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Review: Samsung NX1
3:04 am | December 5, 2014

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Review: Samsung NX1

Introduction and features

In recent time Samsung has produced some impressive compact system cameras such as the NX30 and NX Mini, but they don’t seem to have grabbed the attention of the average enthusiast photographer. The NX1, however, has a featureset that few photographers can ignore.

For a start, the sensor inside Samsung’s new flagship model is an APS-C format, back-illuminated CMOS device with 28 million pixels. That’s the highest pixel count of any APS-C format compact system camera and it’s the first time that a back-illumination technology has been used to make a sensor larger than 1-inch type. The high pixel count and the fact that there’s no anti-aliasing or optical low-pass filter over the sensor should be good news for detail resolution. Meanwhile back-illumination means there’s more room for the light-gathering diodes so there’s less image noise.

Samsung has also employed a new micro-lens array to enhance light transmission into the sensor, which again has benefits for low light performance and noise control.

Lens from top

This sensor is accompanied by a new image processing engine, DRIMe V, which is claimed to be 2.8x faster than Samsung’s previous engines. This extra processing power enables an incredible maximum continuous shooting rate of 15 frames per second (fps), which knocks the Nikon D4S out of the park.

Body minus lens

Samsung claims that this rate can be maintained for up to 78 Fine Quality JPEGs or 21 raw files, which is very impressive, but it’s important to remember that this will take just over 3 seconds of shooting JPEGs or around 1.4seconds of raw files. If you need to shoot for longer, however, the shooting rate can be reined in to 8,10 or 12fps. It’s also worth noting that with a SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS II card installed I found I could get 100 Super-fine JPEGs in a single burst at 15fps.

The new processor also enables 4K video recording, a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-25600 (which can be extended to ISO 51200) and adaptive noise reduction technology that applies noise reduction locally rather than uniformly across the whole image. In addition, raw images are saved in 14-bit in single shooting mode and 12-bit in continuous shooting.

Tilting screen

Samsung is using a new codec, H.265 (HEVC) and 40Mbps for its 4K video. This is claimed to have the same image quality, but half the size of 100Mbps H.264 footage. Although 4K footage can be recorded to the memory card (SD/SDHC/SDXC/UHS-I/UHS-II) it is also possible to send clean, compressed 4:2:0 8-bit 4K footage to an external recorder via an HDMI connection. Samsung is also working with a third-party provider to ensure that there are compatible rigs and recorders available for the NX1.

Autofocusing is handled by Samsung’s new NX AF System III, which has 205 Phase Detection AF points (153 cross type) and 209 contrast detection points. These points cover the majority of the image frame. Samsung claims an AF speed of 0.055sec and operation down to -4EV (what it calls ‘half-moonlight’). When light falls below -4EV a green focus assist light shines a grid pattern as far as 15m.

Side view

Manual focusing is also possible and there’s Focus Peaking to make it easier to see which areas are sharp without zooming in on screen. There’s also a zebra view (Samsung helpfully calls it the Overexposure Guide) to indicate areas that are close to burning out, but you can’t set a brightness value at which the indicator kicks in.

According to Samsung, the processing power and high AF point coverage of the NX1 has enabled the company to introduce some novel automated shooting modes within Samsung Auto Shot (SAS) mode. These are being developed for specific scenarios and currently the NX1 has a ‘Baseball’ and ‘Jump’ option.

Rear

When this is selected, markers appear on the screen indicating where the batter should be in the frame (they can be switched from one side to the other). Then, once the shutter release is pressed the camera tracks at 240fps (it doesn’t save files at this stage) looking for the moment that the ball enters the frame and is hit by the bat, when it takes a shot automatically.

There’s also a ‘Jump’ option which is designed to take a shot when the subject reaches the maximum height of a jump. Before the NX1 went on-sale we were told that Samsung was considering and developing other scenarios – it could include a race option that takes an image when a subject crosses a line or perhaps a goal option for football, but so far the options are the same as those seen in the preproduction samples (Jump and Baseball).

