Samsung’s incredibly compact Samsung NX Mini interchangeable lens camera is cute, but there’s a gulf between “cute” and “a sensible camera to buy”.
There’s a word to describe the NX Mini when you first lay eyes on it.
That word, surprisingly isn’t “Mini” per se. Instead, it’s “cute”. This is a deliberately shrunk cousin of Samsung’s own NX camera lines, right down to the removable 9mm lens. You can use NX series lenses on the NX Mini with an adaptor, but it’ll cost you extra for the privilege. Overseas the adaptor appears to run for around $US150, but there’s no obvious sign of Australian availability that I can see. The NX Mini comes in a variety of shades overseas, but Samsung’s local site only seems to suggest that the white version will be available locally.
The NX Mini’s other big calling card is its viewfinder, which pops up a full 180 degrees to face the front of the camera. Flipping it up that way engages Self Shot mode, which gives you a timer to compose your best selfie face before shooting. Again, it feels more like a cute gimmick for the smartphone generation than something that’ll sell it to you as a serious camera to speak of. Otherwise starting up the NX Mini involves hitting the power button on the top and twisting the lens out to engage it fully. That does mean that it’s not the fastest camera to start up if you’re dying to catch a quick shot.
The NX Mini shares branding with the NX line, and also much the same user interface. Indeed, if you’ve used pretty much any Samsung camera or smartphone camera app in recent memory, you’ll find the NX Mini’s interface quite familiar. There’s a range of smart shooting modes with pre-set filters as well as full auto, program, aperture, shutter and full manual modes. It’s Wi-Fi capable for easy sharing to your tablet or smartphone through Samsung’s Smart Camera app, which works well enough for sharing but is, like most Wi-Fi camera sharing apps, rather clunky.
Dials are notably absent, so if you’re a more manual shooter you’ve got to get used to using a combination of buttons and the onscreen touch panel when shooting, which is a little clumsy in actual operation. Then again this isn’t a camera strictly pitched at the type of photographer likely to insist on full manual every time. Instead, that’s something that a NX Mini shooter is likely to aspire to.
Image quality with the NX Mini’s supplied 9mm lens is reasonable without really challenging the quality that you’d get with a more “traditional” ILC camera. Samsung’s got three lenses suitable for the NX Mini’s NX-M mount. Aside from the 9-27mm lens included in the kit I tested, there’s also a 9mm F3.5 lens and 17mm F1.8 lens. That’s not a huge selection of lenses, but again it’s hard not to look at what the NX Mini does and how it works to come to the conclusion that this is an interesting design that Samsung figures will predominantly appeal to buyers unlikely to buy many additional lenses in any case.
The NX Mini carries an RRP of $598.99 with the 9-27mm lens or $499 with the 9mm lens, making it a little cheaper than most ILCs. The downside there is that it’s definitely less capable, despite its cute self-shot capabilities and compact carrying size.
As with any camera, you can take good shots or lousy shots with the NX Mini relative to your skill and situation. It’s interesting to see that the ILC space itself is so well developed that there’s space for even smaller ILCs, but at the same time it’s not hard to see that they’re really stretching what’s feasible with ever smaller chunks of glass.
The NX Mini is small and cute, but I’d strongly suggest that buying a full-sized ILC, a DSLR or even a fixed travel zoom type camera might be a better option than the NX Mini. Sometimes cute will only carry you so far.