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Date: 20/09/2014 | By: Mathieu

Photokina 2014: Hands-on with the new Samsung NX1

samsung nx1 at photokina 2014

Photokina 2014: Hands-on with the new Samsung NX1

The Samsung NX1 is certainly one of the most exciting camera announcements at Photokina this year. Samsung seems to have put the most advanced technology they possibly could in their flagship APS-C mirrorless model. We had a hands-on session at the Samsung booth but unfortunately, despite the presence of lots of samples in the area, they were all pre-production models and the SD card was actually sealed to make sure no one could insert his or her own card. But we were still able to try some other interesting features.

DSLR without a mirror

E-M1, 1/60, f/ 32/10, ISO 200

The first thing you notice when you hold the camera for the first time is that it feels like a DSLR especially regarding its size. It also feels like a DSLR when the 16-55mm f/2-2.8 lens, which is a very fat, is attached. The actual weight of the body alone is 550g (without the battery) which is pretty much identical to the Panasonic GH4.

The NX1 also feels like a DSLR in terms of the grip and build quality, the dials and every part of its design, which is actually a very positive aspect. I have to praise Samsung for this–they really designed a camera that feels solid.

E-M1, 1/40, f/ 32/10, ISO 200

Every button and dial is solid and easy to access and use. One of the unique characteristics of this camera is the top LCD panel like the one you can find on most high-end DSLRs. It is certainly a key aspect that makes us understand the way in which Samsung engineers were inspired to design the camera.

E-M1, 1/100, f/ 32/10, ISO 200

The NX1 is very responsive and reactive for every command you give. The LCD touch screen is among the best I’ve seen in terms of colour, resolution and brightness. The EVF is another very positive feature of this camera. The Fuji X-T1 and its EVF might have found a valid rival in this regard.

E-M1, 1/30, f/ 4/1, ISO 200

While the 16-50mm makes the combo tend toward a DSLR feel, the recently announced 50-150mm f/2.8 is a good compromise between size and performance. It is still is the biggest and heaviest of all the f/2.8 telephoto lenses for CSCs we’ve seen at Photokina.

DMC-GH4, 1/100, f/ 56/10, ISO 400

Autofocus and performance

Since the NX1 samples available at Photokina didn’t have the final firmware, please take the following lines with a grain of salt. (I actually observed physical proof that it didn’t have the final firmware–on one particular sample, the viewfinder’s colours completely shifted the skin tones to purple and I had to remove the battery to fix it.)

DMC-GH4, 1/100, f/ 56/10, ISO 400

That being said, I tried the autofocus with both the 16-50mm and 50-150mm and the reaction and accuracy seems quite good. The only negative side that I experienced was that sometimes the lens starting to hunt back and forth without any particular reason in attempt to lock the focus. But after a few seconds the AF started to behave correctly again, which leads me think that it is related to the non-finalise firmware.

Where the autofocus impressed me was with video. As you might already know, the sensor includes 205 phase detection points and the camera can shoot 4k video with a new H265 codec. I did try to record a few minutes to see how the AF responded and it was surprisingly quick and reactive. It could be the best AF response I have seen in a camera during video recording.

The second impressive feature of the camera is the continuos shooting speed. Not knowing which SD card the camera had inside, I cannot really talk about buffer capabilities but here is what I tested. In JPG mode Fine, I was able to take 168 pictures during my first attempt with the 16-50mm and 101 pictures with the 50-150mm during my second test. Its capabilities at 15fps seem quite spectacular. When I enabled RAW+JPG, the performance decreased a lot especially concerning the buffer, which makes me think that the RAW files are taking a lot of space also because it is a 28mp sensor and RAW can be recorded in 14 bit compression. Below you can see our hands-on video which also shows the burst capabilities of the camera.


The NX1 also has a new SAS (Samsung Auto Shot) feature that is able to predict the exact moment to take a shot during an action sequence. You can actually select different types of actions like baseball or jump. I briefly tried that as well by asking Heather to simulate both actions. With the baseball mode it didn’t work (perhaps because she was only simulating the movement without a bat), while with the Jump mode it recognised the movement almost immediately.

