Samsung NX1000 review

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fast performance
  • Good image quality

Cons

  • Dodgy phone apps
  • Plastic body
  • Low-light focusing

Back in June I reviewed the Samsung NX200, a second-generation example of the company's impressive APS-C mirrorless NX system. At the time of the review the NX200 had already been on sale for eight months, which in the fast-moving world of the compact system camera market is an eternity. I like to keep these camera reviews as up-to-date as possible, so to make up for that very late review, today I'm taking a look at the new NX1000, which went on sale in the UK in June this year.

The NX1000 isn't a replacement for the NX200; that comes in the slim and attractive shape of the NX210, which was launched at the same time. Instead, the NX1000 is a cheaper alternative and serves as an entry-level camera to Samsung's three-model NX range. Priced at £499.99 for the kit you see here, complete with 20-50mm lens and add-on flash unit, the NX1000 is £200 cheaper than the NX210 and £300 cheaper than the range-topping NX20. Despite this, it shares many of the same features with the more expensive models, including its powerful 20.3-megapixel 23.5 x 15.7mm APS-C CMOS sensor.

Samsung's NX system is relatively new, starting in 2010 with the NX10 and a couple of lenses. There are now eight lenses available, ranging from a 16mm wide-angle "pancake" lens to an 18-200mm super-zoom designed for video use. More lenses are promised soon. As well as lenses there are other accessories including a couple of flashguns, an electronic viewfinder and a GPS module for geotagging.

Design and controls

The body of the NX1000 is quite similar to the NX200, but it's not identical. It's the same height as the older model, but a little narrower and a little thinner, although it is exactly the same weight - a surprisingly light 271g minus the lens. The shape, too, is slightly different, with the lens positioned further to the left of the body leaving more room for the user's fingers between the lens barrel and the handgrip.

The handgrip has lost the rubber grip pad on the front, but it is still quite comfortable and secure to hold, and has a thumb grip area on the back. The overall build quality is good, but the lightweight body is made mostly of plastic and does creak a bit if given a good squeeze. The kit lens also has a plastic barrel, and feels very light and insubstantial.

One feature that distinguishes the NX1000 from the rest of the NX range is the monitor. The two more expensive models get Samsung's acclaimed AMOLED screen, but the NX1000 has to settle for a 7.6cm (3in) TFT LCD. It's no handicap though; the screen is bright, sharp and clear, with excellent contrast, a fast refresh rate, an extremely wide viewing angle and a moderately effective anti-glare surface.

The control layout is also very similar to the NX200, but again with slight changes. It has the same multi-function D-pad with a rotary bezel, which is used to adjust most of the camera's functions, and navigate through both a main menu and a graphical function menu for quick settings. Main mode selection is via a large dial on the top plate. As with the other NX models the NX1000 has a full range of exposure options, including program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure. As well as these, it has multiple scene modes and smart scene selection. The button layout is a little different, with exposure compensation shifted onto the D-pad and ISO setting adjustment done via the function menu. The most obvious difference though is the addition of the "Smart Link" button on the top plate.

Features

The NX1000 is the latest of many cameras to include built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which can be used to share pictures via email. It's fairly easy to use, and no harder to set up than connecting a smartphone to a Wi-Fi network. The Smart Link function is fairly quick and easy to use. You can choose from a list of in-range Wi-Fi signals, enter the password if required, then enter your name and optionally a "from" email address. Add a recipient's email address, choose which pictures you'd like to send, and off they go. Pictures are reduced in size to 2.1 megapixels and compressed down to around 44KB for transmission, which obviously reduces overall quality, so if you want to share high quality pictures you'll have to wait until you can download onto a PC, but as a way of quickly sharing a snapshot it's certainly faster than sending a postcard.

The NX1000 offers other Wi-Fi features too. Selecting "Wi-Fi" on the main mode dial leads to a menu of options, including Remote Viewfinder and MobileLink, both of which are intended to work with free smartphone apps downloaded from Google Play or Apple App Store. I installed both the Remote Viewfinder and MobileLink apps on my HTC Sensation, a fairly recent high-spec Android smartphone, and connected the NX1000 to my home Wi-Fi network, but despite repeated attempts I couldn't get either one to communicate with the camera. To make matters worse both apps kept disabling my phone's Wi-Fi connection, even going so far as to reset the network password. I think the problem here is with the apps, not the camera. I don't have an iPhone to test the iOS versions, but the Android versions clearly need some urgent attention.

The other Wi-Fi options, including direct posting to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube or Photobucket, all work perfectly well, and there are also options to remotely upload your pictures to your PC or the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage service. I've previously stated that I don't consider Wi-Fi connectivity to be much of a selling point for a camera. I've never yet seen such a feature that works smoothly, and the NX1000 has done little to change my opinion. I suppose the ability to instantly post your pictures on social media sites might be appealing to some, but it's really not something I'd pay extra for.

One feature that is worth the cash is the NX1000's excellent video recording mode. It records in full HD 1,920 x 1,080 at 30fps with stereo audio, and offers professional features such as manual exposure options in video mode, Picture Wizard scene effects, voice recording and more. The video and audio quality are excellent, although the built-in microphones are rather prone to wind noise.

Performance

The NX1000's overall performance is very good. It can start up and take a picture in approximately 2.5 seconds, and in single shot mode the shot-to-shot time is approximately 1.6 seconds, which is approaching DSLR speed. Like all CSCs the NX1000 uses contrast detection autofocus, but Samsung's multi-point AF is very quick and accurate, and even works well with moving subjects, although as with the NX200 is does slow down a lot in low light. The NX1000 has several burst and continuous shooting modes, the fastest of which can shoot at 8fps in both JPEG and Raw modes for up to eight shots.

