The Samsung Galaxy NX. . .The Future Of Photography? My Thoughts . . .

Back in 2013, Samsung, launched the GalaxyNX, a 20.3MP APS-C, Hybrid AF, Touch Screen based mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. This camera was highly anticipated and with great ceremony, was launched to the waiting world. I personally, knew nothing about the GalaxyNX.

Now, I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to Photography Tech, I read too many reviews, lust after too many cameras and over the years, have had more photography gear than I care to mention (Canon 1Ds MKII, 1D MKII, 1D MKIII, Nikon D3, Nikon D800, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Fuji X-Pro 1, Fuji X-E1, Canon EOS M, Nikon 1 V1, Olympus PEN E-P1, Pentax K-7, Leica M8, Leica D-Lux 4, Sony NEX-6 to name a few).

A few months ago, I happened to see a Samsung NX300 going cheap on eBay, so I thought I’d splash out and see what Samsung had to offer. In short I was mighty impressed with the NX300, it was a well made, had a modern yet retro look about it (I had the brown leatherette finish, which was lovely, is lovely), great image quality, compact, carry anywhere type camera. It had one major drawback for me. The strap lug on the grip side was slap bang in the middle of where my palm rested and so was always and I mean always irritating and uncomfortable. So, reluctantly, I decided to sell it.

Samsung have now replaced the NX300 with the NX500 which amongst other design changes has moved the strap lug back to where it should be, just like every other camera on the market. Well done Samsung. Anyway, I was really impressed with the image quality of the NX300, had a great sensor, giving excellent detail, colour rendition and useable files up to 6400 ISO (shoot raw and do post noise reduction).

During my short NX300 ownership, I did the usual thing, looking everywhere I could to find out who else had one, what the reviews were saying etc. and most sang it’s praises, but didn’t really mention the strap lug ‘issue’ that was bothering me. Maybe it was an iPhone 4 “your holding it wrong” moment, but I really wasn’t. There is only one way to hold a camera. . .BY IT’S GRIP!

That was when I first heard about the Samsung Galaxy NX. ‘Oh hello’ I thought. It looked really good (sort of mini DSLR style), same sensor as the NX300, a huge 4.8″ touch screen, “this is getting better”, I continued reading. . .and runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2.

“Bummer”, my heart sank. The description was going so well, but, as ever, there had to be a flaw. Being an iOS and Apple user, Android was that flaw and it was fatal.

Even so, I read review after review where pretty much all the reviewers were, for the want of a better term, panning the GalaxyNX. “Needs more buttons”, “smartphone and camera hybrid? Who is this for?”, “Where are the control dials? Real photographers need buttons and dials”, “Canon and Nikon would NEVER make a camera like this”, and so they went on. They did have positives to say, “huge beautiful LCD screen”, a compliment, “. . .but not AMOLED”, and there’s the kick down. “Excellent NX300 sensor in it . . . but with a smartphone strapped to it’s back”. The biggest issue all the reviews I read had, was the price. At @£1800 with a kit lens, the GalaxyNX was NOT cheap. Ouch!

So, the Samsung GalaxyNX was dust. With reviews like that, no-one in their right mind was going to shell out for one and the GalaxyNX would be resigned to the dustbins of tech in the ‘Unwanted” section of tech history. . . and quite right!

I remember reading similar reviews when Canon launched the EOS M, Canon’s first mirrorless camera and boy was that panned! I’ve had three of them since they launched as pocketable back ups and after the firmware 2 was released most issues disappeared, but the early reviews essentially killed the EOS M, so when the EOS M2 was launched it was reserved for Asia only, but now the EOS M3 is out, so Canon aren’t giving up quite yet.

But, that got me thinking. The same sort of comments were everywhere when Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007, “no physical buttons”, “where’s the keyboard”, “touch screen, with no stylus? Ha!” and even “bigger companies than Apple have tried to get into mobile . . .and they’ve all failed” (ouch!). Were these people right?

With the EOS M, it was the same, “lack of control dials, no buttons, touch screen interface”, “no built in flash, no viewfinder”, “a real pain, not for real photographers” (whatever a real photographer is, opposed to those people you see taking pictures with air between their fingers, who are obviously not real photographers).

“Maybe, just maybe, this was Samsung’s iPhone moment”, I thought, after all, most reviews of the original iPhone were panning it. Hmmmm. . .

