Is Samsung still the one to emulate in mirrorless hybrid camera hardware/software design and engineering?

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. 

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Samsung NX1 APS-C/Super 35 digital hybrid mirrorless camera with Samsung Premium S 50-150mm f/2.8 ED OIS zoom lens.

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.

Samsung NX1

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.

Samsung NX30

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.

Samsung NX500

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.

Samsung lenses

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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Mirrorless Rumors: Too good to be true? High-end Samsung APS-C camera based on Exynos 9810 SoC

https://www.mirrorlessrumors.com/good-true-high-end-samsung-aps-c-camera-based-exynos-9810-soc/

“Well it’s years now Samsung NX line is dead. So I was really surprised to get a rumor about a new NX model in my mail box. The rumor comes from an anonymous source. It sounded soo strange that I almost think there is some truth behind this….”

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Samsung NX1 Super 35/APS-C hybrid digital camera with battery grip and Samsung Premium S 16-50mm f/2.0-2.8 ED OIS standard zoom lens
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Samsung made a number of excellent lenses for its NX series of interchangeable lens cameras and there were apparently more on the way when the company suddenly shut down its camera and lens division.

Commentary

If Samsung had not so spectacularly and in so short a period killed off the most technologically advanced hybrid stills/video Super35/APS-C camera of its day, the Samsung NX1, a camera that current Super 16/M43 and Super 35/APS-C DSLR-style hybrids have yet to match much less surpass, I would have been relying on the NX1 and its lenses and accessories to this very day and beyond.

Instead I ended up buying my Panasonic Lumix GH4 as a sort of consolation prize when it proved next-to-impossible even to simply see an actual NX1 and its lenses and accessories in any Sydney stores much less actually purchase any.

It is as if Samsung went out of its way to sabotage itself and the incredible technology underlying the NX1 with marketing and distribution that can only be described as travesties.

Far too late, I finally did see a sad, lonely, grimy, neglected NX1 with a pancake prime lens attached chained up on a high shelf in an inner city white goods store but I had placed my order for a GH4 by then and the writing was already on the wall for Samsung’s entire camera division given how badly they had botched it.

If Samsung really is considering going back to the camera-making business then they need to think seriously about the legend of the boy who cried wolf.

Their destruction of the finest hybrid camera system of its day along with the new premium lenses that were supposed to be following the first two to appear, and the shattering of hopes and possibilities that ensued, has left a nasty taste in the mouth.

We have yet to see a NX1 successor appear at the hands of any other camera company, and perhaps we never will, instead making do with also-rans and other substitutes that go some way towards becoming what the NX1 was and what its successors might have been.

Now we live in a world where Samsung’s suicided disruptive technology still casts its pale shadow over the stills and video hardware we use and feign excitement over.

Samsung NX1 Camera and Battery Grip

Samsung Lenses

Before Samsung suddenly, silently eliminated its entire camera division, it had sixteen lenses in its collection with a 300mm telephoto next cab off the rank and I had been hoping for a Premium S update to its 12-24mm wide-angle zoom lens in order to complete the necessary professional stills and video zoom lens troika.

Links

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Rigged and ready for Super 35 moviemaking action – the Motion9 Cube NX1 camera cage for the Samsung NX1. Motion9 later produced a quick-release top handle and a quick-release cable clamp, CubeCage Classic Pro and One-Touch Cable Clamp, to further improve the usability of their NX1 and other cages. Since rebranding as Seercam, they have released the CubeCage Classic Plus Handle.

Samsung’s web pages for the NX1 and related products are progressively disappearing so best to check them out while you can.

iPetitions: Samsung, Keep NX Alive!

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/samsung-keep-nx-alive

“Samsung Camera Division,

With exception of you closing your business in select markets, there’s been no new developments or statements concerning your Galaxy NX line of cameras, lenses and accessories. Nor have we seen any new firmware updates in several months.

Additionally, we didn’t see any related product updates since its release in 2014.

It’s now 2017 and the NX system is still alive and going strong. In some cases, the NX cameras still offer technology still missing from other manufacture[r]s to date. Think about how impressive this is? That’s how ahead of the curve you were.

