First Impressions: Samsung NX1 and NX 50-150mm f2.8 S

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Samsung has been carving a name for itself the in the mirrorless camera world–introducing several proper APS-C bodies and the little NX Mini. Now the electronics firm has introduced the NX1 as its first truly professional grade body complete with a weather-sealed magnesium body and LCD screen on the top of the body. Samsung has effectively reinvented the DSLR into a mirrorless camera.

While the camera looks the part of a professional camera, how does it actually handle? Read on to find out our first impressions with the NX1 after getting about an hour of playtime with it.

Tech Specs

  • 28.2 backside-illuminated CMOS APS-C sensor
  • DRiMe 5 image processor
  • 1/8000 – 30 second shutter speed
  • ISO Range: 100 – 25600 (51200 extended)
  • 15fps with tracking autofocus
  • 205 Point Phase Detection AF, 209 Point Contrast AF
  • 153 cross type AF with 90 percent frame coverage
  • Video Modes: 4096×2160 at 24fps (4K video 40Mbps VEC Codec H.265), 3840×2160 at 30fps, 1920×1080 at 60fps
  • 3-inch 1036k dot SuperAMOLED touchscreen
  • 2.3M dot OLED EVF
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth, NFC
  • Weather-sealed magnesium body,
  • Dimension: 138.5 x 102.3 x 65.8mm (WxHxD)
  • Weight: 550 grams (body only)

Ergonomics

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Did we mention the camera has a top LCD? Several photographers and journalists at the NX1 briefing also gasped at the sight of this old DSLR standby too. Jokes aside, the small addition shows you all your camera settings without sucking down battery life like the camera’s back display or electronic viewfinder. Hopefully setting the EVF to only trigger with the eye sensor and using this top screen will help extend the battery life, which has long been a sticking point with mirrorless cameras.

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Aside from the screen, the top plate is also home to the NX1’s shutter button as well as dials to change the shooting and drive modes. There’s also a host of other buttons to set your ISO, EV compensation, white balance, AF modes, and record movies. The NX1 has one of the meatiest and sculpted grips any camera maker has put on a mirrorless body, and DSLR veterans will really appreciate this.

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Sliding to the back of the camera, the NX1 has a familiar layout including yet two more dials to adjust your settings plus a dedicated Wi-Fi button. Changing your AF point is also a snap with the four-way directional pad or touching the screen to refocus. The only thing we didn’t like about the layout is you’ll have to stretch your thumb up to reach the AE-Lock button when shooting.

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On the front of the NX1 there’s not much to admire other than the design of the camera and the large depth of field preview button. As you can tell, it looks much like many other DSLR style mirrorless cameras.

Build Quality

The NX1 is by far Samsung’s most tank-ish camera even compared to the NX30, which we always felt was a bit plasticky. The NX1 really feels like a DSLR without the mirror when you hold it. It’s inherited the shape and weather-sealed characteristics of the aging dinosaur, yet it’s noticeably smaller because there’s no mirror flapping about inside.

Ease of Use

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Users moving up from the NX30 or any others in the system will be familiar with the NX1 button layout. Other than the drive mode selector being moved to the left and a few added buttons they’re pretty much identical. Meanwhile, users moving from another mirrorless platform and DSLRs will have any easy time adapting to Samsung’s control layout as everything is within your fingertips.

Unlike the screens Samsung often uses with its smartphones, we didn’t find the SuperAMOLED display on the back of the NX1 too overly saturated, which is key for color accuracy. The pixel-rich EVF also works equally just as well with a lag-less refresh rate. However, the viewfinder does seem a bit small now that we’ve been spoiled by the Fujifilm X-T1’s planet-sized EVF.

Autofocus

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Move over Sony A6000–the NX1 has 209 phase detect autofocus points topping the Alpha camera’s 179 phase detect AF points. The numbers behind this camera are insane.

A Samsung spokesperson claimed the NX1 is able to pop focus right on the subject without seeking at all. The NX1 performed splendidly with the NX 16-50 f2.8. However, when we mounted the NX 85mm f1.4, it would hunt across the entire focus range before finally locking onto a subject caught in shadow or a thick maze of tree branches. Either case was a tough test for the NX1 and we have to partially blame it on the camera still being a pre-production copy.

We have high hopes Samsung will fully tune the AF system in the final model because the NX1 could be an amazing sports camera thanks to its 15fps continuous shooting speed—which sounds like a glorious machine gun.

Image Quality

Again the NX1 we handled was a preproduction model and as such we were not allowed to insert a card or record images. However, we did shoot a few frames and based on the images seen on the LCD and EVF, we’re impressed. The NX1 seems to soak up exposures with a nicely balanced dynamic range plus great colors.

We were promised a review unit coming soon and we can’t wait to put Samsung’s latest 28.2MP sensor through its paces.

First Impressions

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Color us impressed, the NX1 is looking to be Samsung’s best camera yet. Of course this is somewhat to be expected as it is the top line camera of the NX series. From our short time with the camera we’re already digging its solid build quality and great ergonomics. The camera is clearly making a play for users still clinging to their DSLRs. At $1,499.99 for the NX1 body alone, it’s a pretty impressive deal that might even steal the hearts of Olympus OMD EM1 and Panasonic GH4 owners.

We’ll have to reserve our final judgment on the camera for our review, but it has a lot of promising specs including in body 4K video capture. It’s also the first NX camera to come running on Tizen, a new Android alternative Samsung is backing heavily for all of its devices from smartphones to smartwatches and now smart cameras. So it will be interesting if the camera also features any apps in the future.

Samsung NX 50-150mm f2.8 S

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Aside from the NX1, Samsung also had a pre-production model of its latest NX 50-150mm f2.8 S lens. Filling in the NX lens lineup’s need for a telephoto zoom, the NX 50-150mm is the whole shebang complete with a fast constant aperture, in-lens stabilization, dust and splash proof construction, and a programmable focusing range to help sports photographers.

Tech Specs

  • Focal Length: 50 – 150mm (equivalent to 77-231mm in 35mm format)
  • 20 elements in 13 groups (4 ED, 1 XHR)
  • Angle of View: 31.4° – 10.7°
  • Aperture: F2.8(Min. F22)
  • Optical Image Stabilizer
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: Wide 0.7m, Tele 0.98m
  • Dust and splash resistance
  • Custom Focus Range Limiter
  • Tripod Mount Collar
  • Filter Size: 72mm
  • Dimension: 81mm x 154mm (DxL)
  • Weight: 915g

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As with Samsung’s other lenses this one is made of plastic but otherwise a solid feeling piece of kit. The zoom and focusing ring have been dampened exquisitely with just the right amount of resistance to make travel feel smooth. The best thing about the lens is it’s fairly compact for the wide focal range it delivers. The lens also zooms and focuses internally, which should help the glass inside stay dry and dust free.

We also mounted the lens onto the NX1 for a few test shots. Although both the lens and camera were pre-production models we had no trouble focusing on a skyscraper a mile away or shooting down on some unaware construction workers on an adjacent rooftop. Unfortunately we were not allowed to record images, so we can’t say anything on the lens’ optical quality just yet.

It’s too early to call a final verdict, but it seems like Samsung has bagged another winner for its NX lens lineup. Check out some more images of the lens below.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Brooklyn.