The Samsung dilemma

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens
Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens

Today I'll be posting off my Samsung NX200 as I've sold it on ebay. This is a shame because it takes fine pictures. I gave it one last try to see if I could work with it, and because of no viewfinder, it was a complete pain to use. Being short sighted, I have to take off my glasses to see the screen clearly, as they are adjusted for distance. I then have to put them back on for everything else. Since in bright sunlight I wear polarised sunglasses, this is a problem. 

Perversely, I think it would work very well as a tripod mounted landscape camera, the controls are well laid out and it has an excellent viewfinder, however for hand holding it doesn't work for me at all. However as I continually write the sensor is excellent and the 18-55mm is a (very) decent lens.

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens

I was also somewhat disconcerted by an interview Amateur Photographer, the UK magazine, conducted with the new head of the camera division at Samsung. He comes from the companies mobile phone division, which is not encouraging, and some of his comments reported in the article were "odd" to say the least.

(He) "stressed that the firm must first 'democratise CSC's' by establishing a wider range of CSC models aimed at both consumers and enthusiasts and making them 'more affordable".

So more cheap and cheerful then.

"Once we have a full range, the volume and scale will allow us to communicate (the brand) to the consumer." He also indicated that the firm needs to build brand awareness for its csc cameras before releasing a high-end model.

???
What Samsung need surely is an attention grabbing, headline generating camera that moves them into Fuji territory, who from nowhere have become one of the most talked about camera companies, by combining style, quality and an awareness of the popularity of retro. It seems to me that Samsung just keep releasing copies of other manufacturers designs. What they need is something that attracts us as photographers. I will bet anything that this post gets far less hits than my posts on Sony NEX, m4/3 and anything about Fuji. Samsung need to get some buzz going, which they significantly fail to do, with their generally excellent but flawed, in terms of design and styling, cameras and lenses.

Apparently they are bringing out cameras with Wi-Fi. So more gadgetry, more mobile phone styling and feature sets. Giving the photographers with the cash what they want, seems to be low down on their list of priorities. Its a simple thing, surely, to look at what are the "headline grabbers" and the success stories of the past year. The Fuji X100, the Sony NEX-7 and the soon to be announced Olympus OM-D. These companies seem to read what people write, listen to what photographers want. Unlike Samsung they seem to have realised that point and shooters, snapshooters and facebook teenagers aren't particularly interested in what advantages CSC's have to offer, and they are going to carry on buying compact cameras on criteria such as price, colour and whether they have the name Canon or Nikon on them, or just buy the latest mobile phone with a camera.

Some of Panasonic's pronouncements follow the same line, whereas Fuji, Sony and Olympus seem to be targeting people who would describe themselves as photographers in some way shape or form. With I would suggest, significantly more success than Samsung.

The crazy thing is that Samsung have got the important stuff right. Great sensor and an excellent range of lenses. Use a Samsung CSC and you won't be struggling to get top notch image quality. They also have a no nonsense approach to menus and layout. As far as I'm concerned the NX200 is (with the exception of the "missing" viewfinder) a much better laid out and easier to navigate camera than the Fuji X100. But whereas that Fuji sold 70,000 units last year, Samsung apparently only sold just over 100,000 of its entire CSC range. 

The new imaging "supremo" says he wants Samsung to be "No.1 in every camera segment" but it doesn't sound that convincing to me. Personally I think that Samsung should close down their CSC camera division and somebody should head hunt their R & D and technical team, who obviously know what they are doing. 

This is a shame, since the more companies we have in this sector, the more choice we have and the more they will push each other to come up with something better. Its a shame that Samsung, after a really promising start, can't come up with something more exciting than they have. They may surprise me and next week will announce a really exciting camera that is just what we all want. Unfortunately I think we will just get a succession of boring minor upgrades that while providing top class image quality, will ultimately offer nothing special to make people think about switching brands. Because thats what Samsung now have to do, get people to switch to them. m4/3 and NEX are so well established, and are pushing out new models on a regular basis, that they have swallowed up a good portion of the market. 

There is this myth that all the compact camera buyers can somehow be convinced to buy a CSC. My feeling is that what most of that market really wants is a better camera phone. Serious photographers spend serious money on cameras and lenses, and many change them on a regular basis. Not quite as much as myself or Kirk Tuck, but much more often than your average family snapshooter. I believe that Fuji and Sony in particular have got it right in that they have now targetted this market for their CSC's and will continue to produce point and shoot compact cameras for the rest. Where Samsung fit in to this long term, who knows, but it would be a real shame if that NX200 sensor (which to my eyes produces results almost indistinguishable from the NEX-7) is used by very few photographers. I believe that in order to avoid that, Samsung have to produce at least one "photographers camera" with it in. I seriously doubt whether they will do that, and I fear they are destined to become just another photographic "also ran", which is, as I indicated at the top of this piece, a shame.

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens

Samsung NX200 18-55mm kit zoom lens