Samsung’s NX1, has the highest pixel count of any APS-C mirrorless camera

Samsung has produced some good compact system cameras, such as the NX30 and NX Mini, but they haven’t really grabbed the attention of the average enthusiast photographer. The NX1, however, has a feature set that few photographers can ignore. For a start, the sensor inside Samsung’s new flagship model is an APS-C format, back-illuminated CMOS device with 28 million pixels. That’s the highest pixel count of any APS-C format compact system camera – and it’s the first time that a back-illumination technology has been used to make a sensor larger than 1-inch type. The NX1’s high pixel count and the absence of anti-aliasing or an optical low-pass filter over the sensor should be good news for detail resolution. Meanwhile back-illumination means there’s more room for the lightgathering diodes, so there’s less image noise.

FEATURES of Samsung NX1

The sensor is accompanied by a new image-processing engine, Drime V, which is claimed to be 2.8x faster than Samsung’s previous engines.
This extra processing power enables a maximum continuous shooting rate of 15 frames per second, which knocks the Nikon D4S, for example, out of the park. Samsung claims this rate can be maintained for up to 78 Fine Quality JPEGs or 21 raw files; but with a SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS II card installed, we found we could get 100 Super-Fine JPEGs. If you need to shoot for longer, the shooting rate can be reined in to 8, 10 or 12fps. The new Drime V processor also enables 4K video recording; a native sensitivity range of ISO 100–25,600 (which can be extended to ISO 51,200); and adaptive noise reduction technology, which applies noise reduction locally rather than uniformly across the whole image.

In addition, raw images are saved in 14-bit in single shooting mode and 12-bit in continuous shooting. Autofocusing is handled by Samsung’s new NX AF System III, which has 205 phase-detection AF points (153 cross-type) and 209 contrast-detection points. These points cover the majority of the image frame. Samsung claims an AF reaction time of 0.055 sec and operation down to -4EV. When light falls below -4EV, a green focus-assist light shines a grid pattern as far as 15 metres. In addition to the 3-inch, 1,036k-dot Super AMOLED touchsensitive screen, which can be tilted up through 90 degrees and down through 45, Samsung has given the NX1 a 2,360k-dot OLED electronic viewfinder for composing and reviewing images.

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It’s exceptionally comfortable in the hand, with a deep front grip and an effective thumb-ridge

Both of these devices are claimed to have a lag of just 5–10ms. No Samsung camera would be complete without Wi-Fi connectivity, and the NX1 is no exception. It also has Bluetooth 3.0 communication for making connections quickly with nearby compatible devices, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This means it should be quick and easy to connect the camera to a range of devices to allow remote control and image sharing.

BUILD AND HANDLING

Samsung has opted for an SLR-like design for the NX1. While it’s not in the same size bracket as the Nikon D4S or even the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, it is quite large for a compact system camera. Some may feel that it gives the NX1 more gravitas. The NX1 has a magnesium alloy shell and is dust- and splash-proof, so it can be used in bad weather. It feels nicely made and is exceptionally comfortable in the hand, with a deep front grip and an effective thumbridge on the rear. The dials all have knurled edges and a high-quality feel. As usual in a CSC, the NX1 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, but the electronic viewfinder is excellent.

Like the AMOLED rear screen, it provides a smooth and detailed view with no sign of pixellation or flickering. As with most CSCs, the NX1 has a Manual Focus Assist option that sets the camera to show a 5x or 8x magnified view when focusing 8x magnified view when focusing manually. However, this enlargement is only applied to the frame centre. If your subject is off-centre, you have to focus and recompose the image, which can lead to slight errors in focusing, especially with close subjects.

But the combination of the detailed view and focus-peaking makes manual focusing easy. As there are quite a few physical controls as well as the touchscreen, there’s more than one way to control the camera. The active AF point may be set with a tap of the screen or by touching the button at the centre of the navigation controls, then using buttons or dials to find the point. It’s quick, but a more direct route would be even better.

Although it’s possible to customise the function of the navigation controls, they cannot be adjusted to set the AF point directly. While the NX1’s interface is generally clear, there are one or two oddities within the menu, with some of the autofocus options divided across different areas. The NX1 is compatible with Samsung’s iFunction lenses, which enable you to change key features like sensitivity, white balance and exposure compensation with the camera held to your eye.

The conclusion about the Samsung NX1

The NX1 looks and feels like a serious camera, and has plenty of appeal for enthusiast photographers who have yet to commit to a compact system camera brand. It’s capable of taking superb images in a wide range of conditions, even when the subject is moving and light levels are low.