Samsung NX1 Image Quality

Note: Based on firmware version 1.3x images.

Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Lower than average mean saturation levels with above average overall hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100 200 400
800 1600 3200
6400 12800 25600
51200
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to see results across the ISO range, and click on the links for larger images.

Saturation. The Samsung NX1 produces images with colors that are less saturated than most cameras at default settings. The NX1 pushes dark blues, reds, dark green and browns by small to moderate amount, while undersaturating yellow, light green, purples and darker cyans slightly. Default saturation is 104.4% (or 4.4% oversaturated) at base ISO, which is noticeably lower than the typical 110% mean saturation we normally see from modern cameras. Mean saturation generally falls fairly gradually as ISO rises, though it does bounce around a bit, reaching as low as 95.5% at extended ISO 51,200 (4.5% undersaturated), likely in an attempt to reduce chroma noise. You can of course tweak saturation or choose a different color mode than the defaults. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. In simulated daylight using Manual white balance, the Samsung NX1 did a good job with Caucasian skin tones, producing healthy-looking pinkish flesh tones that weren't overdone, though darker skin tones had a slight orange push. With Auto and especially Daylight white balance, skin tones were too warm and yellow. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Samsung NX1 shifts cyan toward blue moderately, red toward orange and orange toward yellow a bit, but other shifts in color were very minor indeed. Mean "delta-C" color error at base ISO is 3.85 after correction for saturation, which is better than average, and remains better or close to average across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
The Samsung NX1's Manual white balance setting worked well indoors, but other settings produced moderate to strong color casts. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is too warm with the Auto setting, with a reddish cast, and the Incandescent setting resulted in a strong orange cast. Manual white balance produced very good results, though perhaps with a tiny bias toward green. The Samsung NX1 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation, which is the average amount required for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Somewhat cool colors with slightly high contrast under harsh lighting. About average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The Samsung NX1 produced somewhat warm skintones with Auto and Daylight white balance settings, so we preferred Manual white balance in our "Sunlit" Portrait test above left. The NX1 required +0.7 EV exposure compensation to keep facial tones bright on the mannequin, which is average for this shot among cameras we've tested. Default contrast is a little high, though, so a few highlights in her shirt and flowers are blown, though there weren't many lost shadows. The NX1 did a good job with our Far-field shot, producing just a slightly dim exposure, though colors are somewhat cool. The Samsung NX1 preserved all but the brightest highlights here, though it did generate some very dark shadows. The dark shadows in the leaves for example are reasonably clean but become abruptly posterized at the lowest light levels. Still, that shouldn't be a problem unless you're trying to recover very underexposed shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~3,050 lines of strong detail in JPEGs, about the same from ACR converted RAW files.

Strong detail to
~3,050 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,050 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,100 lines horizontal
ACR processed SRW
Strong detail to
~3,100 lines vertical
ACR processed SRW

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart at the highest quality setting reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to about 3,050 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 3,050 lines in the vertical direction, although there was some visible aliasing artifacts in the form of luminance moiré patterns at about 2,500 lines in both directions, and again at about 1,700 lines. False colors are well controlled, though, and complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur before the limit of our chart (4,000 lines) in both directions. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the matching RAW file shows similar resolution limits, but with less luminance moiré and a lot more color moiré than in-camera JPEGs, as is often the case. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp and crisp images , with fairly minor edge-enhancement artifacts visible around high-contrast subjects. Fairly low levels of noise suppression generally leaves excellent detail at base ISO.

Very good definition of
high-contrast elements
with less visible sharpening
artifacts than its predecessor.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast but
the NX1 does better than many here.

