Samsung NX1 Review
Unlike many cameras that seemingly include video in order to satisfy a marketing check box, the NX1 is clearly designed from the ground up to be as much of a video camera as it is a stills camera, and the NX1's full sensor readout for video has the potential to deliver class leading video. In fact, since being introduced, the NX1 has probably generated as much buzz from videographers as it has from still photographers.
In part, this is due to the fact that the NX1 represents one of the first credible alternatives to the Panasonic GH4, another mirrorless camera that includes internal 4K recording and which has been embraced by the video community. Largely unchallenged for over a year, the GH4 has earned a well deserved reputation as a combined stills/video camera and is our current standard-bearer for video from this class of camera.
When looking at the bit rates in the table below it's important to remember that the NX1 is using the H.265 video codec, which is much more efficient than H.264. As a result, the bit rates may be lower than you're used to seeing for a particular resolution/frame rate combination.
|Video Resolution||Frame Rate||Sensor Output||
Pro Bit Rate (Mbps)
|HQ Bit Rate (Mbps)||Normal Bit Rate (Mbps)|
This is really quite impressive. For example, the NX1 is recording 1080 24p video at its highest quality (Pro) at 16 Mbps. In comparison, the Panasonic GH4 records 1080 24p video at 100 Mbps (200 Mbps with the All-I option).
One can't really have a conversation about video on the NX1 without first addressing the H.265 high efficiency video codec (HEVC). H.265 is the successor to the virtually universal H.264 codec used by most cameras in this class for the past several years.
The major advantage of H.265 is that it's approximately twice as efficient as its predecessor, making it possible to record video at half the bit rate of H.264 while maintaining the same level of quality. Alternatively, it's possible to maintain the same bit rate used under H.264 but with a substantial increase in video quality.
On the NX1 Samsung has opted for the former approach, choosing to take advantage of the efficient video compression to reduce file size. Empirical data suggests that Samsung's implementation does exactly this. When shooting scenes side by side with the Panasonic GH4 at 4K resolution NX1 files were consistently smaller than the corresponding GH4 files – in some cases as by as much as half. Whether Samsung has managed to maintain the same quality in the process is something we'll look at on the Video Quality page.
Smaller file sizes obviously mean that you can fit more video on a single card, but it also means that you can get away with using slower (i.e. less expensive) cards as well. For example, when shooting 4K video on the GH4 one needs to use UHS Class 3 cards (30MB/s); when shooting 4K video on the NX1 it's possible to use standard SDXC Class 10 cards (10MB/s).
However, what H.265 giveth, H.265 taketh, and there are some definite challenges to using this codec. The primary one: it's new. Although there are software products that work with H.265, as of the time of this review none of the major non-linear editing apps including Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, or Avid Media Composer support direct import or editing of the codec.
In fairness, this issue will sort itself out over time as the codec sees wider industry adoption and better software and hardware support. For the time being however, video files from the NX1 need to be converted into some other format for playback and editing.
Samsung provides an application exactly for this purpose: Samsung Movie Converter. It's a very basic program that simply converts H.265 files to H.264 format. Unfortunately, there's not many positive things we can say about it.
To start, while we can get Movie Converter to work on Windows, we can't get it to work reliably on a Mac despite installing it on several computers with various combinations of hardware and OS. Assuming you can get past that technical issue the workflow is terribly inefficient as there's no way to apply batch settings to a group of files. If you have 50 files to convert, you must go through them one at a time to select the conversion settings (unless you want the default settings). Finally, the conversion process is slow enough to have a significant impact on workflow.
Alternative solutions exist, and one that we've had good luck with is Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate. In addition to being more user friendly, stable, and faster, it has the advantage that it can convert H.265 files to many formats, including edit-friendly formats such as ProRes and DNxHD.
(Note: To provide a consistent evaluation of the camera, all videos included in this review were converted using Samsung Movie Converter.)
Other video features
Samsung hasn't provided anything revolutionary in terms of video features, but it has included a fairly complete and well implemented set of video tools that should be of interest to video shooters.
Serious videographers will be happy to see focus peaking, available in three colors (white, red, and green), with adjustable intensity. Along with peaking are zebra patterns to indicate overexposure, however they aren't adjustable. (We're hoping this is something that Samsung will address through a firmware update - something the company has been good about doing.)
In addition to the standard picture profile, two gamma options are available in video mode: Gamma C and Gamma DR. Gamma C provides a slightly higher contrast image, while Gamma DR provides a wider dynamic range. We expect a lot of videographers to be interested in Gamma DR as it provides a slightly flatter image for editing. In our experience Gamma DR isn't quite as flat as the GH4's Cinelike D profile, however it's flatter than the standard profile and grades nicely with minimal color correction.
For those who really want to dial in a specific look, it's also possible to fine tune Luminance Level and Master Black Level. Luminance level can be set to 0-255, 16-235, or 16-255, while master black level can be set from -15 to +15 to fine tune contrast in shadow areas.
The NX1 also has the usual microphone and headphone jack, as well as a built in microphone with a wind-cut filter. As with most cameras of this type, you'll either want to connect an external microphone or record off-camera as the sound quality is pretty mediocre.
The NX1 can output uncompressed 4K 4:2:2 8-bit video over HDMI for recording to an external device such as the Atomos Shogun.
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