Samsung NX1 Conclusion

The Samsung NX1 is an excitingly ambitious camera for Samsung, as they pretty much pulled out all the stops to make a high-performance, professional-level mirrorless camera. In a time when many camera makers are making smaller and smaller cameras, Samsung went the opposite direction with the NX1, which shares more in common with DSLRs in size, shape and physical controls, than with its mirrorless cousins.

Samsung NX1 Review -- Sample Image

Somewhat disappointing on day 1

On the other hand, the NX1 has proven to be difficult to review completely here at IR. We experienced numerous technical issues, particularly in continuous autofocus (C-AF) performance with version 1.0 firmware. The NX1's C-AF performance disappointed us, even when we tried focusing on someone walking slowly towards the camera.

The 15fps burst speed bests DSLR competitors, but the continuous focusing just couldn't keep up. In between crisply-focused frames we'd find out-of-focus or slightly back-focused shots. The keeper rate for in-focus shots was underwhelming and not really competitive with the best DSLRs. Given all the processing horsepower under the hood, we were expecting more from the NX1 in this area.

Rapid updates changed the story

We'd normally conclude our testing at this point and call it a day. However, Samsung is doing something unique with their latest NX cameras: Frequent, significant firmware updates. It wasn't long after our initial C-AF test that a new firmware update rolled in to address continuous focusing performance. Then came yet another version, and another.

Not just bug fixes. Awesome features too.

The cynical will argue that Samsung released an unfinished product and shouldn't get kudos for its post-release fixes. This criticism ultimately rings hollow for us: In a relatively short time, the NX1 gained an array of video features, interesting new modes and improvements to color reproduction and burst performance. The new functionality Samsung delivered goes way beyond mere bug fixes.

We think this strategy is a huge plus for consumers. Not only can NX1 users expect quick bug fixes, but they can also look forward to major new features that will prolong the life of their purchase.

Samsung NX1 Review -- Sample Image

16-50mm Lens: 16mm, f/8, 10s, ISO 100
(This photo has been edited. Please click the image to view the unedited version.)

Wonderful images, particularly in RAW

The NX1's 28.2-megapixel APS-C sensor produces outstanding, high-resolution images, especially at low to mid ISOs, with very good dynamic range for an APS-C camera. While the default level of noise reduction was a little heavy-handed in JPEG images, for those shooting RAW, the high ISO performance was very good for an APS-C camera.

Beautiful video, but a challenging file format

The NX1's 4K video output was stunning and highly-detailed. And thanks to the advanced compression of the H.265 video codec used by the NX1, memory requirements are more reasonable than with other cameras. Unfortunately, the format is not widely adopted at this point so most media players and video editing software struggle with the files. That means you'll spend a lot of time converting the H.265 files to better-supported formats, such as H.264.

Blazing performance

The Samsung NX1 is a peppy camera. The camera is very quick to start-up so you'll be ready to shoot in no time flat. The high-speed burst mode actually clocked in slightly faster than 15fps in our lab test. The buffer is also impressively deep: 50 frames for JPEGs and roughly 20 for RAW or RAW+JPEG. (If you don't want to fill your memory card quite so quickly, you can reduce the NX1's burst rate.)

Samsung NX1 Review -- Sample Image
50-150mm f/2.8 S OIS lens: 150mm, f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 3200, manual exposure
[Default ACR conversionEdited version]

Autofocus: Better than at release, but not quite DSLR-level

Though it varies depending on the lens, single-shot autofocus is very quick on average thanks to the hybrid AF system with on-sensor focus pixels. Using the most recent firmware version as of this posting date (v1.32), we've found that Continuous AF performance has improved, even at the quickest 15fps burst rate, compared to version 1.0.

Unfortunately, even with the updated firmware, the NX1's C-AF accuracy still trails the best DSLRs in certain situations. Maintaining focus on moving subjects in low light environments was a challenge, even with the AF point placed directly over the subject. And smaller objects such as birds moving around on tree branches were also problematic. Sports and wildlife photographers will find more consistent, reliable performance from a tried-and-true DSLR, but the NX1 is certainly capable for most other situations.

Fantastic build quality and ergonomics

Samsung NX1 review -- magnesium alloy body

In terms of ergonomics, we'd go so far as to say the NX1 is one of the most comfortable cameras we've held in recent memory. For fans of physical controls, the NX1 has tons of buttons and dials just as you would on a DSLR. The NX1 also allows for deep customization of its controls to exactly fit your shooting style.

The body itself feels very robust and solidly built. It's also weather-sealed, as are the two current "S-series" lenses -- the 16-50mm and 50-150mm f/2.8 -- making this setup able to withstand the elements.

Good monitor and EVF, but lag is still perceptible

The rear Super AMOLED monitor is very nice, with responsive touch capabilities, and the EVF is large and bright with crisp detail and a fast refresh rate. For most subjects, the EVF is wonderful, but there is some lag when shooting a burst of frames, making it difficult to pan the camera to track a fast-moving subject.

A bumpy road for early adopters, but a winner in the end

Anyone who bought (or reviewed) an NX1 with version 1.0 firmware had a bumpy road in the beginning, but those who persevered now enjoy a stellar camera. The NX1's combination of top-notch image quality, high-res 4K video, impressive burst speeds and generally good AF performance -- not to mention its ever-improving firmware -- make it a Dave's Pick.

 

Pros & Cons

Image Quality

  • Very good image quality at low to moderately high ISOs
  • Very sharp, high resolution images
  • Excellent high ISO performance for an APS-C camera in RAW files
  • Very good dynamic range for APS-C sensor, though some DSLRs do better
  • Above average hue accuracy
  • Heavy-handed and somewhat clumsy high ISO noise reduction in JPEGs
  • Muted colors in JPEGs, and saturation falls as ISO rises
  • Lack of optical low-pass filter means moiré and other aliasing artifacts can be an issue with certain subject matter
  • Image quality drops slightly when shooting in high-speed continuous mode (though some competitors behave similarly)

Performance

  • Fast startup
  • Blazing fast 15fps full-res burst mode
  • Generous buffer depths
  • Able to autofocus accurately in very low light (albeit slowly)
  • Fast AF speeds (but speed can vary depending on lens)
  • Continuous AF performance still not as robust as the best DSLRs (but improved with newer firmware)

Video

  • 4K video (Ultra HD & Cinema 4K) with simultaneous internal 4K recording with HDMI-out (at 1080p resolution)
  • Clean, uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 4K video via HDMI (without internal recording)
  • Very good video quality
  • H.265 video codec not yet compatible with many media players & video editing software (processor intensive to playback natively)

User Experience

  • Excellent ergonomics, with comfortable, contoured grip
  • Lots of external controls
  • Tons of flexibility to customize control functions
  • Very good battery life for a mirrorless camera
  • USB 3.0 port means fast file transfers
  • Single card slot

Optics

  • Sharp, bright wide-angle "kit" lens

Flash

  • Built-in flash can act as a wireless master
  • Built-in flash is not very tall so the large-ish 16-50mm f/2-2.8 lens can cause a shadow in wide-angle flash shots

 



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