Sharpness. The Samsung NX1 captures sharp, crisp, detailed images with slightly less obvious edge enhancement artifacts than typical competitors. Yes, sharpening halos are still visible around high-contrast subjects such as the text and border in the crop above left, but they aren't quite as strong as earlier NX models and most competitors. Overall, excellent results here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows relatively minor noise suppression in the darkest areas of the model's hair, as a lot of individual strands of hair are well defined except in very low contrast or dark areas. Overall, detail is pretty good for an APS-C sensor at base ISO especially one with 28 megapixels of resolution, and there are hardly any false colors in the hair, which can be a problem with AA-filterless cameras. Very good results here. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing Artifacts. There are what look to be aliasing artifacts and "jaggies" in areas of fine vertical detail and high local contrast, such as in the strands of hair on the model's forehead at lower ISOs (see ISO 100 crop at right). And you can also see a wavy moiré pattern in our red-leaf fabric below. We've seen similar artifacts in images from previous models with a weak or no optical low-pass filter. The aberrations are fairly subtle, but they're something to be aware of if you plan to make very large prints of similar subject matter.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Samsung NX1 produces sharp, very detailed in-camera JPEGs. Let's see how an Adobe Camera Raw conversion performs with the same image:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

The Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 conversion on the right (which was sharpened in Photoshop using USM of 250% with a radius of 0.3) reveals better detail than the camera JPEG, particularly in our difficult red-leaf fabric swatch. Detail in mosaic crop also looks a bit more refined than the camera JPEG, which tends to look a little coarser. The ACR conversion also shows more noise at default settings, though noise levels are fairly low at base ISO for an APS-C sensor with this high resolution. Also notice the wavy moiré pattern in the red-leaf fabric, a result of the NX1's lack of an optical low-pass filter.

At low ISOs, the Samsung NX1 generally does a great job at capturing the excellent detail offered by its 28-megapixel sensor in its JPEGs, but like many cameras, it struggles with our red-leaf fabric, likely treating the fine thread pattern as noise and thus blurring much of it out (and turning down in-camera noise reduction doesn't help).

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent detail vs noise tradeoff to ISO 1600, though default noise reduction gets a little heavy-handed at higher ISOs.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

ISO 100 is very clean and extremely sharp and detailed, with just slight reductions in fine detail as sensitivity is increased to ISO 400. At ISO 800, noise reduction is a bit stronger which softens the image more noticeably, but fine detail is still very good. Image quality at ISO 1600 is almost as good, just slightly softer with more visible luminance noise, but we start to see more sharpening and noise reduction artifacts as the processor tries to maintain sharpness. At ISO 3200, a larger drop in fine or low-contrast detail occurs with stronger noise processing producing more obvious NR artifacts, while some blotchy chroma noise starts to become noticeable in darker area. ISO 6400 shows stronger smearing and chroma blotching as the processor struggles to keep noise in check, though there is some fine detail left. Image quality at ISO 12,800 and above falls off more rapidly, with a stippled, almost painted look and strong chroma blotching at 12,8,00 and 25,600. At ISO 51,200 the NX1 takes a different tack to noise reduction, producing a much grainier image with a strong peppered effect that is almost devoid of fine detail. (Note that 51,200 is expanded ISO.) There's also a noticeable drop in saturation at higher ISOs, as well as a prominent shift in color balance towards yellow/green.

Overall, the Samsung NX1 performs well up to ISO 1600 when viewing images at 100% like this, but falls behind some of its competitors at higher ISOs due to overzealous and somewhat clumsy noise reduction. The good news is that the NX1's RAW files appear to competitive with the best 24MP APS-C sensors in terms of high ISO performance, despite the higher resolution and smaller pixels.

