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