Samsung GX10 Hands On

The Samsung GX10 is a beefy DSLR from a company well-known for its slim-and-sexy point-and-shoots. While it’s done a consumer DSLRs before, this 10.2-megapixel beast is quite a step up from the previous 6-megapixel version, the GX1S, they sold for about $550 last year.

As a burgeoning camera nut, I was excited to see the GX10 entering an already crowded marketplace. Does it have a chance against the EOS and Alphas of the world? Read on to find out.

A quick disclaimer. I am definitely not a photo fanatic and this is definitely not a photo site. I look for good examples of industrial and functional design and rate them based on their value to the average consumer, not Mr. Snappypants who trades up to a new camera every month. The GX10 doesn’t seem to be widely reviewed and we were lucky enough to get one in to test, so I’m looking at it in terms of a more expensive camera for someone who might be ready to upgrade from a standard point and shoot.

The first thing you notice about the $999.99 GX10 is its size and weight. This is definitely an active shooter’s camera. It weighs in at about 10-ounces and is weatherproof with rubberized, sealed flaps over everything that matters. The battery compartment feels as watertight as a submarine and the SD card hatch requires two distinct movements — a flip and a twist of a little lock — to open. Add in a 2.5-inch TFT LCD and you can tell Samsung means business.

Watch out for lions.

The camera has optical image stabilization along with CCD cleaning features and comes with a D-XENON 18-55 mm lens in the configuration I tested. One huge issue I had with the lens is a tiny tab that stuck up from the tail end of the lens. One tab controls the aperture and was just begging to be be snapped off during a quick lens change. I didn’t get a chance to look at any of the other D-XENON lenses available, but if I were a professional photographer that small detail could be a showstopper.

I almost want to snap that off.

That issue aside, the camera took nice, bright pictures with little lag between frames. An average, automatic image takes about 2 seconds to focus and snap with little trouble. In most of my tests — both in staged situations and live shooting — there was a bit of a problem when trying to grab images in bad lighting conditions, even when holding the camera completely still. This can obviously be improved with a little f-stop futzing, but the average consumer will want to use flash, when necessary, and stay on Auto for most shots.

The GX10 can take up to 3 frames per second in continuous shooting mode although I was seeing about 1 per second in standard conditions. The camera supports JPEG and RAW formats and has a number of user modes along with full flash, aperture, and ISO settings. In short, it’s a strong DSLR.

A quick shot in Auto with no flash and image stabilization under direct light. I could have kept it still, but I wanted to simulate a quick shot sans staging.

The camera is just now rolling out in the U.S. and is available for preorder at a number of high-end dealers. As a recent convert to the DSLR fold, I think the GX10 is a strong contender but it is definitely for the semi-pro to amateur.

Compared to other cameras in the space, the GX10 fits in the Canon EOS 40D range and is above the Digital Rebel XT or the Nikon D40, two of my current favorites. The camera is well-built, easy to understand and use right out of the box, and includes enough high-end features to keep the average knob twiddler happy for weeks. The images are bright and clean. There is very little noise in the images and the colors are fairly true, if a little washed out compared to similar DSLRs.

One major issue is the lack of compatible lenses, at least at this time. Canon and Nikon have hundreds of available lenses and this model, right now, has very few. That is certainly a slight concern that should be remedied later this year.

For the price, the GX10 offers quite a bit of camera for the money. The U.S. package comes with one lens — apparently overseas versions come with two — and Samsung is ensuring more lenses this year including fish eye and zoom lenses. As with any DSLR, I advise shoppers and/or buyers to try a few at the store and pick out one that “speaks” to them in terms of price and image quality. Once you get past all the bells and whistles, what you want is a camera that takes consistently good pictures in varying light levels without much futzing. I can safely recommend the GX10 as one of the better cameras in that respect.