As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO, as printed results often don't correlate well to images viewed on a monitor at 100%.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very high resolution with great detail. Good dynamic range, but somewhat high default contrast. Very good low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Samsung NX1 performed fairly well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. Overall, we preferred the +0.7 EV image, which is about the average amount of exposure compensation needed for this shot. The +1.0 EV shot has too many blown highlights, while the +0.3 EV is too dim in the face. As mentioned, default contrast is a little high (as it often is), and thus some highlights were blown in mannequin's shirt and flowers in the +0.7 EV shot. Some very deep shadows were lost as well, but shadow detail in general is pretty good with relatively low noise for a high-res APS-C sensor. Very good performance in this difficult lighting.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Face Detection
Just like most point & shoot cameras these days, the Samsung NX1 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

Interestingly, face detection (above center) actually made the Aperture priority exposure a little dimmer by selecting 1/60s instead of 1/50s with it off. Full Auto mode (above right) is however much brighter, employing a larger aperture than we normally use for this shot (f/3.5 vs f/8), and a faster shutter speed (1/320s vs 1/50s). Contrast looks to be lower as well, however colors are a little too flat.

Dynamic Range Expansion settings
The Samsung NX1 now offers two dynamic range expansion options: Smart Range + and HDR. According to the NX1 user manual, Smart Range+ attempts to preserve highlights similar to other manufacturer's systems, while HDR mode captures two different exposures and merges them for greater tonal range than what is possible in a single exposure. The NX1 offers 3 HDR strength settings, but no control over the strength of Smart Range+.

Dynamic Range Expansion: Outdoor Portrait

As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, Smart Range+ worked reasonably well, boosting shadows and midtones without blowing any highlights (in fact, it slightly reduced highlights), though overall exposure is still too dim.

The HDR settings work differently by combining two exposures and as you can see from the images and histograms, both shadows and highlights are compressed towards the midtones. (HDR modes in general are not meant for portraits, though. We take them because lighting is better controlled in the lab versus our Far-field shots below.) Note that the HDR image is noticeably cropped as a result of the alignment process (even though these were taken on a sturdy tripod).

Dynamic Range Expansion: Far-field
Dynamic Range:
Off
HDR High

Here, you can see Smart Range+ and HDR at work with our Far-field shot. Smart Range+ boosted shadows and midtones while toning down highlights, though the results are a quite subtle.

The HDR modes also brought out a lot of shadow detail while brightening the overall exposure without blowing highlights, with the stronger settings only further reducing highlights slightly compared to the rest of the images. Interestingly, we don't see any ghosting from movement within the frame between the two exposures. When investigating this with prior NX models, we concluded Samsung's HDR mode actually does attempt to process movement out, similar to Sony's Anti Motion Blur technology. It's not always 100% successful though, so ghosting is still possible but is less likely or noticeable.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Samsung NX1's dynamic range to the Canon 7D Mark II and the Nikon D7200, two flagship APS-C models from leading competitors. You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Samsungs NX1's dynamic range at low ISOs is between the Nikon D7200 and the Canon 7D Mark II. The NX1's maximum dynamic range is about 13.2 EV at base ISO, compared to about 14.6 EV from the D7200 (which, by the way, is the APS-C leader in terms of dynamic range at time of writing), and about 11.8 EV from the 7D Mark II. The gap closes at moderate to high ISOs, though the D7200 still maintains a slight lead except at its highest ISO. Minimum dynamic range is about 5.7 EV at the ISO 51,200 setting, very similar to the 7D Mark II's result. (The D7200 tops out at ISO 25,600 for color images.)

Bottom line? With a maximum of 13.2 stops, the Samsung NX1 offers very good dynamic range (in fact, as of this writing it's the highest of any APS-C mirrorless camera tested), even though the outstanding dynamic range of the Nikon D7200 DSLR is significantly better.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Samsung NX1 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
Minimum NR
ISO
100
Click to see NX1LL001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL001007.JPG
30s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL001007XNR.JPG
30s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see NX1LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
51200
Click to see NX1LL512003.JPG
1/250s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL512007.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see NX1LL512007XNR.JPG
1/15s, f2.8

Low Light. The Samsung NX1 performed fairly well in our low light tests. The NX1's slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds captured bright images at the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle) at ISO 100. Noise is of course low at ISO 100 and while visible at ISO 3200, it's fairly well-controlled. The maximum ISO of 51,200 however is very noisy and not recommended.

