Samsung announces alliance with Pentax to gain entry to DSLR camera market
With a headline-grabbing 15x zoom, Samsung's new flagship digital camera also sports a huge LCD monitor and a number of other surprises.
Read the press release Samsung introduces 8MP 15x zoom camera
Today we're reporting from a sunny Krakow, Poland, where Samsung has assembled the European photo press in order to launch its new top of the range eight megapixel digital camera, the Samsung Pro815, scheduled to ship in August with a price tag in the UK of £599.
Note the three control rings on the lens barrel
This is easily the most ambitious 8MP digital camera to date. Key features include an 8 megapixel 2/3rd inch CCD sensor, 15x (28-420mm equivalent) Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan zoom, a massive 3.5 inch LCD colour monitor plus a secondary top-plate 1.44 inch wide-screen colour LCD monitor that can be switched between status and live image preview and playback modes.
There is also a 235k pixel electronic eye-level viewfinder and for really keen photographers a RAW image file format mode is provided. Storage is provided via Compact Flash Types I and II, including Microdrive. A dedicated flash hot shoe is provided and a dedicated bounce flash unit is set to follow the Pro815's August arrival.
Besides the huge 3.5 inch rear LCD, you get a second top-plate wide screen LCD too.
Samsung is clearly aiming at photographers who might be considering a DSLR as their next camera. At a glance the Pro815 looks like a DSLR and its lens sports three control rings for manual zooming, optional manual focus control and click-stopped EV adjustment that harks back to the days of aperture rings on SLR lenses.
Fast power-on start-up of just one second is being promised for the Pro815 and there is a single shot to shot recovery time of 1.3 seconds. High speed continuous shooting is rated at 2.5fps and an ultra high speed continuous shooting mode, at reduced 1MP resolution, is available for anyone that requires 10fps shooting rate.
The Pro815 looks, at a glance, like a DSLR and it's certainly as large as a typical consumer DSLR. However, most SLRs would require you to pack at least two lenses to cover the Pro815's built in zoom lens focal length range. As bright as f/2.2 at the 28mm equivalent wide angle end of the zoom range, the lens dims to f/4.6 at the telephoto end. Adobe RGB colour space as well as the usual sRGB mode is supported.
The price paid for the Pro815's massive zoom range is a considerable extension of the lens barrel at the telephoto end of the zoom.
One drawback of the lens design that is immediately apparent is because zooming is not entirely internal so there is a considerable physical extension at the telephoto end of the scale. The length of the lens barrel practically doubles, making the appearance of the camera quite odd in this mode. Focusing, however, is internal, enabling the use of a petal-type bayonet-fix lens hood.
The Pro815 looks big and hefty, though it's not quite as bulky as it first appears.
The EVF is off-set to the far left of the camera as viewed from the back and the dioptre adjuster is rather too recessed for easy use. But the overall feel of the camera body is positive, with a chunky grip and sensibly positioned controls. The Pro815 doesn't feel as hefty as it looks. The third control ring on the lens barrel is a nice touch with its click-stopped action for adjusting EV. The manual zoom control, like that on the Sony DSC F-828, is very welcome and as a bonus also means you can zoom freely and fast in any mode and at any time, even when using the movie clip mode.
The Pro815 can do lots of things that a DSLR simply can't at the moment, including shoot video clips and provide live preview of the scene for convenient composition. The Pro815 can shoot at up top 25fps in full VGA resolution motion JPEG mode, which promises high quality video playback for a digital still camera. You also get stereo sound, which remains a rarity in digital still cameras.
Huge main LCD
The Pro815's huge main LCD monitor allows for side-by-side image comparison and the facility to place status legends outside of the live preview area if required. Image bracketing mode also uses the big screen to provide multi-image comparisons. With such a large screen, battery drain is inevitably a concern, but Samsung has pre-empted this with the provision of a big 7.4V 1900mAh Lithium ion rechargeable battery.
No Image Stabilisation
One thing Samsung hasn't implemented in the Pro815 is image stabilisation, though they have revealed that they are working on such technology for new models next year. However, the Pro815 has an automatic compensation feature to help with long telephoto shots that temporarily boosts ISO in order to raise the shutter speed and so reduce motion blur. Whether or not this works adequately, considering the inevitable degradation in image quality caused by an ISO boost, remains to be seen.
The whole question of Pro815 image quality will remain un-answered for a few more weeks as only early engineering samples of the Pro815 were available for a basic 'touch and feel' session today. A lot of journalists present at the launch today were, at best, feeling guarded about the image quality potential of the Pro815's extraordinary 15x zoom lens. If Samsung can allay such concerns in the final production units, they will have pulled off a major camera engineering feat.
We'll have more detailed information about the Pro815 later. But to summarise, the Pro815 is quite unlike anything else before it and is set to stir-up the 8 megapixel fixed lens digicam market and even distract some buyers from the option of a low cost DSLR.