Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's here!

Yup, it's here! I just received my prize, a Samsung GX20 DSLR, from Amateur Photographer, which I had won in the On Assignment feature. I had a good play with it and I have to say I am second time awe struck. As such I have decided to post a little review of it right here, so here it is, my initial thoughts on the Samsung GX20. I may add some more bits as I go:



I had used it when I was given the opportunity of participating in AP's On Assignment and had a chance to play a bit with it, but we didn't have time to go in depth into it. I got mine on Thursday and have taken a small number of shots with the kit lens (18-55) which have given me a good feel of what the image quality can really be like and this is pretty much the reason why I decided to do a little user review. I may come back to it to add other findings.


The Samsung GX20 is pretty much a Pentax K20D but according to Samsung the image processing is different and better.
It takes Pentax KAF mount lenses (of which I have near to none at the moment, apart from a Centon 50mm f1.7 which is more of a paperweight and a 70-210 of the same brand and serving the same function) and Samsung has their own version using Schneider-Kreuznach glass. The 18-55 lens is not brilliantly sharp but for non specialist use does it's job. The camera is very very solid indeed and I was already very impressed with it when I first used it but having spent longer time with it and comparing it with my other DSLRs (KM 7D, Fujifilm S3, Sony A700,Sigma SD10) fares very well and I am even tempted to consider it a notch above all in this department. I wish I could compare it with a more current crop of DSLRs myself, but the word out there is that it fares very well again anyway. While I feel the need to add a battery grip to my A700 (except the other ones which have a grip), I do not feel the same about the GX20. It feels well balanced and very comfortable, with the body finish adding to this feel.


This is an area where I was second time awe struck. From the usual picture styles to AF fine tuning it felt as if this was the case that this was someone's first camera, they wouldn't be asking for more. It is a feature rich camera and what particularly excited me was the fact that I could process my RAW files in camera (as I am a RAW shooter in any situation), so I could have a JPEG of only the pictures I would have to either send or share, ready to go. I wished my other cameras had this to save some space in the card.
While this was exciting, this is in my opinion the feature that at the same time hampers the camera's image quality but only slightly and I will expand on this in the Image Quality section.


Performance is on the whole good, but the AF tends to hunt or hesitate a little in lower light. I do not know if this is because of the cheaper kit lens, it is likely. In daylight I found the AF very good with this lens. Reviewing images can also be slow, but given the size of the images (and the fact that I use a S3pro too which is no speed champ either in this department) I did not find this a turn off, also because you can cancel review at any time by pressing the shutter button to go back to shooting.
If you choose to process your RAW in camera then you will have to wait for this to finish but it doesn't take long. In any case, this is a feature I would leave for when I finish my shooting.

Image Quality

This is an area where this camera unexpectedly excels with its 14.6MP even at higher sensitivities.

Initially I had my reservations when I was looking at the JPEGs from the camera. For some reason, it seems that the camera introduces some chroma noise in the JPEGs when it either shoots them or you process them in camera. While ISOs from 100-400 are very good, you start seeing chroma noise at 800 and increasingly above.

But do not despair. Putting the RAW (DNG) files through ACR really makes them shine. You see a very pleasing, more luminance, film like noise at higher ISOs and the images are also very clean, with good sharpness at these sensitivities, which for a sensor of 14.6MP is not easy (and with the kit lens that it came with). I would not hesitate to pump up the ISO if there's ever the need for it.
In this department I am very satisfied, because for me what really makes or breaks my choices for a camera is what it outputs and this camera does not disappoint even the most demanding photographer.


So this concludes my initial thoughts on the camera. If this is what Pentax and Samsung are playing with now, I personally see no reason for this duo to come out with even more technically impressive stuff and join the big two which are becoming the big three now (with Sony having played out very well and I even see some using Sony now in the midst of the sea of Nikons and Canons out there). Perhaps the challenge is financial (and also the fact that the AF lens collection is a bit limiting on both parts and 3rd party dependency is not bad but not very good either)but that's something for a different discussion.
I believe with a little AF improvement and perhaps adding another 3-4fps to the drive (making it 6fps), this dynamic duo can come up with a true alternative(s) in the market. The image quality is certainly there. Let's see what happens next.


So yes, I am thoroughly impressed :)

Some samples will be posted on my page here .

Until next time,