Samsung put everything it has learned about producing prosumer-level small-body cameras into their first contender in the professional 4K arena, the Samsung NX1. The results are truly remarkable. Especially for the price. The overachieving NX1 camera sells for $1,499 (body only) and delivers 4K video, clean 4K HDMI output, onboard H.265 SSD recording, and a uniquely clever auto-focus system that works with interchangeable lenses.
“There has been a lot of incrementalism in the digital camera world over the past decade, with manufacturers giving each of their subsequent models a few new feature upgrades,” notes Jay Kelbley, senior marketing manager for digital imaging at Samsung. “Our goal at Samsung was to put all of the technology we could into our new camera all at once. That’s why we gave the Samsung NX1 features like the biggest back-illuminated sensor (BSI) ever rolled out, making it the world’s first APS-C sensor to adopt back-side illuminated pixel technology.”
As a still camera, the Samsung NX1 can shoot continuous bursts of 15 28-megapixel images per second. In movie mode, the camera shoots up to 24 fps in 4K (4096 x 2160), 30 fps in UHD (3840 x 2160) and 60 fps in HD (1920 x 1080). It boasts IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi connectivity, moisture sealing to make it water resistant, a new DRIMe V image processor, and the super fast Auto Focus System III, which uses 205 phase detection auto-focus points and another 209 contrast auto-focus points to allow the camera to track subjects almost anywhere in the frame.
You can record 4K in H.265 onto the camera’s internal SSD card, or in Apple’s ProRes format to an external recorder. The NX1 supports native ISO of 100 to 25600 and extended ISO to 51200, letting you capture well exposed images with reduced noise in low-light shots.
“The bottom line is that there is more processing power rolled into the Samsung NX1 than any other camera in the DSLR studio market to date,” Kelbley says. “We even built it into a magnesium alloy body for the solid feel experienced photographers expect. But it is the digital signal processing and all the computing technology we engineered into the Samsung NX1 that really sets it apart.”
Adding on to the $1,500 cost for the Samsung NX1 camera body, you can get a kit lens version with Samsung’s 16-50mm power zoom lens for $1,699 or a “pro bundle” that includes a battery grip with extra battery and 16-50mm S ED OIS f/2.8 power zoom lens for $2,799.
“These cameras can jump right into a videographer’s HD rigs and bring them up to 4K shooting for a fraction of what it had previously cost,” Kelbley says. “The camera was announced last September, and in a firmware update last December we gave it the option of ‘cinematic’ multiple speed auto-focus that provides a range of lens focus transition speeds.”
How is the Samsung NX1 performing for early adopter videographers testing it in real-world situations?
“I’ve worked with all the larger, heavier digital cinema cameras, but I always preferred the smaller camera form factor,” says Ed David, a Brooklyn-based freelance cinematographer. “That provides a much more intimate shooting experience, and I really appreciate the Samsung NX1’s H.265 compression, which can put an amazing amount of data onto its SSD card.”
David takes advantage of the NX1’s capacity for interchangeable lenses, fitting a Fotodiox lens adapter on his camera so he can use his existing Nikon lenses. “I prefer the sharpness of Nikon glass, so I was glad I could keep using them,” he says.
You can see videos David shot with the Samsung NX1 and Nikon lenses on his web site, www.kittyguerrilla.com, or watch his introspective short film “The Quiet Escape” below.
You’ll notice that David likes to shoot flat, log-like images with the contrast turned all the way down. He employs Samsung’s Movie Converter video converter software to turn the H.265 recordings into ProRes for editing. The result produces blacks deep enough to dive into.
David’s only objection is the jello-like effect produced by the camera’s CMOS shutter and some occasional line skipping he has noticed in its 1080p mode. But he credits Samsung with releasing firmware updates on a regular basis, so he knows the NX1’s functionality is only going to improve over time.
“The camera’s 4K performance is excellent. Despite its price, I’ve used it on a shoot where the RED Dragon was the A-camera,” David says, “and the shots intercut just fine.”
Andrew Putschoegl took this still with the Samsung NX1: ISO 800, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/200 sec
Videographer/director Andrew Putschoegl got his Samsung NX1 last November and has used it to shoot projects including a short film and music videos. His credits are online at ninjagoldfish.com.
“I am a one-man band,” he says. “The NX1 has exceptional auto-focus capability, which can be crucial when you are working without a crew. The ability to adjust its response speed via the touchscreen on the back of the camera lets me vary its reaction time to find critical focus depending on whether I am moving or on sticks.”
A screen grab from a video Andrew Putschoegl shot for the Walker Workshop
A button on the camera gives Putschoegl a 16:9 preview of what the video will capture. “That way, if I set it up to shoot a flatter picture with a wider dynamic range so I can color correct it later, I can set the camera to record video with different parameters than any still images I capture,” says Putschoegl. “It is also huge that I can shoot 4K directly to the internal SSD card. On a recent shoot, we did hook up an Atomos Shogun to record in ProRes, but if I don’t have time to set up an external recorder, I can still bring back gorgeous 4K shots in H.265.”
Putschoegl is aggressive about setting image parameters inside the camera during shooting rather than waiting for post. “I can create my own gamma profiles, I can adjust the master black levels and I can determine the overall dynamic range just like on the really expensive digital cinema cameras. It’s a tool, like any camera, but it offers a lot of incredible features for the price.”
Wasim Muklashy is a freelance videographer in the Los Angeles area. You can see examples of his globe-spanning work at www.wasimofnazareth.com.
Sunset at Santa Monica State Beach, photographed by Wasim Muklashy with Samsung NX1: ISO 500, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec
“Realtors are increasingly asking for high-end real estate videos, and the Samsung NX1 lets me produce them for the budgets they expect,” Muklashy explains. “I’ve even been using it for a client who teaches ‘drifting’ to stunt drivers.”
The articulated 76.6mm (3 inch) Super AMOLED tilt display comes in especially handy when stretching down for low-angle shots of the cars. He says, “Along with the NX1’s Wi-Fi capability, the display lets me get those crucial perspectives without risking life and limb.”
Muklashy is hard-pressed to name the NX1 feature that he likes best. “It blows my mind that I can get this quality out of a camera with the form factor of the NX1,” he says. “Among the features I especially value are its easily accessible headphone and microphone jacks. That way my shotgun or boom can go directly into the camera and I can monitor audio while I am shooting.”
If you are looking to add 4K shooting to your repertoire, Samsung’s Jay Kelbley would point to the NX1’s smaller brother, the Samsung NX500, that was released in February. For $799 including lens, the NX500 can get you into 4K videography with the same HEVC codec as the NX1, along with capabilities such as Samsung’s Auto Shot (SAS) feature, which uses motion detection to accurately predict when to capture the perfect shot in run-and-gun scenarios. Now, neither cost, form factor or advanced capabilities should keep any digital videographer from stepping up to 4K production.