Monday, July 9, 2007

Fauxtokina 2007: Samsung speculation and predictions

Samsung DSLRs

  • Mid-range The GX10 (Photokina 2006) is the Samsung version of the critically acclaimed Pentax K10D. Given that Samsung has waited more than 1.5 years for their GX1s/GX1L upgrades, I wouldn't be surprised if there is nothing new here. Of course this also depends on what Samsung is doing sensor-wise, and also whether they plan to come up with their own desing, as opposed to be building upon the Pentax version. The expectation in the Pentax camp is of two models, with a flagship prototype perhaps even. So what exactly happens with Samsung? A 12mp version of the K10D would not be a surprise. A 10mp version of the K100D is also very reasonable. But will they happen right now or in early 2008? I do not know as of right now :)
  • Entry-level The GX1S and GX1L started the Samsung DSLR era in early 2006. Both were based on the Pentax DS*/DL* versions. Clearly they are in need of an update. Samsung did not use the K100D (May 2006) because they had just entered the DSLR market, but the new K100D Super has Samsung entry-level model written all over it. Expect the K100D Super to be "Samsung-ized"

    Samsung non-DSLRs
  • Samsung took the bold step of rebooting their entire lineup in Jan 2006. Gone were the V-series, A-series, U-series, and letterless-XXX series. A pattern of releasing most of their cameras between CES and PMA emerged in 2006 and 2007. The NV-series got them a lot of eyeballs and headlines.
  • Sensor-wise Samsung is at 10mp 1/1.8" and 7mp 1/2.5" right now. Will they go to 12mp and 8mp respectively? Are they making their own sensors or buying from Sony and others? Or both?
  • Advanced? The Big Daddy (Pro 815) was the last of the 2/3" sensored cameras. It was announced in June 2005. Two years is a long time, but for this camera perhaps Samsung is using a mid-range DSLR cycle as opposed to a consumer digicam cycle. Should we expect a replacement? Probably not. Do we want a replacement? Probably yes! Will Samsung try their hand at something advanced again? Currently the NV- and the L- sereis are their top of the line, but they are really more mid-range in terms of features/functionality.
  • Long Zooms? The Pro815, along with the hybrid camera/camcorder units are the only long-zooms Samsung has announced so far. Perhaps that is their strategy: to cover the long zooms with the hybrids, but I think they are making a big big mistake to ignore the long zoom market which is one of the popular right now. But if they do, they should make sure they are competitive in terms of image quality!
  • The Price is Right? None of their cameras is over $300 as of right now. Not even the sleek NV-series. Samsung has a plan. The plan is to become #3 in worldwide unit shipments in 2007. And keeping the prices low and the models plentiful apparently was their strategy. Will they attempt something above this price range as part of their summer/fall upgrade?
  • NV-series Samsung succeeded by getting everyone's attention with the NV-series design and the PUI (pooey? aka physical user interface). The sexy and sleek design raised expectations but the reviews have shown that the IQ is definitely not as sleek as the design. The NV-series got started in July 2006 with a 10mp 1/1.8" model (NV10), a 7mp 1/2.5" with a 7x (but not wide) optical zoom with the first sensor-anti shake from Samsung (NV7 OPS). The 3rd one was a classic 7mp, 3x, bling-bling bijou (NV3). The NV-series got expanded in January 2007 with the NV11, using a 5x optical zoom with a 10mp 1/1.8" sensor. PSAM was in all but the bling-bling model. The NV-series was so sexy that it produced two dpreview reviews for NV-series, something rare for Samsung, to get 2 out of 3 cameras announced reviewed at a busy site like dpreview. So where do we go from here? The NV-series led the way in July 2006 before some of their feature and style propagated to the rest of the Samsung cameras. So it is reasonable to expect that perhaps this summer/fall we will see a new wave of NV-series cameras. The NV11 was an out of cycle introduction to take advantage of the 5x optical zoom that was also added to the the new S1050/S850 1/1.8" cameras. Since Samsung carefully rationed the name (NV11) we can expect that a 12mp version will be named NV12 (and 5x optical). Now what to do with the NV7? The smaller sensor betrayed this very nicely designed camera. Will Samsung continue to push it with 8mp? Can they fix some of their internal processing? Or can they use a 1/1.8" sensor instead? If they do decide to go with 8mp 1/2.5" sensors, expect an NV8 OPS and an NV3 update as well. Also the NV-series cameras are screaming for wide angle. Will they make at least one wide? They have had 28mm 1/2.5" cameras with the L74 being the latest.
