When Samsung left, it left quietly. I was reminded recently by a senior executive that the company never announced that it was officially exiting the camera industry, but even so, right now the chances of us ever seeing an NX2 seem pretty slim. Which is a shame, because the NX1 was a great camera, and a rumored full-frame NX2 might have been just the shot in the arm that the camera industry badly needs.
But there’s no point wishing on what might have been. Samsung may only have been in the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera business for a little over five years, but it achieved a lot in that short time. And it all started with the NX10.
Traditionally, the camera industry has been a bit dismissive of Samsung. Even after the premium-priced NX1, the company never entirely managed to shed its ‘they make fridges, don’t they?’ image. A slight hint of cynicism towards Samsung’s attempts to be taken seriously as a camera maker can even be detected in DPReview’s coverage of its first mirrorless model, the NX10. In retrospect, that tone is hard to justify.
The NX10 was the first mirrorless model from any manufacturer to offer an APS-C sensor (Sony’s NEX system was launched later the same year), and the ~50% increase in sensor area compared to Micro Four Thirds was a pretty significant technical achievement. The NX10 also offered a fairly high resolution (for the time) electronic viewfinder, a fixed OLED rear screen, and excellent build quality. This – ahem – ‘little Korean camera’ (in the words of our announcement coverage) packed a lot of technology into its impressively compact body.
Samsung NX10 Samples Gallery (2010)
The NX10 was announced immediately before CES 2010, and we took a working sample to the show. I had recently joined the DPReview team, and Richard, Lars and I added a couple of days of vacation in LA’s Koreatown to the trip.1
Our plan was to get some sunshine, enjoy some of the area’s famous food, and shoot enough images on the NX10 to create a samples gallery.2 During that time, the NX10 was mostly in my possession, and I ended up really liking it. Samsung’s lens lineup was paltry at the point of announcement, but the tiny 30mm F2 pancake was (and remains) a lovely lens for casual everyday shooting with such a small camera.
|The Getty Center, in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. It’s worth visiting LA for the Getty Center alone. I certainly wouldn’t go back for the breakfasts.|
Flashback to the mid 2000s: Back when it was still rebadging Pentax DSLRs, Samsung used to run private brainstorming sessions in the UK (and I assume elsewhere) with technologists and industry journalists to come up with ideas for the future of camera design over dinner. It also used to sponsor competitions in design schools, to the same end. Possibly as a result of the prodigious consumption of free booze3 the results of these consultations and design experiments invariably ended up looking something like the famous Luigi Colani concepts for Canon, which eventually became the delightfully curvy (but still basically SLR-shaped) T90 in the early 1980s.
|Another shot from the Getty Center. I really like the Getty Center.|
Having attended a couple of those brainstorming sessions in 2007/8 (hey – I enjoy a free dinner as much as anyone) I remember being a bit surprised that the NX10 ended up looking so conventional. Like the contemporary Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, it looked and handled like an unusually small DSLR. That said, the NX10 was a perfectly pleasant camera to use, with very few significant frustrations.
Overall, the NX10 offered very good image quality, fast, responsive AF (‘DSLR-speed’ as we admitted in our review) and for the time, an excellent rear display. We complained about its Auto ISO implementation and aggressive noise-reduction4 and the video mode had some kinks that needed to be worked out, but for a first attempt, it must be said that Samsung got a lot right.
In pretty short order, the NX10 became the NX20, which became the NX30. Then in 2015 came the NX1. And the rest is (sadly) history.
1. I’m pretty sure the location was just a coincidence, but Richard’s boundless enthusiasm for puns may have extended to the trip planning – my memory is unclear on this point.
2. Barring one memorably unpleasant Denny’s breakfast, we succeeded in all three aims, despite what sounded like a near riot in the early hours of the morning at our very cheap and not at all secure hotel.
3. On the part of the industry insiders, I mean, not the design students. Although let’s be honest, we’re talking about design students here – they were probably even more hammered than we were.
4. Remember that we’re talking about DPReview in 2010 – when complaining about Auto ISO systems and noise reduction represented a large portion of our total site output.