Tilt positions

In addition to the 3-inch, 1,036,000-dot Super AMOLED touch-sensitive screen, which can be tilted up through 90 degrees and down through 45, Samsung has given the NX1 an OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) for composing and reviewing images. Both of these devices are claimed to have a lag of just 5-10ms.

No Samsung camera would be complete without Wi-Fi connectivity and the NX1 is no exception (IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac in this case). It also has Bluetooth 3.0 communication for making connections quickly with nearby compatible devices, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This means it should be quick and easy to connect the camera to a range of devices to allow remote control and image sharing.

A final note on the NX1’s specification: the battery has a claimed life of 500 shots (which I found no reason to doubt during this test), and a vertical grip will be available that takes two batteries for longer shoots.

Build and handling

Samsung has opted for an SLR-like design for the NX1 and while it’s not in the same size bracket as the Nikon D4S or even the Canon 5D Mark III, it is quite large (138.5×102.3×65.8mm) for a compact system camera (CSC). It’s more Panasonic GH4 than G6, but many will feel that gives it more gravitas as well as making it easier to handle.

Screen

The NX1 has a magnesium alloy shell and is dust and splash-proof so it can be used in bad weather. It feels very nicely made and is exceptionally comfortable in the hand, with a deep front grip and an effective thumb-ridge on the rear. I was happy to walk with the camera in my hand for a few hours at a time and not use the provided strap. In addition, the dials all have a knurled edge and a very high quality feel.

Being a compact system camera means that there are no mirror movements to dampen in the NX1, so it is predisposed to being quiet. The mechanical shutter sound (there’s also an electronic shutter) is also very low, making it a discrete camera to use even when shooting at 15fps. That could prove very helpful when shooting wildlife or street subjects.

The tilting mechanism of the rear screen feels pretty tough and is a bonus for shooting landscape format images and video at high or low angles. Samsung has used vari-angle screens on some of its past cameras including the NX30, and it would have been nice to have one on the NX1 to offer assistance when shooting upright images at low or high angles. However, we’re told that the company’s research indicates that this is a weak point and the NX1 is designed to be a tough camera for serious users.

Menu view

I also found the AMOLED rear screen very good and it provides a clear view with plenty of detail. As usual, however, it suffers from reflections when the camera is used outside, so it’s often preferable to use the viewfinder to compose images. Like most compact system cameras, the NX1 has a Manual Focus Assist (MF Assist) option that sets the camera to show a 5x or 8x magnified view when focusing manually. As we have seen with other Samsung cameras, however, this enlargement is only applied to the centre of the frame. This means that if your subject is off-centre you have to focus and recompose the image, which can lead to slight errors in focusing, especially with close subjects. On the plus side, the combination of the detailed view and focus peaking makes manual focusing easy.

The screen is very responsive responsive to touch and the menu layout is clear. While some of the icons look sophisticated, however, others look a little like the illustrations in a coloring book, but they are easy to see.

There’s an option to show an electronic level on the screen and the EVF to help keep the horizon level. I found this level easier to see than some when using the screen to compose images at awkward angles because the line is a little thicker than most making it more visible.

Menu

To the right of the top-plate is a mode dial giving access to all the exposure modes that you’d expect (shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, program and automatic) as well as the Samsung Auto Shot (SAS) and two custom options. This dial has a lock to prevent it from being knocked out of place and helpfully it’s the type that you can choose to leave unlocked if you want.

Just to the side of the mode dial is a small LCD screen that displays key shooting data – this is a first for a Samsung CSC and something that will be appreciated by photographers shooting with the camera on a tripod – although with a tilting screen there’s another way to see this data.

Top view

On the left of the top-plate sits the drive mode dial, giving a quick way of setting the camera to continuous shooting or auto exposure bracketing. This dial is topped by four slim buttons that give access to the AF, white balance, metering and sensitivity options.

