Samsung NX30 vs Panasonic GX7 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5

January 5, 2014

Samsung NX30, Panasonic GX7 and Olympus E-M5 side by side

In this article I will compare the Samsung NX30 vs Panasonic GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5. The NX30 replaces the NX20 flagship mirrorless model. The NX30  brings loves of improvements over its predecessor and puts Samsung in a very strong position against it rivals. Some say that only if the NX30 had weather sealing and IBIS (Built In Image Stabilization), it would have been the perfect mirrorless. Well, I wouldn’t say “perfect”, but I am sure that the NX30 will certainly convince those who haven’t thought of buying a mirrorless camera from Samsung before, to take a second look.

Before we compare the three, let me first introduce to you do those three magnificent cameras — just to give you a good overview of their key feature and capabilities.

Samsung NX30

The NX30 is the Samsung’s latest mirrorless camera, and it’s flagship model; replacing the NX20 in its NX system.  Samsung did its best this year to innovate and increase its market share in the mirrorless camera’s market. I think that the NX30 and NX300/NX300M are very important releases, as the competition versus Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm doesn’t get any easier. Sony introduced its A7/A7R full frame mirrorless, Fujifilm introduced its X-E2 and X-A1, Olympus have its OM-D E-M5 and E-M1, and Panasonic already conquered the video market in the video category, and have the GM1 and GH3 which are superb cameras.

I have to admit that this is the first time that Samsung really caught my attention compare to any past releases. I have a few friends who seriously considering buying it (when it becomes available, not available as of the time of writing) over the Fujifilm X-E2 / X-E1 and over any Sony NEX camera they considered earlier.

The Samsung NX30 gone through an external change and its now bigger, heavier and had its design change a bit — it now looks more like a DSLR camera. We can see that its a trend now to release mirrorless cameras that are larger as entry-level DSLRs, although the all idea of the mirrorless camera design is to allow camera manufacturers to make the camera smaller. Nevertheless, some people do prefer to enjoy the other advantages that mirrorless camera bring and have a larger body that improves ergonomics, handling and button layout.

Samsung NX30 and NX30 side by side

Samsung NX30 and NX30 side by side (via

The NX30 features a 20.3 megpaixels APS-C CMOS sensor, inherited from the NX300. I’ve already compared the NX300 high ISO performance  vs the X-A1 and G6, and found the NX300 to be inferior to the X-A1, but better than the G6. I think that the smaller pixels prevent the NX300 sensor to perform at its best, but the image quality below ISO1600 is excellent and you get plenty of resolution to play with in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom photo editing software.

The NX30 is now equipped with a much faster and more advanced DRIMeIV image processor and DSP imaging engine to provide the NX30 the power it needs for overall performance improvements, as well as to support the 1080p60 video recording capability.

On of the most interesting and innovative feature is the tilting electronic viewfinder. Its a 2,359K-dots resolution EVF that can be pulled out and tilt up 80°. Samsung probably got the idea from Panasonic’s GX7, but the mechanism itself is different.

Tilting EVF NX30 vs GX7

Tilting EVF Mechanism - NX30 vs GX7

At the back of the camera you get a 3-inch 1.04 million dot fully articulated (180° left-to-right, 270° upwards and dowwards) Super AMOLED touch-sensitive display. Samsung also implemented a user interface that is optimized for this screen ,to make it very responsive and easy to use. At times that most people are shooting photos using their mobile phone, this feature will certainly will help to promote the overall experience that people have with their camera. The NX30 was designed as a high-end multimedia photographic machine, and the eye-level viewfinder and rear screen are not less important, if not more important than the other features of the camera.

Many of you know that there are many cameras that you get high quality EVF, but stuck with a fixed display or vice versa. Now that the camera is large, Samsung didn’t need to make any pain compromises. Also worth mentioning that the rear display is now 70% brighter than the NX20 and uses S-Stripe array instead of Pentile that help to boos the lifetime of the blue organic material and promote better visuals.

