Samsung has been pretty inventive in the digital camera world. It was the first to offer an really extensive Wi-Fi system (which continues to this day), Android-based cameras (though Nikon launched a model at about the same time), and arguably the first dedicated 'selfie cams' with its DualView models.

The company has yet again come up with something new, this time in the enthusiast mirrorless space. For the first time ever, Samsung has managed to create an APS-C-sized, 28MP CMOS sensor that's backside illuminated. BSI sensors move all the circuitry behind the light-capturing part of the sensor which allows it to capture more light, improving low light performance and reducing noise. Until now, the largest sensor with backside illumination was 1"-type (around 1/3rd the size of APS-C).

The NX1 sits in a crowded field of excellent cameras - both DSLR and mirrorless - such as the Nikon D7200, Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Panasonic DMC-GH4 and Fujifilm X-T1. Each of these models has its own appeal, whether it be the excellent video specification of the Panasonic, the compactness of the Fujifilm or the all-round capability of the Nikon. While they share similar price tags and build quality and aim for broadly the same audience, the NX1 has quite a few tricks up its sleeve beyond its clever sensor, to try to break into that respectable club.

Samsung NX1 key features

  • 28.2 megapixel APS-C BSI-CMOS sensor
  • Hybrid AF system with 205 phase-detect points covering 90% of the frame
  • 15 fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus
  • 4K (DCI 4K & UHD) video recording using H.265 codec
  • Can output 4:2:2 8-bit 4K video over HDMI
  • Stripe pattern AF illuminator with 15m range
  • Weather-resistant magnesium alloy body
  • Context-sensitive adaptive noise reduction
  • 3" tilting Super AMOLED touchscreen display
  • 2.36M dot OLED EVF with 5ms lag
  • LCD info display on top of camera
  • Built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Optional battery grip

Those specification highlights should give you an idea of Samsung's ambitions for this camera: not only does it feature the largest BSI sensor we've ever seen but also the highest pixel count on that format. Just as importantly, it incorporates one of the most extensive on-sensor phase detection systems we've seen. This, along with the magnesium alloy body and top-plate LCD info display, makes it clear that Samsung wants its NX system to compete with the best APS-C models on the market.

As you can see, there are some features that have never been seen before on an enthusiast ILC, such as the sensor, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and use of the more efficient H.265 codec. The AF illuminator has a stripe pattern which allows for its long reach, although Sony did something similar with their Hologram AF feature many years ago.

The quad-core DRIMe V processor (derived from the Exynos SoCs Samsung uses in its high-end smartphones) is capable of cranking out giant 28 megapixel images at 15 fps, recording two different flavors of ultra high resolution video, and reducing EVF lag to almost nothing. The camera has a new autofocus system (NX AF System III) which the company says is the fastest on the market. It combines 209 contrast detection and 205 cross-type phase detect points that cover 90% of the frame.

Kit options and accessories

The NX1 will come in two kits. The body-only version has an MSRP of $1499.99, while the pricey 'premium kit' - which includes the 16-50mm F2-2.8 lens pictured throughout this article, as well as a battery grip, external charger[,] and extra battery - will set you back $2799.99.

The NX1 with the new 50-150mm F2.8 OIS telephoto zoom attached, and the 16-50mm F2-2.8 OIS to its right.

There are two premium 'S' lenses available from Samsung: the previously announced 16-50mm F2-2.8 OIS as well as the new 50-150mm F2.8 OIS tele zoom. Both are weather sealed, making them ideal companions for the NX1.

The optional battery grip holds an additional BP1900 battery, combining with the one inside the camera for double the battery life. It also features additional buttons and dials for shooting in the portrait orientation.