Samsung NX1 Tech Info
Samsung NX1 Technical Info
by Zig Weidelich
Brand new sensor
The NX1 uses an all-new Samsung imaging sensor that's unique in a number of ways. It's an APS-C-sized backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS chip with a total pixel count of 30.7 megapixels and an effective resolution of 28.2 megapixels, the highest yet for an APS-C sensor.
Maximum resolution of the Samsung NX1's images is 6,480 x 4,320 pixels, just over 8 megapixels more than from the APS-C chip found in prior models. And like more and more cameras these days including the NX30, the NX1's sensor forgoes an optical low-pass filter in the quest for maximum sharpness, although the trade-off is the risk of moiré and other aliasing artifacts.
As far as we know, Samsung's new APS-C chip is the largest sensor to date that uses backside illumination to improve light gathering, and it's built using copper metallization (instead of aluminum interconnects) for improved speed, power and noise characteristics.
As with prior enthusiast Samsung models, the NX1's imager includes on-chip phase detection pixels to allow fast and accurate hybrid autofocus, however the system has been improved over the previous generation, with greater speed and more PDAF points. We'll get into more detail on the NX1's AF system in just a moment.
The Samsung NX1 offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents, adjustable in 1/3 or 1 EV steps, but is extendable to ISO 51,200 equivalent. (The NX30 did not offer an extended ISO and topped out at 25,600.) There's an Auto ISO function which will raise sensitivity to a selectable limit from ISO 125 to 25,600 under automatic control, with ISO 6400 as the default and the highest available sensitivity when shooting in continuous high mode. There's also an option to specify a minimum shutter speed to maintain, including an Auto setting which will take the lens' current focal length into account. And Auto ISO is also supported in manual exposure mode.
On a related note, the NX1 also features new adaptive noise reduction technology, analyzing the scene first before applying noise reduction in an attempt to find a better balance between noise and detail. We're told the system does not apply area-specific noise reduction like some competitors do, however there is subject specific anti-moiré processing applied, needed because the sensor's lack of optical AA filtering.
The Samsung NX1 is based around an all-new DRIMe V-branded multi-core image processor, which the company says is the most powerful computing engine ever put into a camera. The pairing of processor and sensor combine to allow a stunning manufacturer-rated burst shooting speed of up to 15 frames per second at full resolution, with autofocus tracking!
We don't have an official spec for buffer depths, but it's essentially limited only by card capacity for Fine JPEGs when using a fast card. (In the lab, we managed 53 Super Fine JPEG frames, 22 RAW or 20 RAW+JPEG frames of our difficult to compress target with a fast UHS-II card. See our NX1 Performance page for details.)
Interestingly, though, in single-shot mode RAW files are 14-bit, but fall to 12-bit in continuous mode. Still, the 15 fps top frame rate (and we tested just over 15 fps in the lab) puts the NX1 ahead of all other APS-C cameras to date, and indeed ahead of all professional DSLRs as well, though some pro DSLRs come close.
The exceptional amount of processing power also allows the NX1 to offer a very unique AF tracking and trigger feature which we'll touch on below.
As mentioned previously, the Samsung NX1 includes on-sensor phase detection pixels, allowing for hybrid autofocus that combines both phase and contrast detection to improve autofocus performance, particularly Continuous AF. The NX1's system -- dubbed NX AF System III -- is however said to be quicker and more advanced than previously seen in the NX30 and NX300, almost doubling the number of phase-detect AF sensors from 105 to 205, and covering about 90% of the frame instead of the less than 50% coverage in the prior generation. And a whopping 153 of those are cross-type sensors (versus what we think is only 5 for the previous generation). The number of contrast-detect AF areas has however dropped somewhat from 247 to 209.
The NX1's AF system also boasts an impressive autofocus detection range claimed to be -4 to 20 EV.
Active AF (subject tracking), Continuous AF, Single AF, Touch AF and Manual Focus (with magnification and peaking) modes are available, and of course face detection is also supported.
