Exclusive - Samsung NX1 hands-on and samples [UPDATED]
posted Friday, October 31, 2014 at 1:47 PM EST
[UPDATE: We've just been informed that the high-ISO noise reduction processing has, in fact, not been finalized in the firmware of the NX1 used for these sample photos. Final image quality for higher ISO shots could potentially change with a full production version.]
[UDPATE 2, 3:45pm: We've now confirmed that the firmware on the NX1 used for these sample photos didn't include any noise reduction processing on very high ISO shots. Therefore, we have removed them from the sample gallery. That being said, the images nevertheless looked quite good to our eyes, so expect true final production firmware to improve high ISO image quality even further.]
I've just spent a few precious hours with the Samsung NX1 "uber-camera" and have to say, it was a blast! Better yet, I can share the shots I captured with all our eager readers. (And when it comes to the NX1, a lot of you out there are really eager to see what it can do.)
Given all that's involved in running Imaging Resource, it's hard to block off enough time to go and just shoot, without worrying about all the things waiting for me back at the office. The chance for a night and morning of shooting with the NX1 in New York City was enough to push my to-do list far into the background, though, and man it was fun. The NX1's image quality and capabilities had a lot to do with that.
It's true that it's photographers who make pictures, not the gear -- and that an entry-level point & shoot in the hands of a world-class photographer will produce world-class photos.
But I have to say how great it is to have a camera that lets you attempt -- and succeed -- at shots you simply couldn't get with lesser equipment. I've only had a few hours with the Samsung NX1 as I write this, but for me, it delivered that experience. The ultimate comparative evaluation will depend on how it does in our exhaustive tests in a controlled, laboratory environment, but out in the real world, I was so pleased with so many of the shots it let me capture that I'd buy one on the strength of that experience alone. (For me, the measure of a successful photo is whether it makes me smile when I look at it again later. I'm smiling a lot this afternoon, going back through my shots from last night and this morning.
Fitting my shooting around the need to keep the scant few NX1 bodies available during show hours at the Photo Plus Expo meant that I didn't have much time to familiarize myself with the camera, its user interface or idiosyncrasies before I set out with it. So there was a lot of that "new-camera awkwardness" involved in getting used to it, and I think that there might still be a UI bobble here and there in the firmware that'll need to be smoothed out before the camera hits retail stores next month.
That said, though, I really enjoyed shooting with it, and can see that it would reward more time spent with it with much faster shooting and a higher ratio of keepers. That's always the case with a new, initially unfamiliar camera. But boy, was this fun!
It also helped that I was shooting with Samsung's excellent 16-50mm f/2-2.8 ED OIS lens. Feel and handling for the body/lens combination were excellent, and the 16-50 seems like a wonderfully sharp optic. (Again, I've had only a few hours with it, so ultimate judgment will depend on how it performs in our tests on SLRgear, but I've been impressed so far by what I've seen, even wide open.)
This is really off the topic a bit, as it's not in any way unique to Samsung's 16-50, but the thing that struck me again, as I went through all my raw shots to make my selects was how shallow the DOF is at f2.8, even on a subframe sensor. Combine f/2.8 at 50mm with 28 megapixels of resolution, and DOF on some of my portrait shots was measured in fractions of an inch. That sets an awfully high bar for focus accuracy, but also made me think again about the need for super-wide apertures for the sort of photography I enjoy the most these days -- people photos, the shorter the range the better. A lot of photographers will clearly want and need the subject/background separation that f/2.8 or even f/2 offers, given their subjects and shooting distances, but honestly, for myself and the subjects I most love, f/2.8 is overkill more often than not.
Maybe some of it has to do with just how sharp the 16-50 is wide open. The difference between the point of perfect focus and one a bit one side or the other from it might not be as stark as it is with a lesser optic. With the 16-50mm f/2.8 though, in-focus is sharp, so you really notice the softening as you get to the edge of the DOF.
I'd love to write more about what it's like to shoot with the Samsung NX1, but honestly, after just a few hours of shooting with a camera as deep as this one is, it's way too early for any opinions at this point to hold much validity. That'll require a lot more time spent, either by myself or one of our skilled writers. The press of time means I'm writing this after only my night-shooting experience with it, my daylight shooting scheduled for tomorrow morning before the show. I'll doubtless have some (slightly) more-developed opinions after that, but even at that, will withhold much talk about UI and experience until I or someone else has the time to become properly acquainted with the camera and its capabilities.
In the meantime, though, check out the extensive sample gallery I shot with the Samsung NX1, and share your thoughts -- politely ;-) -- in the comments below.
I can't wait to get this camera into the lab and then back out into the real world for a more extended experience with it!
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