Mini by name and very much mini by nature, Samsung’s latest CSC is one supremely compact package. Thanks to its 1in BSI CMOS sensor, the camera is the first to use the new NX-M mount for its tiny lenses, and goes up against the Nikon 1 series and the GM1.
Resembling a scaled down NX300, the NX mini’s plastic-clad magnesium alloy body is available in three Neapolitan-based colours, black and white. The NX mini’s 1in sensor is the same size as that found in the Nikon 1 line, but differs in its back illumination and higher resolution. While this sensor size is substantially smaller than the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds offerings often found in many CSCs, it is larger than the smartphone sensors that Samsung sees as main competitor to the mini.
The camera’s contrast detect performs well, finding focus quickly in most lighting conditions, though not as fast as some of the more expensive hybrid focus CSCs available. The mini manages 6fps in RAW at shutter speeds of up to 1/16,000sec, and has an ISO range of 160-12,800. With High ISO noise reduction set to normal, images are good up to ISO 3200 and usable up to ISO 6400. The 3in touchscreen flips out to 180° and offers responsive operation at 460.8k-dot resolution.
No Samsung camera would be complete without a whole host of options for image sharing and the NX mini certainly follows this trend. With Wi-Fi and NFC built-in, the mini can be quickly linked to a mobile via the Samsung Smart Camera app. Through this app remote viewfinder and auto share options are available, while directly from the camera images can be uploaded to numerous picture sharing and social networking services including Facebook and Flickr. The mini has a built-in flash and flash port for the SEF7A external flash unit.
The camera can record Full HD (1080p) video at 30fps but lacks an external mic socket, limiting its usability. The mini’s phone-style battery is charged in-camera and provides enough juice for an impressive 650 shots. Ports for both USB and HDMI are present.
With the 9mm prime lens attached the NX mini is truly pocketable, and at a squeeze it remains so with the 9-27mm zoom. One of the ways this has been achieved is by the almost total exclusion of a raised grip. With the prime attached this isn’t really an issue due to the camera’s tiny weight, but with a zoom fitted the camera does feel slightly unbalanced.
The external controls of the mini will seem familiar to users of compact cameras. While there are dedicated buttons for Direct Link, AF mode and Drive Mode, most functions are selected on-screen. The camera’s menus are easy to navigate, clean and clear. A mode button replaces a traditional mode dial, and once pressed the choice between manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority shooting modes are available alongside auto, smart and program options. The 3in touchscreen is responsive, and allows for touch focus and shutter. The screen can be flipped upwards by 180° for shooting at low angles and in ‘Selfie Mode’. With Beauty Face option enabled by default, JPEGs are taken and instantly adjusted to remove facial blemishes for smoother-looking skin, straight out of camera. Wink Shot and Smile Shot functions allow users to trigger the shutter using the corresponding facial action for perfectly timed self-portraits. With the camera’s Auto Share options, Facebook-perfect photos can be sent straight to a phone in seconds.
In Smart shooting mode 17 scene pre-sets are available including ‘Food’ and ‘Parties & Indoors’. Ten pre-set and three custom picture styles can be selected as well as four smart filter settings including Fisheye. Like most of the latest Samsung offerings, Adobe’s brilliant Lightroom 5 comes bundled with the camera.
Of the three lenses available for the mini’s new NX-M mount, it’s disappointing to find the kit lens shipped with the camera is the tiny 9mm f/3.5 prime. This lens offers the same focal length and aperture as the short end of the available 9-27mm zoom, but is around half the physical length. The prime doesn’t come with a lens cap either, risking potential pocket damage to the front element.
In our tests we found the 9mm f/3.5’s sweet spot to be f/5.6. There is little evidence of chromatic aberration, pin-cushioning or barrel distortion in the lens’ images. An acceptable level of corner softness is present, which becomes more apparent at lower apertures. It is also worth noting that the bokeh created by this lens is not particularly attractive.
All current NX-M mount lenses are missing the popular iFunction found on some of their NX cousins. An adapter is available to enable the use of existing NX mount lenses at an additional cost.
The mini produces images that are of a reasonable standard for a camera with a 1in sensor. This quality is clearly affected by image processing in JPEG mode, and even on RAWs, both of which have a slightly waxy appearance when zoomed in.
The NX mini is a stylish offering from Samsung that would suit fashion-conscious first-time CSC buyers. Its small sensor does hinder image quality, but the mini could still be a great tool for those with an unhealthy selfie obsession. With the current cashback offer (valid until 31 August 2014) making the mini, 9mm prime and Adobe’s Lightroom 5 available for £400, it is a competitively priced package that will not hit the pocket too hard. For those looking to take more than snaps with their equipment, however, the mini is unlikely to be the answer.
- Kit price: £414 (Secondhand price as of June 2016)
- Effective resolution: 20.5 MP
- Sensor type: 1in CMOS
- Autofocus: 209-area free selection, 35 point auto
- ISO range: 160-12,800, expands to 100-25,600
- Metering: TTL 221-Block
- LCD: 3in 460.8k-dot flip-touchscreen
- Shooting speed: 6fps
- Video: Full HD (1080p) at 30fps
- Battery life: 650 shots
- Card type: MicroSD, MicroSDHC, MicroSDXC
- Size (WxHxD): 110x62x23mm
- Weight: 196g
- Visit: www.samsung.com/uk
This review was first published in the August 2014 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.