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Samsung NX1 review: This camera scores for shooting action

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The Good The Samsung NX1 is fast, well-designed, weather resistant and feature-packed, and it produces great photos and videos.

The Bad There's no charger included, and USB charging takes longer than we'd like. Plus, it could use tracking autofocus when you're shooting via the viewfinder.

The Bottom Line Fast, sturdy, well-designed and with excellent photo quality, the Samsung NX1 hits all the bases for action-shooting enthusiasts.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Image quality 8.0

Review Sections

Samsung has been making dSLR-style mirrorless interchangeable-lens models for years, but like many competitors they've suffered from performance issues. The company finally steps up its game with the NX1, a high-performance, high-quality camera that goes head-to-head with models like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II -- and quite effectively.

Image quality

Overall, the NX1 produces excellent photos; sharp, with a solid dynamic range and great color accuracy. The highlight detail could be a bit better, but that's really my only quibble. Default noise processing seems to err on the side of smoothness over detail above ISO 1600. Shooting raw can usually improve the detail but only by accepting additional grain, and will sometimes gain you some improvements in tonal range.

Photos look clean up to ISO 800 and remain very good through ISO 1600. By ISO 3200, you can start to see color noise in blacks and grays in JPEGs. That can be fixed in the midrange ISO sensitivities by tweaking the settings or by shooting raw.

From what I can tell, the video quality is extremely good, with minimal artifacts and nice tonality, and 4K is really sharp. I say "from what I can tell," because the only way to view the native HEVC-encoded video is with Cyberlink's Power Media Player; player software tends to do things like bump up the contrast when it renders to screen. In order to get the bundled version, you have to connect the camera to your system and use Samsung's iLauncher software. To edit the video, at least at the moment, you'll need to transcode it first. We went through the same thing when HD first rolled out, but it's never pleasant to live through the anarchy.

Analysis samples

JPEG photo quality is quite good up through ISO 1600, though some hazy edge artifacts start to appear at that point. Lori Grunin/CNET
Noise reduction becomes a lot more obvious once you hit ISO 3200, especially on out-of-focus areas. Above that JPEGs look just OK, and highlights and shadows drop off quickly. Lori Grunin/CNET
There was enough latitude in the photos to bring this accidentally underexposed shot up by four stops without introducing noise. It's not as good on the highlights, which seem to only have about two stops of latitude to correct overexposures without browning the whites. Lori Grunin/CNET
Both the 50-150mm f2.8 and 16-50 f2-2.8 (shown here) lenses produce very nice out-of-focus highlights. Lori Grunin/CNET
The NX1's color rendering is exceptionally neutral. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

The NX1 is an excellent performer, with the exception of battery life. While its 500 shots from a fully charged battery is quite good for a mirrorless model, it's generally disappointing for a camera in its price class. Though it's not that much worse than the 7D Mark II's lifespan between recharges, that camera's is pretty disappointing. (A dSLR in its class should get closer to 1,000 shots on a battery charge.)

It takes just under a second to power on and shoot; fast for a mirrorless, but not as fast as a typical $1,500 dSLR. Otherwise, it fares well compared to dSLRs and to the fastest competitor we've tested thus far, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (with the lastest firmware). Time to focus and shoot runs roughly 0.2- to 0.3-second in all lighting conditions. The same goes for two sequential shots, both raw and JPEG; adding flash recycle time increases it to 1.1 seconds, which is quite good.

The NX1 hits continuous shooting out of the park from a frame-rate perspective. It can sustain 14.4fps for an essentially unlimited number of best-quality JPEGs with autofocus -- greater than 85, at least, under our test conditions. Under optimal conditions -- greater than 1/500 sec and with a 280MB per second U3 UHS II SanDisk Extreme Pro card -- it reached 15.0fps in our testing. One caveat is that it's only capable of its fastest focus with the 16-50mm and 50-150mm lenses, which are nice lenses, but costly.

It can burst at about 14.5fps for 21 frames in raw, though when it slows it slows for 6 frames, then slows more, which I find harder to deal with than when the camera slows consistently. At least then you know how to compensate. I shot quite a bit of JPEG+raw on continuous, and though it couldn't sustain a long burst, it was sufficient for a few seconds at a time, and recovered relatively quickly -- there isn't as long a wait for it to save as there is with the E-M1. I also found 15fps too fast in many situations, and tended to drop it to 12fps or 10fps.

The biggest continuous-shooting issue is the lack of tracking autofocus when shooting through the viewfinder. It grabs focus quickly, but you have to pan, and if you're too fast or slow it locks on something else. If you shoot via the LCD you can use touch focus to assign the object to track, but that's really impractical. Also, for continuous AF, unless you go into the AF Release Priority menu, choose focus priority and then further choose accuracy priority, the results can be too inconsistent and it will more-than-occasionally miss focusing entirely. However, even 12 frames-per-second panning at f2.8 using the 50-150mm lens, I was able to get more in-focus shots than I expected.

The camera uses phase-detection for movie recording and Samsung claims focusing characteristics similar to those of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS in the 70D , and as far as I can tell there's no pulsing or excessive hunting.

Shooting speed

Samsung NX1
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.3
1.0
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.8
Olympus OM-D EM1
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.7

Legend:

Typical shutter lag
Dim-light shutter lag
JPEG shot-to-shot time
Raw shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Seconds (smaller is better)

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