Live View needs some Live Aid
If a 10-megapixel (Mp) camera isn't big enough for you, try on Samsung's GX-20 for size. It's essentially the same camera as the Pentax K20D, and also features a 14.6Mp CMOS sensor. This enables it to capture a huge amount of detail and with relatively good clarity. It also implements Live View, which lets you take photos by using its 2.7in LCD as a viewfinder.
- Huge picture size, no noticeable noise up to ISO 800, solidly constructed, optical image stabilisation
- Live View is implemented poorly, no dedicated buttons for ISO or shooting mode, shutter button could be better, loud shutter, slightly soft image quality
This camera feels and sounds like a beast. And it is a beast. It'll produce very good images at a 14.6Mp size, with practically no noise up to ISO 800. However, its Live View feature is worthless.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
However, Live View is implemented awkwardly; to use it, you must set the preview mode to Live View in the menu, then you must turn the dial on the key grip past the 'on' position. Only then will it switch from the optical viewfinder to the LCD screen. To focus in this mode, you have to hold down the 'AF' button, which blanks the LCD screen and then returns it to your subject after the camera has focused. Furthermore, you can't change any settings while in this mode. Unless you're shooting at a really awkward angle and need the LCD to frame your shots, this is a very cumbersome way of shooting.
As for the camera's build quality, it's bloody solid. The body is a little bigger than Nikon's D80, for example, and it also feels a little heavier. One thing that is noticeable with the GX-20 is its shutter, which, apart from making an almighty noise when it shuts and releases, can also be felt through the body. Its automatic focusing is also fairly aggressive and a little too noisy. All up, it's a very lively camera! According to Samsung you can use it in dusty, sandy or even wet conditions, as it has 72 seal points, which make it semi water and dust proof. We couldn't wait for a sandstorm to hit Sydney, but we did manage to test the unit in drizzle. That wasn't fun.
The camera's button layout is relatively standard, although we wish it had dedicated buttons for the ISO, flash and shooting mode settings. As it stands, you have to access the menu system before being able to change the options for these settings. However, there are dedicated controls for the exposure compensation setting, exposure bracketing, focus mode, and RAW shooting format.
The one thing that's annoying about the build quality is the shutter button. It doesn't have a distinct two-step operation for focusing, so it takes a little getting used to. Only slight pressure on the shutter button is required before it will focus.
To test the camera's image quality, we used a Samsung 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens, which is one of the new lenses Samsung has announced for this camera. Our test shots came out a little soft for our liking, and green colours, in particular, were a little over-saturated. But the overall image quality was clear and free of noise. In sunlight, the captured images looked vibrant yet natural, while cloudy conditions were also handled reasonably well. There was barely any noticeable noise up to ISO 800, but higher levels did produce noise.
The GX-20 has built-in optical image stabilisation, which aims to reduce blurriness caused by camera shake. While the example results of this feature in the manual are exaggerated, our tests showed a noticeable difference in clarity. However, it's not a saving grace in low light situations and isn't an alternative to a faster shutter and bigger aperture, or indeed a tripod.
Focusing was a little hit and miss while using the GX-20 indoors with room lighting. It has 11 focus points, and you can either let the camera decide on the points itself, or you can choose the focus point manually. It was sometimes difficult to get clarity in the exact area we required, despite selecting the appropriate focus point. Overall, however, focusing was very swift and accurate in well-lit conditions. The camera was also reasonably quick at writing files to the memory card, considering the 14.6Mp size of the photos; it took a little over 2sec.
The rotary dial allows you to select aperture priority or shutter priority modes, and it also has a bulb setting. This caught us out initially, as the shutter dial only went down to 30sec and we thought Samsung had left out this crucial setting. Meanwhile, in burst mode, the camera will shoot at about 3 frames per second up until about the 20th shot, at which point it slows down considerably.
Overall, the GX-20 is a worthy DSLR. It is well built and takes good photos, but its Live View mode is a waste of time.
Note: the price of $1799 is for the body only
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