Q: I've read your columns about refurbished interchangeable-lens cameras. Given the prices, I would like to try one, but I don't trust refurbished stuff. Any suggestions?
A: Try Samsung's NX1000 and NX1100 models (www.samsung.com/nx).
I've played with Samsung's mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras at trade shows but until recently had not tried one. When Samsung's PR agency offered me the chance to borrow an NX1100 for review, I jumped at the chance. Of particular interest was a $599 bundle that includes an NX1100 with 20- to 50-millimeter kit lens and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 tablet. At the time I wrote this the bundle was available at Sam's Club with a $50 instant savings, for a total of $549. The camera is available in white or black and includes a flash unit.
Although the NX1100 body is tiny, it features an APS-C sensor, the same size as most full-size digital SLRs. It has a whopping 20.3 megapixels, about as high as you can go without getting into semi-pro systems. When you are ready to expand, Samsung has a nice selection of high-quality lenses.
I've often pointed out that high megapixel counts are not a predictor of picture quality, but the NX1100 makes great use of its pixels to produce sharp, clean, natural-looking images that could be enlarged to the size of a billboard. The camera's JPG picture quality is excellent, if not the silky-smooth perfection of the top cameras in the category.
The NX1100 includes Wi-Fi for easy sharing and instant transfer to your smartphone, tablet or other device. The Wi-Fi feature was easy and intuitive to use and can transfer files at full resolution. You can also connect to the Galaxy Tab and use the tablet to control the camera remotely, with the tablet serving as the camera's viewfinder. Very cool!
The downsides are few. The body is all plastic and although it doesn't feel cheap, it doesn't feel premium, either. The same can be said of the rear display, which is good, if not class-leading. The kit lens doesn't have image stabilization, nor does the camera body. But the lens is tack sharp, and I found the camera easy to hold steadily.
The Samsung NX1100 has that elusive quality that makes you want to pick it up and take pictures. I recommend it because it's so good, not just because it's so affordable.
If you want one, the bundle with the Galaxy Tab 2 is the way to go. You get a great small interchangeable-lens camera, a $199 tablet and a $149 copy of Adobe Lightroom for $549 to $599. If you want just the camera, get Samsung's NX1000, which is apparently identical and sells online for less than $350.
Either choice is a great way to get started with a small-system camera, as well as a phenomenal, affordable upgrade to a point-and-shoot.
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