Samsung is slowly inching its way into more backpacks and slingbags of photographers. And in its new range of NX models, the undoubted star of the pack is the Samsung NX1 Smart Camera.
From the moment you pick up the body, it feels incredibly sturdy (as most Samsung products do) but a tiny flaw immediately grabbed my attention: I have slightly bigger hands than most people, resulting in the need to support the body with my pinky finger. Luckily, there is a solution for my conundrum in the form of a battery grip as an added purchase.
Where the body’s weight already makes it feel like a strong contender in the market, the vertical battery grip of the NX1 makes it even more so. Not only does it make the camera easier to hold, it adds about 230g extra to the already hefty 550g body.
Needless to say, the vertical grip has an added shutter and Auto Focus button.
But back to the camera’s body, the Mode selection dial is off to the right of the electronic view finder (EVF), which is pretty easy to operate with one hand. To the left of the EVF is the Burst mode, White Balance and ISO selection wheel. Grabbing those mid-operation proved to be a bit tricky, but it’s not usually something that one needs to do on the fly.
Beside for the EVF, to see exactly what is going on in the back-end there is a generous 3-inch Super AMOLED touch screen. Being from Samsung, the screen was just as responsive as one would expect from a smartphone, and almost all actions can be changed from there.
And just to give it that added extra professional camera feel, Samsung added a small orange-tinted screen on top of the body so that you can keep track of all the necessary details like ISO, image count, battery level and mode.
Samsung claims that the NX 1 is the first 28MP APS-C CMOS sensor in a camera body that makes use of a Back Side Illumination structure. What that means is that the sensor lets in more light and naturally captures more detail – which is always a good thing when taking pictures, and it shows.
At the end of the day, the image quality is what matters the most when taking pictures, probably only second to ease of use and how to navigate the menus.
In terms of noise produced when taking images, the JPEG images are pretty much free of clutter around the ISO 100-1600 mark. Visible and noticeable noise only starts to rear its head around ISO 6400, while at the high end of the ISO 25600 scale, there are a definite reduction in detail. Taking images in the RAW format, more noise will be visible than with JPEG. Speaking of RAW, there are three different setting to choose from: Super Fine, Fine, Normal, and then the much larger RAW.
The pop-out flash, which has a synch speed of less than 1/250th of a second, performs rather admirably. There are a number of mode for photographers to choose from like Auto, Auto+Red-eye reduction, Fill-in and Smart Flash. Experimentation is the key here to see what works best, but more times than not the Smart Flash was the go-to option.
The 28MP APS-C CMOS sensor alone brings a lot to the table in terms of performance, but Samsung is never one to let up on features – and the NX1 isn’t short on that either. Taking still images is one thing, but occasionally the need arises to go full out, and here it can shoot around 15 images per second in full resolution.
When you are shooting that fast, it is hugely important to have a camera that can keep up with the action, which is where the NX1’s continuously tracking Auto Focus comes in hand. It means that while you are panning the unit in burst mode, it will continuously focus on the subject.
Taking pictures in low light conditions is usually a challenge for almost any photographer, and while the NX1 doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular here, it does have an ISO range of 100 – 25600, which, mind you, can be extended to ISO 51200. That does help a bit to break through the darkness.
Taking pictures isn’t the only thing that is does rather well, as the NX1 can also be used as a rather useful video camera. Sure enough, most cameras these days can record video, but there are only a handful that can do it at full 4K resolution at 30 frames per second – while making use of the new H.265 codec. If you are going to go the video route, the body has separate microphone and headphone jacks on the side.
Not content with just producing a simple camera, Samsung included extra features to make the lives of photographers a bit easier. (Granted, not everybody will make use of them, but they’re still handy to have in the right situation.)
The NX1’s 16 – 50mm lens that comes bundled with the package has all the bells and whistles like Manual or Auto focus and image stabilisation. It also comes with i-Function, which essentially allows photographers to swap between a number of pre-defined settings and configurations on the fly.
Samsung’s Auto Shot feature falls in the territory of nice-to-have, but definitely not essential. Selecting between Baseball and Jump Shot, you can set up the camera so that it keeps track of a ball (in this case a baseball) at a certain point. Once it reaches the batter image on the screen, the camera will automatically take a picture.
While Auto Shot is not going to revolutionise the photography world, one aspect where Samsung went full out is with the connectivity of its camera.
For starters, there is the Samsung Camera Manager app that will act as a second viewfinder (which is great when taking pictures that require weird angles or timed group shots) and the unit has Bluetooth integration as well. Samsung’s SMART Camera App is actually in its fourth generation, so it has had some practice to see what works.
By using IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi, there are three modes or you to connect through: Mobile Link, Remote Viewfinder and Quick Transfer.
Remote Viewfinder is described above, but by using Quick Transfer you can sync your smartphone with the camera and you will be able to see the images that you have taken on the memory card, a la the smartphone app for the GoPro action camera. Once you selected an image that you like, you can download it in full resolution to your smartphone and mail it to contacts or upload it to social networks.
If you are in the market for an excellent mirrorless camera that has a little more heft to it and image quality to boot, Samsung’s new NX1 should definitely be on your radar. It competes directly with the likes of Canon’s EOS 7D II and Nikon’s D7100 DSLR camera, and a plethora of Fujifilm and Sony models… but to be honest, Samsung is winning this race – so far.
Price: RRP approx. R15 000
Image sensor: Approx. 28.2MP
Shutter Speed: Auto : 1/8000 sec
Exposure: ±5 EV (1/3EV step)
Display: 3″ Super AMOLED w/Touch Screen
Battery: 1860 mAh
Vertical Battery grip: optional