Throwback Thursday: the Samsung NX1 is still impressive three years later
We usually dig a bit further into the past for Throwback Thursday, but decided to make an exception for the Samsung NX1. Announced just three years ago, the NX1 is the camera that still leaves us wondering what might have been had Samsung decided to remain in the camera market. Alas, we'll never know.
On paper, the NX1 had impressive specifications; the camera that landed in our laps still felt rough around the edges and a bit, well... unfinished when it arrived. Samsung diligently improved the camera through a series of firmware updates over the following months, and the NX1 ultimately became a much more refined, responsive machine.
The 'post-multiple-firmware-updates' version of the camera delivered technical innovation, pro-level performance, and a fantastic user experience all in a single package, earning it one of the highest scores we had ever awarded to a camera at the time, and winning the 2015 DPReview Innovation Award.
|In addition to impressive performance, the NX1 held up well in extreme conditions. When shooting in 0ºF (-18ºC) conditions the camera kept going as long as I did.|
We highlighted this innovation in our review of the NX1, writing "One can almost imagine a group of Samsung engineers sitting in a conference room and having the spec sheets of every leading APS-C and four thirds camera dropped in front of them, along with a directive to outperform the whole lot. And here's the crazy thing – to a certain extent they seem to have pulled it off."
The NX1 was a mirrorless camera that looked and performed like a high-end DSLR. It included a hybrid AF system with 205 phase detect autofocus points covering 90% of the frame, and in burst mode could shoot up to 15fps. Impressively, in our testing the AF system was able to keep up.
It also delivered the goods when it came to image quality. Built around a 28MP BSI sensor, it held its own against the best APS-C cameras of its day. The ISO-invariant sensor also made it possible to push shadows 5EV in post without paying any additional noise cost (when shooting at base ISO).
Even the ergonomics and shooting experience were excellent. It was comfortable in the hand, with most dials and buttons in easy to reach places. The bright and crisp OLED EVF had no perceptible lag (a common challenge back then), and was the first electronic viewfinder I really fell in love with. In our review I commented, "Once I started shooting with NX1 it was easy to forget that I was using an EVF and I just got on with taking photos."
|The NX1's OLED electronic viewfinder impressed us with its bright, crisp image and fast performance. Its layout was also well-designed and easy to use.|
The NX1 also excelled at video. Unlike many cameras – even some the ones we encounter today – there was no sense that video was wedged in to fulfill a spec sheet requirement. On the contrary, the NX1 was clearly designed with video in mind. The interface was excellent, included tools such as peaking and zebras, and the oversampled footage exceeded the quality of the Panasonic GH4, our reference camera for video at the time.
Ironically, the only major complaint we had about the NX1's video was that it was a bit too forward looking: it relied on the advanced H.265 codec, something that many computers and editing systems are just now beginning to handle well.
Samsung also gets a nod for having the first (and still one of the best) Wi-Fi + Bluetooth implementations we've seen.
|Video on the NX1 was outstanding, exceeding the quality of the Panasonic GH4, our reference camera for video at the time. The user interface for shooting video was also good, taking advantage of touchscreen controls for many functions.|
There seemed to be a lot of commitment from Samsung to getting the NX1 right, including numerous firmware updates that improved performance and added functionality over time. (A bit ironic when you consider the fate of the camera.) Let me share one behind-the-scenes anecdote about how all those updates impacted our review of the camera.
I actually wrote two entire reviews of the NX1. The first review was less than a week from publication when Samsung released a big firmware update; it included so many performance improvements and feature updates that I had to scrap the entire review, go back and re-test the camera, then write another one. The review you read on the site was actually the second one I wrote.
Despite its age, the NX1 is still remarkably competitive with today's top APS-C cameras, and Samsung seemed to be investing a lot to develop a strong line of pro quality lenses as well. It's interesting to think of what the camera market might look like today had Samsung not exited the business.
Samsung NX1 Sample Gallery
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