If you’re shopping for a small, high-performance camera that you can take pretty much anywhere, there are a slew of options. The contenders include the upcoming Samsung NX30 ($999) and the just-announced Nikon 1 V3 ($1,200), a mirrorless camera with a promised shooting speed of 20 frames per second. Because the Nikon isn’t out yet and the Samsung is just arriving in the U.S. market, it’s too soon to do a hands-on comparison test. In the meantime, we compared their capabilities. In this face-off, we see how these cameras stack up against each other, as well as to two cameras in roughly the same price range: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera and the Canon EOS 70D DSLR.
All four setups come in the standard, unassuming black, with a bulge on the right for grip. Daintiest of the lot is the Nikon 1 V3, weighing just 11.4 ounces (body only) and measuring 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.3 inches. Samsung’s NX30 is slightly bigger, at 5.0 x 3.8 x 1.6 inches, and almost twice as heavy (21.9 ounces). The 5.13 x 3.68 x 2.48-inch, 17.5-ounce Olympus OM-D E-M1 is larger than both the Nikon and the Samsung but lighter than the Samsung.
Canon’s EOS 70D is the heftiest, at 5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 inches and 23.8 ounces. Given that the latter has a DSLR mirror in its body, the size is an understandable trade-off for the optical viewfinder.
Nikon’s V3 offers the impressive ability to shoot up to 20 fps continuously, as well as shutter speeds as fast as 1/16,000 of a second. The Samsung is somewhat slower, letting you snap continuously at up to 10 fps, and its shutter speed tops out at 1/80,00 of a second. Both of those numbers are good compared to the competition. If you’re looking to let more light in and have a tripod, you might appreciate that you can slow the Samsung’s shutter speed down to 60 seconds (compared with 30 seconds on the Nikon).
Both the Olympus and the Canon cameras are slower, offering shutter speeds ranging from 1/8,000 of a second to 30 seconds, and continuous shooting of 9 fps and 7 fps, respectively.
A larger sensor is one factor that can lead to better images, especially in low light (though aspects like the image processor play a big role, too.) With an APS-C chip measuring 368.95 square millimeters, Samsung’s NX30 packs the biggest sensor of the four cameras. The Canon 70D DSLR’s variation on the APS-C standard comes in a close second, with a 337.5-square-millimeter sensor.
You get much smaller sensors on the Olympus micro four-thirds format chip (224.9 mm2) and the Nikon’s CX-format (116.16 mm2), which may lead to more noise (graininess) in pictures taken at higher ISO (light sensitivity) settings.
Fans of slow-motion video will appreciate the Nikon’s ability to shoot 720p video at 120 fps, which, played back at 30 fps, provides 4x slow mo. The other three cameras let you capture 720p HD video at up to 60 fps (Canon 70D and Samsung NX 30) or 30 fps (Olympus OM-D E-M1). At full HD (1920 x 1080p), the Nikon and Samsung let you capture up to 60 fps, while the Olympus and Canon can only reach 30 fps.
Though the new Nikon and Samsung cameras are not yet available for testing, Nikon France has released a set of photos taken with the V3. They show good color and detail in daytime shots, and action shots look crisp. A long jumper in midair at the Sochi Olympics stood out against the blue sky. The photo — taken at ISO 160, f/5.6 aperture and 1/1,250-second shutter speed — showed minimal noise and no blur.
However, an evening cityscape taken with the Nikon at ISO 6400, f/1.6 aperture and 1/60-second shutter speed showed a fair amount of pixel noise, which was particularly noticeable in the cloudy night sky, and details in the distant buildings were lost.
On the Canon, a picture of a musician in a dark room was so clear you could see his facial pores. This shot was composed at ISO 3200, f/4.0 aperture and 1/5,000-second shutter speed.
For $999, Samsung’s NX30 is bundled with a 3X 18-55mm image-stabilized lens (equivalent to about 27-82.5mm on a traditional film SLR, or what’s known as a full-frame digital camera). The $1,200 Nikon 1 V3 comes with a 10-30mm Zoom (equivalent to 27-81mm). Nikon also bundles a removable grip and electronic viewfinder; those features are built into the NX30.
The Olympus and Canon are more expensive, at $1,399 and $1,150, respectively, for their bodies alone.
Samsung’s NX30 provides a generous image sensor and a capable kit lens for a sub-$1,000 price, making it a better bargain than the Nikon 1 V3. But the Samsung’s body is heftier than those of competing mirrorless cameras, so if you don’t want a bulky camera, you may prefer the dainty Nikon 1 V3. Also, Samsung hasn’t yet sent out review models or posted official photos online, so image quality is not certain.
If you’re looking to capture action, you’ll also favor the Nikon rig, which shoots up to 20 fps, offers shutter speeds as fast as 1/16,000 of a second and captures slow-motion video. However, low-light shooting may not optimal, based on what we’ve seen so far. If you don’t mind a bulkier and somewhat slower camera, the Samsung NX30 should be a solid choice (more info on image quality pending). But for action photography, Nikon’s 1 V3 is the way to go.