My Samsung GalaxyNX arrived yesterday. I got it very cheap on eBay and it looks brand new, hardly used, with no and I do mean NO visible signs of use.

I’ll be honest here, after I’d paid for the GalaxyNX, I was having not second or third thoughts about it, my thoughts were into the hundreds, “what have I done?” “that’s £250 wasted”, “I’ll never use it”, “It’s running ANDROID!” and so they went on and on and on. When the item dispatched eMail arrived, the dread really set in. Worse still, it was being sent Special Delivery, it would be here the next morning . . .guaranteed! Oh!

The parcel arrived, I put it down on my desk and just looked at it. It was a very neat parcel, so somebody took care wrapping this thing, so I grabbed my artists knife and split the tape open. Inside was a very well packaged Samsung GalaxyNX box.

“Oh, it’s smaller than I expected” was the first thing to hit me. The reviews kept talking about how ‘huge’ this camera was, well not according to the box. I continued to open the Samsung GalaxyNX box up.

The GalaxyNX body was heavier than I expected, but build wise, feels solid. Very well put together. I was impressed. The lens, for a kit lens, did have a metal lens mount (Canon, Nikon please take note -Plastic lens mounts are rubbish), mostly plastic build, but in fairness, looked the part. It also came with a mains USB adapter and a USB to MicroUSB lead, documentation, strap etc.

I popped the battery in, snapped in the lens, inserted a 16GB MicroSD card, a preloaded 6GB Data MicroSIM and thought, “ok here goes nothing, it’s mine now, best get on with it . . ”

The screen lit up with a Samsung GalaxyNX logo, a short video and then prompted me to choose Standard or Professional user. Being a real photographer, since I use a camera to take pictures, not like those aforementioned air using fake photographers, I choose Professional. I set up Wi-Fi and was then asked to either sign in or create a Samsung Account, I already had one from my NX300 days, so I signed in.

The setup did take a little time, Google account created, DropBox account created, so many accounts, but having completed it, it’s no different to needing an Apple I.D to use iTunes or iCloud etc. So, I was now set up.

The screen showed I had a Network Signal for 4G, I had an active Wi-Fi connection and I was good to go. I installed Kies for Mac and connected the GalaxyNX up, it had all the latest updates to firmware etc, so, I checked the firmware for the lens. There was an update, so I updated the lens firmware, a pretty straight forward process.

Now, I have absolutely no experience with Android OS. I’ve only ever looked at Andriod phones and Tablets and thought ‘yuk’, but I was actually finding this 4.2.2 Jelly Bean to be easy enough to find my way around. This, however, is where I think the reviewers have made their big mistake when reviewing the GalaxyNX, they’re coming at it from a real photographer’s point of view (buttons and dials, buttons and dials). I on the other hand was facing a smartphone or tablet that just happened to be shaped like a camera.

Without looking at the user guide, I set around discovering the Samsung GalaxyNX I had in my hands and to be honest, I was actually really impressed with the integration of Android OS and the NX camera capabilities. Some, but not all, settings can be found and changed if not slightly quicker than or in about the same time as it would take on a traditional camera, once you get used to where the settings you want to change are, just like familiarising yourself with a new camera layout, it takes time to remember button combinations (especially on Canon’s 1D range, finger gymnastics were the norm).

Unlike some Camera menu systems, which have sub menu after sub menu after sub menu, the settings on the GalaxyNX are pretty straight forward. In the Camera App (the place you take photographs), you touch the Cog icon, a small window opens with tabs along the top (these change depending on what shooting mode you have selected). On the Camera Tab, everything you need to change, AF mode, AF size, WB, ISO settings etc are all in that one tab. No navigating to Sub Folder A, then B, then C, then D, then E, then Tools Folder 1, 2 or 3.

If you spend a little time settings things up for different shooting conditions, these can be saved in User mode, a handy little place where you can save all your favourite settings. This holds more than Custom setting C1, C2 or C3 or if you’re lucky, U1 or U2 settings. If you’re inclined, you can save settings for loads of different ‘custom’ settings. Think about it, you have a mobile computer built into your camera with a computer file system, so you can store loads of settings, not limited by available buttons.

