Really anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Samsung NX-1. The initial specs and good reviews from a photographer who is already shooting it may be what ultimately has kept me from buy a full framer.

As many here know it takes me a while to warm up to some things and I am an "early adopter" of others. For instance, it took me nearly two years to be civil with the Olympus OMD EM-5 but I bought one of the very first EVF enabled Olympus interchangeable lens cameras to hit Texas (the EP-2 with VF-2). I embraced the EVF in the Sony a77 even quicker. But I've been a slow study with the various cameras that Samsung has sent my way. I've always been happy enough with the actual imaging but the operational aspects of both the Samsung Galaxy NX and the NX30 left me wanting something more.

I mentioned in an earlier blog today that I had occasion to compare files from two different cameras on the same shoot recently. We shot the initial images back in early September and the client involved just made their final selections a few days ago. This morning I opened a raw image from a Nikon D7100 and a raw image from the Samsung NX 30, both outfitted with 85mm lenses, and I compared them. They were of the same person in the same lighting and in the same location. A pretty convincing test I thought.

The caveat with any test like this is in the use of two different lenses. The Samsung had their 85mm 1.4 while the Nikon sported their very well reviewed 85mm 1.8G series lens. I won't bore you with the long winded discussion but suffice it to say that I was notably more impressed with the Samsung file version even though, by all measures, the Nikon should have been technically better. I went back and looked at a number of other cross samples from the same shoot and it nearly every instance the image from the much cheaper NX30 was----better. A subjective analysis but true to my vision.

After I finished doing the post processing which consisted of smoothing some skin and taking care of some wispy black hair against a light blue background I started reviewing what I knew about the newest camera from Samsung. The NX1.  If what I am hearing from the company and from one of the photographers shooting that camera bears out in the final, delivered product it may represent exactly what I want in a camera. Dear camera gods, please help them get it right.

The imaging sensor should be one of the best in its APS-C class in that it's an all new, BSI technology sensor which means more space for chubbier, happier pixels. With 28 megapixels and no AA filter it should be within striking distance of the resolution of the Nikon D810 but at less than half the price.

Stop and think about it for a second. 28 million pixels on a low noise chip in a $1499 camera. But the amazing thing is that it will shoot at 15 frames per second with full AF instead of the 6 frames per second of the 810. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that kind of throughput.

While I think that's pretty cool, gee whiz technology I'm rarely worried about the shooting speed of a camera as much as I am concerning about the usability of a camera. In that regard the NX30 wasn't bad it was just a bit slow and a bit rough. The EVF is okay but needed more resolution and much better contrast. That's supposed to be fixed in the NX1. Not just fixed but "best in class."  The other handling issues were all about interface responsiveness. The switch from LCD panel to EVF was too slow and subject to uncertainty if there was a high amount of ambient light. In the first iteration the time from button push to menu implementation was too slow.  And the camera was too light to feel like a precision tool.

If the viewfinder is great and the imaging quality of the sensor lives up to the initial fanfare I think it will be a camera that clouds the issue of full frame versus EVF for me. While most people seem to think that full frame is better no matter what I'm not really on that team. Fast, good glass makes up for the difference in out of focus backgrounds and fast focus fall off. The advantage on the other side of the coin is that there are probably more professional situations where it's more important to get what you need in focus than have the out of focus effect. And APS-C as well as m4:3 both do better in that regard.

Here's my hope for the NX1. A wonderful, glamorous and transparent EVF. A wonderfully done sensor with a heaping helping of dynamic range and low noise up to ISO 3200. (By that I mean that shooting at 3200 should look about like shooting at ISO 800). And fast camera response to the controls and the menus. If they get that right I'll be happy to use the camera to make enormous numbers of great portraits with the 85mm 1.4 lens I already have and love. It has always seemed like a brilliant lens looking for a compatible camera. I'll know in a week or two if that's how the story turns out. I'm not ready to be a total photo snob and only buy from long established vendors. Sometimes a bit of disruption helps move innovation while providing curious users with fun tools.

I am a little surprised that I am anticipating this one to a greater degree than most cameras. I guess the bigger the promise the greater the interest.

And, of course, I am sure our loyal VSL readers can hardly wait for me to wring out the video and see how it performs....  (a tiny bit of sarcasm..).

Won't it be funny if after their few false starts Samsung creates a camera that leapfrogs over the leaders? Well, not to surprising since they already get how important the EVF is going forward....


WookieeGunner said...

As one of the VSL readers, I definitely can't wait to see how this one turns out. I've desperately looking for something with an EVF that can handle the shots my G6 struggles with and like you I think this might be the one.

Rob Spring said...

