GEAR & TECHNIQUES PRODUCT REVIEWS BY GREG SCOBLETE
Samsung claws its way to the top.
“The wolf on the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill.”
This was the memorable warning issued to
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron,
and it nicely encapsulates the position
Samsung finds itself in as it tries to scale
the summit of the camera market.
The NX1 is a sign of just how
ravenous Samsung is for the
prosumer and professional camera
dollar. But the climb is steep, and
other wolves have been satisfying
themselves at the top for decades.
Together with our frequent co-tester,
the New Jersey-based photographer
and director David Patiño (www.
davidpatino.com), we put the NX1
and the new 50-150mm f/2.8 S ED
OIS lens to the test to see how far
Samsung has come.
The mirrorless NX1 is built around
a new 28-megapixel backside-illuminated (BSI), APS-C-sized CMOS
image sensor ( 23. 5 x 15.7mm). It’s a
sensor of Samsung’s own design and is the
first of its size to feature backside illumination.
While it offers roughly eight million more pixels
than the Samsung’s previous mirrorless flagship, the NX30, the
photo diodes are the same size—a space-saving consequence of the
BSI sensor. This endows the NX1 with better low-light performance,
giving the camera a native sensitivity range of ISO 100– 25,600.
The spec sheet on the NX1 is too voluminous to list here, but
there are two highlights that are worth mentioning. The first is the
autofocus system and continuous shooting mode. The camera’s NX
AF System III boasts 205 phase-detection points with 153 cross-type sensor points, a one-two punch that enables the NX1 to keep
focus on moving objects even when the camera is cranking away at
an eye-popping 15 frames per second. The phase detection system
is also at work during video recording, making it easier to keep
moving subjects in focus.
Speaking of video, the other highlight is the NX1’s 4K
video capture. Alongside Panasonic’s GH4, it’s one of the few
interchangeable lens cameras capable of recording 4K (4096x2160p)
directly to an SD card. Unlike the GH4, however, the NX1 uses the
new, more efficient HEVC (or H.265) compression codec, allowing
you to store more footage on your memory card than you would with
H.264. Using HEVC also lets you use slower memory cards when
recording: We used cards as slow as Class 6 for 4K footage at 24 fps.
It’s an impressive feat, but using slower cards negates the advantage of
the NX1’s blazing burst mode, so it’s not without a trade-off.
In addition to “cinema” 4K, you’ll have the option of UHD
(3840x2160p) recording at 30 fps and 1920x1080 at both 60 and 30 fps—
all of which also use HEVC compression. You can, however, output an
uncompressed 4K or HD signal to an external recorder via HDMI. There
are mic and headphone inputs for audio recording and monitoring.
From the weather-sealed construction
to the curved handgrip and abundance
of well-placed dials, the NX1 feels every
bit the advanced camera. There’s just
one exception: the weight. Even with the
sizeable 50–150mm f/2.8 lens attached, the
NX1 is a featherweight, lighter than the GH4 and significantly lighter
than high-end APS-C DSLRs, such as Canon’s EOS 7D Mark II.
Building on the body design of the NX30, the NX1 adds a
monochrome LCD at the top of the camera for displaying camera
settings. Its 3-inch AMOLED touch screen display can be tilted up
90 degrees or down 45 degrees, giving you several viewing options
for framing and composing. It’s crisp and viewable at all angles,
even under harsh sun. Unlike the NX30, however, the display isn’t
articulating. Neither is the electronic viewfinder, which on the NX30
you could pull out of the camera and tilt up to an 80-degree angle.
We really only had one quibble with the design choice and that’s the
ABOVE: The flagship of
camera lineup, the NX1
boasts 4K recording and
a 15 fps burst mode.