There are bundled Apps, but one in particular is an absolute star. It’s called Photo Suggest. What a clever thing this is, particularly if you travel about and find yourself in new and strange places. Launch the App and the built in GPS locates you then shows you areas around you that may be of interest to photographers, with actual examples of other people’s pictures. It is brilliant. I can honestly say, without doubt, I have never been able to do that with any other camera. Ever.

The number of times I’ve headed to new places, ‘to see what there is to shoot’, spent hours walking around and around, finding, not very much inspiration, only to head back home and find out later, I had I turned left into wherever instead of right I would have found this fantastic setting, place etc. is frustrating. With this, wherever I am, I can find somewhere to shoot with minimal time wasted.

There’s a weather app built in so I can pack up before the rains starts, it has Sat Nav built in so I can find my way to and from places, it has image editors built in so I can edit my images and upload them to pretty much and Cloud service I want. I can find out facts about places instantly by going online in camera, to get a sense of the places history, a bit of added inspiration. I have never been able to do that with any other camera. Ever.

Just like the original iPhone back in 2007, people laughed and bemoaned the lack of this button or that keyboard, they laughed at the lack of 3G connectivity, but look at how the Mobile Phone space has changed since the original iPhone. Can you still get mobile phones with actual keyboards?

Now look at the camera market. It went from manual controls to electronics with such buttons and dials, lenses lost their Aperture rings, it was a new age, the electronic age.

But, cameras got bigger, bulkier and more expensive. It’s only recently that Olympus and Fuji brought back conventional style dials, dedicated electronic dials or rings for shutter speed and aperture, harking back to the old days of real photographers. The problem is we now live in a 24/7 connected world.

Sure, I can connect my SD card or camera up to my laptop or tablet, transfer and edit the images, then either eMail, upload to a cloud service or FTP them using a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or Cellular connection, but that takes time. If it’s a breaking story or hitting an urgent deadline, the GalaxyNX allows me to instantly send each picture as it’s taken to a Cloud service (could be private or an Editorial desk account, it really doesn’t matter). I can eMail it instantly to a news desk or editor etc, or edit the image before sending, all in camera.

I started off by saying I wasn’t an Android user, I had no experience of Android. I’m an iOS and Apple user. I was in line for the original iPhone while those around me said I was mad ‘paying how much’ for a phone, but I explained my reasons for choosing the iPhone. I was laughed at, people who saw me using the iPhone often shouted derogatory terms about not having 3G or worse, but I see those same people today, faces glued to their iPhones, tweeting, messaging or browsing for the latest bookies tips or ordering a pizza to go etc. They caught up to where we early iPhone adopters were when it first launched.

I’ve only had the GalaxyNX for 24 hours, but in that short time, I think and hope the same is true for the Samsung GalaxyNX. I hope Samsung doesn’t shelve this marvellous device. The possibilities are huge for this type of camera, just like the original iPhone, which has proven it was the future of Mobile Phones, the GalaxyNX is undoubtedly the future for Cameras and photography.

Is it perfect? No absolutely not, no camera is. Does it do everything? No it doesn’t, but it’s pretty darned close- It won’t make you coffee but it can show where the nearest coffee shop is (can your Canon, Nikon, Oly, Fuji, Pentax, Sony, Lumix etc do that? No? Ah your phone can, but why take your phone out your pocket, when the camera is already around your neck? Use speech search and ask your camera where the nearest coffee shop is. Google Maps loads up and there you are. Just one example).

The Samsung GalaxyNX is the only professional level camera that offers such versatility and meets the demands of todays always connected world.

Photographically speaking, the future arrived in 2013 and I for one have just discovered it. I was’t looking forward to it, I was dreading my purchase, but having spent 24 hours with it, I can honestly say I have absolutely no regrets in buying this camera. The images it produces are beautiful, the rear screen is excellent and is actually easier to frame shots with. The EVF, may not be 5 Billion pixels in resolution, but it’s there for emergencies and as such it’s bright and clear and does the job with minimal fuss. The buffer, ok may not be machine gun picture taking ready, but for most real people? It does just fine and is more than up to the job.

I never thought I’d hear myself say this, or even write it down, but the Samsung GalaxyNX is an incredible camera, one that I will be keeping and using for many years to come. I am now a Samsung GalaxyNX shooter. I will wear it with pride and with no regrets.

Bar one. . .

It now makes all my other gear feel ancient. . . buttons and dials? Oh how quaint.

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