First introduced as a way to reduce bulk, so called mirrorless cameras — models similar to SLRs but smaller — are going high-end with far better performance. The latest example is Samsung's NX300 camera, which goes on sale in March for $750, with lens.
The two-tone, (fake) pewter-and-leather body, available in black or white, evokes film cameras of the 1960s — as does the large mode dial (manual, auto, etc.) on the top of the camera. But the latest tech is inside, including a giant, pivoting OLED touch screen, fast shooting, a new type of 3D technology and Wi-Fi for sending photos to a smartphone or PC.
One standout feature is the 3.31-inch (diagonal) touch screen. It tilts down 45 degrees for holding the camera overhead and up 90 degrees for holding it down low against the body, which is good for stability. As with all mirrorless cameras, the NX300 lacks a traditional viewfinder and instead requires composing photos on the screen. (While some such cameras also have an eyepiece with a small LCD or OLED screen, the Samsung does not.)
Like other big-screen cameras, the NX300 places all the controls — such as aperture, shutter and exposure settings — on the screen. But it also keeps the physical dials and buttons that old-school photographers may prefer.
Historically, mirrorless cameras have been slower than SLRs at focusing, because they lacked a sensor for a process called phase detection. The NX300 includes phase detection on the image sensor, allowing it to match an SLR for speed. A Samsung representative claimed that the camera has "the fastest focusing," though he didn't specify numbers. The camera can also shoot up to 8.6 photos per second at its 20.3-megapixel resolution. [See also: What Makes a High-Quality Camera? ]
Samsung upgraded its Wi-Fi capability in the NX300. It can now shoot copies of photos directly to an iOS or Android phone or tablet running the included app. It also syncs with a PC and now with Macs. But the transfer is all or nothing. A user can't pick individual photos while shooting and send just the good ones to a smartphone to upload and share.
The new processor in the NX300 is fast enough to process 3D photos and movies, which the NX300 can shoot with a special lens (not included in the base price). The 45-millimeter lens (a slight telephoto) has a button that switches it to 3D mode. Two tiny LCD screens inside the lens drop down one covering the right half of the lens inside and one the left half. The two screens alternate from being clear to opaque, so the camera captures alternating left-hand and right-hand views that correspond to what someone's left and right eye would see in real life.
Any 3D TV can take the alternating images to display the photos or videos. In 2D mode, the lens works like any other, on the NX300 as well as any other Samsung cameras.