Other features include an advanced autofocus system that Samsung calls NX AF System II. This is a Hybrid autofocus system that takes advantage of two technologies: contrast-detect AF (which is used on most mirrorless cameras) and phase-detection AF, technology borrowed from DSLR cameras. There are 105 phase-detect AF points on the sensor in total and 235 contrast-detect AF points as well. The camera use the two in combination to improve the speed an accuracy of the autofocus system.

The contrast detection covers most of the frame, whether the phase-detection sensors are positioned in a wide area at the center of the frame. Phase detection is used to nearly instantaneously get the distance from the subject, which makes it super useful when shooting fast moving subjects, especially when they move towards and away from the camera. The result: very accurate and super fast AF performance.

The NX30 now features Smart Camera 3.0 compare to Smart Camera 2.0 of the NX300 / NX300M, which included improved remote shooting (Remote Viewfinder Pro), baby monitoring, Tap & Gp, Photo Beam, MobileLink and ‘Group Share’  and built-in Dropbox app (region dependent), as well as the ability to upload images directly to Flickr. The NX30 does offer NFC + Wi-Fi (dual-band) wireless connectivity as well.

The NX30 is a great stills camera, but also spoiled us with useful video shooting features, including 1080p60 (progressive) video recording, 3.5 mm microphone input and uncompressed HDMI (clean HDMI) 4:2:0 at 1080p30.

Other features include 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed, built-in pop-up flash, 9 fps continuous shooting speed and 3D shooting (using Samsung 2D/3D lens) among others.

As you can seem the Samsung NX30 Compact System Camera was gone through a massive change. To add to this, Samsung also introduced two 16-50mm lenses, one of them is a the Samsung NX 16-50mm F2.0-2.8 S ED OIS lens, a premium professional-grade lens. What a great lens to have isn’t it? — and I think it’s the perfect lens for the NX30 that will help you to shoot at lower ISO and its the perfect match for the NX high-resolution sensor.  So you have to worry less about image noise as you will be shooting bounded to the low ISO. Furthermore, it will perform at its best with the new Hybrid AF system as it uses a stepper motor. The lens has 3 aspherical lens elements, 2 extra-low dispersion lens elements and 2 Xtreme High Refractive lens elements. This lens is much heavier and larger than its 16-50 mm consumer grade lens counterpart (72mm vs 43 mm filter thread), but you get a lot in return.

I personally thought that Samsung will implement a feature that will make it work in a distinct way when bind with its Samsung Galaxy smartphones, but that didn’t happen. All in all, a superb mirrorless camera with many enhances over its predecessor and certainly one of the most interesting announcement we had in 2014, but there is long way to go.

Panasonic GX7

Panasonic Lumix GX7

Panasonic Lumix GX7

The Panasonic GX7 sits below the GH3 and above the G6, GF6 and GM1 is Panasonic’s DSLM camera’s lineup.  The GX7 is a powerhouse digital camera that brings innovation and advanced technologies to promote an outstanding performance and image quality. The GX7 is a Micro Four Thirds camera, which means that it’s compatible with all Micro Four Thirds lenses. For some photographers this might be a good enough reason to pick a MFT camera in the first place.

There is a lot to talk about GX7. This camera is much smaller than the NX30 and it still enjoys some of the features that usually make the camera larger. This included a 2764K-dot 90-degrees tiltable Live View Finder with very high color reproduction, which according to Panasonic is approx. 100%  of the CIE 1931 x.y color space. This means that colors will look natural without any harsh color shifting.

The Panasonic GX7 features a 3.0 inch 1040K-dot tiltable touchscreen display (80-degree up and 45-degree down), taking advantage of the Cell Touch LCD technology that reduces the gap between the display panel and the front glass. This minimizes reflection and improved the display visibility when shooting at bright daylight outdoots. So you don’t get a fully articulated display, but no doubt that for this relatively small camera, this is a great offering.

The Gx7 has a retro-style design. It has a flat top and the EVF sticks from its left-rear area, rather than consuming space at the top and adding a bulge at the top. On the other hand, the EVF does add to the thickness of the camera as it sticks out and doesn’t retract inside the camera itself. Panasonic made the GX7 durable using Magnesium alloy full diecast frame to protect the camera against bumps and give it a prestige look and feel. It has a small grip, but still very comfortable.

