Samsung has certainly put lots of thought and features into the NX1. It looks and feels like a serious camera and has plenty that will appeal to enthusiast photographers who have yet to commit to a compact system camera (CSC) brand. It lacks a few of the customisation options of cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or Canon 5D Mark III, but it is easy to use.
Samsung also has some nice lenses and the introduction of the 50-150mm f/2.8 offers the serious photographer's favoured telephoto range of around 75-225mm with a fixed wide maximum aperture.
At £1,299 (approx US$2110/AU$1,175) the NX1's price is not to be sniffed at, but it seems pretty good when you consider how many features the camera offers and its durable build. However, Samsung needs to entice photographers away from more popular or traditional camera brands, so it can't set the price too high.
While Samsung has used SLR-like styling, the designers are to be congratulated on managing to make it look so modern and up-to-date. I wonder, however, if it would grab the attention of even more photographers if it had a few more traditional controls – dials for adjusting shutter speed, sensitivity and exposure compensation for example; perhaps even a ring around the lens mount for controlling aperture. The lure of retro design is very strong at the moment and I think it's more than just a desire to relive the past; it's a recognition that some methods of controlling a camera just work really well.
That said, I'm a big fan of touchscreens, especially when they are as bright and clear as the one on the NX1 and combined with a helpful array of physical controls. A touchscreen offers a much more intuitive way of operating a camera, making setting selections and scrolling though images.
I also think that electronic viewfinders are the way ahead, allowing the photographer to see the impact of camera settings before taking a shot. A shortcoming, however, has been the lag times which make it hard to follow a moving subject across the scene. Happily, the NX1's EVF is very responsive and although it does freeze momentarily, it possible to follow a moving subject. It's also possible to see whether the active AF point is over the correct area as the subject moves.
Zebra patterns in the EVF or on the main screen are also a very convenient way of seeing which areas are in danger of burning out, because they overlay the affected parts of the scene and don't take up space like a histogram does.
Two of the most important factors for enthusiast photographers are that the NX1's high pixel count, back-illuminated sensor enables it to record an impressively high level of detail and noise levels are controlled well at all but the highest sensitivity settings.
Further good news is that the camera feels very comfortable in the hand, controls are with easy reach and there are seals to keep dust and moisture out. It's also very quiet to use even when shooting at 15fps so it doesn't draw attention to itself.
I'm an advocator for electronic viewfinders (EVF), I don't think that they are perfect yet, but they are the way ahead for cameras. The EVF in the NX1 is excellent. It gives a wonderfully smooth, clear view, refreshes quickly and is a pleasure to use.
Samsung's Jump and Baseball mode are fun additions that are made possible by the high-powered processing engine, but they seem a little out of place on a camera of this level. I'd prefer so see greater customisation options and the ability to tailor the response of the autofocus system a little to suit the subject. The new 50-150mm f/2.8 lens enables the AF distance to be restricted, which is handy when there are distracting objects around the subject, but it would also be nice to be able to adjust the speed with which the camera responds to changes in subject distance and the like.
Samsung also needs to sort out the Manual Focus Assist, which currently only enlarges the centre of the frame. It needs to be possible to magnify other areas for focusing on off-centre subjects.
I would also have preferred the tilting screen to have been a vari-angle device because it would be much more help when shooting upright images from awkward angles.
The Samsung NX1 is an excellent camera and one that has successfully grabbed the attention of enthusiast photographers. It feels great in the hand, is weatherproof, provides plenty of control within easy reach, is enjoyable to use and produces superb quality images.
A little more in the way of customisation wouldn't go amiss, including the ability to set AF point directly via the navigation controls, but this could be fixed with a firmware update if Samsung is willing.
All things considered, I'm very impressed with the Samsung NX1.