Slapping a lens on Samsung’s new NX Mini is like bolting a tank barrel on a Fiat

Check out our full written review of the Samsung NX Mini camera.

Say what you will about the once-illustrious compact pocket camera: They may not be flying off shelves anymore or take the best photos, but they’re small enough to always carry along. So what if you could slap on an interchangeable lens and put some quality guts in one, giving it the quality of a more advanced camera while retaining the compact body? With its new 20.5-megapixel NX Mini, Samsung is trying to do exactly that. Leaked on rumor sites last month, the NX Mini became official on Tuesday evening, billed as the world’s thinnest CSC.

With a body measuring nearly 0.9 inches thick and weighing a mere 5.6 ounces, the NX Mini could be mistaken for one of Samsung’s compact pocket point and shoots. In fact, design-wise, it shares more traits with a point-and-shoot than a CSC or DSLR, with a similar button layout and ergonomics. While it may be the thinnest, Panasonic’s Lumix GM1 is actually smaller in length and width. Still, that thin form-factor makes the NX Mini seem more compact than the GM1. Like point-and-shoots, the camera will come in colors: white, black, brown, mint green, and pink. The body is constructed out of magnesium alloy. Rather than using the same user interface found in its existing cameras, the NX Mini has a new simple UI that’s easy to operate – like a point-and-shoot.

Unlike Samsung’s other CSCs that use an APS-C-size sensor, the NX Mini uses a smaller 1-inch back-illuminated sensor, making it more in-line with the Nikon 1 CSCs, but also smaller than a Micro Four Thirds cam. However, it’s a much larger sensor than what you’d normally find in most compact pocket point-and-shoot cameras, and, coupled with different lenses, you’ll get far better image quality (that’s the theory, at least, but we won’t know for sure until we test one).

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To accommodate the smaller sensor, the NX Mini uses a new mount called the NX-M, with a 35mm-equivalent 2.7x crop factor. Because the NX Mini requires new lenses, it’s actually a brand new camera system for Samsung, despite the NX name. While resolution might be lower, you get to use smaller lenses and have greater depth-of-field. At launch, there will be three NX-M lenses – 9mm, 9-27mm, and 17mm with f/1.8 aperture. The good news is that the camera is compatible with Samsung’s larger lineup of NX lenses, but it’ll require an optional adapter ($149). The adapter retains all the features of the NX lens, including i-Function (for changing settings) and autofocus. The NX-M lenses are made with aluminum.

The NX Mini uses an electronic shutter, with a shutter speed of 1/6,000th of a second and up to 30 seconds. It has continuous shooting of 6 frames per second, and native ISO range of 160 to 12,800, expandable to 25,600. It handles Full HD 1080 video capture at 30p, in the H.264 format, and it uses contract-detection autofocus system. There’s no viewfinder, but the 3-inch LCD (rated a so-so 460.8k dots) can flip up to a selfie-friendly 180 degrees. The camera uses the same battery as the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which has a rating of 645 shots on a single charge (per CIPA rating).

Like most Samsung cameras, the NX Mini is designed for wireless connectivity. There’s no always-on cellular capability like the Galaxy models, but Samsung’s Wi-Fi implementation is one of the best. The camera uses Samsung’s new Smart Camera 3.0, which, besides remote operation and wireless transfers to a smartphone, lets you upload photos directly to social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, and has support for Dropbox storage. There’s also a Baby Monitor feature that lets you stream a real-time live image to your smartphone. Built-in NFC allows for quick pairing to another device. (Check out our review of the WB350F, which also uses the Smart Camera 3.0 platform.)

In the U.S., Samsung will offer two kits. One will come bundled with a 9mm lens for $449, while another will come with the 9-27mm lens for $549. The second kit will also include a flash (SEF-7A). An added bonus is that both kits will come with Adobe Lightroom 5. With its compact size and attractive prices, the NX Mini challenges Nikon’s new 1 V3 for money and value. We’ll have to see how well both perform, before we can crown any winner.

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