When I first picked up the Samsung NX1 I wasn't sure if it was a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. OK, I knew it was a mirrorless camera, but my point is that it didn't feel like a mirrorless camera. I've used many mirrorless systems over the years and there's always something that gives them away. Usually it's the size, but sometimes it's simply some aspect of their design.
And then there's the NX1. It looks and feels unabashedly like a DSLR, and with features including a very usable viewfinder, 15 fps shooting with continuous autofocus, and instantly responsive controls it can absolutely provide a DSLR experience.
At the same time, Samsung leverages the mirrorless aspect of the NX1's design to provide things that you generally don't find on DSLRs such as enhanced viewfinder displays and a video feature set designed to take on the best systems on the market.
The NX1 is Samsung's flagship mirrorless camera.
What we're left with is a camera that tries to straddle a unique space between the DSLR and mirrorless worlds, trying to provide all the benefits of both while sacrificing none. That's great on paper, but I wanted to answer the obvious question: Does it work?
Viewfinder and Controls:
Ergonomically, the camera is well designed and has a very DSLR-like feel. The grip fits well in my medium-sized hands and is both solid and comfortable, while the twin dials and other controls are well laid out. I had absolutely no problem adjusting to them quickly.
The only exception to the excellent ergonomics are the four buttons on top of the dial that control ISO, WB, AF, and metering, which feel a bit Nikon-esque. I've been using the NX1 for several weeks and have yet to find a situation where reaching these buttons doesn't feel awkward. Add in their small size and they're even harder to find without looking at the dial. Fortunately, the same functions can be replicated elsewhere using custom settings.
The four buttons on top of the left dial are reminiscent of a Nikon control layout. They're awkward to reach when using the camera, and small enough that you need to feel around for them. Thankfully, their functionality can be replicated elsewhere using custom settings.
The first time I looked through the NX1's viewfinder I realized this was a different type of mirrorless camera. Samsung's 2.36M dot OLED EVF is big and beautiful with crisp, bright colors. Samsung has done a great job of designing the viewfinder's display; aperture and shutter information are highlighted in blue as you change them, and the exposure needle is a bold red against a white scale.
Although the EVF has a lag time of 5ms, in practice it's effectively zero; you see things in real time just as you would through an optical viewfinder. Overall, the EVF experience is right up there with the highly rated Fujifilm X-T1, though I prefer the EVF on the NX1 thanks to its great visual design. It's quite possibly the nicest EVF I've used on a stills camera.
Just so nobody accuses me of saying this later, let me be clear that you're not going to mistake the EVF for a true optical viewfinder. It's qualitatively different than looking through a prism, but in exchange you get excellent display overlays such as histograms and level line, real time WYSIWYG exposure simulation, and the ability to use the viewfinder while shooting video.