Auto white balance did a good job here, producing fairly neutral if slightly cool color balance at ISOs 100 and 3200, though ISO 51,200 shifted midtones and darker areas toward magenta.

We didn't notice any significant banding (fixed pattern noise), though there was a hint of it at the highest ISO, especially with noise reduction turned down. We did however spot a few hot pixels here and there, especially when long exposure noise reduction was disabled (rightmost column above).

The Samsung NX1's autofocus system was able to focus down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens (albeit slowly), which is excellent for a mirrorless camera. And the NX1 was able to focus in complete darkness with its built-in focus assist lamp enabled.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their larger sensors, compact system cameras like the Samsung NX1 tend to do better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Output Quality

Print Quality
Fantastic prints up to 30 x 40 inches at base ISO through ISO 400; Very good 20 x 30 inch prints at ISO 1600; and acceptable 5 x 7 inches prints are possible all the way up to ISO 25,600.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 100/200/400 images make for excellent prints all the way up to 30 x 40 inches and larger; you're really only limited by the resolution of the sensor. At 30 x 40 inches, even at very close inspection, pixelation is practically nonexistent, and at normal viewing distances for these very large prints, details are nice and sharp, and colors are vibrant.

ISO 800 prints look great up to 24 x 36 inches. Images are very clean with hardly any visible luminance noise thanks to the noise reduction processing. There is some very minor softening of really fine details due to NR, however a 30 x 40 inch print would be suitable for wall display.

ISO 1600 images are not much different from ISO 800, however there's a bit more softening of very fine detail due to NR processing, so we're stopping at 20 x 30 inch prints here at ISO 1600. Overall, the detail is still very good, and the colors are pleasing.

ISO 3200 prints top out at 16 x 20 inches as shadow noise becomes slightly more evident and NR affects fine detail a little bit more. We'd be fine with 20 x 30 inch prints for less critical applications, though.

ISO 6400 images look nice up to 13 x 19 inches, as noise/NR processing effects further reduce fine detail resolution, however as with the earlier ISO, we'd be happy with bumping the print size up to 16 x 20 for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 prints reach their limit at 8 x 10 inches. Noise, as well as noise reduction processing, is becoming more noticeable, and it's taking a toll on fine detail. Colors, as well, are beginning to appear a little on the dull side.

ISO 25,600 images max out at 5 x 7 inch prints. Detail loss due to noise and less pleasing colors really limit printing at larger sizes.

ISO 51,200 prints are too noisy with drab colors to consider acceptable at any size. However, 4 x 6 inch prints may be okay for less critical applications, though we'd recommend avoiding this ISO level for prints.

The high-powered, high-resolution Samsung NX1 brings a lot to table in terms of print quality performance. With its high-resolution 28.2MP APS-C image sensor, this camera's files can create some really large prints, especially at low to mid ISO sensitivities. Up to ISO 400, prints look fantastic all the way up to a massive 30 x 40 inches. You can print larger sizes too, as you're really only limited by how much you're willing to push the boundaries of the sensor's resolution. Fine detail is excellent as are the colors at these lower ISOs. At the mid-range ISOs, the NX1 still manages to produce some very good, large prints. At ISO 1600, the NX1 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print, while ISO 3200 manages a solid 16 x 20. At the top end of the high ISO scale, the NX1 can still make acceptable prints, though we consider ISO 25,600 to be the maximum for usable prints at 5 x 7 inches. At ISO 51,200, images are too noisy and soft for acceptable prints. One point also worth mentioning is that in our initial print assessment using a then-current firmware, we found a subtle, yet noticeable greenish tint to shadow color in mid to higher ISO prints. However, with the latest firmware (v1.32 as of this publishing date), the color cast in the shadows has been corrected and now appears more natural.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung NX1 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung NX1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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