Samsung NX Mini camera looks great, may miss the mark

/ Updated: March 20, 2014 2:01 PM PDT

Lori Grunin/CNET

One inch is getting big -- Samsung's now the third manufacturer to adopt the 1-inch sensor size, following the lead of Nikon and Sony. With its NX Mini, a camera with a completely new interchangeable-lens system, Samsung's going after the "style-conscious" buyer who wants a cell-phone companion camera that delivers better photo quality and more flexibility.

Samsung certainly seems to have gotten the "style" aspect. The NX Mini looks similar to the Fujifilm XF1 compact, and the combination of the magnesium alloy body with aluminum top plus faux leather is a lot more attractive (in my opinion, at least) than the comparatively sterile designs of the Nikon 1 and Sony RX100 lines.

The NIX Mini is under an inch thick without a lens, and remains a pocketable 1.4 inches thick when equipped with the 9mm pancake lens for one of the two initial kits. It will come in five different colors -- black, white, brown, light green, and the inevitable pink. It incorporates Samsung's signature 2014 suite of extensive and generally well-implemented connectivity options (detailed in the WB350 review). A touch-screen interface with selfie-friendly flip-up display and features also should hit the mark with its intended audience.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is the right camera for those folks. The two kit lenses Samsung will ship initially are a 9mm f3.5 pancake (24mm equivalent) and a 9-27mm f3.5-5.6 zoom (24-73mm equivalent). The 9mm lets the camera preserve its pocketable profile, but I don't think it makes a lot of sense for nonenthusiasts to supplement a fixed-focal-length phone camera with a camera equipped with a fixed-focal-length lens, regardless of the boost in photo quality. With the 9-27mm lens the camera is still attractive and compact, but not substantially more so than an APS-C- or Micro Four Thirds-based ILC. And both of the lenses are relatively slow; if indeed Samsung is right about people wanting shallower depth of field, these lenses can't sell it. A 17mm f1.8 (46mm equivalent) is slated to ship in July -- a little narrow for selfies but good for foodies -- but then we're back to the fixed focal-length conundrum.

A figurative show of hands: how many of you casual photographers would really prefer interchangeable lenses over a fast, fixed-lens zoom that retracts entirely like the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 and RX100 M2 have?

Samsung has also had to introduce a new lens mount for the system, dubbed NX-M, and while the broader selection of NX-mount lenses will work on the Mini with a $149 adapter, that also adds to the size and expense.

Nikon 1 J3 Samsung NX Mini Sony Cyber- shot DSC- RX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.2MP CMOS
12-bit
20.5MP BSI CMOS
n/a
20.2MP Exmor CMOS
n/a
13.2 x 8.8mm 13.2 x 8.8mm 13.2 x 8.8mm
Focal- length multiplier 2.7x 2.7x n/a
OLPF Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 160 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (expanded) / ISO 160 - ISO 12800 / ISO 25600 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6400
Burst shooting 15fps
22 JPEG/n/a
(60fps or 30fps with fixed AF)
6fps
(30fps at reduced resolution)
n/a
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
Viewfinder None None None
Autofocus 73-point phase detection, 135-area contrast AF 21-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed 30 - 1/16,000 sec (electronic); bulb; 1/60 x-sync 30 - 1/16,000 sec (electronic); bulb to 4 min; 1/200 x-sync 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Metering n/a 221 area n/a
Metering range n/a 0 - 18 EV n/a
Flash Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No No
IS Optical Optical Optical
Best video 1080/60i/30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p H.264 MPEG-4 AVCHD:
1080/60p/50p
stereo
Audio Stereo Mono Mono
LCD size 3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch tilt up
460,800 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Wireless Optional
(WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter, $59.95)
Wi-Fi, NFC None
Storage 1 x SD 1 x microSD 1 x SD
Battery life (CIPA rating) 220 shots 645 shots 330 shots
Size (WHD) 4 x 2.4 x 1.1 (inches)
101 x 60.5 x 28.8 (mm)
4.3 x 2.4 x 0.9 (inches)
110.4 x 61.9 x 22.5 (mm)
4 x 2.4 x 1.4 (inches)
101.6 x 58.1 x 35.9 (mm)
Body operating weight 7.1 oz (est)
201g (est)
6.9 oz (est)
158g (est)
8.5 oz
241g
Mfr. price
(US $)
n/a n/a $549.99
(built-in lens
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x)
$399.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $449 (with 9mm lens) n/a
$649.95 (with 10-30 and 30-110mm lenses) $569 (with 9-27mm lens) n/a
Ship date February 2014 April 2014 July 2012

Samsung certainly gets style and connectivity right, but it will be interesting to see if the NX Mini really appeals to enough people enough to buy. And I'm really curious to see how the Mini's photo quality stacks up against the rest of the 1-inch club.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 20.5 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1.0"