Samsung NX Mini Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Samsung NX Mini
Resolution: 20.50 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1-inch type
Kit Lens: 3.00x zoom
9-27mm
(24-73mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-25600
Shutter: 30-1/16000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
(110 x 62 x 23 mm)
Weight: 9.5 oz (269 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $549
Availability: 04/2014
Manufacturer: Samsung
Full specs: Samsung NX Mini specifications
20.50
Megapixels
Samsung NX-M 1-inch type
size sensor
image of Samsung NX Mini
Front side of Samsung NX Mini digital camera Back side of Samsung NX Mini digital camera Top side of Samsung NX Mini digital camera Left side of Samsung NX Mini digital camera Right side of Samsung NX Mini digital camera

Samsung NX Mini Review -- Now Shooting!

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Samsung NX Mini Review -- 3/4 front left view

Samsung is taking on a big challenge and going very small. And thin. And light. The new Samsung NX Mini aims to compete head-on with the ever-growing crowd of super-small and ultra-portable compact interchangeable lens cameras such as the Panasonic GM1, the Nikon 1-series, and the perhaps even the Pentax Q7. In fact, the Samsung NX Mini is now the "world's slimmest and lightest interchangeable lens camera" according to Samsung.

Size. The NX Mini offers excellent portability that's sure to pique the interest of photographers looking for a go-anywhere, carry-all-the-time camera, but who also want the creative flexibility of interchangeable lenses. The body itself (without battery) weighs in at a featherweight 158g (5.57oz.) and is only 22.5mm (0.89") thin, making it easy to slip into a pocket. However, despite the small size, the NX Mini is not a toy camera in terms of styling and build-quality, with an all-metal construction and a leatherette finish for a easy, comfortable grip.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- 3/4 front right view with LCD up

Display. Despite its tiny dimensions, the Samsung NX Mini packs a large, 3-inch tilting touchscreen TFT LCD display with a 320x480 HVGA resolution and 460.8K dots. The flip-up design lets you rotate the screen a full 180-degrees making the NX Mini the ideal "selfie" camera for those moments when a low-res, low-ISO smartphone camera just won't cut it. Furthermore, the tilting screen also lets you more easily snap shots at lower angles.

Sensor and Mount. As was the case with the Nikon 1 series, the Samsung NX Mini's smaller 1-inch 20.5MP back-side illuminated CMOS sensor brings with it a new lens mount, but is compatible with Samsung's broad range of existing NX-mount lenses via an adapter, the NX-M Mount Adapter, to be exact. This gives photographers, especially existing APS-C NX-series camera owners increased flexibility by having the ultra-portability of the NX Mini and the corresponding NX-M-mount lenses, while still having the option of using their existing lens arsenal when desired. Note that because the NX Mini is so slim, their is no room for Samsung's active Super Sonic Drive Dust Reduction system as found in their APS-C models, however the Mini's sensor is protected with a glass cover plate.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- front view without lens

Image Quality and Performance. However, inside its minuscule body are some impressive performance specs. The new 1-inch BSI CMOS sensor is capable of 20 megapixel images in both RAW and JPEG format with a default ISO range of 160-12,800 that's expandable down to ISO 100 and up to ISO 25,600. For fast action moments, the NX Mini is able to shoot full-resolution stills at 6fps for up to 10 shots consecutively; combined with a super-fast 1/16,000s electronic shutter, the camera is aptly suited for freezing fast moving subjects. And up to 30fps is available at 5-megapixel resolution.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- rear view without lens

For video recording, the NX Mini is capable of MP4 (H.264) video at Full 1080p HD resolution at 30 frames per second, as well as 720/30p HD video and two standard definition resolutions (640x480 and 320x240) both at 30fps.

Autofocusing is achieved with contrast-detect AF only (there's no on-chip phase-detect capability, as with Samsung's higher-end NX300) and features both single-area and multi-area focusing modes (21 points; 34 points in Close-Up mode), as well as Face Detection and Subject Tracking.

