After years of dormant photographic activity, I have decided to divest my DSLR system. Previously I mentioned in my mirrorless vs. DSLR post that my next camera system would be a professional-grade mirrorless system as it is a compelling replacement to the responsive DSLR experience.
For many years, I have the Samsung NX system, as I was engaged by Samsung Singapore to conduct a series of NX photography workshops and subsequently participated in the Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) programme. The earlier Samsung NX camera bodies (up to NX30) did not live up to my expectations as DSLR replacements, as I found them to lack reliability and responsiveness.
I wanted to give the NX1 a chance, but Samsung was unable to provide a review unit since its launch in early 2015. So I took a leap of faith and bought a unit from after-market. With the rumour that Samsung has stopped developing the mirrorless product line, this was a great time to pick up the items cheaply. I got mine brand new at S$1000.
Was it worth it? You bet. The single-digit NX1 is a completely different league compared to the NX multiple-digit series (NX30, NX500, NX3300 were the last models for each sub-line). It is like as if Samsung saved the best features for this One model.
Faster AF for some lenses
It is so embarrassing shooting with the NX30 on a 85mm f1.4. It’s a brilliant lens, superb optics, only marred by the inability to focus quick. I had to do small talk with my subjects while I tried to get the camera to focus, often resulting in missed candid moments.
The NX1 focuses faster. Though still incomparable to the AF system on my Nikon DSLR, particularly in low light situations, it is good enough for my kind of shoot.
DSLR-like EVF implementation
I wanted my camera to mimic the DSLR viewfinder style of image preview. Most of the mirrorless cameras will output the preview on the large LCD display. Over time, photographers get lazy and stop using the small viewfinder to compose images, which is more immersive.
I was initially puzzled why Samsung NX1 has the traditional mono LCD display next to the shutter button, which shows shooting information like ISO, aperture, shutter, when these information are already presented on the larger AMOLED display. Then I found something wonderful.
Samsung NX1 has the option to use only the EVF to show the image preview, and I can also change the display info to my needs, including removing all icons and shooting information. But whenever I press any button for change of settings (like adjust AF mode) or do image playback, the large display will automatically show the setting options for me to adjust, without the live preview. When I am done, I can go back to the EVF to continue shooting. The same setting options will also show up inside the EVF as an overlay to the live preview, so that I can still have the ability to do setting adjustments through the EVF without shifting my eyes to the main display.
Better Subject Tracking Feature
One of my favourite AF methods on my D600 is the subject tracking feature, which NX30 did not have. The NX1 has it and works reasonably well. Best of all, I can track the entire frame while D600 only allows 60% of the frame (DX area).
Shorter EVF Blackout
With a shorter blackout, I can capture moving subjects better. Though still incomparable to optical viewfinder, the NX1 is miles better than NX30.
Samsung NX1 allows me to customise the main 5-way rotary dial, expanding the number of settings that I can access instantly. I love the ability to configure the large rotary dial to let me adjust EV instantly instead of holding the EV hardware button before adjusting.
This EV adjustment also gives me the ease of override I needed even during manual mode. On my Nikon D600 (and many other DSLR cameras I believe), I like to select manual mode to pick my shutter and aperture values to adjust my exposure. However, I would have to fix the ISO or else the camera would auto select an ISO value to achieve a “correct” exposure deemed by the camera processor.
On the Samsung NX1, I could set my desired aperture and shutter, tweak the EV compensation via the rotary dial, and all this time the ISO remains in auto setting. In fact, I might even change my shooting style by fixing my aperture and shutter always while only adjusting the EV, resulting in adjusting ISO on-the-fly.
One thing I love about the NX1 is the generous grip. It is unfortunate that having a comfortable grip means sacrificing compactness, but it is something that I am willing to give up to some extent. After all, NX1 is still much more compact than my D600, while other systems (including Sony A7) is uncomfortable to hold especially when fitted with long heavy lens.
Image details even at high ISO
The NX1 has once again improved the image quality against the other NX models, making it a worthy upgrade. While the higher ISO has signs of heavy processing, they don’t look too obvious especially when there are 28 megapixels to resolve. Overall images appear more natural and less processed, while white balance appears more accurate.
4K Video recording
The NX1 is capable to shooting in 4K video resolution, the next generation definition. While 8K is already in development, I think it is an overkill for casual videography. Samsung NX1 encodes videos with H.265 HEVC, which is the most efficient codec with better compression, lower bitrates, without loss of quality. The trade-off is that older computers (like my current 1st-gen i5 processor) is unable to playback at all. That means that I am unable to easily playback all the videos recorded with the NX1 unless I convert to H.264 or other formats.
Better than DSLR?
Is NX1 better than traditional DSLR? That depends on what is your definition of “better”. If I need operation response, reliability, and organic feel, then DSLR is always better because it does not have the dependency of the digital display to capture images.
The NX1 is better than most DSLR when it comes to frame-per-second, subject tracking across the entire frame, and more importantly, size-to-quality ratio. NX1 is smaller, lighter, but delivers comparable – and many other websites find – better quality than the majority DSLRs.
Comparing to my other favourite mirrorless system, I enjoy Samsung NX1 more than Sony A7. The NX1 shutter is also quieter than A7, and has pop-up flash. The NX1 body is bulkier but gives a better balance when handling large lenses. The A7 has the advantage of more lenses choices, but if you are only interested in price-quality, then Samsung lenses are a lot more affordable (due to its bleak future) yet the quality is really pro-grade.
Thank you Samsung for creating this ultimate NX camera body so that all your solid lenses do not go to waste.