ZEP Review: Samsung NX1100 Smart Camera
A mere two days after Christmas 2013, I wrote about where my photography future was going, and what was going to take me there. In that post, I mentioned I had received the Samsung NX1100 Smart Camera as a Christmas gift from my wonderful wife, and was planning on instantly forcing it into my day-to-day photography. Ironically, it is that very camera that has allowed me to have a resurgence of "day-to-day photography" and so, after almost a full month's worth of using it, it's time to set about with a review!
The Devil is in the Details
Let's start with the basics. The Samsung NX1100 Smart Camera is a 20.3MP APS-C CMOS Camera capable of 1080p HD Video, 8FPS RAW and JPEG shooting and built-in wireless connectivity.
Get all of that?
The kit that I received came with a 20-50mm f3.5-5.6 "kit" lens, and an external flash unit. Pretty basic stuff for cameras nowadays. Weighing in at a whopping .48 pounds, the camera measures 2.46 by 4.59 by 1.44 inches (H x W x D).
So what does that give us? It gives us a DSLR-quality sensor in the form factor of a point and shoot. It gives us HD quality video in something that can fit in a purse. It gives us...well, it gives us a change from having to lug around those heavy DSLR cameras, while still giving us images that are good enough to hang up on a wall in an art gallery.
In preparing for this review, I had to figure out the best way to convey how I felt about this camera. I guess there's really no better way than to describe my experience with it over the last few weeks. My experience with the NX1100 can be summed up in a single, brief statement:
Since December 25th, I've picked up a DSLR on only two occasions, one of which was for comparison purposes, and the other of which was to shoot the photos for this review.
In that time I've shot more, creatively, than I did in the entirety of 2013 due to a few key points that make this camera standout in a crowd.
If you've ever listened to any episode of The F-Stops Here Podcast, you're probably incredibly aware of my constant poo-pooing of wireless capabilities being built into today's cameras. Why would I need wifi built into a camera, which I can just take the memory card out and edit the photos on my computer? Well, allow me to go on record as saying that I could not have been anymore wrong in those statements, and I owe my 180 turnaround to the Samsung NX1100. What am I talking about? Well...
...both of those images were shot on the NX110, transferred wireless to my Nexus 7, edited in a mobile image editor, and then uploaded to Flickr. All without touching a computer, and all without any degradation in image quality. Being able to hit a few buttons and near-instantly have the images on a mobile devices, all without wires, cables, or card readers, has become something that I'm increasingly appreciative of in this camera. Its practical applications may not be many in the world of wedding photography, but think about the following scenario, and tell me this wouldn't pique your interest:
You're on an engagement shoot, snapping photos with the NX1100, and having a great time. You stop for a few minutes to have coffee with your clients, just to let them take a breather from all of the incredible photography that is happening, and you think to yourself, "If only I could show them what we've been shooting today".
Well, if you happened to have brought your tablet with you, it only takes a few button presses, and you're loading up a few images from the shoot, getting them excited about the images to come, and ensuring you're giving them exactly the product that they want. All thanks to something as simple as wifi being add to your camera.
And what else does Wifi add to the camera? How about remote viewfinder capabilities, wireless printing, and cloud uploading? All, again, thanks to the built-in wireless capabilities of the
Great...So....What else is good?
Enough about the wifi, right? So what else is great about this little guy? The fact that this is a "little guy" has been fantastic, and makes it much easier to use for everyday photography. I don't have back problems if I'm carrying this around for a few hours, it's small enough to put in a small bag or backpack, and the smaller form factor fits naturally into a single hand.
That size, however, doesn't limit the capabilities of the camera. With functionality similar to its bigger brother DSLR, the camera operates in much the same way that you're used to, if you've spent the past few years carting around bigger cameras. The interchangeable lenses work just like they would on a DSLR, with zoom and focus rings operating in automatic or manual modes. Auto-focus doesn't pick up what you want? Just shift to manual focus and use the focus ring just like you would on a DSLR!
Something else offered with the Samsung line of smart cameras, that isn't always found in the bigger DSLR cameras is its ability to offer scene modes, in-camera post-processing and various other "tricks" that can save you the trouble of having to download photos, edit them, then export to...someplace.
Looking at a really nice sunset or a beautiful morning? The NX1100 has a "Sunset" mode, a "Dawn" mode, and various other scenes that save you the trouble of having to modify settings and then tweak in post. It's all of the fun of a point and shoot, with the added benefits and quality found in larger DSLRs.
There has to be a downside, right?
I'm not going to call this camera perfect and, unfortunately for this review, it's actually a generation or two old. Samsung is pumping out cameras in their NX line like it's the assembly line scene in "I Love Lucy". In fact, they revealed the NX30 at this year's CES and, apparently, it's really turning heads. I would love to get my hands on that bad boy!
So what are the downsides to this camera?
For starters, it suffers a bit in low-light settings. Now, that's not entirely the fault of the camera, because I'm sure this baby would shine with something like the Samsung NX 30mm f2.0. I'm really hoping to add that fine, fine piece of glass to my collection, and will certainly review that when the time comes. But, until that time, you're not going to get fast focusing in low-light, and you're going to have to really crank the ISO if you want any type of fast shutter speed.
And that's probably another one of the downsides. There's a fair amount of noise in the higher ISO numbers. Now don't get me wrong, if I'm shooting at ISO 12800, I expect a fair amount of noise, and it's certainly not something that's un-fixable in post-processing, but it is odd to see in the large, 3 in. lcd screen.
And speaking of the LCD screen, that's probably my only other real complaint about this camera. That complaint, which is really more of a personal preference, rather than something that's wrong with the camera, is that there's no optical viewfinder! In fact, none of the NX, non-Android cameras have a viewfinder, so I guess that's just me refusing to embrace where cameras are inevitably going, right?
I'd say it's a fairly safe bet that I absolutely love this camera. If you'll pardon the pun, it's got all the power of a cannon (Canon?) in something the size of a pistol. It's fun to shoot with, and that's something that I've been really missing as-of-late in my own personal photography. This is the type of camera that reinvigorates creativity and causes a person to do something different. To say that using this has been a change would be factual, but I think it's a change that was needed.
I hope that, if you're interested into delving into the world of mirrorless smart cameras, you give the Samsung NX line a worthy look. You definitely won't be disappointed. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!
The Samsung NX1100 is currently priced at $274.99 on Amazon.
Disclosure: This post was, in no way, sponsored by Samsung Camera US. This post was written purely out of my enjoyment and good times spent using the NX1100. Good times...