  • L-series The L-series grew up after the 2006 reboot of the Samsung line-up. The L85 (8mp 1/1.8", 5x) is perhaps the precursor of the NV11/S1050/S850 models. The L85 along with the L60 (typical 6mp, 3x, LiIon camera) were announced in February 2006. A year later (Febr 2007) the L-series got some attention at PMA. The reason was the L74w that made itself an interesting travellers companion: featuring half a gigabyte of travel data on in in-camera storage, starting at 28mm wide, MPEG4, and a 3" touchscreen. The L77 was inspired by the NV7-OPS (1/2.5" 7mp, 7x optical, but no sensor-shift) but once again disappointed the wide angle fans. Then the L73 was a more conventional 7mp, 3x, just like the L700 but with the Smart Touch Interface. The previous wide L-series was the L55w (5mp, June 2005), released along with the L50 (5mp). So where do we go from here? All the 2007 L-series were introduces between CES and PMA 2007 and they all feature a 7mp 1/2.5" sensor. If they are going to be upgraded I would expect a CES to PMA 2008 upgrade. The exception perhaps is the unique L74w which Samsung may decide to upgrade since it is an attention grabber. That of course assuming they will jump to an 8mp 1/2.5" sensor. And how about the 1/1.8" L85? Will that get a follow-up or does it live on through the NV11, S1050 and S850? I doubt we will see more than 1-2 L-series upgrades this year (if so).
  • 1/1.8" S-series The first S-series with this size of a sensor was the S800 (Jan 2006). Then CES/PMA created four more of those, with 3x optical zoom (S1030, S830) and with a 5x optical zoom (S1050, S850). Another attempt perhaps to go at the venerable Canon A-series. All four of these feature PSAM. Given all the history I would expect these to be updated around CES/PMA of 2008, barring any change of plans by Samsung. If they do switch to a 12mp sensor, perhaps one of them could come first before the onslaught.
  • 1/2.5" S-series CES 2007 saw two new ones, the S630 (6mp) and S730 (7mp). The S630 was intended to be the blockbuster market-share grabbing camera as it is selling now at $100 and it features a 3x optical zoom. They follow their previous blockbusters, the S500 (5mp) and S600 (6mp) from Jan 2006 - which Samsung confessed in a press release they were million-unit selling models. Market-share grabbers is the best description for these. The S-series was introdcued in Jan 2006, the start of the reboot of the Samsung lineup. Prior to that, the triple-digit/no-letter occupied Samsung's entry level. Needless to say expect nothing new here until CES 2008.
  • D-series This one camera series was started at Xmas 2006 in the UK when Samsung announced the D103 (10mp, 3x, AA) which is very similar to the S1030 which was announced in early 2007 worldwide. Will Samsung expand upon this or just use it as a convenient way to introduce specific models to specific markets ahead of their worldwide release? If they decide to do the same thing this Xmas, then I predict a 12mp, 3x aka D123 :-)
  • i-series The i7 is a 7mp bijou with a rotating 3" LCD, while the i70 is a more traditional version of that (both Jan 2007). They replaced the i6 (6mp, Jan 2006), which replaces the i5 (5mp, May 2005) aka #1 (oh what a silly name!).
  • Revival? I highly doubt the V-series, U-series, A-series, the big chunky two-headed monsters (both camera lens and camcorder lens, two bodies in one unit), or triple-digit/no-letter series would make a comeback. Forget about it!

    What to expect from Samsung in the rest of 2007? (pure speculation!)
  • Long zoom cameras to compete in this popular sector?
  • It looks obvious that the majority of their updates are coming in Jan/CES/PMA 2008, with new NV-series in summer/fall of this year.
  • Predicted names of speculated models: D123, NV12, NV8 OPS, NV4, L84w, L87, L800, L83, S1250, S1230, GX-2, GX12, GX-20.

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