The number of features that the NX1 contains would fill several pages, so I’m simply going to talk about several key features and some unique items. One of the more unique items is Samsung’s Auto Shot. This collection of tools allows you to set your camera to a specific set of circumstances and have the camera take the shot at exactly the right time. As of Firmware 1.2, this includes Baseball, Jump and Trap Shot.
The baseball mode is intended to capture a shot of a batter exactly when the bat contacts the ball. Given that I was shooting in January and February with a 16-50mm lens, I didn’t really have a chance to test this mode. The Jump mode is designed to detect when a person is jumping and snap a shot at the apex of the jump. This mode I did get a chance to check out, and it worked as designed. In addition to perfectly capturing the peak of the jump (see the image to the right), the mode did snap a few shots prematurely. Still, these are less bothersome than missing the desired action you wanted to capture.
The trap shot mode is a new addition with Firmware 1.2, and allows you to set a pre-focus distance and a line that you can position for your subject to cross. When your subject crosses the line, the photo is taken.
While these modes are set for a specific set of circumstances, it’s great to see new features and creative options for shooting without needing specialized gear. The Auto Shot features may only be used sparingly, but it’s great to see Samsung push the envelope and find new advantages to using mirrorless technology.
One thing that does dampen the feature a bit, however, is that AutoShot doesn’t allow for RAW capture, which is a bizarre limitation in my opinion. It would be nice to see RAW support added for this mode in a future firmware update.
Wi-Fi and In-Camera RAW conversion
The Samsung NX1 comes fully featured with the standard Wi-Fi capabilities, and as you’d expect from an electronics company, the Wi-Fi features are implemented fairly well. Connecting the camera to your phone can be somewhat finicky, and it’s not always clear exactly where one needs to go, especially with an iPhone. The setup seems geared to Android, and even having set up the hotspot twice, I’m still unclear on exactly what I needed to do to get it running. The good news is that once you get it running, the Wi-Fi features work flawlessly.
The remote capture capabilities allow for changing all major shooting parameters, including PASM modes, refocusing, etc. The live feed to the smartphone has relatively low lag and a clear view. Shutter response when taking the picture is quick as well. In all, one of the better implemented remote shooting experiences I’ve seen.
Like all Wi-Fi enabled cameras, the NX1 can transfer images to your mobile device as well. Transferring is easy and quick, though unfortunately only JPEGs can be copied, and if you shoot RAW, you will need to convert selected files to JPEG prior to transfer.
The good news is that the NX1 has rather robust in-camera RAW conversion capabilities. A direct convert to JPEG option is available in the menu when reviewing images, but you can also edit the photos on the camera as well. Adjustments from exposure to color saturation, contrast and white balance can all be made prior to conversion. Samsung also allows you to apply special effects like their watercolor effect, selective color, fake tilt/shift and more. Images can be cropped and the touch screen is used to great effect to provide precise cropping of the final image. It’s very capable, but it’s not fully polished.
One of the things that lacks polish is the adjustments appear to ‘reset’ when you switch to a different tool. For instance, if I increase exposure +2, then exit to adjust contrast, when I go back into Exposure later, it shows back at ‘0’, even though the adjustment has been applied. It can be hard to keep track of the edits you’ve done if you’re adjusting multiple parameters. However, given the power of this feature in conjunction with Wi-Fi sharing, the overall capability is excellent.
Samsung has a very unique feature in the NX system called i-Function. The capability is present on the vast majority of NX lenses and camera bodies. The i-Function button is present on the side of the lens body and when pressed, the focus ring on the lens becomes a multifunction selection ring. Pressing the i-Fn button multiple times cycles through a series of adjustable parameters. For instance, one can press the button and use the focus ring as an aperture ring, or to adjust ISO, or white balance, or exposure compensation. The benefit of this is speed: changing aperture values dramatically is far faster using i-Function than it is using the traditional dials.
I think innovations like this are what excite me about Samsung as a camera maker: they don’t feel bound to tradition, but they still respect it. You don’t have to use any of the fancy features on the NX1: Samsung has designed a camera that operates quickly and surely with well thought out direct controls that will be familiar to most shooters. However, they also have taken the chance to branch out and try some truly interesting control paradigms and features, and this brings some real excitement to an industry where the big boys of Canon and Nikon still seem stuck in the past. Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and now Samsung are pushing the bar, and it’s really exciting.