CES 2015 Samsung Interview: Mirrorless to outsell DSLRs 'in three years'
|Byungdeok Nam, Senior Vice President of Samsung's R&D team in the company's Mobile division, pictured at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2015|
Since releasing the NX1 late last year, Samsung has been gathering feedback from users, and is preparing a major firmware update before the end of this month. Firmware 1.2 brings a range of refinements to both still and video shooting, and addresses a lot of our initial frustrations with the NX1.
We made time at International CES in Las Vegas to sit down with Byungdeok Nam, Senior Vice President of Samsung's R&D team in the company's Mobile (formerly Digital Imaging) division to speak about the NX1, the new firmware, and the mirrorless camera market in general.
Firmware 1.2 is a big update to the NX1. Is this a new approach for Samsung, to continually update the product?
Yes. Our users require new functions and ask us for changes to the user interface. We gather that information and implement those requirements through firmware. Communicating with our customers is very important.
A lot of the improvements in Firmware 1.2 are focused on video. How many of your customers are using the NX1 for shooting video?
In Korea, the NX1 is being used by KBS [the Korean Broadcasting System] to shoot a drama series. They’ve replaced older, more expensive systems with the NX1, which is also much simpler. And we’ve added functions specifically designed for this use case scenario. For example, when shooting movies, you don’t always want very fast autofocus, sometimes you want a slow focus movement between two people in a scene. So we changed the AF speed options in firmware 1.2 to make it slower and smoother for video. In the USA, ‘Project Runway’ is also using the NX1 for handheld 4K video shooting.
[Jay Kelbley - Samsung USA] For the past few years there has been a very aggressive attempt from the R&D team to get feedback from customers and quickly implement it.
How was the process of researching and developing the NX1 different from previous NX models?
About three years ago we started planing the NX1, with the target of making the world’s best mirrorless camera, to compete with DSLRs. Even though the sensor isn’t full frame, we wanted to get the highest possible image quality so we developed an APS-C format BSI sensor. This is a world first, and we achieved a maximum ISO sensitivity of 51,600. The new sensor technology reduces noise and allows us to process images at a high speed, despite the 28MP resolution.
How long did it take to develop this sensor?
About the same length of time as the camera - about three years. Also we developed a new SOC [system on a chip] and implemented a new video codec - H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) - to allow us to record 4K footage to a conventional SD card. To do this, compression is very important. H.265 is twice as compressed as H.264.
Were those compression algorithms developed in-house?
Yes. On the sensor we also developed a new phase detection autofocus system. Mirrorless cameras have been poorer than DSLRs in terms of their viewfinders and also autofocus, but semiconductor technology has improved so much that we’ve achieved an extremely fast AF system which rivals DSLRs. Also the electronic viewfinder in the NX1 has been improved, and the time delay is very short - just five milliseconds. So there’s no lag.
When you’re developing a high-end product like the NX1, what is your benchmark? Is there a camera that you have in mind that you want to match?
Full-frame, high-end DSLRs. The ones around the $5000 level. That’s our benchmark.
Did you design the NX1 from the beginning to record 4K video?
Yes. Three years ago of course the format was still not standardized but we intended the NX1 to shoot UHD [4K] video from the start.
How much of your resource is dedicated to R&D of lenses, as opposed to cameras?
We have more than 100 people working on lens R&D and I can tell you that compared to compact camera lenses, high-quality lenses for our interchangeable lens cameras require twice or three times the engineering resources. Large-diameter aspherical lens elements, for example - we can’t just buy in from somewhere else, so we develop those in-house.
The new ’S’ series lenses are a big step up in terms of quality compared to previous NX lenses. Are they created by a separate team?
Yes, they are. With a separate management structure.
As you’re designing these new lenses, is quality your priority, or size and weight?
Optical quality. Even though they’re APS-C lenses they are relatively big, and heavy. Optical performance is the most important thing with these lenses. Compare the 16-50mm F2.-2.8 with our 16-50mm power zoom. The S lens is heavy, but that’s to achieve the best optical quality.
With the NX1 you’re trying to attract existing DSLR owners. One of the biggest obstacles to swapping systems is cost. Are you trying to keep the NX1 to a certain price point, to make it more attractive to these people?
No, we don’t want to decrease prices in the market. But with firmware 1.2 we just upgraded and added several new functions, for no cost.
What would you say is your main competitive advantage? Why should I as a consumer pick your camera over any other?
Firstly image quality. In my opinion it’s better than the competition. Also 4K movie recording, which we have in the NX1. Also the speed - 15 frames per second, and the autofocus speed which is also very fast. And the EVF, which is very fast and high-resolution. Also connectivity. It’s easy to connect the NX1 to a television and to mobile devices. There’s a new feature in the new firmware which allows you to use your phone as a remote trigger for the NX1. Not as a remote viewer, but just a simple trigger via BlueTooth.
The sensor readout is very fast - 240 frames per second. For autofocus object tracking we read at 120Hz. We can do full resolution sensor readout at 25 frames per second, and digital signal processing [with a new chip and algorithms] at 15 frames per second.
Do you think there’s anything that DSLRs still do better?
No, not really. At least not for customers who want small sized cameras. If we put the NX1’s functions into a DSLR it would be much bigger.
When will DSLRs become extinct?
I wouldn’t like to say, but since 2008 when mirrorless systems were announced, mirrorless didn’t grow very rapidly. In the last year, however, market reports are predicting that in 2018/19 mirrorless cameras will outsell DSLRs.
May 9, 2017
'That article was more like gossip' Panasonic's head of cameras talks downsizing, GH5 and the 8K era
May 8, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 15, 2017
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more