The Samsung NX1 also features a new AF illuminator, which projects a pattern consisting of a high frequency line structure in a circle with a grid of variable weighted lines for the AF system to lock onto even if the subject has no detail, and is said to be effective up to an amazing 15 meters!
Samsung Auto Shot
Especially intriguing is the new Samsung Auto Shot (SAS) mode, made possible by the NX1's enormous processing power. Samsung says it's the world's first "4A" system that not only automatically adjusts autofocus, white balance and exposure continuously, but can automatically trigger capture using motion detection and tracking at 240 fps (4.17ms intervals) to predict when to take the best shot.
There are currently two modes: Baseball and Jump Shot. In Baseball mode, you use the NX1's touch screen or dials to define the area on the monitor where the batter will hit the ball, and another area defining where the ball will arrive from. If all goes as planned, the NX1 will then automatically detect and track the ball across the screen and trigger the shutter to capture the ball being struck by the bat. When Jump Shot mode is selected, you just focus on the subject and the NX1 will capture when it detects the subject has reached the highest point in the jump. We may see additional modes added in future firmware updates, as Samsung gave other examples such as capturing the precise moment a golfer strikes the ball, or a runner crosses the finish line.
The Samsung NX1 can also shoot and internally record 4K movies at 4,096 x 2,160 resolution (Cinema 4K) at 24p, and 3,840 x 2,160 (Ultra HD) at 30p or 24p. Full HD (1080p) is offered at 60p, 30p or 24p, while HD (720p) and VGA (480p) resolutions are offered at 60p or 30p. 50p and 25p frame rates are supported in PAL mode, though as you'd expect Cinema 4K is always 24p.
Video compression used by the NX1 is the more efficient HEVC/H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding) codec, with AAC stereo audio in MP4 format. (Motion JPEG in an AVI container is also offered as an option for VGA clips.) Samsung says the HEVC codec offers better image quality than H.264, yet requires only about half the storage space. Three quality options ("Normal", "HQ" and "Pro") are available for Full HD and higher resolutions, but we have no official info on bit rates. We are told the NX1 can actually record 4K video on a Speed Class 10 SD card, however Samsung documentation recommends using a memory card with 30MB/s (U3) or greater write speed when recording 4K DCI or UHD video.
Maximum clip length is limited to 29 minutes 59 seconds while maximum file size depends on the SD card's capacity and file system. For 32GB and lower capacity SDHC and SD cards, the card is formatted as FAT32 with a file size limit of 4GB. Larger SDXC cards are formatted as exFAT, with movie files sizes limited by the 29:59 time limit.
Unlike some cameras, there is no Intra frame (ALL-Intra) mode, however the NX1's HDMI port can stream clean, uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 4K video. You cannot however internally record and stream 4K simultaneously. When recording 4K to the memory card, HDMI output is limited to 1080p, and when streaming 4K you cannot record internally.
Continuous autofocus is of course supported while recording even in 4K mode, including Touch AF which lets you touch the screen where you want the camera to refocus, and Samsung notes that its phase-detect AF is functional during video recording which isn't always the case with other hybrid AF systems.
Videos can be recorded in Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes as well as in Auto, Smart and even Custom modes.
Samsung's Multi Motion feature (now called Fast/Slow Movie for the NX1) is also supported for Full HD video and below, which allows you to adjust the capture rate from 4x (for a 0.25x slow motion effect when playing back) down to 0.05x for a 20x speed up effect. The fastest capture rate is 120p, applicable to Full HD, HD and VGA resolutions.
Like its NX-series siblings, the Samsung NX1 accepts all NX-mount lenses. As of this writing, the company currently offers 16 different lenses (excluding multiple variants of the 18-55mm kit lens), including its unusual 45mm 2D/3D lens, which works using two LCD shutters that swing into the optical path when the lens is switched to 3D mode.
