Samsung NX1 vs Fujifilm XT1 – A Sensor Comparison

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When the Samsung NX1 hit the shelfs, it painted a lot of photographers faces with permanent smiles. And for good reason. The camera is loaded with almost all the features anyone could want with today’s technology and is also one of the best performing mirrorless cameras out right now.

So I rented it for a week to see what all the hype was about. Was I impressed? Yes and no. It feels like a cheap Canon but with a Sony quality.


Samsung NX1 APS-C Sensor

The sensor found in the NX1 is a new backside-illuminated 28.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor. Driven by the DRIMe V processor this thing is a monster for an APS-C camera. 

It can burst at 15 frames per second and shoot 4k video. It’s literally everything an APS-C shooter could want. Samsung also claims the NX1 takes advantage of UHS-II memory cards similar to the Fuji X-T1, though I see very little improvements in my NX1 memory card tests.


The Fuji X-T1 Sensor

The Fuji X-T1’s X-Trans CMOS II sensor is about a year and a half old now. It’s only 16 megapixels, not back-illuminatedIt only shoots 1080p and has a burst rate of 8 frames per second. 

Comparing the X-T1 Sensor to the NX1, is like taking everything the X-T1 sensor can do and doubling it. Literally.


Fuji X-T1 vs NX1 – Image Quality

Before getting too caught up in number, it’s always nice put them up against each other side by side and really examine image quality. 15 frames per second is nice, but if the colors suck and the ISO capabilities suck, who cares?

To test the cameras, I unfortunately could not fit them with the same lens like I could in my Sony A7r vs Fuji X-T1 comparison, since the Samsung NX1 cannot adapt to Leica M mount lenses.

For the Fuji X-T1, I used the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Heliar III lens. A fantastic lens and very sharp. 

For the Samsun NX1, I only had the 12-24mm f4-f5.6 lens. An optically decent lens especially in the center.

Because I’m using a Prime on the XT1 and a zoom on the NX1, the Fujifilm images might have a sharpness advantage, so try to look past that.


Detail & Moiré – All Settings Default

For this test, I used identical camera settings under identical lighting. I matched the zoom lens on the Samsung to 15mm and matched the distance from the test chart.

I used Iridient Developer to process the shots. Iridient developer is slightly better at processing X-Trans RAW files which is why I used it. It shows to be a bit sharper but show some more moiré.

Side note – I find it a lot harder to manually focus with precision on the Fuji X-T1 compared to some other cameras. The Screen preview just isn’t all that accurate or detailed. Nailing the focus vs almost nailing it produces two very different results in terms of moiré patterns. In this test vs the NX1 I seemed to have nailed the focus so there is a lot more moiré compared to my results where I compared the camera to the Sony A7r.

Since the Samsung NX1 has almost twice the resolution, I scaled it down to the size of the Fujifilm X-T1 to compare detail. And you can really see it.

The NX1 hold a lot more detail. The XT1 feels a bit more punchy. This could be a characteristic of Fuji Raw files or possibly the lens.

Moiré patterns are visible on the Samsung, but not as bad as what we saw on the Sony A7r. With the Fuji X-T1, Moiré is there as well in the micro details. When using Lightroom, there is less moiré with X-Trans but the images are often slightly softer.

For this comparison I scaled down the Samsung NX1 to match the XT1 to get a sense of detail.

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Shadow Recovery

For this test, I initially underexposed each camera three stops, then lifted the exposure four stops to see how the shadows held up. But the results were indistinguishable. Both cameras laughed at me. 

So to get my revenge, I went back and underexposed each camera 5 stops and tried to restore exposure. 

The XT1 appears to have a very slight edge, but it’s sort of an illusion since Fujifilm cameras tend to apply a lot of color noise reduction to their RAW files. The Samsung does seem to have more detail still.

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Highlight Recovery

In terms of Highlight Recovery, the Fuji XT1 is the winner. Not by a lot, but there is a difference. Notice the highlight separation between 2-3 on the XT1, it’s hardly visible on the NX1.

This likely has to do with Fujifilm’s Dynamic Range highlight recovery systems they put into their cameras. Fujifilm limits your ISO to 200 to allow the camera to push and pull ISO depending on the exposure.

Some people often accuse Fujifilm of cheating the ISO, but they don’t. They just have a different way of using the sensor.

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High ISO

The XT1 destroyed the Sony A7r here, but with the NX1, it’s very close. I want to say the XT1 is a little nicer with less all around color noise and cleaner reds. But again, that has to do with Fujifilm’s color noise reduction they apply to the RAW files.

Also, the huge detail advantage the NX1 had in the first test, is completely gone here. In fact, you see more detail in the XT1.

My guess is this has to do with the XT1 having a larger pixel pitch.

The theory is, the bigger the pixels the better the sensor will perform in low light. So I guess there is an advantage to having only 16 megapixels. 

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One thing nice about Fujifilm is you get access to the film simulators. Provia, Velvia, etc. The look of most of the Fujifilm classic film stocks. But for these tests I’m just shooting RAW and am using Adobe Standard color profile.

The NX1 also has really nice colors when shooting RAW. They seem close but I feel the wood board behind the dollar bill seems more accurate on the XT1. On the NX1 it has this pasty yellow tint.

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The Red on the NX1 is slightly more patchy. Most standard Bayer sensors would seem to have trouble with red.

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A lot of people are still on the megapixel wagon and camera manufacturers keep pumping out more and more telling us it makes a difference. And it can, in very specific situations.

At f5.6 the NX1 has a lot more detail. 

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At F8 the NX1 still has an edge but it’s very small.

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At f11 they are starting to look the same.

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At F16 neither camera looks good.

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The NX1 does actually have some very nice hardware. Its sensor is very nice, I would say a generation ahead of the XT1. But if you think you’re going to get some huge advantage with more megapixels, you really won’t unless you keep the camera below f8 and shoot at a lower ISO. But at the same time, shooting high aperture and high ISO didn’t really degrade the image enough to justify not having more megapixels when compared to the XT1.

As far as an overall package, I still like shooting on my XT1 more, but everything else about that NX1 is really, really nice. The rear screen is absolutely amazing and the camera just feels intelligent. Only thing I don’t like, is the plasticky DSLR feel and the menus feel too bubble gum. 

With the X-Trans CMOS II sensor being about two years old, it still holds its own against a lot of the competition. At the time of its release, the X-Trans CMOS II sensor was probably secretly the best APS-C sensor on the market. Just nobody knew about it because the only people who where shooting Fujifilm back then where bearded hipsters drunk on Blue Ribbon who had just upgraded from their Holga.

But this next year when Fujifilm releases its new sensor, the turbo nerds will be watching!


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