First impressions of Samsung's Galaxy NX: An Android-powered camera with promise
Image quality and performance
With the Galaxy NX's abundant 16GB of flash memory, you can shoot in continuous drive mode pretty much indefinitely. Curiously, "continuous" actually uses the mechanical shutter for as long as you hold down the trigger, while "burst mode" records stills continuously using an electronic shutter — while a very obviously fake shutter noise emanates from the speaker. In continuous drive mode, the first 20 shots or so (in the highest quality) went at the advertised 9 fps rate, and afterwards at about half that — still a very respectable clip. It continued to fire basically until I began to feel uncomfortable having that many pictures of my jade plant.
While the Galaxy NX is generally responsive, cold startup is extremely slow (15 seconds or so), but if the camera is merely asleep or not fully powered down, it wakes up in about a second with a press of the shutter and goes directly into the camera app, regardless of where it was before. Shutdown and sleep response is nearly instantaneous.
Autofocus isn't the quickest, but it doesn't often stutter or "hunt." The minimum focus distance on the 18-55mm kit lens is 28 cm (11 inches), which is typical. Focus peaking helps to make up for the low-resolution screen when manually focusing, and you can employ a 5X zoom focus assist too, although I found it sluggish and inconvenient.
A number of manual adjustments are available for anyone willing to hunt through the menus. Adjusting the autofocus area, ISO sensitivity, bracketing mode and more functions can be found there, though finding these options isn't quick. There's also a nice onscreen histogram and level that can be toggled with a single touch.
If you like remote shooting, it's possible you'll be able to do that with the Galaxy NX. The process of setting up a smartphone as a remote viewfinder would be quick and easy — if it worked. It didn't for me, although I tried on several devices, two of them Samsung Galaxy phones. Still, even a theoretical minimal one-touch tethering solution is to be appreciated.
All in all I enjoyed shooting on the Galaxy NX more than I expected, largely due to the spacious screen and solid shot-by-shot feel.
Image quality is decent, as we would expect from an APS-C-sized sensor, but it's pretty clear that there's a good deal of processing going on by default — view the full-size images and you'll see that the clarity is nothing to write home about. You can, of course, adjust the JPEG engine however you like, or shoot in Raw (though we don't recommend transferring Raw files if you have a data cap).
The battery is a massive 4360 mAh unit, removable and able to be charged in-body via USB. That's about 1700 mAh more than the Galaxy S4, about twice as much as comparable DSLR bodies, and three times as much juice compared to an NX300. Depending on what you do with the camera, your battery life will vary hugely — using 4G and Wi-Fi will affect it quite a bit, as will display brightness and HD video capture.
The Galaxy NX can be used as a smartphone, though without the "phone" portion. Not since the days of the N-Gage would someone look as silly as anyone holding this thing up to their ear.
You can, however, put any games or apps you want on it, and it comes with a decent set of Samsung editing and sharing utilities. But it isn't clear why you would bother doing so. The bulky camera isn't as easy to use as you would a smartphone. Holding it by the grip and editing with your thumb or left hand isn't convenient. And just try holding it with your left hand or in portrait mode — you'll be grasping the device by the lens and accidentally activating the EVF as you try to hit a button on that side of the screen.
There's no doubt the Galaxy NX is capable of more functions than, say, a Canon DSLR with a touchscreen, but the functions added aren't really critical. Do you really need a special app that launches a menu with your eight favorite shooting modes? How about a "Story Album" app that will take forever to use because any kind of serious interaction with the touchscreen is tiresome and clumsy? I'd rather have a single super-optimized camera app than all these random additions.
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