You also find dual front and rear dials that allows easier control over the camera settings, so you can quickly control and individually adjust the aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation.

The GX7 can capture Full HD video at 60 frames per second (progressive frames) with stereo sound, as well as 1080p24 cinematic frame rate, all with full-time AF, focus peaking and has a time lapse shooting video and stop motion animation function as well.

Stop motion animation example:

One of my personal favorite features is the In-body Image Stabilization. A sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism that works with any lens that you mount on the camera. According to Panasonic, the IBIS is comparable to Panasonic’s MEGA O.I.X. found on some of Panasonic’s MFT lenses. When you mount a lens that already have lens-shift image stabilization mechanism to it, you have the option to override the stabilization settings and give the priority to the lens, so it won’t use the built-in (sensor-shift) image stabilization.  Worth mentioning that some camera review websites (dpreview among them) criticized this IBIS for its performance. I assume that this mechanism will give you around 2EV step advantage, which is inferior to what modern lens-shift IS offer, which can be around 3-4 EV steps advantage.

Other features include: Creative video mode that lets you use P/A/S/M modes when recording videos, Touch AF and Touch AE (yep, same as the iPhone), manually adjust highlight / shadow areas seperaetely using the front or rear dial, creative control for stills and videos (e.g. low key for both stills and videos, soft focus only for stills, Fantasy for stills and videos, etc.), Wi-Fi / NFC supports remote shooting and remote view using Panasonic “Image App” for Android and iOS, Instant Transfer and Easy sharing of images to social networks. There is also Creative PAnorama function, Monochrome filters (e.g. Yellow, Orange, Red and Green), Clear retouch to remote unwanted objects from the image and Multi-exposure shot.

Small as it is, the GX7 offers a humongous range of features that will appeal to enthusiast photographers. A great upgrade for entry-level MFT owners, as well as new comers who want an advanced MFT camera to shoot with. The lens selection is very large, including offering from 3rd party lens manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron.

On of the disadvantage that you have in this camera is related to its size. The buttons are to tight together, and you might push a wrong button by mistake. I had times that I clicked the Wi-Fi button with my thumb by mistake. No doubt that with a larger camera is not an issue, but that’s something to keep in mind- especially if you have large hands ( I do 🙂 ). Having said that, it’s hard to say no-no to a Stylish camera with  Tones of features, IBIS and Tiltable EVF — isn’t it?

Olympus OM-D E-M5

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 stablished itself as one of the most attractive mirrorless cameras in 2012 and 2013, but since then both Fujifilm, Sony and Panasonic came up with new models that pushed the E-M5 a bit backwards. Still, the E-M5 has some features that non of the competitors have, and its still one of the best DSLR replacement cameras to date. Having said that, Olympus didn’t stay sleepy at that time, and on September 10th 2013, Olympus announced the OM-D E-M1, which is a step up over the E-M5 and aimed towards the semi-pro and professional market, and it’s much more expensive than the E-M1.

The E-M5 is an impressive stills camera, but less impressive when it comes to video recording as it only offers 1080i60 (interlaced frames) recording function. The E-M5 features a wide-range of features that put it in-front of many other mirrorless cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5


The E-M5 has a retro-style design, has magnesium alloy body and a dust-proof and splash-proof design. This means that you can shoot with this camera in the rain, in dusty environment (e.g. desert) or splash water on it, and this camera can handle it without a problem. This makes the E-M5 an ideal camera for outdoor photographers, and it’s the only weather-sealed camera among the three cameras we compare here. Don’t forget that you need to use a weather-sealed lens as well (e.g. M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ lens). This also includes the vertical battery grip if you intend to buy one, which is weather-sealed as well.

The E-M5 features a 1.44-million dot LCD viewfinder with 120 fps refresh rate and 1.15x maximum magnification. This magnification allows you to fine tune your focus without taking your eyes of the subject.  At the heart of the camera are a 16MP Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VI image processor. The E-M5 is also the first camera to feature one of Olympus great technology innovation in recent years, and that’s the 5-axis image stabilization mechanism.