Selections and adjustments are made using the front and rear control dials, the dial around the navigation controls on the back of the camera or by touching the screen. While the rear dial seems well positioned to the side of the thumbrest and easy to locate with the camera held to the eye, it took me a little while to get used to the position of the top dial just behind the shutter release button. The controls on the back of the camera are all pretty sensibly arranged and within easy reach.

Rear angle

The active AF point may be set with a tap of the screen or by touching the button at the centre of the navigation controls and then using the buttons or dials to find the one that you want. It’s fairly quick process, but a more direct route would be even better. Although it is possible to customise the function of the navigation controls, they cannot be set to set AF point directly.

Top angle

The NX1 is compatible with Samsung’s iFunction lenses, which means there’s a really quick and easy way to change key features like sensitivity, white balance and exposure compensation with the camera held to your eye when such an optic is mounted. Pressing the iFn button on the lens brings up a lens-barrel-like display in the EVF or on the main screen. The front dial on the camera is then used to select the desired feature while the rear dial is used to select the setting. It’s very quick and easy to use.

While the NX1’s interface is generally clear, there are a couple of oddities within the menu. Tracking AF mode, for example, is set via the main menu under the Touch AF options (along with Touch AF, AF point and One touch shot) and once it is selected the camera is set to Continuous AF mode. Pressing the AF button on the top of the camera shows that it’s set to Continuous AF mode with the other options (Single, Active and Manual) greyed out. It seems strange to split the AF controls in this way especially as when AF point mode is selected in the Touch AF options so that the FA point can be selected with a tap on the screen, the AF button mode options are available.

It also seems a bit odd that video recording can’t be started if auto exposure lock is still active after the AF-on button has been pressed to focus the lens.

The app (Samsung Camera Manager Inst) for transferring images and controlling the camera remotely is currently available for Android smartphones and tablets, and is set to go live on the Apple App store in mid-December. It is currently possible to connect to Wi-Fi networks and email images to a iOS device, however. Connecting the NX1 to an Android smart phone or tablet or takes a little puzzling out, but once it’s done it’s easy to reconnect.

Performance

Thanks to the class-leading pixel count of 28 million on its APS-C format sensor, the NX1 can resolve more detail than the 16Mp Olympus OM-D E-M1, 20Mp Canon 7D Mark II and the 24Mp Nikon D7100 at most sensitivity settings. What’s more, the back-illuminated sensor manages to control noise well.

Images captured at ISO 100-400 have an impressive amount of detail and complex textures are rendered very well. Inspecting images at 100% on-screen reveals that detail levels start to dip at around ISO 800, but the results are still very good and look great at normal printing sizes. Even JPEGs captured at ISO 6400 look good when sized to make A2 prints.

Screen

The JPEG results at ISO 12,800 are also pretty good. In the default arrangement, JPEG images captured at this setting have a fine texture of luminance noise visible at 100% and no obvious coloured speckling. Stepping up to ISO 25,600 (the top native setting) sees a significant drop in detail visibility in JPEGs at 100% and colours appear to bleed onto their surroundings. There’s also a dip in saturation. At normal viewing sizes, however, the results still look good provided prints are kept closer to A4 than A3 size. As you would expect, the situation is worse at the expansion sensitivity setting (ISO 51,200), which produces JPEG images with very low saturation and lots of luminance noise.

Chroma noise (coloured speckling) makes itself known at 100% in raw files captured at ISO 1600 and above. It becomes problematic in shadow areas at ISO 6400 when you need to take care with processing to find a balance between noise visibility and detail preservation. Nevertheless, I found it produces some excellent results shooting skateboarders in the low light of the Undercroft in London’s Southbank.

Popular opinion has it that compact system cameras are unsuitable for shooting sport and action because the autofocus systems are too slow and the lag in their electronic viewfinders makes it hard to follow a moving subject. Recent developments and cameras like the Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic GH4 are challenging these preconceptions and the NX1 seems to take things a little further – it is certainly capable of shooting sport. Its autofocus system is very good and can even get moving subjects sharp in low light.

