When Panasonic launched the Lumix G1 at the end of 2008, it was the first of a new type of camera, so new in fact that the industry and the journalists who write about it have yet to agree on the taxonomy of the species. Some prefer “interchangeable lens compact”, which is far too difficult to pronounce after a couple of pints, a crucial problem for the aforementioned camera journalists. Only slightly less cumbersome is “mirrorless system camera”, which is more general and therefore more useful. We'd better all agree on a name soon, because it looks like there are going to be a lot more of them around. Olympus is enjoying some success with its stylish Pen series, and now Samsung has decided to get in on the act with the launch of its new NX10 camera and a selection of lenses and accessories.
There is one crucial difference between the NX10 and its two market rivals. While both Olympus and Panasonic use the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor in their cameras, the Samsung NX10 uses a 14.6 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the same size as the majority of conventional digital SLRs. In theory this could give the NX10 a significant advantage in picture quality, with the possibility of superior dynamic range and low-light performance. It's certainly no disadvantage in terms of size and weight. The NX10 measures 123 x 87 x 39.8mm (body only), and weighs 413g including battery and memory card. This compares favourably with the 124 x 83.6 x 74mm and 432g of the new Panasonic G2 (review coming later this week). Samsung has achieved these compact dimensions in the same way that Panasonic has, by eliminating the bulky reflex mirror and replacing the optical pentaprism viewfinder with an electronic LCD viewfinder.
Samsung has priced the NX10 very competitively. The starter kit comprising the camera and a very nice 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens with optical image stabilisation (OIS) is currently available for around £490. Panasonic's recently-launched Lumix G10 entry-level model is crucially slightly more expensive at £500 (£600 in some places) for the 14-42mm starter kit, while the new Lumix G2 kit price is around £700. The original G1 is still available for around £350 with the older 14-45mm kit lens, but probably not for too much longer. The Olympus Pen E-P1 kit is around £500, while the newer Pen E-P2 viewfinder kit price is around ££825.
Samsung has developed a new lens mount for the NX system, with an internal diameter of approximately 42mm, smaller than the 48.5mm of the Pentax K mount used on its previous full-sized DSLRs, and only a little larger than the 41.5mm of the Micro Four Thirds mount used by Panasonic and Olympus. As a result the NX system lenses can be very compact, and the standard kit lens isn't much bigger or heavier than the Panasonic 14-42mm image-stabilised lens accompanying the Lumix G2 and G10. Currently available NX lenses include a 30mm f2 pancake lens (equivalent to 45mm with the 1.5x conversion factor) priced at around £220, and a 50-200mm image stabilised f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom for around £170, which is the same size as a standard APS-C lens and looks very bulky on the tiny NX10 body. Both of the currently available zoom lenses have built-in OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation), with switches for this and the autofocus mounted on the side of the lens barrel.
A further five lenses for the NX system were recently announced; a 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 compact zoom, a 20mm wide-angle pancake lens, an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OIS superzoom, a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens and a presumably cheaper non-OIS 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom. These will, according to Samsung, become available before the end of the year.