Samsung Galaxy NX review
23.4x15.7mm 20.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 703g
We've seen some weird and wonderful cameras this year, but the Samsung Galaxy NX might just top the lot. From the front, it's recognisably a Samsung NX camera, which means interchangeable lenses and an APS-C sensor for SLR-level image quality. View it from behind, though, and it could almost be mistaken for a smartphone. Only the viewfinder hump gives the game away.
This isn't the first Samsung camera to run the Android operating system – the Samsung Galaxy Camera takes that accolade. It's certainly the most audacious, though – and the most expensive. At £1,250 including VAT, this camera is going up against some heavyweight rivals, including the Canon EOS 70D and Panasonic GH3 .
For us, cameras at this price needs to be practical, flexible and reliable, letting keen photographers concentrate on being creative. A camera that runs a mobile phone operating system doesn't seem like the most obvious candidate to meet these criteria, but we were determined to put our preconceptions to one side and take the Galaxy NX at face value.
FEATURES AND HANDLING
After we got over our initial feelings of bewilderment, our immediate impression was that this is a quality piece of kit. The substantial handgrip fits the hand perfectly, with a sculpted thumb rest on the rear for comfortable one-handed operation. The viewfinder comes on automatically as the camera is raised to the eye, and it's big and detailed, with a 1.4-million-dot resolution. Then there's the main LCD screen, with its 4.7in diagonal size and 1280x720 resolution. Some people may be disappointed that it isn't a 1,920x1,080 AMOLED screen, but compared to any other digital camera, its size and sharpness are nothing short of a revelation.
The controls took a bit longer to get used to. There's a command dial that acts as a mode dial by default, while pushing it inwards cycles through exposure-related settings. It works well enough, but we'd have preferred a dedicated, labelled mode dial. The iFn button and focus ring on the lens provide access to the same exposure-related settings, and are quicker to adjust.
There's a physical button to raise the flash, but all other functions are accessed via the touchscreen. This is perfect for moving the autofocus point, which simply involves touching anywhere on the screen. However, this means that autofocus point selection isn't possible while using the viewfinder. On a couple of occasions we set the point, raised the camera to eye level and inadvertently moved the point again with a prod of the nose. If Samsung could turn nose control into a carefully implemented feature, it might really be onto something.
For everything else, it's a trip to the menus. These are well organised but can't compete with the physical buttons on similarly priced cameras for speed of operation. We had to wait for around five seconds after capturing a RAW image, and anything up to 40 seconds after a burst of frames, as the cog icon to access the menu is unavailable while photos are being saved.
To its credit, continuous performance is seriously quick, delivering 8fps shooting for 18 JPEGs or five RAW frames before slowing. Even after that, it still managed 4.2fps for JPEGs, although RAW performance was less impressive at 0.7fps. Shot-to-shot times in normal use were excellent at 0.7 seconds. Autofocus was generally quick, but it sometimes struggled to lock onto vague or moving subjects in low light.
1080p video capture is at 25 or 30fps, with a 1,920x810 option at 24fps that mimics the CinemaScope format widely used in cinemas. There's full control over exposure settings for creative videographers. Videos were seriously sharp, although diagonal lines had a pixelated appearance. Some videos suffered from frequent focus hunting, where the autofocus system struggled to lock onto its target. In most cases, we were able to suppress it with an onscreen manual focus button that appears during recording. The camera also includes a focus peaking function, which highlights sharply focussed subjects in manual focus mode, but it's not available during video capture.