Shooting 15fps (frames per second) gives the camera very little time to focus the lens, but the NX1 manages it on many occasions. It doesn’t get it right every time with a moving subject, but in normal or ‘average’ outdoor conditions the hit rate is very high, and it’s not too shoddy in low light.

When shooting go karts in a very dimly lit indoor circuit I found that it’s not able to match the Canon 5D Mark III for autofocus performance, but it was able to deliver some sharp results. In some cases it latched onto the moving subject quickly and managed to keep it sharp as it sped along the track, but on others it just couldn’t get them into sharp register quickly enough. Nevertheless, I am impressed because the lighting conditions were very challenging.

I found it best to set the AF point myself using Selection AF mode and then move the camera to keep the active point over the subject. Multi AF mode gets it right sometimes, but it doesn’t always select the right target and doesn’t work well with a moving subject. Similarly, it can be hard to predict whether Tracking AF mode will be able to keep up with the subject.

In very low light (below -4EV) the camera fires out a beam of green light with a cross-hatched pattern to illuminate the subject to help the AF system find its target. It works well when the subject is within range and I was able to get sharp images in the gloomy confines of an awards bash.

As mentioned earlier, the NX1 has ‘Baseball’ and ‘Jump’ modes within the Samsung Auto Shot options. Using them is great fun, but we found Baseball mode quite inconsistent. Sometimes it took a shot when the ball wasn’t hit, other times it completely failed to take a picture. The height and speed of the ball seemed to have an impact upon whether the shutter was tripped.

Jump mode proved much more predictable and it consistently took photographs of subjects in mid air. It also occasionally took a shot when the subject moved towards the camera to take a look at the picture on the screen.

Both Baseball and Jump mode appear to take more than one picture, but you actually only get one shot from each attempt. This is a shame as facial expressions can vary a lot during this fast moving action and many people would prefer to have a short sequence (shot at 15fps) to choose from.

During our testing the NX1’s 221 Block Segment multi-metering system didn’t throw up any major surprises. It produced correctly exposed images in many situations and was only fooled into under or over exposure when we might reasonably have expected it to be – when large parts of the scene were very bright or very dark.

Similarly, the automatic white balance system took most natural lighting conditions in its stride and even coped well with some mixed lighting situations. As is often the case, I found it was best to set a custom white balance value in artificial light.

Menu

On the whole the camera produces pleasant looking colours with an attractive level of contrast. I especially enjoyed experimenting with the Picture Wizard (photo style) options and creating my own Custom settings (up to three are possible). I found the camera produced some nice results when the saturation was turned down to -5 (the minimum value is -10) and the contrast was set to the +10 maximum. The fact that the Picture Wizards can be used when shooting raw and JPEG files simultaneously makes using them more attractive as you have a raw file with all the colour information to work with post capture. More good news is that Samsung supplies Lightroom 5 on a disk with the NX1 for raw files processing.

Menu

I haven’t been able to test the NX1’s video performance extensively yet, but it’s certainly very capable. Movies have lots of detail and smooth movements. Like the stills, the exposure, white balance and colours are also generally very good.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Samsung NX1, we’ve shot our resolution chart.

Click here to see a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

Full ISO 100 image, see 100% crops below.

JPEG

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 100: 32. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 200: 32. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 400: 32. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 800: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 1600: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 3200: 30. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 6400: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 12800: 24. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 25600: 20. Click here for full resolution version.

RAW (converted to TIFF)

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 100: 30. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 200: 30. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 400: 30. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 800: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 1600: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 3200: 28. Click here for full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 resolution chart

ISO 6400: 26. Click here for full resolution version.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

The other rival cameras we chose for this comparison are the Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Canon 7D Mark II.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX1 signal to noise ratio

Analysis: All four cameras produce similar results, although the Samsung’s figures do take a bit of a dip in the low-medium ISO range.

Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Samsung NX1 signal to noise ratio

Analysis: The raw data shows a little more differentiation. The Canon 7D Mark II is the best performer here, while the Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Samsung NX1 trail very slightly behind.

