Monday, May 5, 2014

Samsung's NX Mini, are these the Droids you are looking for?

When it comes to apps, cameras don't have the same leeway as those found on traditional digital cameras. Think for a moment what would happen if someone hacking the firmware of a Nikon DSLR, which has happened before. 

These days, we want our cameras to do more. Seriously do more than just video and pictures and this is where Android comes to play. 

Samsung has a camera division that is being whipped about in the market as a poor alternative to the APS-C cameras found in the market. To reinvent itself with a new category, it has gone boldly where others have feared to tread, that is to create a new camera platform that would not be obsolete in the next five years. 

Called the NX Mini, it hopes to be the world's slimmest iLC that sports a 20 megapixel camera. I am not sure if you remember the Pentax Q10. A crazy little camera, cute and cuddly, with a few lenses to boot. It never performed particularly well in the market due to its poor image handling in low light but that hasn't stop Pentax from producing new lines of lenses for it.

The Samsung NX Mini hopes to be a tad more different with Android, and using a BSI 20.5MP CMOS sensor of the 1"-type, it also hopes to snare a market for itself in the pocketable point and shoot market.

  • 20.5MP 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor
  • Wi-Fi and NFC
  • 1080/30p HD video
  • P/A/S/M modes
  • Raw shooting
  • Capacitive 3.0-inch 460k-dot touch screen LCD, tilts upward 180 degrees
  • Electronic shutter with 1/16000 max shutter speed
  • 650 shot battery life with 9mm lens, 530 shots with 9-27mm lens
The NX Mini gives the world yet another lens mount, accepting NX-M lenses. There are three planned at launch - a 9mm F3.5 (24.3mm equivalent) prime, 9-27mm F3.5-5.6 (24.3-72.9mm equivalent) and a 17mm F1.8 (45.9mm equivalent) prime. An NX mount adapter will be sold separately for $149.99.

Who is this Intended For?

The real question here is will this inspire you to carry another camera with you? Let's say you already have a spiffy iPhone 5s. The NX Mini could probably outperform that camera in low light, and of course give you the focal length that you have been missing out on. But I don't think it will handle any better than the iPhone in broad daylight. 

Since the NX mini runs on Android, there is also the question of uploading your photos directly with the use of Instagram. Currently, only using Wifi is the only way, so this means you must tether your smartphone to the camera. 

There is no GPS built-in so geo location is impossible unless you tether your phone. 

How does the Android System make a Difference

Positioned against the likes of the Pentax Q7, you probably will find more uses for the NX Mini than the Pentax. First, let's look at the apps. There are heaps for Android and as long as you can access these apps from either the Samsung appstore or Google Playstore, you have a heck of a lot of choices to deal with. 

There are busloads of filter programs, editing tools, and apps to make you go crazy. Off the top of my head, I can think of three unique features like panorama, bubble photo and even 3D parallax photography apps. These have yet to make itself mainstream on point and shoot cameras made by the likes of Nikon, Canon or Olympus. 

For social gadflies, it might be a good idea to buy one of these even though it is ergonomically bland. The slim shape makes it difficult to hold and like it or not, you need to carry a bag for all the extra lenses. Let's not even think of fitting a regular NX lens with this little number. It will look butch. 

Bokeh-capabilities will depend on the app. If it can run the Google Camera app on KitKat, then it should not pose a problem.

Samsung might be trying to take aim at the Socialmatic camera that comes with a built in printer which is scheduled for launch this year. It also runs on Android but hasn't got the lens swapping feature figures out. For now, all this looks pretty cool on paper but the real proof is in the eating as they say.


The NX mini will sell for US$500 with a kit lens. This is pretty enticing since the bulk of all new point and shoot cameras cost around the same ballpark. For me at least, I think that there is a very fine line that divides this between the rest of the point and shoot cameras in the market—that is in the area of imaging. Generally, a camera is good for what it does best, which is to take great pictures in daylight an I am sure the Samsung NX Mini will past this with flying colors.  It will be judged on how well it fares against a slew of smartphones in daylight use and that's a tough call. No one is going to buy this camera for its low light handling alone if it is only marginally better than the iPhone. 


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