The hottest camera today should not be the buzz about the lastest models from your old competitors. We shouldn’t be talking about the GH5, or even the CK200, we should be buzzing about the game changing NX2 PRO, with a new lineup of amazing glass.

You had this market setup to crush it, if not even give cameras costing in excess of $50k a run for its money. But you prematurely dropped the ball. What a huge mystery and giant disapointment to your customers….”

The revolutionary and still amazing Samsung NX1 Super 35/APS-C 4K hybrid mirrorless camera with Samsung 50-150mm f/2.8 S ED OIS premium zoom lens.

From Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One:

Samsung could have radically changed the HDSLR market with the NX1 had they developed it further and made more cameras.

Like Canon, they didn’t realise what they had and were content to rest on their laurels.

Innovation and iteration are key in today’s prosumer market.

Links

3 Legged Thing: Why things cost what they cost… – with COMMENTARY

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-things-cost-what-danny-lenihan

“In the last couple of weeks my little brand, 3 Legged Thing, launched a brand new Universal L Bracket – the QR11. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Then, somebody sent me a link to a well known forum, where a conversation had started about the press release for the QR11. The comments were almost wholly negative with more than one contributor stating “You can buy this from **insert website name** for $7″ or “I got one from China for $5 and it works just fine”….”

Commentary:

The above excellent and informative article by Danny Lenihan of 3 Legged Thing is partially in reference to 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 Universal L-Bracket aka L-Plate.

I have been looking for an L-Plate for my still-current Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera for some time and thought I had finally found a good solution in Really Right Stuff’s BGX8 L-Plate, only to discover to my deep disappointment that it was discontinued six months ago.

Really Right Stuff’s now discontinued BGX8 L-Plate for the GX8

The GX8 is a brilliant camera for portraiture and even if the GX9 eventually appears with IBIS and Dual IS per the GH5, I will continue to use my GX8 for tripod-mounted portrait and landscape orientation environmental portraiture due to its lovely sensor.

Why throw away something that works well and keep feeding the camera GAS churn cycle when perfectly good cameras can keep performing for years to come?

My current GX8 “L-Plate” solution

An L-Plate would make shooting in both orientations much easier and surer, quickly swapping from vertical to horizontal and vice versa in a way that is simply not possible by flipping the tripod head from one to the other.

Relying on third party manufacturers to supply custom solutions to common problems that should, perhaps, be attended to by camera makers is prone to all sorts of problems.

A universal L-Plate is a good solution in theory so long as it is designed in such a way that access to all your cameras’ functions are not impeded.

It seems that 3 Legged Thing did not have access to Panasonic Lumix cameras so may not have designed their QR11 L-Plate to fit it, and has not rated it for usability with the GX8 or other Panasonic cameras, or Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 for that matter.

I have managed to obtain a half-baked solution to my problem with the GX8 by purchasing SmallRig’s Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844 but a camera cage is hardly the same thing as an L-Plate.

I can understand camera-users resorting to Chinese cut-price copyists – I have had to do that myself in the absence of decent local product supply or in the presence of situations like this one with Really Right Stuff, but one thing remains constant – every Chinese-made item I have bought so far has failed spectacularly, or has been poorly-made, or is mediocre a best, or is just a lousy copy of the real thing which I have not been able to obtain for whatever reason.

I am hoping upon hope that 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 can work well enough with the GX8 or better yet that they will update it to work with the GX8 without impeding its full functionality, but the fact remains that L-Plates (and cages) customized for each specific camera are the best solution by far.

I would have thought that the whole point of contemporary CNC machining is that products can be made at any time, without having to produce in big batches, and so making even just one more Really Right Stuff BGX8 on demand should not be an impossible or insanely costly task.

Or do I have the wrong end of the stick? Independent in-demand solutions providers like Hejnar Photo prove otherwise.

As the destruction of the incredible and unique Samsung NX1, NX500 and Galaxy NX cameras proves, well-established manufacturers can and do make lousy decisions all the time and small manufacturers like Really Right Stuff are no exception to this.

Or, for that matter, Manfrotto, with their unique but tragically killed-off Lino Manfrotto Collection and Fig Rig product lines as well as other equally unique products like the Xume filter attachment system that appears to have been blessed with some pretty lousy marketing and distribution.