The new 50-150mm f/2.8 also seems like a very nice lens regarding performance and image quality. The autofocus motor is very quiet and focuses fast with the camera. The stabilisation also seems to give good results.


E-M1, 1/50, f/ 4/1, ISO 200

The Samsung NX1 has the potential of becoming the most powerful mirrorless camera on the market. Speed is there, autofocus is promising but needs to be tested with a final firmware. And of course lots of questions need to be addressed regarding the image quality of this camera, which must be spectacular to be on par with all the other impressive features the NX1 possesses.

At this point there are two big questions that I think need answering: the first is related to the size of the camera. Samsung clearly designed the camera with a DSLR in mind and while there is nothing wrong with it, it goes in the opposite direction to many other mirrorless competitors. This is important because one of the most interesting aspects that attracts photographers to CSCs is the light weight and compactness. This point links to my second question, which is Samsung’s status as a massive corporation with products that range from washing machine to tablets, TVs and of course cameras. Can the company stand out as a photography brand with the NX1? Certainly, it is a very interesting challenge, and we are glad to see Samsung addressing the pro market with this kind of camera.

The MirrorLessons team will be attending this year’s Photokina, where the products mentioned in this article will be on display to touch and try. To stay updated on our latest hands-on review articles, be sure to keep an eye on our Live Blogging page and follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Instagram!

About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Nick

    I’m a bit surprised at not only the large size, but also that it doesn’t have IBIS. The Sony A99 is a full-frame sensor camera that has IBIS and it still has a mirror (albeit one that doesn’t move). Samsung could have fit IBIS and perhaps still made the camera smaller.

    I think that this is likely a purely marketing decision to target people who aren’t enthusiasts but still want a high-end DSLR. That said, the lenses aren’t really a very good fit for these people. And, if Samsung bring out a “true” mirrorless design, with a body like an A7, the lenses won’t fit without adaptation. What the hell is going on?

    If the low-light sensitivity and high ISO performance of the sensor isn’t at least equal to the performance of the sensor found in the Canon EOS 6D then I think Samsung might have wasted an opportunity with their BSI technology. Why create more megapixels at the expense of the flexibility of the shooting envelope? I’d much rather sacrifice four MP to be able to shoot in a wider range of light conditions.

    I think the flexibility of a camera is becoming more important to many. Flexibility includes low-light sensitivity and high ISO performance, as well as a DR of about 14+ EV. This is what needs to be in the next generation of sensors. Let’s see what the NX1 can do. If it can match or best the high ISO capability of the Canon EOS 6D then I may just get one of these if I can put the right lenses on it without spending a fortune (Sony CZ A-Mount, anyone?).

  • Sean T

    I’m intrigued by the camera but as has been mentioned it’s simply too big. However that sensor sounds potentially really appealing. I like that Samsung is using some neat new tech with the BSI on such a big sensor. Bring in the image quality comparisons with the A7r.

  • Heather

    The size is indeed off-putting as most people move to mirrorless for the advantage of size and weight. It is too bad they were pre-production models as we could have commented on the IQ as well.

  • Legoland

    Interesting camera. Previous nx cameras have been vastly sub par considering performance and high Iso IQ.

    But the size is a no no for me, and for many that moved to mirrorless.

    So I’m going to wait for the same level of performance to be implemented in a body like Sony a6000, with an evf on par with this one.

  • Mathieu

    I agree it is silly. Almost all the new products were pre production model. Actually at the Sony booth they didn’t allow me to take pictures with the 70-200mm f/4! I mean, what’s the point?

  • soundimageplus

    Some interesting comments.

    It does always amaze me why companies continually give gear to people to review when it’s not finished. Imagine going for a test drive in a car and being told “The brakes aren’t quite finished yet and the steering still needs some work, so bear that in mind when you’re driving. it odes look good though doesn’t it’

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