Battle lines drawn at photokina

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Samsung and Sony are set for a battle royal over the next couple of years. At photokina, Samsung’s Monday 20th press conference made great store of ‘all our own work’ – that everything in the NX100 was sourced within Samsung. From the floor, a question far cheekier than I would have dared ask – ‘Are you working on making low noise sensors?’ – from Samsung, a deadpan reply that they were, indeed, working on lower noise sensors.
The NX100 is superficially a great concept, but the design based on ‘a dewdrop forming on a leaf’ has been seen before (it slips out the hand as easily as a dewdrop from a leaf) and is based on the idea that today’s rear-screen composers use two hands to hold the camera. Well, I have news for Samsung; they don’t. They generally use one. Even I do. So having aperture control from the focus ring of the lens, like an old-fashioned compact or rangefinder leaf-shutter model, is not a winner when your left hand is not actually going to be anywhere near the camera.
At the Pentax stand, marketing chief for the UK Marilyn Dixon proudly showed the K-5. I will admit, this is the camera Sony should have been showing. “We must tell you straight away that this camera uses a Sony sensor”, she said. “Sony make very good sensors”. What of Samsung? She was not sure if they were still selling any K-mount cameras. Pentax might never have used a Samsung sensor, ever, from the impression gained. They were using Sony sensors and Sony were the best.
Samsung previewed a line of rollout lenses from 2010 to 2012 for the NX100. The last phase included an 18-200mm and a 16mm f/2.8 pancake – they were going to match Sony blow for blow, and add half a dozen of the lenses which Sony NEX adopters most wanted. And they said they would issue a firmware update for the NX10 to allow it to use the new i-Fn (assignable function to the focus ring) lenes. But they had little care whether NX10 or NX100 were fully cross compatible with the glass in their owners’ hands now and to follow. Clearly the NX10 is a past episode; the NX100 is the real thing.
What a contrast at Pentax! No plans for an EVIL future. But – did you know that every Pentax lens with an ultrasonic motor also has a screw drive? And every screw drive body can also operate those lenses, and every new body can operate both types?
We have yet to visit Sony, but there is nothing new – A33, A55, A560, A580. There is nothing with the magnesium body, weather seals, superb glass prism, workable contrast-detect AF, and lovely compact but chunky size of the K-5. It has been left to Nikon (D7000, based on D90) and Pentax to be the first to exploit the new Sony 16 megapixel sensor in a semiprofessional body.
And Panasonic – they were great, inviting us on to an empty half-finished stand to see the latest stuff. Including a 14mm f/2.5 pancake looking so much like the NEX 16mm!
Samsung said that this year’s 1.4 million mirrorless camera sales would rise to over 15 million and eclipse DSLR sales by 2015. Maybe they are right. They also say they will be the leader. Who knows?
– David Kilpatrick


  • Well, I got that info few months ago, in Photokina they just confirm it.
    The Samsung CMOS factories are busy right now, they are finish their first 1/2.3″ CMOS back-light sensor (14MPx) for their next compact cameras and they are working in a new bigger compact camera CMOS sensor (maybe a 1/1.7″?)
    The APS-C is a rumor around for a while, but the most interesting is the competence will be hard and that is good.
    Few months ago, I don´t really know if it is true or not, but some web leaked a specs sheet about a new Samsung APS-C sensor.
    More APS-C Sony-made sensors is not bad.

  • As for Samsung, they were asked an embarrassing question at the press conference – ‘have you any plans to develop a low noise APS-C sensor?’. This caused some red faces on the podium, but a relatively calm ‘yes, we are working on the next generation of sensor’ response. I imagine that is where your good source comes from Alex! – David

  • “Well, I have news for Samsung; they don’t. They generally use one.”
    How do you focus manually or move the zoom with one hand?
    Those new EVILs are not compact controlled cameras.
    The next years will be very exciting on EVIL market, I know from a good source that Samsung is preparing a new APS-C CMOS sensor with 1080p support, high speed rate and good high ISO performance and it will be on a new advanced DSLR-style NX camera.
    Probably they announce a new NX camcorder like NEX-VG10 and more high quality prime lenses will come, the iFn 85mm f/1.4 announced will be the first one, and Schneider is on its design.
    Both makers are looking for change the low-end DSLR market to EVIL system, lighter, “smaller” and cheaper and Sony has a very interesting approximation with NEX and SLT cameras.
    The photography is changing…

  • It is certainly reassuring to read that Sony’s sensor are in highest regards, after all I’ve invested considerably in A-mount glass. That they don’t offer an up-to-date A7xx camera body with such an excellent sensor – well, that makes it easier for me to not spend my bucks on a new gadget! That they don’t earn my money, well, that’s a problem for them, not so much for me.

  • When you consider the specs/price and target market of the two other cameras using Sony’s new 16 megapixel sensor, the A55 and A580 seem to leave a big hole in the Alpha lineup. If they do not show the A7XX today (there is a press launch) I will be disappointed.

  • Thanks for the comments.
    I guess we have to hope Sony is saving up for a surprise announcement about something at the show.
    Really overdue in the A7XX category.
    Will look forward to your updates.

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