Samsung enters pocket cameras

I read three DPReview announcements of the new Samsung N-series cameras.

The one that interests me is the Samsung NV7 OPS.

Samsung Cameras N Series screenshot

Samsung N design

I really like how the N-series departs from the oppressive decade-old silver box metallic design introduced by the Canon Elph (Design Classic #938).

In particular, we are back to classic brushed black stainless steel, leave a nub for gripping (a la Nikon), have the lens stick out from the body (a la Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 or DMC-TZ1).

NV7-3

Thank god! There is a clear minimalist consistency in design that goes throughout the line that will say “Samsung” if this ever catches on. As DCRP said, “The build quality of all three cameras also stood out—they feel like they’ve been carved from a solid block of metal.” Great job!

Clear design language shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you’ve followed Korean companies recently. Personally I’ve felt that Koreans and Italian design seem to be very similar.

Next, Samsung is trying to own the color blue with clear blue accents. This reminds me about how Sony is trying to move to orange accents with the Alpha.

In the computer world, many manufacturers are trying to distance themselves from the blue obsession that came about with the introduction of the blue LED. Which got me to think at just how far behind the times are in photography where we think that silver metallic boxes, white lenses, and black SLR bodies are cool. Geez, I hope Samsung puts a blue LED in the N-series somewhere.

Along that minimalist route is the lack of labeling on the buttons around the LCD control. Samsung calls these “Smart Touch” “soft buttons” because their action will depend on the LCD software-control. That’s an innovative idea when you consider that labeled hard buttons are a vestige of the days when you looked through the viewfinder to compose a shot. Unfortunately, this emphasizes a thing I hate about today’s new stereos, cameras, computers, etc.: buttons that all look alike and can’t be understood by tactile feedback alone.

Samsung NV7 back

Samsung’s place in the world

Samsung shares a technology agreement with Pentax and Samsung dSLRs are just rebadged Pentax cameras and lenses. Pentax has an agreement with Casio to develop their operating systems which is why the Casio Exilim EX-Z series cameras have the same optics as the Pentax lenses. However, they have differing views on the future of anti-shake and it is clear that Samsung is firmly in the Pentax/Sony camp.

Don’t let the Schneider-Kreuznach label on the Samsungs fool you. There is some relationship between Samsung, Schneider (and Kodak) that I don’t understand—for instance, the Schneider dSLR lenses seem to be rebadged Pentax ones.

The NV7 vs. the LX1

If this puppy did RAW, I’d be all over it. It doesn’t and the CCD is the 1/3″ type that I’m not fond of in a camera this size.

Other things to consider are the fact that the LX1 does 28mm at wide angle (16:9 aspect ratio) instead of a paltry 38mm and the interface on the LX1 is practically entirely tactile—you can easily hack the parts that aren’t.

5 thoughts on “Samsung enters pocket cameras

  1. I’m actually worried about what Companies like Samsung and Sony will do to the camera market. Competition is good. But it’s also possible that companies like this will rip the guts out of the tradistional (and well made) cameras. Image quality is taking a back seat to features and wiz bang factor.

  2. @Tracer: Thanks for the comment and I hear you. I just tend to take a “glass half full” sort of view with pocket cameras.

    These companies seem pretty committed to working with standard imaging companies on these products. For instance, Samsung works closely with Kodak (“Schneider-Kreuznach”) and Sony’s Alpha announcement was the most lens-heavy announcement for a dSLR I’ve ever seen. Similarly, Casio works closely with Pentax and Canon, Panasonic with Leica, etc.

    I think it bodes well. Remember, pocket cameras are a consumer market and the optics is already quite good. Instead of seeing it as a move toward “wiz bang” features, see it as a move away from “just talking about megapixels.”

    For the consumer, image stabilization will be the single greatest practical feature in a camera.

  3. I used to shoot a point-and-shoot, and I never used the viewfinder. Then I got a DSLR, and had to use the viewfinder. Now I’m going to gripe that this camera doesn’t even *have* a viewfinder.

    It is cool-lookin’, though, and it says ‘Schneider’ on it. So the camera-fetishist in me wants one. However, the camera-fetishist in me still wants a Pentax 110 SLR, as well, and that’ll never happen.

  4. @Enoch:
    Excellent point! It is very strange how we have one standard (viewfinder worthless) for pocket cameras and a different standard (viewfinder only) for SLRs. Then again, that’s sort of the point of SLRs and dual use SLRs entail a lot of viewfinder brightness compromise (Olympus E-330, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1).

    I imagine that in a couple years a second tier manufacturer (probably Sony) is going to give us SLR-like construction but with the viewfinder being electronic (like in some bridge cameras and video cameras). The purists aren’t going to like that, but with a swivel LCD it opens a whole range of candid photography options (a la Sony Cybershot and R1).

    I think that while the camera is targeted to bridge users (with it’s 7x zoom), it’s actually just a pocket/compact camera with a large zoom attached a la Lumix DMC-TZ1 hence the lack of the viewfinder. IMO, it’s more aesthetically pleasing than the TZ1, though I don’t know about how it handles yet until it comes out.

    Pentax 110.

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