)-2

On a typical weekend, I’d plan with my cycling buddies on where we’d go. Sometimes it’d be off-road on a trail, sometimes urban exploration, but all the time there’d be some form of movement. This is where the impressive rate of 8.6fps in continuous shooting mode, and 1/6000th shutter speed really takes the cake. Below you see a low-res compilation of my buddy Jason Teo jumping a ramp at Tampines Bike Park, with each shot fairly bright and detailed.

Sunday spent in Adobe Lightroom, tweaking and dramatizing high-speed photography from the Samsung NX300 #samsungsgnx300

Here’s a full shot of Jason killing it…

Thrills & Spills at Tampine Bike Park (132 of 188)

My Typical Workflow with the Samsung NX300
Now I’d be taking a ton of shots each time, and along the way, I might want to instagram a few shots instead of waiting till I get home for post-production in Adobe Lightroom. The magic of smartphones nowadays are the amazing array of photo-editing suites available for our touchscreen devices. In particular, selecting Wifi mode on the Samsung NX300 lets me connect to my smartphone in numerous ways, from remote controlling the camera, to transferring selected or backing up all shots for easier viewing.

Once transferred, the raw pictures from the NX300 were typically sharp enough, so what I do is to “tweak reality” by evening out the high and lows (bright and dark) areas of the shots through a free yet powerful photo editor called SnapSeed (iOS / Android). Once satisfied, I then pass the image over to Instagram where I can apply the typical set of filters for dramatic effect. Should my buddies be keen to have some photos, I could then Whatsapp them straightaway as well.

Once I get back home, I’d typically do a once-over on the raw images. The Samsung NX300 gives a good baseline of photos for me to work with, often allowing me to accentuate the key aspects of a particular photo with little loss of detail. If the shots are worth the trouble, I’d spend an afternoon selecting and tuning the photos in Adobe Lightroom. Otherwise it’s a simple case of sorting through iPhoto to save time. All my photos then get shared on Facebook and Flickr, which serves as my online backup as well.

Now as the camera has a dedicated wifi mode, I can actually save all these steps by sending photos directly onto my social networks from the camera itself. If speed of publishing is key (e.g. working for a newsroom), the ability to send images directly, even through email, is god-sent. An on-screen keyboard makes this practical. I must say that Samsung NX300’s touchscreen is the most responsive I’ve even used on any camera, perhaps a page learned from their smartphone and tablet industry. 

Thrills & Spills, with @jasonitchi and @_weili_ #samsungsgnx300

Little things make the Samsung NX300 that much easier to use:

First, the kit lens that came with my camera was an 18-55mm OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) lens which is great, though the f/3.5-5.6 was probably a cost-saving measure. As you might know, the lower the f-stop the more light is able to go through a lens, though the price goes up exponentially as well. To be fair, the camera performed well under most challenging circumstances, which mean that if you invested in a better lens, this camera will truly deliver.

Second, the fact that I could charge the camera with a simple micro-usb cable, is just an incredible lifesaver in itself. If you ever travel and leave your charger at home (it happens!), this is worth its weight in gold.

Third, the sheer amount of wifi connectivity options. To be frank, I’ve not explore every connectivity option offered, but any geek will love the immense capability this camera offers. Besides remote controlling and backing up to my iPhone, I did manage to have to camera backup to my desktop computer as well, saving the need to plug in all the time. Furthermore, if you happen to have an NFC-capable smartphone (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Note II), tapping it against the camera apparently allows you to transfer photos with even greater ease.

Peekaboo Pugsley!  #samsungsgnx300 #surlybikes #cycling #singapore #sgig

Definitely value for money. There’s a lot of bang for your buck in the NX300 camera, and you can dabble to no end. The kit lens is sufficient for most users, still gives me wonderful bokeh under right conditions, but you’d do well to know that you can give this camera an upgrade with a better lens.