Samsung Galaxy NX

If you crave connectivity, but don't want to sacrifice image quality or photo capabilities, the Samsung Galaxy NX may be the one for you.

If you crave the connectivity offered by the Samsung Galaxy Camera, but don't want to sacrifice image quality or photo capabilities, you are the poster child for the Samsung Galaxy NX. With built-in 3G/4G long-term evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi, Samsung envisions it as the "always connected" camera. Really, though, we'd be happy with just connected enough — as we suspect that many of the people interested in this camera would be — but which most manufacturers still haven't mastered. And from a connectedness standpoint, the Galaxy NX does everything but make calls.

It really does seem like the best of all possible worlds for more advanced photographers. It incorporates the same sensor as the NX300, complete with hybrid phase-detection/contrast autofocus systems, the same electronic viewfinder as the NX20, and it supports a reasonable selection of fast and/or inexpensive lenses that makes it flexible for a variety of users. The system could use at least one fast telephoto zoom, however.

Though it uses a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, Samsung supplements it with the same DRIMe IV imaging processor as in the NX300. It also has 16GB of built-in memory. That should provide speedier image processing than on the Galaxy Camera. It seems as though Samsung has learned some lessons from the earlier model, as well. The huge battery and grip with a thumb rest on the back contrasts with the Galaxy Camera's relatively poor battery life and lack of place for your right thumb.

We're still not completely sold on the idea of Android-driven cameras, but Android, combined with Samsung's willingness to open source its camera API, really opens up the potential of the camera in ways we can't begin to imagine.

One downside: it's really big. Of course, that's inescapable, given the 4.8-inch LCD, APS-C sensor and built-in EVF. Plus, it's annoying that for such a big camera, it uses microSD cards, and that they're inconveniently located in the battery compartment. Also, many of Samsung's best lenses are relatively big and heavy, given that interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) were intended to be smaller than dSLRs. But it can act as a hotspot, which makes the idea of toting it around a little more palatable, at least for pros. One concern we have is what happens to performance when you use the camera and the hotspot simultaneously — if you can.

Another potential downside is the lack of physical controls. While a chunk of potential buyers for this camera will just be looking for APS-C-quality photos and videos, another group — say, people like me who need a high-quality camera for live blogging and event photography — really, really like our physical controls, and the i-Function design only partly mitigates their absence. We have to say, though, that this is the first instance in which the i-Function architecture makes a lot of sense and finally seems like a strategic move on Samsung's part. In previous models, which do have physical controls, it always seemed so superfluous.

It also remains to be seen what kind of integration off-the-shelf Android apps have with the camera. For example, most camera apps use some sort of pinch-based zooming; what happens when they encounter a mechanical zoom lens? The units we got to play with weren't yet cell connected.

With price as yet to be determined, it's hard to evaluate how it will stack up compared to this rather challenging field of competitors. Given its feature set, we can't imagine it being less expensive than the NX20; this would put it out of reach for a lot of consumers, though the lure of its connectedness might make some prosumers stretch their budgets. That convenience looks mighty attractive. So does the weather sealing on the Olympus, and the overall great package for less money with the NEX-6, however.

Of course, if size and price matter to you, there's always the Galaxy S4 Zoom. While we don't expect much of it in the way of photo quality — it's got a small sensor and a slow zoom lens, and it relies on the main processor for its image processing — it's still smaller and lighter, and it makes phone calls.


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