JPEG dynamic range

Samsung NX1 dynamic range

Analysis: It’s the Olympus and the Canon that come out on top in this test, and although the NX1 keeps pace up to around ISO 800, it tails away after that.

Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range

Samsung NX1 dynamic range

Analysis: The Olympus is the clear winner here, especially at high ISOs. Of the rest, the Samsung is the best up to around ISO 3200, then falls back in line with the others.

Sensitivity and noise images

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below:

JPEG

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 12800. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 25600. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 51200. Click here for a full resolution image.

Raw (converted to TIFF)

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200: Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 12800. Click here for a full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 25600. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sensitivity and noise

ISO 51200. Click here for full resolution image.

Samsung NX1 sample images 1

15fps continuous shooting

The NX1’s 15fps continuous shooting mode is one of its headline features, but how well does the autofocus keep up with a fast-moving subject in low light?

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 continuous shooting

Click here for the full resolution version.

Baseball mode

Baseball mode gave variable results.

Samsung NX1 Baseball mode

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 Baseball mode

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 Baseball mode

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 Baseball mode

Click here for the full resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample images 2

Here are some sample shots taken indoors and outdoors to show the Samsung NX1’s performance in a variety of conditions.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/60sec f/2.0, ISO 100. The Samsung 16-50mm f/2.0-2.8 lens supplied with the camera produces good definition even wide open (zoom in on the chandelier). Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/80sec f/2.8, ISO 400. Shooting wide open has given a very attractive depth to this row of lanterns and the defocused highlights in the background are smooth and subtle. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/80sec f/2.8, ISO 100. Almost all of these sample shots were taken without any kind of exposure compensation, and the NX1 has preserved the rich depth of these dark tones surprisingly well. Clickhere for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/80sec f/2.8, ISO 200. The Samsung NX1’s autofocus system is fast and positive, even in low light levels. You can move the focus point anywhere in the frame, though it’s often quicker to use the centre AF frame, half-press the shutter to lock the focus and then reframe and shoot. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/80sec f/2.8, ISO 400. Another default exposure that’s come out surprisingly well. The metering system has not been over-influenced by the dark background and has captured the colors in the flag perfectly. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/250sec f/3.2, ISO 200. These pictures were taken using the Samsung’s Standard ‘Photo Wizard’ – a strangely novice-orientated term for a semi-pro camera. The colors are rich and intense. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/60sec f/2.0, ISO 100. There’s no sign of chromatic aberration or distortion in the Samsung NX1’s JPEGs, which suggests that aberrations are being processed out automatically. We’ll take a closer look at the raw files in due course. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/500sec f/5.0, ISO 100. Outside in bright light, it’s much easier to see the Samsung NX1’s true resolution. The sharpness of the fine detail is impressive, though there are signs that clear edges are defined much more clearly than very fine and subtle textural detail. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/500sec f/5.6, ISO 100. Many consumer cameras favour shadow areas at the expense of highlights, so shots like these can end up washed out – but the NX1 has produced strong, contrasty image which captures the feel of the lighting. Click here for a full-resolution version.

The NX1 produces strong, contrasty images.

1/250sec f/4.0, ISO 100. You would expect to see some color fringing around the fine twigs and branches here, especially at the edges of the picture, but the NX1 produces JPEGs with almost no fringing at all. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/125sec f/2.8, ISO 200. This is the only shot that required any exposure compensation (-1EV, to capture the predominantly dark tones). One drawback (if it is a drawback) of the 16-50mm f/2.0-2.8 lens is that it encourages you to shoot a wide apertures – this shot has a relatively narrow plane of sharp focus around the pedal crank the the ‘E’ in the lettering behind it. The detail in the left edge of the chainwheel is impressive. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Samsung NX1 sample image

1/320sec f/4.0, ISO 100. The NX1 has captured a good range of tones here, and this is without its optional dynamic range adjustments. The cathedral in the background and the blue sky are on the edge of overexposure, but they’re still rendered well and there’s no cyan color shift in the sky. Click here for a full-resolution version.

