Samsung's going small with the latest addition to its NX line of mirrorless cameras. Touted as the smallest and lightest camera with an interchangeable lens system on the market, the NX mini will be available in mid April in a choice of five colors (white, pink, mint green, brown and black). Starting at $449 for the body with a 9mm kit lens, the NX mini is aimed at those who want to take better pictures than they can with a cellphone and share them instantly via connected devices. We had a chance to test out pre-production units of the NX mini and were taken with its attractive colors and lightweight design.
At just 4.33 x 2.43 x 0.86 inches (110.4 x 61.9 x 22.5 mm) and 6.91 ounces (with battery), the body of the NX mini will fit comfortably in your pocket. With the bundled 9mm kit lens, the camera grows to a depth of 0.98 inches (25mm) — still pocketable. Each camera features a leatherette casing on a magnesium chassis, similar to other products in the NX line. The white version looks a bit plain, but other colors such as mint green and dark brown make the NX mini very attractive.
A screen for selfies
One of the biggest draws of the NX mini is its 3-inch, 320 x 480 LCD touch screen, which can flip up 180 degrees till it sits above the camera, facing in the same direction as the lens. Yep, this camera is made for self portraits. The screen's hinge felt consistently sturdy on several pre-production units we tried out, but the position was a bit awkward. Our eyes often strayed above the camera's lens to the live preview on the screen above, so we were looking up rather than into the camera.
For selfie lovers, the NX mini packs a new shutter trigger mode — Wink Shot. Once the NX mini has your face in focus, which during our testing took almost no time at all, it will automatically take a photo when you wink. You can set the camera to go into timer mode when it detects a wink, or to instantly capture a shot. The system was speedy and responsive on the models we used.
A smaller sensor and lenses
The NX mini sports a one-inch (13.2 x 8.8mm) 20-MP CMOS sensor — far smaller than the APS-C class sensors in Samsung's other mirrorless cameras, such as the NX300 and NX30. In producing a camera with a one-inch chip, Samsung is following the lead of Nikon, which uses the same-sized sensor in its Nikon 1 line of cameras, including the new Nikon 1 V3.
The smaller sensor requires a new range of lenses, known as NX-M. Two kit lenses will be available at launch — a 9-millimeter prime (non-zooming) lens and a 9-27mm zoom, with a third performance prime lens (17mm f1.8) to follow in June for $249. In May Samsung will offer a $149 adapter that allows the mini to work with 15 of Samsung's regular NX lenses.
With the sensor's crop factor of 2.7, the 9mm kit lens that comes with the $449 setup translates to a 24.3mm equivalent on a traditional film SLR camera. The zoom lens is roughly equivalent to 24 – 73mm. The second NX mini bundle option includes the zoom lens and an external flash (more powerful than the built-in flash) for $549.
The NX mini can shoot up to a brisk 6 frames per second (better than entry-level DSLRs). Shutter speeds go up to 1/16,000 of a second — faster than most other cameras — which should allow it to shoot crisp, fast-action shots. The NX mini supports an ISO light sensitivity range of 100 to 25,600. The high light sensitivity is the result of a sensor construction known as backside-illuminated, which allows more light to reach the pixels, important as sensors get smaller. (Many cellphone cameras use backside-illuminated sensors.)
Photographers preferring more control over their shots will like that the NX mini can shoot in RAW format. It provides more flexibility for editing shots in a program such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, which comes bundled with the camera.
The NX mini captures 1080p full HD video at a respectable 30 frames per second. It also shoots 720p at 30 fps, not the 60fps that some other mirrorless cameras can do. Since the NX mini units that we handled were pre-production, still undergoing tweaks, we cannot accurately assess the image or video quality the camera is capable of. (Stay tuned for a full review in the coming month.)
Samsung also outfitted the NX mini with its Tap&Go system to quickly pair it wirelessly with smartphones or tablets sporting NFC chips. The NX mini comes with the same Smart 3.0 system unveiled along with the NX30 at CES earlier this year, which leverages the phone's or tablet's data connection to automatically share pictures to social networks or upload them to Dropbox or Flickr. The camera can even act as a wireless baby monitor, alerting parents via the mobile app when the camera senses noise. The camera can also be remote controlled from a smartphone app.