Hands On With Samsung's NX10

There I was, lying on the ground like some chubby, geeky version of Steve Irwin, the python just centimetres away from my head. The only thing protecting me from a sudden strike and certain doom was Samsung's NX10 mirrorless mini-DSLR camera and the 30mm pancake lens attached to it. Well, that and the fact that the python was well fed and as tame as my pet dog...

It was a gorgeous Sydney afternoon last week when Samsung took a collection of tech writers to Taronga Zoo to experience their new NX10. More than just a point and shoot but not quite an SLR, the NX10 is competing in the same space at the micro-four thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus. It uses a mirrorless design, which allows the body to be a lot smaller than a full DSLR, which also reduces the weight. Packed in my hands, the NX10 felt comfortable, its presence justifiable to skeptics. The great thing about holding a camera launch in a zoo is that the animals tend to make great subjects. Split up into groups of wildlife explorers, we took turns shooting a bearded dragon, a spawn of satan stick insect and my nemesis, the python, before heading over to take shots of the harbour as dusk took over. Using the 30mm pancake lens, our guides showed us how to manually set the focus point for the autofocus, as well as taking advantage of the camera's manual focus mode, which automatically zooms into the centre of the frame and blows it up so you can get pinpoint sharpness. The NX10 has full manual controls as well, which was particularly useful for after dinner, as we wandered around the zoo to see animals after dark. The only problem was the fact that torchlight hurts the animals eyes, so the zookeepers used a red light which effects the photos. Also, animals and long exposure shots tend not to work all that well together... After sleeping in the zoo's luxurious tents (which you can enjoy as part of a Roar and Snore package), we awoke the next morning, ready to tackle the most dangerous creatures known to man: Giraffes. And by tackle, I mean feed carrots to and photograph. Playing around with the tele zoom lens was a nice opportunity to get right up close with the giraffe's face, even though it was literally metres away, and the auto focus was quick enough to capture the beast even while it moved its head and neck, like a ninja hungry for carrots. There's a burst mode that drops the camera's regular 14.6MP resolution down to 1.4MP, which is really just a bit too low a resolution to be useful. It was good to notice though that the AMOLED screen was gorgeous, and bright enough to see comfortably outdoors. The 720p video is stunning as well, so long as you can master the art of manually focusing as you move - something that I struggled with at first. As the photo shooting experience wound to a close, we got the opportunity to shoot a grumpy koala and a quiet echidna before relinquishing the camera. And seeing the level of detail in the final shots (keep in mind that the ones you see are resized for the web), I honestly feel that there's something really appealing about this whole space of cameras - DSLR quality and convenience with a compact, lightweight body. And the NX10's price tag is also pretty appealing - $849 for the body and the 30mm pancake lens, $899 for the body and an 18-55mm lens. Considering the price of some of Panasonic's micro four-thirds snappers, the NX10 is a pretty desirable purchase.

[Samsung NX10]