Connectivity. Of course, like the rest of Samsung's 2014 camera models, one of the biggest features with the Samsung NX Mini is connectivity. The NX Mini is part of Samsung's SMART camera lineup, and features both Wi-Fi and NFC technology for easy pairing and sharing with smartphones and tablets. With NFC-enabled Android smart devices, the NX Mini uses Samsung's exclusive "Tag & Go" NFC system, letting photographers simply tap their device to the camera to pair them. Once paired, users can shoot and share photos to a variety of social networks and even use Samsung's Remote View Finder Pro app to remotely control the camera via a smart device.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- top view without lens

The Samsung NX Mini goes a step further than most cameras, though, with an interesting "Baby Monitor" function. With this function, parents can leave the camera in their baby's room, and either have the camera stream video continuously to their smart device or set a noise level above which the camera will sound an alarm on the smart device to alert them to check on their child. (You need to load Samsung's Home Monitor onto your phone or tablet to use this function.) Note, though, that the Baby Monitor function can't reach out over the internet if Mom and Dad go out to dinner; the paired phone or tablet needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the camera.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- SEF7A flash unit

The Samsung NX Mini also supports both Dropbox an Flickr cloud storage, making it easy to upload photos and video directly from the camera. Not only does this offer another avenue for easy photo and video sharing, but it also provides a handy backup solution while away from your computer. Dropbox is partnering with Samsung to offer 2GB of storage for free. (Actually, that's the standard amount Dropbox gives new users for free anyway, but it's likely that Samsung had to work out a deal with Dropbox to include the function on their cameras. It's not clear whether existing Dropbox users get another 2GB added to their current account or not, when they buy an NX Mini.)

Wired connectivity includes a Micro USB port which also accepts a remote release, and a Micro (Type-D) HDMI port for high-def A/V output.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- flash port

Flash. There's a proprietary flash port on the top deck for use with the SEF-7A external flash unit (Guide Number 7m/ISO 100) which is included in one of the kits. (Note that this port is designed only for the flash, with no support for other accessories such as an external microphone or EVF.) The NX Mini also manages to squeeze in a built-in pop-up flash with a Guide Number of 4m (ISO 100). Flash modes include Smart Flash, Auto, Auto+Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Fill-in+Red-eye reduction, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, and Off. Maximum flash sync speed is 1/200s.

Lenses. Along with the new NX Mini, Samsung has announced a trio of new MX-M lenses: an pretty wide-angle 9mm f/3.5 lens (equivalent to a 24.3mm lens on a 35mm camera), a compact 9-27mm f/3.5-5.6 O.I.S. zoom with optical image stabilization (24.3 - 72.9mm equivalents), and a fast portrait prime 17mm f/1.8 O.I.S. (45.9mm equivalent). The 9mm prime and 9-27mm zoom will be available with the camera at launch in separate kits, while the 17mm is planned for July availability. As we mentioned above, existing NX-series shooters will also have full access to Samsung's 15 existing NX-mount lenses, plus the handful of third-party NX lenses that are available, thanks to the previously-mentioned NX-M Mount Adapter.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- rear 3/4 with battery partially removed

Storage and Battery. Being such a small camera, the NX Mini uses MicroSD memory cards, including HC, XC and UHS-I variants. The rechargeable lithium ion battery has a 2330mAh capacity that's CIPA-rated for 650 shots with the 9mm lens or 530 shots with the 9-27mm lens. (We're speculating, but the shorter battery life with the 9-27mm lens is likely due to its image stabilization system.) These are impressive battery life numbers, and it's not hard to see where they come from, when you compare the size of the battery to the rest of the camera. We're amazed that Samsung managed to fit a complete, highly functional camera in around the battery, while keeping the overall size so small! The battery is charged in-camera, and an AC adapter and USB cable are provided in the bundle.

Pricing and Availability. The Samsung NX Mini will be available in White, Pink, Mint Green, Brown or Black body colors, starting from early April 2014. Two kits will be offered: A bundle including the 9-27mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and the external SEF-7A flash for about US$549, or paired with just the 9mm f/3.5 lens for about US$449. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 is included in the bundles. The 9mm and 9-27mm NX-M lenses can be purchased separately and will retail for about US$179 and US$279, respectively.

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Samsung NX Mini Review -- Hands-On

Design and build. I had a chance to get some hands-on time with Samsung's new NX Mini interchangeable lens camera, albeit in an early engineering prototype stage, and my initial impression of the build quality is very positive. The camera feels very solid in the hand, yet very lightweight, as expected. The all-magnesium chassis really helps keep the weight down, while still giving it a high-quality feel.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- in hand with 9-27mm kit lens

Even with the 9mm and 9-27mm kit lenses, the camera is extremely compact and very slim, that would be very easy to carry in a jacket pocket -- think Panasonic GM1 in terms of portability. You might be able to get away with slipping the NX Mini and the 9mm prime into a pants pocket, but it may be a tight fit for something like jeans. However, you could, if you wanted to, carry the lens and body separately, and the body itself would easily slip into a jeans pocket, just like a point-and-shoot camera.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- in hand with 85mm NX lens and adapter

Of course, given that this is an interchangeable lens camera, when you mount larger NX-mount lenses with the adapter, it can be a little awkward to hold -- especially with something like the Samsung 85mm f/1.4 lens. This isn't all that surprising. Like other compact interchangeable lens cameras, such as the Nikon 1-series, mounting larger lenses, while possible, isn't the most practical if you want to stay slim, lightweight and ultra-portable.

