The biggest selling point here is a super-slim, lightweight body that you can slip into a handbag, or even a pants pocket. Without a lens attached, the NX mini is no larger than many compact point-and-shoots, and when you stick on the 9mm (24.3mm, 35mm equivalent) f/3.5 kit lens, it's not much thicker. There's a 1-inch, 20.5-megapixel CMOS sensor that's identical in size to what you'll get with very high-end compacts, like the $800 Sony RX100 M3, but quite a bit smaller than the APS-C sensor manufacturers include with mirrorless cameras like the Alpha 6000 or the aforementioned NX30.
Of course, a slim design also means you'll have to put up with some limitations. There are only a few buttons on the rear, and they're adorably small. They're adequate for petite hands, but many adults will need to use a fingertip to do things like accessing the menu, switching to a different mode or reviewing captured images. There are miniature buttons on the top, too, for turning on the power or launching into Samsung's WiFi mode. Fortunately, the shutter release is nearly full-size, and once you launch the menu, you can adjust many settings simply by tapping the 3-inch, 480 x 320 touchscreen, which also flips up 180 degrees for self-portraits, or at any angle in between for shots below eye-level, or overhead if you flip the camera upside-down.
Another peculiarity is the microSD card slot, which Samsung's now including with many of its point-and-shoot cameras. It's not like microSD cards are difficult to come by or much more expensive than their full-size counterparts these days, but they are tricky to insert. Plus, they're incompatible with most laptops for downloading pictures and video (without an adapter), and very easy to misplace. The battery, however, is large enough for full-day shoots, at 2,330mAh, and the camera charges via micro-USB, which I prefer personally, though some users will want to have an external charger (which you won't find in the box).
As for the UI, there's nothing out of the ordinary here. You can control just about everything using the touchscreen, though you can also use the four-way controller on the side to navigate if you prefer. Settings are limited, and therefore relatively straightforward, so you should be able to find what you're looking for with only a few taps.
There is a dedicated mode button, but there's no room for a dial, so you need to tap the screen to move among auto, smart, program, aperture or shutter priority and manual options. Once you've made your pick, you can tweak settings using a touchscreen function menu. In manual mode, this can be a bit cumbersome, since you need to go back in the menu to adjust aperture and shutter speed. But this probably isn't a camera most owners will use with a manually dialed-in exposure.
There's also a WiFi mode, which lets you access a variety of wireless sharing options. You can use MobileLink to send photos from the camera to a smartphone or tablet, or Remote Viewfinder, which miraculously lets you access all of the NX mini's shooting modes, including manual, from another device. You also have access to Samsung Home Monitor, which requires its own smartphone app and lets you use the camera to keep an eye on a child, for example, assuming your camera and phone are connected to the same WiFi network. Additionally, you can back up photos via WiFi, post directly to the web or send pictures in an email, all directly from the camera.
Performance and battery life
I really enjoyed shooting with the NX mini. The camera performed as expected every time when shooting outdoors or in decent lighting conditions -- low-light photos didn't turn out nearly as well (more on that in the image quality section below). The camera is fairly quick to boot up and you only have to wait a moment for the bundled 9mm lens to extend. There is a noticeable amount of focus hunting, but in bright light you can fire off a shot very quickly. Dim scenes are another story, but the NX performed reasonably well when the (oddly green) focus-assist light was turned on.
The camera offers a few positive surprises on the performance front, including a 6 fps consecutive-shooting mode that lets you capture full-resolution RAW or JPEG images. If you're willing to settle for 5-megapixel shots, you can also choose from three burst modes, including 10, 15 and 30 frames per second. The clever selfie mode launches as soon as you flip the display forward -- you can access it directly even when the camera's powered off. When you press the shutter release, the camera will start a three-second countdown, giving you enough time to reposition before it captures an image.
There's a 1/16,000-second maximum shutter speed, letting you shoot at larger apertures in bright sunlight, though even at f/3.5, you won't capture much bokeh (blurred backgrounds) due to the smaller sensor size. The sensitivity ranges from 160-12,800, or 25,600 in extended mode, while videos can be captured at 1080p, 720p, VGA or 320 x 240, all at 30 frames per second. Battery life is rated at 650 shots with the 9mm lens or 530 shots with the 9-27mm zoom lens. That should get you through a full day of shooting on vacation, assuming you don't spend hours reviewing pictures on the display or transmitting photos via WiFi.
The NX mini has a 1-inch sensor, so it's reasonable to expect image quality to be superior to what you'd get with a typical point-and-shoot. But the camera's no match for higher-end mirrorless models or even an entry-level DSLR. I did some casual shooting over the span of one month in San Francisco, Taipei and Austin, Texas. Results were generally quite solid with daytime shoots, but indoor photos and shots captured at night fell a bit short. The 9mm pancake lens excludes optical image stabilization, so captures at slower shutter speeds are often quite blurry, particularly when you're holding the camera at a distance to shoot a selfie. Let's take a look at some samples.