Samsung is a unique company. Unlike HTC, which is dedicated to making only mobile products, or Nikon and Canon, which primarily focus on image sensing, Samsung’s focus stretches far and wide. From home appliances, televisions, and computers to cameras, mobile phones, and tablets, Samsung does it all when it comes to consumer electronics.
While it’s not always the top brand in every market, it’s been a household name for quite some time, and it’s familiarity and presence in other industries certainly aids its performance in new territory.
Cameras, for instance, are not Samsung’s strongest suit. The company’s products are slowly gaining popularity. But a few decent Samsung cameras hardly take from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sony and other established camera makers. Most serious photographers are die-hards for one company or another; it’s a rarity to see a serious photographer shooting with Samsung.
Alas, Samsung didn’t break into the camera market for fun. It’s there with a purpose, and it’s been making waves for the past year.
Last August, Samsung announced the Galaxy Camera, essentially a 16.3-megapixel camera with 21x optical zoom lens bolted on the back of a modified Galaxy S III. Last week, it announced the Galaxy S 4 Zoom, an odd mixture of the body of a Galaxy S III and Galaxy S 4, mid-range specs, and a camera with a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and 10x optical zoom.
But it doesn’t stop there. Today, Samsung hit the London stage in full force, announcing several new ATIV Windows products and Galaxy devices.
Among the new Galaxy devices is a new camera, a mirrorless camera dubbed the Galaxy NX. It’s meant to bridge the gap between the Galaxy Camera, which is basically a smartphone with a larger camera sensor bolstered on the back, and Samsung’s NX series of interchangeable-lens cameras.
The Galaxy NX comes with some impressive specs in tow, too. It comes fitted with a 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, 1.6GHz quad-core processor, a 4.8-inch 1,280 by 720 pixel LCD display, 2GB RAM, 16GB built-in storage with microSD card slot, ISO 100 to 25,600, a 4,360mAh battery, Android 4.2, NFC, Wi-Fi, and 3G/LTE connectivity. It bears a shutter speed of 1/6000th of a second and a max of 8fps with stills. It’s also fully compatible with the Samsung NX lens mount.
And we won’t beat around the bush, this thing has grabbed our attention. We’re salivating streams of rainbow colors. Theoretically, this is perfect for trade shows. However, we’re not convinced there is a large enough market for this sort of device to fully take off … yet. There are some serious flaws with the Galaxy NX.
Primarily, it lies somewhere in the middle of uber awesome and pointless. Who, outside of techies who often travel to events and need a camera with wireless connectivity, would buy a camera like this?
Considering it’s a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, it’s a serious investment. Even if the camera with kit lens or body only sells for $400 or $500 (which is very unlikely, considering the NX20 with similar specs starts at $1,100), it’s a much larger investment overall, after you factor in additional lenses and monthly data rates. But someone looking into investing in a Galaxy NX – or any semi-professional camera, for that matter – should be fully aware of the additional costs that follow the initial purchase.
Serious photographers willy likely laugh at the mere thought of the Galaxy NX. It’s not made by Nikon or Canon, so it’s clearly not worthy.
Joking aside, there’s a point to be made. It’s a mirrorless camera, running Android on a SLR frame. In other words, there are smaller, more compact cameras that offer similar image quality. And the only two tricks up this camera’s sleeves are the ability to run Android apps and LTE connectivity.
So it won’t appeal to professionals, and it will almost certainly be out of the price range of someone looking for a standard point-and-shoot. That leaves casual photographers as the target demographic. But how often will an LTE-enabled camera come in handy for someone taking casual photos? Who in their right mind could justify buying a totally new camera because it runs Android or offers high-speed wireless data? It’s nice, but it’s a luxury, at best.
The ability to directly upload high-quality images to Dropbox or Flickr on the fly is a neat trick, no doubt. But there is only a small subset of users who this will greatly benefit – the same ones that swooned over the idea of the Galaxy Camera … until they realized it didn’t take great pictures.
The Galaxy NX is a neat idea. It’s great … in theory. But, at this very moment, it’s a very niche product. And sales will likely reflect just that.
That said, being the multifaceted company it is, Samsung is in a great position to help revolutionize the camera industry. One camera alone, or even two cameras, won’t do the trick. But if Samsung can continue to provide quality cameras with advanced software, other manufacturers will be forced to bring their own cameras into the 21st century.