For capturing wildlife, particularly birds in flight etc., a fast camera with a high maximum frame rate can be incredibly useful, especially when allied with a top autofocus system capable of keeping up with rapidly moving wildlife subjects.

Further to my previous post about the new Canon 5D MkII which has a very rapid maximum frame rate of 10 frames per second with full autofocus, I have just recently had my hands on a mirror less camera that leaves the Canon in the shade, with an amazing 15 frames per second and yes that is with full autofocus tracking!

The real surprise is that this speed king of a camera is made by a relative outsider to the world of wildlife or sports orientated cameras, Samsung!

The brooding 14th century Caesar's tower at Warwick Castle photographed with the Samsung NX1

The brooding 14th century Caesar’s tower at Warwick Castle photographed with the Samsung NX1

SAM_0209In the brief time I was reviewing the camera, I had a chance to test the autofocus on the raptors of the Warwick Bird of Prey Experience where the NX1 happily tracked an Eagle Owl flying very close and a vulture and even a young Condor at greater distances against mixed backgrounds including Warwick castle’s battlements.

 Overall the system worked very well, the only problem being that at such a high frame rate, I was bouncing up against the buffer in very short order! Even with all the power of the smart phone data management expertise that Samsung have employed in this camera, there is still a limit beyond which the camera can no longer shift data until it has freed some memory, a point at which the camera slows right down and eventually freezes up. Nevertheless, for those split second photo opportunities, the capability to capture so many frames is something that will appeal to many photographers hoping to catch that perfect instant in time!

The camera happily tracked birds crossing and coming directly towards the camera at high speed.

The camera happily tracked birds crossing and coming directly towards the camera at high speed even with distracting backgrounds.

This is the first mirror less camera I have tested so far that I think could genuinely be used in a professional wildlife shooting scenario. It has a high resolution back side illuminated sensor of 28 million pixels that produces images that look very similar to pictures from full frame cameras.

Not only is it tough and well built, the AF system genuinely works pretty well at high speeds. Many mirror less cameras claim high frame rates, but they often are limited to focus lock at the first frame, so the focus does not genuinely track the subject at the highest frame rates.

In the case of the Samsung NX1 however, the focus tracking actually does work, even at the extremely high frame rates of 15 frames per second, which incidentally leaves all other cameras, including the top full frame cameras from Nikon and Canon, in the dust!

SAM_0202Personally I would trade a little of the Samsung’s speed for a camera with an optical viewfinder, which I just find easier to keep centred over a moving subject as I pan the camera. Having said that however, for a camera with an electronic viewfinder, the Samsung is actually pretty good.

The NX1 is also a powerful and well specified video camera capable of recording 4K video and a direct competitor to the fantastic Panasonic GH4.

This is quite an achievement from Samsung and it will be interesting to see how other manufacturers respond.

The only other drawback for the wildlife or sport photographer is that there are currently no super telephoto lenses to fit the Samsung NX1, so although it has the speed, it doesn’t yet have the reach to take on distant wildlife subjects.

My review of the impressive Samsung NX1 is in the June issue of Outdoor Photography Magazine. Click here for a PDF of the article: SamsungNX1