Verdict

Samsung has certainly put lots of thought and features into the NX1. It looks and feels like a serious camera and has plenty that will appeal to enthusiast photographers who have yet to commit to a compact system camera (CSC) brand. It lacks a few of the customisation options of cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or Canon 5D Mark III, but it is easy to use.

Samsung also has some nice lenses and the introduction of the 50-150mm f/2.8 offers the serious photographer’s favoured telephoto range of around 75-225mm with a fixed wide maximum aperture.

At £1,299 (approx US$2110/AU$1,175) the NX1’s price is not to be sniffed at, but it seems pretty good when you consider how many features the camera offers and its durable build. However, Samsung needs to entice photographers away from more popular or traditional camera brands, so it can’t set the price too high.

While Samsung has used SLR-like styling, the designers are to be congratulated on managing to make it look so modern and up-to-date. I wonder, however, if it would grab the attention of even more photographers if it had a few more traditional controls – dials for adjusting shutter speed, sensitivity and exposure compensation for example; perhaps even a ring around the lens mount for controlling aperture. The lure of retro design is very strong at the moment and I think it’s more than just a desire to relive the past; it’s a recognition that some methods of controlling a camera just work really well.

That said, I’m a big fan of touchscreens, especially when they are as bright and clear as the one on the NX1 and combined with a helpful array of physical controls. A touchscreen offers a much more intuitive way of operating a camera, making setting selections and scrolling though images.

I also think that electronic viewfinders are the way ahead, allowing the photographer to see the impact of camera settings before taking a shot. A shortcoming, however, has been the lag times which make it hard to follow a moving subject across the scene. Happily, the NX1’s EVF is very responsive and although it does freeze momentarily, it possible to follow a moving subject. It’s also possible to see whether the active AF point is over the correct area as the subject moves.

Zebra patterns in the EVF or on the main screen are also a very convenient way of seeing which areas are in danger of burning out, because they overlay the affected parts of the scene and don’t take up space like a histogram does.

We liked

Two of the most important factors for enthusiast photographers are that the NX1’s high pixel count, back-illuminated sensor enables it to record an impressively high level of detail and noise levels are controlled well at all but the highest sensitivity settings.

Further good news is that the camera feels very comfortable in the hand, controls are with easy reach and there are seals to keep dust and moisture out. It’s also very quiet to use even when shooting at 15fps so it doesn’t draw attention to itself.

I’m an advocator for electronic viewfinders (EVF), I don’t think that they are perfect yet, but they are the way ahead for cameras. The EVF in the NX1 is excellent. It gives a wonderfully smooth, clear view, refreshes quickly and is a pleasure to use.

We disliked

Samsung’s Jump and Baseball mode are fun additions that are made possible by the high-powered processing engine, but they seem a little out of place on a camera of this level. I’d prefer so see greater customisation options and the ability to tailor the response of the autofocus system a little to suit the subject. The new 50-150mm f/2.8 lens enables the AF distance to be restricted, which is handy when there are distracting objects around the subject, but it would also be nice to be able to adjust the speed with which the camera responds to changes in subject distance and the like.

Samsung also needs to sort out the Manual Focus Assist, which currently only enlarges the centre of the frame. It needs to be possible to magnify other areas for focusing on off-centre subjects.

I would also have preferred the tilting screen to have been a vari-angle device because it would be much more help when shooting upright images from awkward angles.

Verdict

The Samsung NX1 is an excellent camera and one that has successfully grabbed the attention of enthusiast photographers. It feels great in the hand, is weatherproof, provides plenty of control within easy reach, is enjoyable to use and produces superb quality images.

A little more in the way of customisation wouldn’t go amiss, including the ability to set AF point directly via the navigation controls, but this could be fixed with a firmware update if Samsung is willing.

All things considered, I’m very impressed with the Samsung NX1.

Full view lens



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