The NX1000 has no built-in flash, but there is a small clip-on flash available either as an optional extra or as a bundled accessory with the SEF8A kit seen here. It's a neat little unit and matches the camera well, but it has to be said it's not particularly powerful, with a guide number of only eight at 100 ISO. Most full-size accessory flashguns are three or four times as powerful. It does at least offer a full range of flash mode options, including first or second curtain sync.

Image quality

And so finally we come to the section of the review that will make or break a camera. All the HD bells and Wi-Fi whistles are worthless if the image quality isn't up to scratch, but the NX1000 has nothing to worry about in this respect. Not too surprisingly, the image quality is pretty much identical to the NX200. It produces virtually noise-free shots at 400 ISO, and usable pictures all the way up to 6400 ISO. The 12800 ISO maximum setting is a bit of a stretch, but even here the contrast and colour reproduction are better than some rivals.

Naturally, that powerful 20-megapixel sensor produces plenty of fine detail, and the kit lens is excellent, producing pin-sharp detail across the frame with no distortion, and only a faint trace of chromatic aberration towards the edges of the frame, which apparently I missed in my review of the NX200. Colour reproduction is superb, with rich natural-looking colours, especially of foliage. Dynamic range could possibly be a bit better in JPEG mode, and might well be better in Raw mode. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this since the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw doesn't yet support the NX1000, and my review sample arrived without the software disc. That's one slight disadvantage of reviewing the very latest cameras!

Verdict

Although relatively new, Samsung's NX system is developing quickly, with the NX1000 representing its third generation. It's a well-sorted little camera and certainly above expectations for an entry-level model. It has plenty of useful features as well as a couple that may need a little work, but on the whole it's a very nice camera to use and produces some very pleasing results. The Wi-Fi connectivity is of questionable usefulness considering the non-functional smartphone apps that accompany it, but it's a nice bonus if you can make use of it.

This is the full frame at 200 ISO, the minimum setting. As usual, all these ISO test shots were done using tungsten studio lights, +0.6EV compensation and manual white balance. Download the full-size image.

200 ISO, f/5.6, 1/10 sec. As you can see the results at the minimum ISO setting are superb, with perfectly smooth colour.

400 ISO, f/6.3, 1/15 sec. At 400 ISO, the results are pretty much identical to 200.

800 ISO, f/8, 1/25 sec. There's a hint of colour mottling at 800 ISO but no real noise at all.

1600 ISO, f/9, 1/30 sec. At 1600 ISO, there is a slight dusting of colour noise beginning to creep in, but it's barely noticeable.

3200 ISO, f/11, 1/50 sec. At 3200 ISO, the noise reduction is reducing the fine detail, but colour reproduction remains fairly accurate.

6400 ISO, f/13, 1/60 sec. Noise is very visible at 6400 ISO, and image quality is suffering, but the picture is still printable at smaller size.

12800 ISO, f/16, 1/100 sec. At the maximum 12800 ISO, there is a lot of noise, but then you'd only be using this setting in extreme circumstances anyway.

This is the full frame at the maximum ISO setting. Download the full-size image.

Here's the usual shot I take with all cameras so you can compare the level of detail. Click to download the full-sized version, but be warned it's 9.5MB.

As you can see the amount of detail that the NX1000 records is very high, comparable with a good mid-range DSLR and much better than any compact.

The kit lens does a good job, producing no optical distortion even at the wide angle end. Download the full-size version.

This crop from the centre of the frame shows excellent sharpness and contrast.

A corner crop from the same frame shows no blurring and only a hint of purple/green chromatic aberration.

The dynamic range in JPEG mode isn't as good as I'd expected, but until I can access the Raw mode shots that I took it'll have to do. Download the full-size image.

This is the wide angle end of the 20-50mm kit lens. Download the full-size image.

Taken from the same position as above, this is the long end of the 20-50mm kit lens. Download the full-size image.

Colour reproduction is rich and well-saturated, but still retains detail even in the bright areas. Download the full-size image.

The quick AF system allows you to react swiftly to passing moments. Download the full-size image.

Close-range focusing is quick and accurate. Download the full-size image.

Manufacturer and Model

Samsung NX1000

Image sensor

APS-C CMOS, 23.5 x 15.7mm

Max. resolution

20.3-megapixels

Zoom

By lens

Focal length (35mm)

By lens

Maximum aperture

By lens

Shutter speeds

30 sec - 1/4000th

Auto-Focus

Contrast detection

Manual focus

Yes

Exposure control

PASM, Smart Auto, Scene modes

Exposure metering

TTL multi-zone, C/W, spot

Image stabilisation

Optical stabilisation on some NX lenses

ISO range

100 - 12800

LCD monitor

7.6cm (3in) TFT LCD, 921k dots

Viewfinder

N/A

Flash

(Optional accessory) GN 8 at 100 ISO

Drive modes

Single, continuous (3 or 8fps), burst mode

Image formats

JPEG, Raw

Video

1,920 x 1,080 HD, stereo audio, H.264

Memory card slot

SD/SDHC/SDXC

Supplied memory

N/A

Battery

1030mAh li-ion, 320 shots (CIPA)

Ports

USB 2.0, Mini HDMI

Dimensions (W x H x D)

114 x 62.5 x 35mm not inc. lens

Weight (body only)

271g inc. battery & card, no lens.

Accessories

Neck strap, lens cap, flash gun, software disk

Software

Intelli-studio 3.0, Samsung RAW Converter 4

Warranty

12 months