The 5-axis image stabilization mechanism compensate for 5 axes movements, including  vertical and horizontal angle rotation, horizontal and vertical shift and rolling camera shake. The 5-axis image stabilization make the GX7 obsolete in comparison.

The OM-D E-M5 has a 3-inch 610K-dots tilting OELD touchscreen monitor which promotes fast operation and makes it quick and easy to focus on the subject.  Among the other advanced features are: 3D AF tracking and super afst AF performance, 9 fps burst shooting speed, multiple exposure mode, multi-aspect shooting (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 6:6), 11 art filters, wireless flash control, digital leveler and movie effects.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 already won Dpreview’s Gold Award and got rating and many positive reviews from many customers who bought it.  It was criticized for its mediocre subject-tracking performance, but its great build quality, weather-sealing 5-axis IBIS, very good image quality, high quality EVF, OLED tilting display and obviously the wide lens selection (Micro Four Thirds), put this camera in the top of the list of many enthusiasts.

NX30 vs GX7 vs OM-D E-M5

Now that you’ve got a good understanding of the key features of each camera, I’m sure that you want to know how the Samsung NX30 compares to the other two. The NX30 can’t compete against the Gx7 and E-M5 build quality nor it got weather sealing or IBIS as the E-M5  — Yet, some of you can leave without those features. The lens selection does play a significant role, but I think that after Samsung released its 16-50mm S premium lens, and I personally admire its NX lens optics and iFunction, the future does look bright.

These are things that only you can decide whether or not are deal breakers. I personally would love to have an 5-axis IBIS and weather-sealed body, but these are not must-have features and I can leave without them.

OK, now let’s take a look at a side by side specs comparison table. This table will draw a good overview of the differences, as well as cons and pros of each camera compared to the other models. Here you can spot some features that you just can’t leave without, and others that you are nice to have but are not a must in your next camera. So without further ado, let’s begin!

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I have to give it to Samsung, it did an incredible job with the NX30.  The Olympus does have its advantage in terms of build quality, weather-sealing, 5-axis IBIS, lens selection, but it lacks behind in other things: only tilting and low-res monitor, no phase-detection AF,  lower-res and small EVF which is also not tiltable like the NX30 one,  no 1/8000 sec shutter speed, much less impressive video recording functionality, small grip, no built-in flash, and no mic input.

With the Olympus OM-D E-M5 you have to look more on what you get instead of what you don’t get so it seems. Because this is the only camera in the group that does have weather sealing (is shooting in the rain means anything to you?), 5-axis built-in image stabilization and larger selection of lenses. If you find yourself shooting lots of photos outdoors and handheld, nothing can beat the E-5 in that regard.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 is the biggest contender to the NX30 in my opinion. The GX7 is significantly smaller, but on the other hand its button placement is a bit too tight in my opinion. You do get a very durable camera, with built-in IBIS (much less effective than the E-M5 though), 90-degree tiltable viewfinder, 60 sec shutter speed, faster X Sync speed (assumed, still waiting for the full specs to be revealed), lots of video frame rate to choose from. On the other hand, it doesn’t have Hybrid AF, has a much slower burst speed (5fps vs 9fps), Fully articulated display nor a mic input. It uses a smaller micro 4/3 sensor which is much smaller than APS-C (although IQ still need to be tested).

As a matter of fact, I think that the NX30 will certainly make some people think twice before getting the GX7. I think that Samsung brought an extraordinary flagship model that can easily give the Panaosnic GX7 and E-M5 a good competition. If you are not convinced or don’t need the 5-axis image stabilization, nor you care about weather sealing, larger lens selection – I think that the Samsung NX30 might be the best camera to go for.

We still have to wait and see how the NX30 performs in the lab and inspect its image quality. However, considering the fact that it uses the same NX300 sensor, you can expect the image quality to be excellent in low light, but less impressive in low light — at least if you compare it to cameras like the Fujifilm X-A1, which offers much better high ISO performance.

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