Samsung’s latest entry-level mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the 20.3-megapixel NX3000, isn’t gunning after the pros. Rather, it’s an easy-to-use “starter” model designed for those stepping up from point-and-shoot photography, particularly people who enjoy fun features like taking self-portraits or those who don’t want to mess with complicated controls. At $550 (lens included), it has an attractive price for the budget-conscious, but it also comes with some tradeoffs.
Features and design
The new NX3000 continues Samsung’s classic Compact System Camera (CSC) styling. It has a retro rangefinder vibe, but it’s clearly an up-to-date mirrorless model. It has a faux leather covering and clean lines, and is not littered with myriad buttons and dials. Even with the kit 16-50mm i-Function lens, the camera is light and easy to carry. The body alone measures 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.5 inches and weighs 8 ounces; put in the slim battery and attach the kit lens, and you still have a feathery sub-one-pound package. There are color choices, too: black, brown, and white.
The lightweight camera is a pleasure to use, with plenty of onscreen descriptions and instructions.
For a selection of NX-mount lenses, Samsung offers more than 20 options. It’s not the huge assortment that Canon or Nikon offers, but it covers most of the popular focal lengths, and there are a few third-party suppliers too. We’ve always been partial to Samsung’s i-Function lenses that put easy, one-button access to shooting parameters right on the lens barrel (shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, and white balance). As an added bonus, the kit lens has built-in optical image stabilization.
The top deck has a mono speaker, stereo mics, and a hot shoe to connect the supplied add-on flash. A Mobile button gives you options to MobileLink, Remote Viewfinder, and AutoShare, which are used with apps on your smartphone. On the far right is a mode dial with eight options: Smart Auto, PASM, Scene (16 choices), Panorama, and Wi-Fi; the last mode offers the various connectivity options, from sharing images online to backing up photos to a computer.
The key feature on the back is the selfie-friendly 3-inch tilt-screen that flips up 180 degrees for self-portraits. Like the Sony NEX-5T we reviewed a year ago, there’s a big problem: when the flash is attached, you cannot move it into full vertical position, and the flash blocks the screen. If selfies are your thing, just get ready to slide the flash off and put it into your pocket. It’s hardly the end of the world but surely Samsung engineers could’ve done better. The display, rated 460,800 dots, holds up to bright, direct sunshine, but isn’t as strong as displays in more expensive CSCs. Also note this is not a touchscreen.
To the right of the LCD are familiar camera buttons. Samsung NX cameras have always had good user interfaces and the NX3000 is no exception – even those totally unfamiliar with more advanced levels of photography will have few issues using this camera.
On the right side of the camera is a compartment with USB and HDMI connections, while the left side has the NFC tag for quick pairing with devices that support it. On the bottom is the battery/card compartment. The very slim power pack is rated a slightly above-average 370 shots, and is recharged inside the camera. The NX3000 uses tiny MicroSD media. The small card lets Samsung shave off some of the camera’s size and weight, but it can be difficult to handle.
What’s in the box
The camera includes an i-Function 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS zoom kit lens, flash, battery, and AC adapter. There’s also a strap, various caps, some quick-reference guides, and a CD with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 software. The latter is a terrific bonus since Lightroom costs close to $150 as a standalone package.
Samsung provides a limited one-year warranty.
Performance and use
The NX3000 has a 20.3MP APS-C sensor, capturing images as large as 5,472 x 3,648 pixels (JPEG/RAW). It’s also fairly speedy at 5 frames per second (fps). Video quality, however, is substandard at 1080/30p (MP4 format). For our review we tested the camera in locales in Arizona, Florida; and Puerto Rico; these places offered a lot of sunshine, but there were some cloudy days and indoor scenarios for low-light shots.
Image details are on point, but we noticed they tended to run a bit blue with auto white balance.
The lightweight camera is a pleasure to use. We rarely had to look at the owner’s manual to figure out how to use the camera, as there are plenty of onscreen descriptions and instructions for all the features. For users who are stepping up from a basic camera, the NX3000 is a good interchangeable lens model to start with. The sub-$500 price is also appealing, and the 16-50mm i-Function lens is solid, with a good focal range for everyday shooting.
The NX3000 captures good-quality images, but we noticed they tended to run a bit blue with auto white balance. Detail, however, is on point. If you’re used to photos from a point-and-shoot, you will be impressed – and happy – with the results. Enthusiasts and pros who shoot with more advanced (and more expensive) cameras will notice the deficiencies, but this isn’t a camera for those users.
On a positive note, the NX3000 is responsive and we had few focusing issues with the 35-point contrast-detect AF system. In comparison, better CSCs like the Samsung NX300 have hybrid autofocus system that use both contrast and phase detection, but they also cost more. For everyday shooting, the NX3000’s AF system is more than capable.
Selfie junkies will love this camera. In the self-portrait mode, simply flip up the LCD, point the camera at yourself, and use the +/- buttons on the side of the lens for framing. After pressing the shutter button, a countdown clock appears onscreen, giving you ample time to mug for the camera before the shutter fires. Another mode, Wink Shot, simplifies the process further by snapping a shot when the camera detects a wink. In these modes, the camera automatically defaults to a Beauty Face scene setting, which helps smooth out complexions.
Movie quality is just OK since 1080/30p MP4 files don’t have the pop and accuracy of 1080/60p, but the NX3000 focuses quickly. Colors in our videos look flat, and some scenes were shaky and had too much noise. The results are acceptable if you’re not super picky, but if movies are high on your checklist, you might want to look elsewhere, like in the direction of Sony’s mirrorless cameras.
The NX3000 handles noise fairly well if you don’t push it too hard. Although sensitivity ranges from 100-25,600, we’d keep it at 1,600 and below for best results – 3,200 for a small image if you have to go there. Beyond this, quality slips, with speckles appearing alongside unappealing color shifts. The 12,800 and 25,600 settings are really bad.
As befits the largest seller of smartphones in the world, the NX3000 works seamlessly well with iOS and Android mobile devices. You can transfer images back and forth, as well as operate the shutter remotely and make settings adjustments. Pairing is also straightforward. We’ve always lauded Samsung’s Wi-Fi systems in its cameras, and it’s no exception here.
With its target audience in mind, the NX3000 is an above-average entry-level, Wi-Fi-enabled mirrorless camera – but nothing more. For people moving up to an interchangeable lens camera, it hits some of the right notes. Photos are not best in class, but they are better than what you’ll get from basic compact cameras. We do wish video capture was stronger, but it’s responsive and focuses quickly, and it’s very easy to use.
But, is it the only affordable option for new users? Unfortunately for Samsung, the NX3000 isn’t the only camera playing in this ballpark. Sony’s compact 20.1MP A5000 comes with a similar zoom lens (16-50mm), and also costs around $500. It too has the 180-degree selfie-friendly LCD but it shoots better 1080/60i AVCHD movies, not to mention very high-quality stills. Top burst speed, however, is a little slower at 4 fps, and doesn’t supply the Lightroom 5 software Samsung does. Samsung NX3000 may have some strengths, but there is strong competition out there.
- 20.3MP APS-C sensor
- 180-degree-tilting LCD
- Good response, quick focusing
- Images don’t “pop,” slightly bluish
- Flash blocks LCD
- Mediocre video quality
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