Two years ago, Samsung came to Photokina with just a couple of new lenses and little in the way of incentive for pro photographers to take its NX cameras seriously. The time since has been filled with consumer-centric selfie shooters and Android-powered cameras. Hoping to correct this history of neglect for the top tier of photography, Samsung today launches a new flagship NX1 Smart Camera — which does its best impersonation of a pro DSLR in a more compact size — alongside a high-end 50-150mm f/2.8 lens.
The $1,499 NX1 puts the focus squarely on speed and performance with an all-new 205-point autofocus system, a 15fps continuous shooting mode, and 4K video recording. Covering 90 percent of the frame, the phase-detect AF system is also available to use during video recording, which should make for smoother and steadier shots. Together with the newly introduced 50-150mm f/2.8 lens — which has multi-axis optical image stabilization — the NX1 could indeed prove to be a competent shooter for the challenging tasks of sports and action photography. Just keep in mind that it doesn't actually save you all that much relative to the DSLRs already available from the likes of Nikon and Canon. The big new lens costs $1,599 all by its lonesome and weighs nearly a kilogram.
Though it lacks the pentaprism that gives traditional DSLRs their big hump in the middle, Samsung's NX1 emulates their shape, if not their full size. The camera's body weighs 550g and comes with a built-in flash, an OLED electronic viewfinder, and a 3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen that tilts up and down to help compose shots from more awkward positions. Samsung also borrows another part from DSLR design by including an LCD screen at the top of the NX1 — an unusual feature for mirrorless cameras — which gives a quick readout of settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance.
Internally, the NX1 is built around a new 28-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, which is capable of shooting at up to ISO 25,600 (extensible to the equivalent of ISO 51,200). The "Smart" part of the NX1's full title refers to its connectivity options: this camera comes with Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth 3.0, allowing for fast file and information exchange with a nearby smartphone or tablet. The NX1 can tag photos with location and time metadata gathered from your phone before sending them over to it via Samsung's Photo Beam feature. And, of course, it'll allow for connected devices to serve as remote viewfinders and shutter triggers.
Availability of the new NX1 Smart Camera and the 50-150mm lens has yet to be determined, though Samsung suggests both should be on sale by the end of October. They mark a maturation of Samsung's NX family into a more capable camera system, however the big hurdle to their adoption remains the fact that it's only Samsung that is supporting that system. Without a truly killer feature that others can't match, it's tough to recommend buying into Samsung's camera ecosystem when there are better established ones with a wider selection of lenses and typically better image quality as well.