We take a look at the Samsung GX10, the manufacturer’s third DSLR and one of the most affordable semi-pro models on the market
Samsung may be better known as a consumer electronics company but, according to independent reports, the Korean conglomerate is the world’s fourth largest camera maker. Sharing a number of technologies, the maker has teamed up with Pentax to produce a range of DSLRs. After two entry-level models, the third in the alliance – the mid-range Samsung GX10 – certainly looks like a tempting package.
Headline features include a 10-megapixel CCD sensor with anti-dust and anti-shake functions, weather-sealed semi-pro build and large 2.5-inch LCD.
Incidentally, along with a similar layout and appearance all these features are to be found on the Pentax K10D. Barring a few cosmetic details the Schneider-Kreuznach branded 18-55mm zoom also seems to be identical to the one supplied by Pentax.
Despite the similarities, an optional vertical grip made for the Pentax, and often considered an essential purchase when using larger lenses, isn’t available from Samsung for the GX10.
Perhaps more beneficial to users, at least on a day-to-day picture-taking basis, is the inclusion of built-in image stabilisation and automated sensor cleaning. As well as an antistatic coating on the surface of one of the filters over the sensor, the whole sensor platform can be vibrated at a fairly low pitch literally to shake off the dust particles. But like rival systems, it’s not foolproof.
The moving sensor platform also forms the basis of the Samsung GX10’s built-in anti-shake option. Its one big benefit is that because the anti-shake mechanism is based on the camera body, not the lens, every lens mounted is image-stabilised. The downside of this is that you can’t preview the effect in the viewfinder like lens-based offerings from Canon and Nikon. Nevertheless, we got acceptable sharp shots at around 1/30th second at the zoom’s longer end. That’s close to a stop and half advantage over non-image stabilised cameras.
Thanks to the durable build and glass pentaprism, the GX10 feels solid and weighty. We aren’t keen on some of the ergonomics though. The hard, oddly shaped rear grip, for example, bites into the base of the thumb after only a short time.
Despite the 15 buttons and an assortment of dials and levers, the camera’s controls are fairly intuitively laid out. Fore and aft selector dials fall naturally under the thumb and forefinger while the left hand is used to select exposure options from the single main mode dial.
Like most serious DSLRs the GX10 eschews preset scene modes for the usual manual, program and semi-auto-exposure options, but it does have a few extras up its sleeve. As well as a unique sensitivity (Sv) mode, where the GX10 sets both aperture and shutter speed values for a given ISO setting up to ISO 1600, it has a Shutter/Aperture (TAv) mode where it will set the ISO instead. Oddly, the latter option is restricted to a maximum of ISO 400, so it isn’t appropriate for use in low light conditions.
We also like the Green button placed close to the shutter release. This allows you jump to shutter-or-aperture priority from full program, and will also automatically provide the optimum exposure in manual mode. If the settings are way off, this feature can be used to save time and it’s handy if you want to intentionally alter the exposure quickly from the base setting using the fore and aft dials.
Also useful is the one-touch Raw button. From default it will jump from JPEG to Raw plus JPEG, but unless you alter the option permanently from the menu, it reverts back after capture. The GX10 doesn’t use a proprietary Raw file, instead it uses Adobe’s DNG format, so it can be edited by various third-party utilities. This may be just as well, especially if you’re a Mac user, as the bundled Samsung Digimax software is underpowered and Windows only.
Day-to-day functions, such as drive modes, white balance, flash and sensitivity are selected from a Fn button close to the 2.5-inch LCD. And this crucial control works pretty well though we would have preferred the right-handed direction pad to be slight more prominent and responsive than it is.
Need for speed
As you might expect from Samsung, the colour monitor is superb though the outer screen doesn’t have any anti-reflective coating. And we’ve no real complaints with the viewfinder image or the 11-point AF system.
Focus operation is generally accurate and swift though we found the bundled 18-55mm (27-83mm equivalent) is nosier than most rivals and seemingly more prone to hunting back and forth. And while the build is decent, with its metal mount, the focus ring spins annoyingly like early AF types.
Picture quality is well worth waiting for, it’s easily on a par with other 10-megapixel offerings such as the Nikon D80 and Olympus E-510. Unsurprisingly, images are similar to the practically identical Pentax K10D, though from our labs test the ultra-smooth Jpeg’s are slightly less grainy.
In real world use this difference is barely noticeable, but sharper-looking images can be achieved using Raw and then converting. We’ve no real concerns with automatic white balance, except for the usual inaccuracies under indoor lighting, and the GX10 produced some superb colour.
As a semi-pro camera, though, the choice of SD memory card format, 3fps burst rate and 9-frame Raw buffer fall short of the pricier Canon EOS 40D. But unlimited JPEG capture is welcome, and the build, reasonably effective anti-shake and two-year warranty are all attractive points.
Although it’s usually more expensive, the Samsung’s main rival is the equivalent Pentax, the K10D. It has the slightly better ergonomics in our view and the wider range of lenses and accessories, though the majority of these are compatible with the GX10.
The Nikon and Canon equivalents have even more compatible hardware, and it’s that extra versatility that enthusiasts count so highly. Nevertheless, given its unique exposure modes, strong performance and new low price, the GX10 would make a solid choice for serious snappers.
Samsung GX10 Info
Typical price: Samsung £439 with Schneider D-Xenon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL lens
Body-based anti-shake system
Extensive exposure modes
Weather-sealed and durable body
Nearly always cheaper than equivalent Pentax K10D
Bulky and weighty body
Some awkward ergonomics
Limited lens and system accessories (though many Pentax accessories are compatible)
Verdict: With few real downsides and packing handy anti-shake and anti-dust features as well as some pretty unique exposure modes, the Samsung GX10 is a lot of camera for your cash.
More info: Samsung Photography Website
- The 2.5-inch LCD is bright and clear, and function controls let you set drive modes, white balance, flash and sensitivity quickly and easily.
- The small green button between the shutter release and the top-plate LCD lets you switch between shutter and aperture priority modes with a single press, and provides optimum exposure in manual mode.