Samsung NX concept comes into focus

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With the majority of PMA 2009’s product launches cleared this morning, it’s now fair to open debate as to the most potentially influential announcement of the show. From where we sit, this honor still goes to Samsung’s NX camera concept – a proposed device that will provide an APS-C sensor in a compact-camera package.

Samsung NX

There’s still a lot to learn about the Samsung NX project: to this point, we have no real technical specs on this presumed future launch. But Samsung’s booth at PMA 2009 prominently featured a display case holding several samples of the NX concept, and seeing the camera mock-ups in person has helped to clear up a few of the most pressing and fundamental questions surrounding the NX undertaking.

Lens mysteries partially resolved
Looking at the under-glass prototypes, one open question seems to have been answered definitively: in spite of no mention of the kind in the press release, this will indeed be an interchangeable-lens camera along the lines of its Micro Four Thirds rivals. Samsung’s NX display models were shown sporting three different Samsung-branded (but otherwise unmarked) lenses – including an apparent “pancake” prime that could easily be mistaken for Olympus’s 25mm f/2.8 from any distance.

Samsung NX

Whether any of these mockups portend actual, coming-to-market lenses or not – and whatever Samsung partner Pentax’s role might be in all of this – it seems likely at this point that the NX camera will sport (yet another) proprietary lens mount. In addition to today’s visual evidence, the fact remains that there’s really nothing else out there that would completely meet the new system’s design needs.

Form factor fairness
It’s often nearly impossible to tell from manufacturer-supplied product shots, but the NX concept is definitely as small as it looks in its stylized press photos.

Samsung NX

The body profile is nice and flat, avoiding the “mini DSLR” shape of the rival Panasonic G1 in favor of a profile that’s a little easier on your pockets. Even with a thin prime attached, the NX prototypes Samsung had on display were not appreciably larger than the largest advanced compacts. A camera that takes up roughly the same space as the Canon G10, but with interchangeable lenses? We’re listening…

Subject to change
The one big caveat here – and it’s a big one – is that even in the form shown today (which evidences some pretty serious technical development, given the fleshed out button layout in particular), the Samsung NX remains a concept. In this case, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get: often, it’s not even close.

Samsung NX

Samsung has predicted that a fully developed NX model will be ready for its retail debut in the second half of 2009, and assuming it closely follows the physical blueprint outlined in today’s display, it seems like things are moving right along on the development front. The most significant open question at this point might just be whether the NX will have some direct competition in the form of Olympus’s rangefinder-inspired Micro Four Thirds camera, which Olympus has promised before the end of 2009.

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