Better Late than Never!
Just over a year ago I was given the opportunity to test out the Samsung NX1 for just over a week. I had some mixed feelings about the camera and somehow this review got put on the back burner! Well Samsung cameras are now defunct (at least mostly), sad news for the photography industry as we have not seen any new blood in the industry in quite a few years.
When I first heard about this camera in mid-2014, I was thrown for a bit of a loop. I had just purchased a Fuji Xt-1 and I had a serious case of camera envy. The NX-1 was dead set on beating down all the competition the Fuji XT-1, Sony A6000, Olympus EM-1 and the Panasonic GH4, and when I looked at the specs this camera delivered, even competing and beating out the DSLR competition is many ways. 4K video, 15 fps, 28 mega pixel BSI sensor, DSLR economics, and a viewfinder to compete with the best of them. What didn’t this camera have to offer? This is the part that most reviews get to the meat of the review, but I’m going to skip right to the end. I’m not sold on this camera, and the Samsung itself. Most days the tester camera just sat in the bag waiting for me to use it. Every shoot I had setup, I either found myself reaching for my Nikon D810 or my Fuji XT-1, the camera just didn’t fit me. Now to the review, a list of my thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes about the NX-1, and to start I’m going to talk about the handling of this camera.
One of the first criteria’s I have when looking at a new camera is the ergonomics and handling, and in short the handling and ergonomics of this camera are great. All the buttons, knobs and dials are in the right spot, easy to access, I was actually very surprised at how comfortable the camera was to use, it reminded me a very much of my D810 or any of the other Nikon DSLR’s. But, and this is a BIG but, the camera feels like a DSLR, not a mirrorless camera. The NX-1 is big, all 550g worth! To give you a comparison, the Sony A7 is 474g, the Fuji Xt-1 is 390g, the Panasonic GH4 is 480g or the Olympus Em-1 at 443g. It’s not just the weight that makes this a hefty camera, the DSLR styling makes it larger than any of the above mentioned cameras. But when we compare the NX-1 to a Nikon d7200 at 675g, or the Canon 7d mark ii at 820g, this is a heck of a weight savings.
Image Quality and ISO:
One word, fantastic! The BSI (backside illuminated) sensor is outstanding, and Samsung certainly does push this fact in their advertising. Now for those of you that don’t know what a BSI sensor is, basically all the junk (a technical term for wiring and components) that transfers the information from the pixel to the processor is on the back of the pixel instead of the front of the pixel. You may be wondering why this is such a big deal, in simple terms this means that the pixels are larger and therefore more are able to be fit into the same area without a loss in image quality. Because of this sensor design, not just the image quality is increased, the ISO performance also increases. When comparing the images to my Fuji XT-1 and my Nikon D810, I was nothing short of speechless, very clean from the base ISO up to 6400. After this the images became a little muddy, but still usable, though the noise was present it was quite organic looking, reminding me of a film grain more than digital noise. Now I did notice some form of noise reduction artifacts on the raw image, I am not sure if this was just that the software I was using was not fully supporting the camera yet (lightroom CC) or if it was a built in algorithm Samsung applied to the raw files buried in some correction process, regardless the images looked very good.
This is where I started to have some gripes about this camera. The auto focus was very fast most of the time, but when it missed focus, it took forever to find focus again. Worst of all the focus would sometimes just lockup and not focus until the camera was turned off and on again. Now I am sure this could have been fixed, but for me it rendered the camera kind of useless.
Terrible. With only 15 lenses on the market the selection is quite slim, but worse, only a few of the lenses are really suitable for the camera. I know that many people will just adapt other brands lenses to the camera, but the point is that the native lenses are virtually non-existent.
I really wanted to like this camera, but it feels like a bit of a sham. The image quality was amazing and the low light performance was stunning, but the good stopped there. It was heavy, unreliable and the lens selection was abysmal. I wish that Samsung had of kept going though as this was their first foray into the pro market, I think with some more development they could have had a major home run!
What I like: Great image quality, great video quality, and fantastic low light performance.
What could use improvement: Everything else about this camera left something to be desired, its to big, poor lens selection, unreliable auto focus.
Final words: The NX-1 was a good attempt at an entrance into the high end camera market, but it really fell short on quite a few aspects. Unfortunately it has been discontinued and Samsung has left the camera market.
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