Yesterday, Bob (Bob's Camera - Barre Vermont) called to tell me the NX1 was in the store along with a Samsung rep. I hightailed it down and spent an hour with the camera. All I can say is - amazing. It was the best ergonomically designed camera I ever held in my hand. The 16-50 f2.8 was better built than any of my Nikon glass, the smoothest zoom I've ever used. The 50-200 f2.8 was equally well built. My only complaint about the system was it was not lightweight , but that said it seemed lighter than my D600 with similar lenses. The technology built into the camera will take a little time to adapt, but it seemed well thought out and with 10 user defined operating modes stored in the camera allowing you to assign any two to the C1 and C2 on the selection dial, it will meet most any imaging situation you might run into. I will definately be considering the NX1 as my next high end camera.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, this just might be THE camera of 2014. Waiting for real life images of it, like Rob Spring I had the chance to play with one and loved just about everything in it. Was not allowed to get files to play with so that is the only question mark. The EVF was real fast and looked great, same with the scree, no lag at all. Some serious horsepower under the hood.

Milo said...

Kirk. Think you will really like the NX1. Miles ahead in every respect as compared to the NX30. Borrowed one to shoot an assignment on Halloween. A happy camper.... pretty sure you will be one too.

HF said...

Although I use m43 and APSC, too, it is not true, that you can't get the same DOF with FF (you said m43 and APSC do better here). Simply stop down the FF camera. For the same sensor generation you can compensate using higher ISO values to achieve an equivalent image. Furthermore, lens performance increases by stopping down giving you (theoretically) even sharper images, as with a m43 camera your lens needs to resolve twice the number of line pairs to compensate for the smaller sensor (to achieve the same number of line pairs/pixel height). I'm sure the Samsung is a good camera and the lenses as well. But my issue so far with mirrorless is that the faster lenses are extremely expensive. Another thing to be tested is AF tracking performance. 15 fps sound good, but will it lead to 15 perfectly focused pictures when tracking in sports events in dim light? If the Samsung lives to it's promise, I can imagine getting one, too. But my handling of it at Photokina didn't convince me. The wheels felt flimsy, the 4-way controller, too. I'm looking forward to your analysis of the production model. Maybe the quirks I experienced are ironed out.

Nigel said...

Agreed; it looks a very interesting camera.
(And just when M4/3 was getting a full range of excellent lenses...)

Amongst other goodies, the EVF apparently has a 5ms (!) lag:

Corwin Black said...

Im very curious about NX1 too.. 28 mpix squeezed into APS-C and using backlit CMOS are something pretty interesting. Rest of system seems quite "pro ready" for a while now..

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm going to be really curious from a social science perspective if the NX1 really does a big technical leap frog move over the competitors just how the consumers for those niches will react. Will they go into "waiting mode" to see if CaNikon parries and ups the anté or will they have the will to change systems and run with the new camera? I know most will stick with the lenses they have and wait for new bodies but it's an interesting "what if?"

AaronL said...

I can't see Samsung gaining much market share on the pro photo scene, even if the NX1 is amazing. The first question I ask myself when considering switching systems is- Who do I call when it breaks?
This question has prevented Olympus, Panasonic and even Sony from making it into many photographers bags. It's all about support. Most pros don't run multiple systems, it's usually all or nothing with a brand.
Your Canon or Nikon needs service? well off to the service centre they go... but my impression of electronics giants like Samsung is that if you have a problem within your 12 month warranty they'll replace it but after that your on your own...
So, show me the solid support network and then I'll consider it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Aaron, I think that's kind of old school thinking. Many of us working pros have abandoned the Nikon and Canon Pro plantation to take up Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic and we have no illusions that someone will swoop in a fix our issues when they arise. You also have to take into consideration that there are thousands of newbies entering the pro ranks around the world everyday and it is only in a handful of wealthy countries that the pro services even exists. The people in the other 148 countries can't get that same service and are perhaps better off with the non-Canikon stuff because they get good value, better cameras for their purposes and they would not get Nikon USA pro service anyway. Also, to get the pro service you have to be using one of the approved "pro" bodies even if you don't need most or any of its additional features. A sly way to lock in sales that otherwise might be perceived as unnecessary. Finally, digital cams are more or less disposable these days after the warranty runs out. The depreciation in digital is so steep that by the time most cameras need a major repair it makes more sense to replace.

AaronL said...

I'm not so sure Kirk. I've worked in a few European countries (I am Irish) and while the 'Canikon'Pro Centres don't always exist there are usually dealers who will sort problems with the major brands for you. I've availed many times of loaner bodies and lenses while my nikons were shipped to the U.K. for repair. I don't want to sound like a spokes-person for Nikon but there's not many places on the globe where you can't access their dealer network in some form.
I think you'd find that the futher you venture into those 148 other countries the more likely you'll meet photographers with a big old Canon or nikon weighing them down.
And while you might be ok with buying new bodies every year or so, you won't feel the same about the lenses, the Samsung fast zooms are not cheap either.
I know a few photographers who have bought into mirrorless systems, Fuji being the most popular by far (on my travels anyhow), but I don't see them being used much, other than for personal projects perhaps. This may change in the future of course.

Mark Davidson said...

For me the issue of "pro" lies with the photographer and not with the camera. A pro will bring gear appropriate to get the job done.

In duplicate.