Samsung's system cameras just got a lot more serious. The lines between DSLRs and mirrorless system alternatives are gradually being blurred, and it’s down to cameras such as the Samsung NX1.

This is a true high-end system camera for people willing to fork out a fair bit for their photography hobby. The NX1 costs £1300 – and that’s without a lens. It may make you gulp at first – other cameras in the series like the Samsung NX2000 are available for just a couple of hundred quid these days. But look at the specs and you’re actually not getting a bad deal. We had a play with the camera to see what’s it’s like to use ahead of our review. 

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Meet the beast

That the Samsung NX1 is out to charm photo enthusiasts is obvious from the first moment you clap eyes on the thing. Like a DSLR, it has a chunky handgrip, designed to give you a firm hold even if there’s a lens heavier than a large bag of sugar screwed on.

Construction is top-notch too. The NX1 body is made of magnesium alloy, giving you strength without masses and masses of weight. It still weighs 550g without a lens, but that’s actually not too bad when you consider its size. While a CSC, it’s a chunky little guy. A substantial grip is vital in a camera like this – we think Samsung has got the design right this time.

Weather proofing means you don’t have to play nice with the NX1 either. It’s designed to keep dust out and is splash resistant. Don’t drop it in water, but feel free to use it in the rain.

The camera also offers supremely good manual control. For those who want to pretend Auto mode has never been invented, there can’t be many better system cameras out there. As well as having the control dials needed to let you fiddle with settings without digging through menus, there’s a monochrome LCD display on the top plate that tells you exactly what settings the camera is currently using. Only top-end cameras have these – and it’s the first time we’ve seen one on a CSC.

It may look nerdy, but going the extra mile on features is what the Samsung NX1 is all about. There’s even a lock on the mode dial – seems like a small addition, but a dial that’s too easy to flick over can be monumentally annoying.

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My Plug in Baby

It almost has the same connectivity power as a smartphone too. As well as NFC and Wi-Fi, the Samsung NX1 has Bluetooth. Given how much of a pain most cameras make transferring photos over Wi-Fi, this is a great idea. Bluetooth is a bit slower than Wi-Fi, but it isn’t half simpler for transferring just the odd photo.

The NX1 also offers good tools for composing your photos. There’s a Super AMOLED 3-inch screen on the back made up of 1,036k dots and a rather good XGA-red OLED EVF. Like so many of Samsung’s phones, the NX1 is positively OLED obsessed. OLED screens offer superb contrast, but the EVF’s colours did seem a bit over saturated when we tried the camera out. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to tweak this in the final model.

EVFs still aren’t at the level of optical viewfinders in image quality terms, but as far as EVFs go, this one is very good. It’s a great size, making it much more enjoyable to use than the postage stamp-size EVFs of old.

The Samsung NX1 really embraces new tech, and you see this in its core hardware as well as some of the frilly bits around the edges. Two of the most important bits to mention are its video skills and the sensor.

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4K wrinkle-finder

Clearly aiming to take some shine off the Panasonic GH4, whose fab 4K video capture has made it a hit with amateur Spielbergs, the Samsung NX1 offers video capture in both UHD and 4K standards (contrary to popular belief, the two are actually different).

Samsung is also keen to big-up that the camera’s phase detection autofocus will make the picture a bit more stable when refocusing, and that you can send the uncompressed video feed directly to an external recorder over HDMI. This should come in handy for the more serious video freaks out there – 4K video eats away gigabytes of data in no time.

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