Only two of the lenses are weather sealed thus far: the 16-50mm f/2-2.8 "S" OIS lens that is being offered in a kit, and the 50-150mm f/2.8 "S" OIS, which is available separately for around US$1,600.
Samsung's Super Sonic Drive dust reduction is provided, but there's no in-body stabilization system, so optical stabilization is available only if the lens supports it. You can also mount various third-party lens types using adapters, but this will typically mean relying on manual controls.
The Samsung NX1's monitor is a 3-inch Super AMOLED touch sensitive (capacitive) display with 1.04 million dot resolution (288 ppi) in a 720x480 S-Stripe array.
It's the same excellent display panel used on the NX30, but instead of being fully articulated like it is on that camera, the NX1's mechanism allows only for tilting, presumably for greater durability, with a tilt range of about 45 degrees down to 90 degrees up.
While still very handy for landscape orientation shots from high or low angles or for shooting video on a tripod, the tilting display is definitely not as flexible as a fully articulating design, and selfie addicts need not apply.
Larger, faster EVF
Of course, for those who prefer SLR-style framing, the NX1 also includes a built-in high-res electronic viewfinder.
This new EVF has a 2.4M-dot XGA resolution (1024 x 768) OLED display with approximately 1.04x magnification (APS-C, 50mm lens at infinity, -1m-1), 100% coverage, a 21mm eyepoint, and a -4.0 to +2.0 m-1 diopter adjustment. The rubberized eyecup is removable.
Although it's the same resolution as found on the NX30, other aspects have been improved such as magnification (up from 0.96x), eyepoint (up from 18.5mm) and correction range (from -4 to +1.0 diopters), however the EVF does not extend and tilt up as does the NX30's. That would make it a weak point in an otherwise robust body, and besides, the monitor already tilts.
There's also an eye sensor to automatically switch between using the EVF and monitor (though you can manually select the active display if you wish).
We're told the NX1's EVF has very low lag (on the order of only 5ms) and that the display compares nicely with competitors' recent high-end EVFs.
As you'd expect on an interchangeable-lens camera, the Samsung NX1 offers a full complement of Program (shiftable), Aperture- and Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as full Auto. There are also two Custom modes, where you can store your own settings for quick recall.
Unlike most pro-level bodies, there's also a scene mode position labelled "Smart" that provides access to the following modes: Action Freeze, Beauty Face, Fireworks, Landscape, Light Trace, Multi-Exposure, Night, Panorama (Live), Rich Tones, Samsung Auto Shot, Silhouette, Sunset, and Waterfall.
Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/8,000 second, adjustable in 1/3 EV steps, and there's a Bulb mode for long exposures, with no time limit (after upgrading to firmware v1.3+), according to Samsung. The NX1's shutter is rated for 150K actuations, and there's an optional electronic first curtain option.
Exposure compensation range for stills is +/-5.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps and the NX1 also supports exposure bracketing of five frames with intervals selectable from +/-0.3 EV to +/-3.0 EV, as well as 3 frame bracketing of white balance, Picture Wizard and depth-of-field.
And Samsung notes the NX1's 2-shot in-camera HDR mode can compensate for moving objects within the frame to avoid ghosting, doubling and other artifacts caused by motion occurring between the two frames.
The NX1 not only has a built-in flash strobe, but also hot shoe for external strobes. The internal strobe is a popup type, and the hot shoe has connectivity for intelligent strobes, as well as a hole for a locking pin. A PC Sync socket is not provided.
The built-in strobe has specs borrowed from the NX30. It has a Guide Number of 11 meters at ISO 100, offers a coverage of 28mm equivalent, and flash exposure compensation can be adjusted +/-3 EV in 1/3 EV steps. Flash modes include Smart Flash, Auto, Auto+Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Fill-in+Red-eye reduction, 1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain and Off.
