Camera Conspiracies: Samsung NX1: Worth Buying in 2020 as Best Hybrid Camera?

“Best camera of 2014 might still be the best camera of 2020 and beyond. The Samsung NX1 was so innovative for it’s time, companies are still trying to catch up. But Samsung doesn’t make cameras or lenses anymore, they focus on smartphones and toasters. Is it worth buying into a dead system? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of the Samsung NX1 in 2020 with the pro 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens.”

Samsung NX1 with Samsung Premium S 50-150mm f/2.8 ED OIS zoom lens. Image courtesy of Samsung.
Fujifilm X-T3 alongside the legendary Samsung NX1, until the release of the X-T3 and X-T4 the  most advanced APS-C/Super 35 DSLR-style mirrorless camera. Image by Karin Gottschalk.

Samsung introduced one of the most promising lines ever of professional-quality APS-C/Super 35 4K hybrid cameras and lenses back in 2014, then promptly killed off the company’s entire photography division shortly afterwards without a word of sensible explanation.

Those lucky enough to have laid eyes on a Samsung NX1 and those even luckier to have been able to purchase one and a selection of some of its amazing lenses, especially the Premium S zoom lenses, were left reeling by Samsung’s decision to obliterate what were the very best cameras and lenses of their class.

Had Samsung continued to develop the many class-leading innovations seen in its NX1 and related cameras, I have no doubt that the company would be producing the best and most in-demand hybrid production cameras today.

As soon as word got out about the NX1, I went looking for one in all the stores in Sydney and its suburbs, and had no luck trying one out though I did come across one forlornly sitting chained up in the dark on a top shelf in a white goods and appliances store, with a 20mm pancake prime lens attached.

I was told there were no other lenses available for it.

I dropped into a couple of Samsung boutiques to enquire about the camera and its lenses and staff members in both places denied such things existed, looking at me as if I were a raving lunatic.

A friend was lucky enough to import a Samsung NX1 and a 45mm prime lens just before Samsung killed all its cameras and lenses off, and I have been patiently waiting for some years now for the chance to borrow them to try them out.

In the absence of any personal insights and experiences of the NX1 upon which to report, the best I can do is provide these product photographs that I was able to extract from a couple of Samsung websites at the time the company was removing its camera and lens division pages from its servers.

Just imagine what Samsung’s NX cameras and lenses could have evolved into given a beginning as extraordinary as this.

Samsung NX1

Other innovative Samsung cameras

Samsung lenses


Is Samsung still the one to emulate in mirrorless hybrid camera hardware/software design and engineering?

Photokina 2018 is approaching and with it come announcements and rumours of marvellous new mirrorless hybrid cameras and lenses in sensor sizes including 35mm, APS-C, Medium Format and Micro Four Thirds. 

Yet I cannot help but think back to the once great white hope of mirrorless for stills and video, the Samsung NX1 and its close companions numbering amongst them the Samsung NX30, the Samsung Galaxy NX and the Samsung NX500, and wonder if any other camera maker has yet learned the lessons that these amazing cameras have to teach them. 

Samsung NX1 APS-C/Super 35 digital hybrid mirrorless camera with Samsung Premium S 50-150mm f/2.8 ED OIS zoom lens.

I have never had the pleasure of using any Samsung camera due to their poor to nonexistent distribution here before Samsung’s camera and lens division was tragically axed , but I had an all-too-brief play with a colleague’s Samsung NX1 some time ago and that was enough to be amazed.

More recently mention of the Samsung NX30 appeared on a mirrorless rumours website, I googled to and was stunned and amazed to see the camera had a tilting electronic viewfinder and fully articulated monitor, two of the most essential , in my option, features for any serious stills and video hybrid camera.

My beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 has both and its is a potent combination for stealthy and efficiently shooting stills or video, caged or uncaged, heavily rigged or camera-and-lens only.

The Samsung NX1 had superb ergonomics and a still unsurpassed menu design, and I suspect it worked even better in the hand when rigged with its vertical battery grip and Premium S lenses.

Imagine if Samsung had stayed in the camera and lens business, constantly innovating and showing the more established players in the market how it should be done.

Imagine what contemporary Samsung rangefinder-style and DSLR-style hybrid mirrorless APS-C and larger sensor equipped cameras might be like, with tilting EVFs, fully articulated AMOLED monitors on the mid-to upper level cameras or tilting AMOLED monitors on the lower-end models, excellent hardware ergonomics and software user interface design, 6K read-out, 1080p at 120 frames per second, HEVC H.265 codecs for 4K and 8K video, and more.

Imagine if Blackmagic Design, Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh/Pentax and Sony learned even a fraction of the lessons Samsung’s genius designers and engineers had to teach them.

Samsung NX1

The Samsung NX1 was so far ahead of its time that many potential users complained bitterly about its then poorly supported HEVC video codec and H.265 video file type, but not long after its release computer makers began adding support and now it is standard on contemporary computers and 4K television sets.

Many professional moviemakers continue to rely on their Samsung NX1 cameras and native and adapted lenses, and anticipate the day when they start breaking down with dread.

Samsung NX30

The Samsung NX30 was aimed more at stills photographers than moviemakers, with its 1080p video and 20MP sensor, but it has two features I consider essential to hybrid mirrorless photography and cinematography, a tilting electronic viewfinder aka EVF and a fully articulated monitor.

Samsung Galaxy NX

The Samsung Galaxy NX was a bold experiment in pushing camera menu systems way beyond still common lists of text links into an Android-based fully graphic icon-based system.

Samsung NX500

The Samsung NX500 was minus an EVF but partially made top for that absence with a tilting monitor.

Apparently many photographers and cinematographers adopted the NX500 as a smaller companion camera to their Samsung NX1s.

Samsung lenses

It was often said of Samsung’s cameras that there were not enough lenses, though the company’s camera division had begun working on its professional-quality Premium S lens range before its was suddenly shut down.

It managed to issue two Premium S lenses, the Samsung Premium S 16-50mm f/2.8 ED OIS and Samsung Premium S 50-150mm f/2.8 ED OIS zoom lens, with other lens designs rumoured to be in the works or about to be released.

Any new mid-level to professional mirrorless camera system should be released alongside at least five top-quality lenses – a wide, medium and telephoto zoom lens trio, and two or three fast, wide aperture prime lenses.

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