Photokina 2018 is approaching and with it come announcements and rumours of marvellous new mirrorless hybrid cameras and lenses in sensor sizes including 35mm, APS-C, Medium Format and Micro Four Thirds.
Yet I cannot help but think back to the once great white hope of mirrorless for stills and video, the Samsung NX1 and its close companions numbering amongst them the Samsung NX30, the Samsung Galaxy NX and the Samsung NX500, and wonder if any other camera maker has yet learned the lessons that these amazing cameras have to teach them.
I have never had the pleasure of using any Samsung camera due to their poor to nonexistent distribution here before Samsung’s camera and lens division was tragically axed , but I had an all-too-brief play with a colleague’s Samsung NX1 some time ago and that was enough to be amazed.
More recently mention of the Samsung NX30 appeared on a mirrorless rumours website, I googled to and was stunned and amazed to see the camera had a tilting electronic viewfinder and fully articulated monitor, two of the most essential , in my option, features for any serious stills and video hybrid camera.
My beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 has both and its is a potent combination for stealthy and efficiently shooting stills or video, caged or uncaged, heavily rigged or camera-and-lens only.
The Samsung NX1 had superb ergonomics and a still unsurpassed menu design, and I suspect it worked even better in the hand when rigged with its vertical battery grip and Premium S lenses.
Imagine if Samsung had stayed in the camera and lens business, constantly innovating and showing the more established players in the market how it should be done.
Imagine what contemporary Samsung rangefinder-style and DSLR-style hybrid mirrorless APS-C and larger sensor equipped cameras might be like, with tilting EVFs, fully articulated AMOLED monitors on the mid-to upper level cameras or tilting AMOLED monitors on the lower-end models, excellent hardware ergonomics and software user interface design, 6K read-out, 1080p at 120 frames per second, HEVC H.265 codecs for 4K and 8K video, and more.
Imagine if Blackmagic Design, Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh/Pentax and Sony learned even a fraction of the lessons Samsung’s genius designers and engineers had to teach them.
The Samsung NX1 was so far ahead of its time that many potential users complained bitterly about its then poorly supported HEVC video codec and H.265 video file type, but not long after its release computer makers began adding support and now it is standard on contemporary computers and 4K television sets.
Many professional moviemakers continue to rely on their Samsung NX1 cameras and native and adapted lenses, and anticipate the day when they start breaking down with dread.
The Samsung NX30 was aimed more at stills photographers than moviemakers, with its 1080p video and 20MP sensor, but it has two features I consider essential to hybrid mirrorless photography and cinematography, a tilting electronic viewfinder aka EVF and a fully articulated monitor.
Samsung Galaxy NX
The Samsung Galaxy NX was a bold experiment in pushing camera menu systems way beyond still common lists of text links into an Android-based fully graphic icon-based system.
The Samsung NX500 was minus an EVF but partially made top for that absence with a tilting monitor.
Apparently many photographers and cinematographers adopted the NX500 as a smaller companion camera to their Samsung NX1s.
It was often said of Samsung’s cameras that there were not enough lenses, though the company’s camera division had begun working on its professional-quality Premium S lens range before its was suddenly shut down.
It managed to issue two Premium S lenses, the Samsung Premium S 16-50mm f/2.8 ED OIS and Samsung Premium S 50-150mm f/2.8 ED OIS zoom lens, with other lens designs rumoured to be in the works or about to be released.
Any new mid-level to professional mirrorless camera system should be released alongside at least five top-quality lenses – a wide, medium and telephoto zoom lens trio, and two or three fast, wide aperture prime lenses.
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