X-Sync speed is 1/250s (up from 1/200s), and Auto FP High-Speed Sync for shutter speeds above 1/250s is available when Samsung's new SEF580A external flash is mounted in the NX1's standard ISO 518 hot shoe. The NX1's built-in flash can also act as a wireless commander to multiple off-camera SEF580A flash units, with the system supporting up to 4 channels and 3 groups.
Getting a grip on power
Power comes courtesy of a 7.2v 1860mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. CIPA battery life is rated at 500 shots per charge but Samsung doesn't state whether that's with the OLED monitor or EVF. While excellent for a mirrorless camera, battery life is a bit low when compared to traditional DSLRs when using their optical viewfinders.
The NX1's battery is normally charged in-camera via USB from an AC power adapter that's provided, though there is a dedicated battery charger available for out-of-camera charging.
An available ED-VGNX01 vertical battery grip can double battery life by adding a second BP1900 battery pack (sorry, no support for AAs), and is included in one of the official kits along with a second battery, a dedicated battery charger and the Samsung 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S OIS lens. The Samsung ED-VGNX01 vertical battery grip also sells separately for about US$250.
As you would expect, the battery grip is also dust and water resistant, and gives an additional subset of controls handy for use when using the camera in portrait orientation, such as a shutter release with power switch, dual command dials, as well as EV, AF ON and AEL buttons. The grip's electrical contacts shown on the bottom of the camera below are normally protected by a rubber cover.
The NX1 offers 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity compatible with IEEE 802.11b/g/n, as well as the faster 802.11ac standard which has enough bandwidth to stream 4K video wirelessly to a Samsung UHD TV.
NFC is supported for easier pairing to compatible devices with "Tag & Go", but there's also a Bluetooth 3.0 radio for a continuous, low-power link to in-range mobile devices. The Bluetooth connection is persistent whenever the paired device is within range, and is used for transferring time and location data for automatically geotagging images, in addition to configuring and authenticating Wi-Fi setup, and triggering Wi-Fi transfers.
Wireless features supported by the NX1 include "Photo Beam" for transferring images or videos to your mobile device by just touching the two together, "MobileLink" which can send multiple images to 4 smart devices at one time for easier sharing, "AutoShare" which sends every photo you take to your mobile device and "Remote Viewfinder Pro", which gives you remote control including access to settings such as aperture and shutter speed.
Wired connectivity includes a 3.5mm stereo mic jack, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB 3.0 port for faster wired transfers (with support for a wired remote), and a Micro (Type-D) HDMI port for video out including clean 4K and 1080p streaming. The NX1's display stays active during streaming, but as mentioned previously, you can't stream 4K video and record 4K internally at the same time. When recording 4K video internally, the HDMI outputs 1080p, and when streaming 4K via HDMI, internal recording is disabled.
Fast storage but only one slot
The Samsung NX1 uses Secure Digital memory cards for storage of stills and videos, with SD, SDHC and SDXC types supported. It only has a single card slot, though, while some competing models offer dual slots.
Both UHS-I and UHS-II cards are supported, however Samsung says a non-UHS Class 10 card will technically suffice for recording 4K or Full HD video because of the more efficient H.265 compression, though they do recommend a 30MB/s or faster card. And for quickest buffer clearing, you'll likely still want to invest in a UHS card given prior NX models tended to be on the slow side when clearing RAW files. (In the lab, buffer clearing with a 280MB/s UHS-II card wasn't much faster than with a 95MB/s UHS-I card, however both produced clearing times that were improved over the NX30 despite the NX1's much faster burst rate and larger files. See our NX1 Performance page for details.)
Although we were initially told that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was not included in the Samsung NX1's software bundle and that Samsung Raw Converter (which we believe is based on SILKYPIX) was included instead, it turns out that Samsung is indeed including Lightroom 5 with the camera, at least here in the US. Additional software included in the box consists of: i-Launcher (web version), Power Media Player, Samsung Movie Converter, and Samsung DNG Converter.