Samsung announces fast-focusing NX300 mirrorless camera and 2D/3D lens

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Samsung's first camera announcement for CES is a poster child for many of the trends we expect to see at this year's show. The Samsung NX300 is a retro-styled mirrorless interchangeable-lens model with built-in Wi-Fi, a quick autofocus system, a large touchscreen, fast continuous-shooting speeds, and 1080p video capture at a smooth 60fps.

According to Samsung, the NX300 boasts a hybrid contrast-/phase-detection autofocus system driven by 105 phase-detection points and 247 contrast-detection points on the camera's new 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. With autofocus enabled, the camera's burst-shooting mode is capable of capturing 8.6 full-resolution images per second.

The NX300 is the newest addition to Samsung's Smart Camera lineup, and it's the first of the series to offer dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity. The company claims that the camera's 2.4GHz/5.0Ghz wireless capabilities translate to streaming and upload speeds up to 35 percent faster than other Wi-Fi-enabled cameras.

Samsung has also revamped its suite of mobile apps and folded them all into a single, free Smart Camera 2.0 app for Android and iOS devices. The new app combines all the previous Samsung Smart Camera apps into one, including the Auto Share and MobileLink features for pushing or pulling content from mobile devices and a Remote Viewfinder function for controlling the camera wirelessly from a phone or tablet. A Direct Link button on the top of the camera can be programmed to perform one of the supported functions automatically.

While the lack of an internal mirror means that there's no through-the-lens optical viewfinder, the NX300's adjustable 3.3-inch AMOLED viewfinder is also a capacitive touchscreen. The display tilts up and down (it's not the tilt-and-swivel kind found on many DSLRs), and the touchscreen supports touch-to-focus, touch-shutter, and navigating and selecting in-camera shooting options.

In addition to manual exposure controls and scene presets including HDR and low-light bracketing modes, the NX300 has an extended ISO range that reaches up to 25,600. There's also a new addition to the NX series's "i-Control" functions, which are accessed via pressing a button on compatible NX series lenses. The new trick is a real-time depth-of-field preview on the camera's screen, just as you would find when looking through the optical viewfinder on a DSLR.

The Samsung NX300 will replace the NX200, and it will be available in March for $750 as a kit with a 20mm-50mm F3.5-F5.6 zoom lens; the NX system has a focal-length multiplier of 1.5X.

Speaking of optics, Samsung also announced a unique hybrid 2D/3D lens that looks like the company's standard 2D 45mm F1.8 prime lens. The lens toggles between 2D and 3D shooting by sliding a lever on the lens barrel, and it can be used for both 3D stills and 3D video.

In 3D mode, a left-channel and right-channel filter slide into place in the back of the lens; you can actually see the filters move into place like closing elevator doors as you peer into the lens.

The hybrid 2D/3D lens will be compatible with all of Samsung's 2013 NX series cameras; with the lens attached, the NX300 will capture 3D stills in .MPO format and 1920-by-1080 3D video at 60fps (30 frames per second from each of the left and right channels). Also due in March, the hybrid 2D/3D 45mm/F1.8 lens won't be available as part of a kit configuration; instead, it will be sold separately for $500.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out our complete coverage of CES 2013.

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