The new NX1 is the first Samsung interchangeable-lens camera that's truly compelling enough to consider alongside the competition. Its billboard feature: 4K video in a tiny package. But more than just trotting out of a glitzy, buzzy feature, the NX1 is loaded with advanced tech, including an industry-leading image sensor.
Despite building some reasonably good mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras over the last few years, Samsung has been mostly ignored by the enthusiasts and pros that might be interested in more expensive shooters. The NX1 could help change that with features and tech you just won't find anywhere else for the money. Though we haven't shot the thing yet—we'll report back when we do—there's a lot to be excited about.
Guts and shooting performance
First the nerdy basics. Like Sammy's other NX-series cameras, the NX1 sports a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor. This time, though, it's a 28-megapixlel, backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor, making it both the highest resolution APS-C chip in the world, and the largest sensor to use the backside construction. Higher resolution isn't quite necessary for regular shooters, but for people likely to edit, it's usually desirable if you can get more megapixels without sacrificing quality.
For its part, the backside architecture helps by getting electronics out of the way on the front of the image sensor, and thereby, leaving room for larger light-sensing photodiodes. The tech has been used most prominently on Sony's excellent RX100 line. Now with the NX1, backside illumination makes the jump from 1-inch format to significantly larger APS-C size.
Beyond the image sensor, the NX1 is powered by Samsung's latest DRIMe 6 image processor. enabling the camera shoot at up to a standard ISO of 25,600, and peel off 15 frames per second with continuous autofocus. Speaking of which, the camera's hybrid autofocus is uses 209 phase detect points and 205 contrast detect points on the image sensor. All of this is very impressive, charting above or equivalent to what you'll get from any other camera at the price point.
Finally, it wouldn't be a Samsung product without connectivity built in, and sure enough, the NX1 has Wi-Fi connectivity for easy file transfer as well as Bluetooth, and easy NFC pairing.
Besides regular photography powers, the NX's key feature is 4K video. It's capable of capturing high resolution to slightly different huge formats. Though Ultra HD and 4K are used interchangeably by most people, they're actually slightly different resolutions, according to standards czars. The NX1 shoots both; 4K (3840x2160) at 30 frames per second, and Ultra HD (4096x2160) at 24fps. These are common frame rates that are usable for basically anything, but they don't give you a lot of flexibility. The camera's 4K/Ultra HD capture obviously bumps up against what's possible with the technology.
At Ultra HD/4k, the NX1 shoots in the industry standard HEVC h.265 codec, so you'll be able to take footage out of the camera and play it on basically any device that's been updated recently (assuming the device has enough pixels!).
As for regular 1920 x 1080 HD resolution, the camera shoots 24, 30, and 60 fps. Unlike in some other cameras, the 60 fps is captured using progressive, rather than the choppier interlaced scanning method.
The NX1's 19 ounce body isn't as compact and light as some of the tiniest mirrorless cameras, but it's comparable or lighter than top APS-C sensor DLSRs, like the 23-ounce Nikon D7100. It's slightly heavier than the 17 ounce Panasonic GH4, which is the only competitor that shoots 4K. Note that because the GH4 has a smaller image sensor format, its lenses will be lighter and more compact.
Importantly, the NX1 features both a 1024 x 768 OLED electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch, 1.036 million-dot Super AMOLED touchscreen display. The former is essential for serious photography. The latter flips out, which makes shooting video with the camera's 4K/Ultra HD powers easier.
At $1500 for the body alone, the NX1 comes in a little cheaper than the $1700 4K Panasonic GH4, but the GH4 might be more appealing for the simple reason that there is a massive first- and third-party lens ecosystem of micro four thirds mount lenses, whereas glass for Samsung's proprietary mount remains elusive.
From the outset, the Samsung NX1 looks like a beast, which is a little surprising coming from Samsung. Obviously, specs never tell the complete story, and we'll have to wait and see if the high-resolution video and still-image quality holds up to the impressive numbers Samsung put on the outside of the box. But there's a lot to make you actually consider this camera, and we'll be taking a very close look when it's available in mid-October.