Mirrorless has come a long way since its introduction into the market. With technology advancing and improving so quickly, it is to no surprise that a technology companies, like Samsung, are able to produce amazing photography equipment alongside the other devices they make. Those in the industry aren’t radically surprised by the great mirrorless cameras that other other technology companies has been producing (Sony, Panasonic), but when Samsung steps up to the plate with their flagship NX1 and its pretty awesome feature set, there’s bound to be words floating around.
The NX1, Samsung’s Current Flagship
The first thing that caught my eye, or rather my ear, was the shutter capturing images at 15 frames per second with a stellar 28.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. Now, I’m not one that usually shoots like I’m equipped with a machine-gun, I’m more of a sniper, but it sure is fun unleashing 15 frames per second.
The camera also has some interesting features regarding video– things that are still new to me. The camera records at 4K resolution at 30 frames per second and encodes using the new h.265 codec, one that has been around for quite a while, but still is needing to be standardized in the Apple world. Since I’m an Apple guy, I had to take some round-about ways to make the camera’s native video format editable on my Mac for some of my sample videos– and we will discuss more about that later. UHD support without using an external attachment appeals to many who are looking for that crazy 4K resolution in a small package.
Playing with Video
Capturing video with this camera was made super simple. The touchscreen on the rear of the camera allowed amazingly quick and accurate focusing. I was lucky enough to test a really good lens with the NX-1, Samsung’s 16-55mm F/2.8 with Optical Image Stabilization, that also helped with camera shake that made things so much smoother. The overall experience was quite splendid due to some of the features that I haven’t seen before.
I don’t do much video at all, so I just thought I’d play with whatever settings I had– and it just so happened to be that the videos were taken in black and white.
One of the highlights that I’d point out while recording video with this camera is one of the settings that’s found in the menu that adjusts the speed of focus from one point to another. I’m not a video guru quite yet, but I believe the term that people use is racking focus, but the feature is called something along the lines of “focus speed”. The settings let you change from slow, normal or fast which effortlessly adds a cinematic feel. I did a little test of the both the fast and slow speeds for reference.
Another highlight that I found to be quite amazing is one of the focusing modes that’s found for video. The mode allows you to tap the back of the screen to lock the focus on an area or object. Then as you move the camera, the autofocus remains locked on that area as long as it is in view– meaning you can zoom in and zoom out, move the camera left and right, up and down and it’ll stay focused on that area. It shows you boxes on what was tracked and those boxes move throughout the frame as you move the camera around– pretty sweet!
Talking to a very nice Samsung technical representative revealed that if I plugged the camera into the computer, there would be software that would be able to help initiate a conversion from the h.265 codec to the h.264 codec. If he wasn’t there to talk to me, I wouldn’t have known about it since I’m more of a hands-on-dont-read-the-maunal-unless-I-have-to kind of person and also have habitual muscle memory to remove memory cards and plug them into my readers. I tried getting the software to work out on my system, but due to technical difficulties on my side of things, I wasn’t able to play with the conversion software that came with it.
Overall, shooting video was simple for a novice like me. Getting the 4K files to be read by my computer weren’t to big of a problem, and had I had things sorted out on my end, I’m sure my experience would be much smoother. I did though, however, get the videos converted for editing and viewing without much trouble using Rocky Mountain Video Converter, which is free and does a pretty good job at converting things over. From there, I was able to get it into Final Cut Pro.
Capturing the stills
I ended up trying this camera on a paid gig. I while I don’t recommend testing equipment on paid shoots, my client was aware of what was going on, and we worked it out that if things should turn out to go awry, we’d have a backup plan to use my other camera and continue shooting on another day if needed. The goal was to shoot a portrait.
Shooting with the camera seemed natural– if you’re familiar with any of the controls of any modern mirrorless camera, you’ll catch on to this one pretty simply as well. I can’t say that I had any complaints about the camera. It works, it’s quick, and has a boat load of features that I didn’t need, and a few that really did need. I tend to shoot in darker areas and with strobes. Sometimes, those dark situations don’t work out too well when you’re trying to focus– thankfully there’s a “Framing Mode” that allows you to turn off the exposure preview that the viewfinder/screen show, and allows you to see what the sensor is seeing– its like the sensor is trying to expose the scene specifically for you to view. Some, but not all mirrorless cameras also include this feature, so it’s good to see this one show up– especially since I had to use it.
Holding the camera it felt like a quality camera. It’s quite a bit heavier than my normal camera, the FujiFilm X-T1, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The handgrip was kind of nice, and although some of the buttons were placed in areas that I wasn’t used to, accessing them wasn’t much of an issue. The ISO button is on the left side of the camera, which makes it a little bit harder to adjust with one hand on those rare occasions. It didn’t cause much strain on me while I was taking the pictures at all, so that’s always a benefit.
The images are sharp. The colors are great– even though I don’t often shoot in color. I had to purposefully go out to shoot some landscapes to see how it works with our Vegas scenery. Looks dang good to me- metering was smart and picked up what I wanted exposed pretty well. There’s easy access to exposure compensation and the viewfinder showed all the usual stuff that you’d need to properly expose a photo.
The camera took great and clean pictures that processed well in Lightroom and Photoshop. There didn’t seem to be native support from Adobe for the NX-1’s camera profiles– having those color profiles from inside the camera would be nice– either that, or the profiles are not stored in the RAW files. There was more than enough detail in each of the pictures to do some cropping should you chose to do so– that’s not exactly my style, but I suspect that people can crop pretty heavily with all of those pixels the NX-1 records.
There were definitely some awesome features that more casual shooters would enjoy– things like a sport mode, called Auto Shot, that actuates the shutter once the camera notices action crossing a certain line– which I really would have loved to test (it’s hard trying to play tennis with yourself while taking pictures of yourself at the same time under my time restraints). There really are so many different “smart” modes that could help shooters capture the images that they want: beauty, landscapes, action, rich tones, panoramas, waterfalls, multiple exposures, silhouettes, sunsets, night, fireworks and even light tracing.
The odds and ends
The interface was pretty with small details like animations and smartphone-like sounds while navigating. It gave the camera a cheery feeling. The menus were pretty easy to navigate through and weren’t too confusing at all. There were some terms that I didn’t quite understand, but I’m sure that a quick glance at the user manual would’ve solved that. There’s a lot of support for Wi-Fi options, which I know many camera users would be really excited about.
The camera build was great– it’s dust resistant and weather resistant. The body seems to be quite durable, I didn’t exactly test that at all. I’m definitely not going to drop hammers on test units. It feels quite solid all together regardless. Speaking of solid, the support for the camera seems to be quite solid. While I had the camera, a firmware update that improved the already great autofocus and improved video was launched. Samsung looks to be dedicated to giving support to users of this camera and building rapport. That’s a great sign to see from a company. There’s also forums to contribute to– and they’re listening!
Looks like the camera has some potential to evolve and change as it needs to be– with the support that Samsung is giving it, I’m quite positive that this camera will last a really long time for anyone who is really looking for an easy to use camera that is loaded with a whole lot of fun features to help enhance the capture of a multitude of subjects, both still and moving.
For an impressive list of specs, numbers and other features that I know I didn’t cover, but are still important, head over to Samsung’s site.