In terms of the exterior styling, the NX Mini has a similar finish to what's used on the back of the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. The Samsung NX Mini features a leather grain-like textured plastic covering around the front face and thumb rest. While this provides a minimal amount of grip, combined with such a slim and flat design, I feel like it can get a little slippery if you're prone to sweaty hands or the climate gets hot and humid.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- in hand rear view

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the hard plastic leatherette texture, and I wish that it used a more tactile, rubberized grip material like a DSLR or a camera like the Panasonic GX7, Olympus E-M1, or even the Samsung Galaxy NX. Thankfully, there will be a leather half-case as an optional accessory, I'm told, that's similar to what's offered for the Samsung NX300, which should provide a more secure grip.

The screen. One of the biggest features is the large 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, which actually takes up a significant amount of the width of the camera. (On a side note, given the comparatively massive Galaxy S4 battery that the NX Mini uses, it's an amazing technical feat that Samsung was able to have enough space in there to fit all circuitry!)

Samsung NX Mini Review -- NX300 vs NX Mini

The 461k-dot HVGA-resolution screen itself was nice and easy to read, and the touchscreen worked as expected -- easy to tap and swipe through menus and settings. However, compared to a camera like the NX300, which sports a 3.3-inch 768k-dot AMOLED screen, I noticed a substantial difference in resolution and text sharpness in favor of that AMOLED display.

Given that I had a hands-on with only a prototype NX Mini, the firmware was far from final, and as such I'm not able to comment on many of the features and performance aspects such as AF speed or the new "selfie" modes like Wink Shutter.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- with lens removed

Lenses. In addition to the new camera, Samsung also had on hand two of the new NX-M lenses -- the 9mm f/3.5 prime and the 9-27mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS zoom lens. Both of these kit lenses are extremely compact and lightweight thanks to their aluminum barrels. The 9mm prime, for example, feels like it weighs almost nothing (31 grams / 1.1 ounces).

Samsung NX Mini Review -- 9mm lens in hand

The 9mm prime lens, while not the fastest with only an f/3.5 maximum aperture, provides a very useful 24mm-equivalent wide-angle field of view, which should make it an excellent "selfie" lens -- wide enough to get your whole group of friends in the frame -- as well as a great landscape lens.

The 24-73mm equivalent zoom lens has a retractable design, which reminds me very much of the Panasonic 12-32mm in terms of its collapsible mechanism. Similarly lightweight (73g / 2.5oz), the zoom is certainly not going to take up much room in your camera bag -- or pocket. However, the 9-27mm lens definitely feels like a kit lens, especially in the action of the zoom. The lens struck me as not all that rugged, though it was a prototype. On the other hand, unlike the Panasonic 12-32mm lens, which I felt was a little too stiff with its zoom feel, the Samsung 9-27mm's zoom mechanism is light and easy to rotate, which should make it very easy to use on an equally lightweight camera body -- a simple thumb and forefinger are all that's needed to zoom quickly.

Samsung NX Mini Review -- front right with LCD up

Summary. All in all, the Samsung NX Mini looks like a very interesting camera. Unlike other manufacturers who seem to be aiming squarely at higher-end, enthusiast photographers, Samsung is tackling the smartphone photographer head-on with a super-compact, large-sensor, connected pocket camera. The NX Mini not only provides easy sharing of media like a smartphone, but also gives users the ability to explore more advanced photography with interchangeable lenses. Plus it provides a nice step-up experience to a system camera that could bring more photographers into the full-size NX-series camera system.

But the big question, of course, is image quality. With a 1-inch BSI CMOS sensor, it will be interesting to see how the Mini stacks up against other premium, large-sensor compact cameras like the Sony RX100/II and pocketable interchangeable lens cameras like the Panasonic GM1. Samsung's APS-C NX cameras tested very well in our lab shots, showing impressive image quality, so it will very interesting to see how their mini sibling camera stacks up.

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