Samsung NX11 vs. nail polish

A Samsung NX11 camera with lens attached

As previously mentioned my mother gave me a Samsung NX11 for Christmas. Today I have some freshly polished nails to shoot, so it’s time to see if this camera and I can be friends.

First of all, I wash my hands thoroughly, with an extra rub around the cuticles, and moisturise the skin. These are essential steps for nail polish photography, trust me.

Then I head outdoors for some natural light shots.

Natural light shots

It’s a grey, overcast day, and just minutes before sundown, so it’s not exactly bright outside. The ground is all ice and sludge, so I don’t want to venture too far from the door and the safe spot of ground there, either. But hey, it’s just a few initial test shots, and it’s cold, so let’s get this over with.

I’m shooting hand-held here, with the camera in aperture priority mode, and everything else handled automatically.

Natural light

The first thing I notice is that the lens — the 18-55mm kit lens — has a longer focusing distance than the Nikon lenses I’m used to. This means I have to hold my hands further apart, which makes it more difficult to hold the camera steady.

Second I notice that the preview is nice and bright. My shots look quite good! Bringing them onto the computer shows the photos to be underexposed, and ISO performance is less than brilliant. The white balance is a touch on the cool side, which is quite normal with such a difficult background.

Lastly I notice that I did a seriously bad job at cleanup after doing my nails, and my cuticles look like they’re about to commit mutiny. It’s not pretty. I’m getting the brush and cuticle butter out before I set up the flash.

Flash shots

My home is the apartment equivalent of a dark cave, so shooting nail polish indoors means getting the flash out. I don’t have Samsung-specific accessories, so I’m working with the same kit I use with my Nikon here:

I set up the flash and triggers, and press the shutter button while crossing my fingers. The camera doesn’t believe in the flash, but will fire it! I have to remove the transmitter from the hotshoe to gain access to the camera’s flash options, and I have to set the white balance manually, but it works.

I’m still shooting hand-held, but now the only thing automatic is the focus. All settings on both flash and camera are manual. TTL is for the weak.

In setting up the shot, I come across another problem. As mentioned, my flat is dark. This means the camera’s screen is dark, and with manual settings set to match the flash, it’s so dark I can’t see my hand! However, the Samsung NX11 has a so-close-to-magic-it-might-as-well-be setting for these situations: Framing mode. Framing mode means the display is detached from your settings, and gives you a nice and bright view of what you’re looking at. This feature is so brilliant it might make this my preferred camera for shooting at home.


Looking good! I can see what I’m doing and I’m getting the results I expect. Additional cleanup means my nails don’t look quite as horrible as in the initial shots, but some postwork is required to make the final image.

Additional notes

The camera is small and lightweight. Hand-held shooting doesn’t tire my arms out the way my Nikon w/macro lens does.

The camera does not appear to have any special support for Eye-Fi cards, which means it will happily go to sleep while the card is trying to upload photos.

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