From ISO 100 to 400 images – JPEGS and raw files alike – suffer hardly any noise. Even when closely inspected only slight luminance noise is visible in the raw files, but noise is absent from JPEGs, having been processed out. At ISO 800 raw images display a tad more luminance noise while JPEGs show little.
2 secs @ f/13, ISO 400, -0.3EV, Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS, click to enlarge
That’s due to in-camera noise reductions but, thankfully, there’s a good balance between detail and in-camera processing. So, for JPEGs, ISO 800 offers the best balance between high sensitivity without a great loss in detail.
However, while JPEGs up to ISO 3200 are usable they do show signs of heavy in-camera noise reduction. This removes practically all the noise but also a great deal of finer detail, resulting in a softer image.
25 secs @ f/10, ISO 100, Samsung 45mm f/1.8, click to enlarge
In contrast, raw files are still very good right up to ISO 3200 and any noise that is visible is mostly luminance noise. Using Lightroom’s noise reduction tools can deal with this.
At ISO 6400 luminance noise is evident in both raw and JPEG images and even in small-scale images chroma noise starts to creep in, getting progressively worse until the maximum ISO of 24,800.
1/160 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 200, Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS, click to enlarge
Overall, NX30’s colour rendition is very good. Images are usually well saturated with punchy colours but, on occasions – particularly with very bright and vivid subjects – there’s a touch too much saturation. This can be adjusted with Picture Wizard or in post-production for an image better reflecting the scene.
Dynamic range boosts are also available in camera in the form of two separate automatic settings – Smart Dynamic and HDR mode. The first takes an image and lightens shadows and darkens highlights. The other blends three separate exposures and processes this in-camera.
1/60 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 3200, Samsung 45mm f/1.8, click to enlarge
Only in very challenging conditions will images have blown-out shadow or highlight detail, but a lot of detail can be brought back by adjusting the highlight and shadow sliders in Lightroom 5 to give images a dynamic range boost.
There are plenty of good reasons to consider it. The NX30’s build quality may be poor, but its design is superb. The positioning of buttons has been refined and the camera feels very well balanced when held, even with larger lenses. The Wi-Fi connectivity works very well with some unique ways to upload and back up images. The best things about the camera, though, are the LCD and EVF, which are on a par with the best CSCs – and some entry-level DSLRs.
Indeed, it's only when you start to look at the alternatives that you begin to appreciate its quality. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is sturdy, has a 16.3MP micro four thirds sensor, an excellent AF system and a superb EVF, but it too can over-process JPEGs and it costs well over £1,000. If you prefer something more compact it's worth considering the Panasonic Lumic GX7, too, but it doesn't handle as well due its smaller body while the larger Lumix G6 has similar weaknesses at high ISO and is overdue an upgrade.
Ultimately it comes down to priorities. Purists may feel compelled to stick with a DSLR like the Nikon D3300, D5300 or Canon 700D at this price, particularly if you want a higher resolution sensor, but the NX30 beats all comers when it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity and matches them in most other areas.
The NX30 combines some neat innovations, an outstanding feature set and smart design to very good effect. The build quality and performance at high ISO is slightly disappointing, but neither should put you off seriously considering the NX30. It's a seriously good camera we're happy to recommend.