If you're looking for top image quality for less than a grand, one of these
rigs is your perfect 10.
The not-quite-identical twin of the Pentax K10D serves as the electronics giant's springboard into 10MP DSLRs -- with a full system already in place. (Note that the GX-10, according to Samsung, uses the same sensor, processing engine, and firmware as the Pentax K10D. We have therefore ranked these as a tie in every test category.)
System flexibility: Besides several sharp Schneider-branded kit lenses, the Samsung can of course accept current and past Pentax-mount optics, which is a lot of lenses. Samsung has also announced that additional Schneider lenses will be introduced in 2007 and continuing forward. And they will all work with the sensor-based stabilization built into the GX-10 body. A Samsung accessory flash unit, the SEF-36PZF, will operate identically to the Pentax AF360FGZ. The GX-10 also has similar wireless TTL capability via two or more accessory units. Rank: 3 tie
Control: Same controls as on the Pentax, occasionally with slightly different wording in the menus. Custom white balance is quite easy to set, and once you take the calibration shot, the two-axis graphic control for tweaking the color balance is automatically opened. Among digital filters are several levels of diffusion, warming and cooling adjustments, and stretch and squeeze. Speedy processing and a big buffer allow 3 fps capture of highest-quality JPEGs up to the capacity of the card. Rank: 4 tie
Ease of use: The GX-10 has the same rugged, well-gasketed body as the Pentax K10D, with some cosmetic differences. The most immediate divergence is the shape of control buttons: flat keys on the Samsung, protruding little nubs on the Pentax. We preferred the Pentax buttons' slightly better tactile feel (which may be better for operating the camera with gloves on), but overall the Samsung has the same comfy ergonomics as its sibling. We particularly like that AF points are accessed by an external dial and that RAW capture can be enabled with the press of a button. The menus of the Samsung are also somewhat different, with tabs arranged along the left side rather than the top, although the file structure is virtually identical. Rank: 1 tie
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Image Quality: Skin tones were extremely accurate, but as with the Pentax K10D, there was a noticeable magenta cast in shadow areas. Colors showed higher saturation than on Canon or Nikon, and magenta flowers were too bold. Shadow detail was high and contrast was also similar to the Pentax, although exposure needed +1/3 stop to match other cameras. Most defects absent in RAW DNG files. Rank: 4 tie
What's missing: As with its Pentax twin (as well as competitor Sony), the GX-10 lacks any indication of how much the onboard image stabilization is actuallly stabilizing.
Nice surprises: Yes, it has user-interchangeable viewfinder screens.
Best for: General-purpose shoot-ing, with less worry about drizzle, dust, or shaky hands.
Bottom line: Samsung couldn't have made a better choice for a 10.2MP DSLR to clone than the excellent-handling, sharp-shooting Pentax K10D. You'll more likely see this version in high-volume mass-market stores (the sort where you find Samsung big-screen TVs). Samsung says its next camera will be its very own design.
Test Results: Production models of the GX-10 were unavailable for testing at time of publication, but preliminary tests on a preproduction GX-10 indicated that users can expect virtually the same performance as the Pentax K10D -- Excellent image quality. Price: $900, body only; $1,000 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Schneider D-Xenon lens. CIPA battery rating: 730 shots with 50% flash. Size/weight: 5.6x4.0x2.8 in., 1.8 lb with card and battery. Card: SD/MMC. Info: www.samsungcamerausa.com; 800-344-4629.