Samsung Experience 6.17.05

To celebrate the release of their two new digital cameras Samsung had a small event at their posh NYC pad. Held on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, this two-hour press event was thrown to celebrate the arrival of Samsung's Digimax Pro815 and the Digimax i5. Since the event was held at noon on a Friday it seemed like a great chance to get out of the office, play with some cool new toys, and score a free lunch.

Though the event was dry (much to the chagrin of a number of the journalists attending) Samsung did have nice buffet lunch, cookies, and beverages. On a full stomach everyone prepared for the presentation of the cameras by the Samsung executives which would inevitably take up to bulk of the two hour event. 

Inside the lobby Samsung had a table set up with a glass top. Under the glass were a few of Samsung's newest products but also a few horizontally placed LCD displays. The cursor on the displays could only be controlled by placing your hand over the display, here the cursor would follow your hand. This was done using a camera in the ceiling above your head which would follow your hand's motion relative to the screen and move the cursor accordingly. This technology was quite impressive, especially considering the accuracy of the motion and the fact that the camera was able to recognize your hand as the cursor, not your arm. This technology very much resembles that used by the detectives in the movie Minority Report.

The presentations consisted of a few speeches by Samsung's higher-ups, most of which were short and sweet. After the introduction speech the Digimax Pro 815 was introduced and then the i5. The executives showed slides, displayed the cameras, and glossed over some of the technical details, but it was obvious that everyone was anxious to get to the hands-on product demostrations.
The speakers included Joong Koo Lee, the President and CEO of Samsung Techwin, Seishi Ohmori, the Vice President in charge of the Samsung DSC Development Center, and Kenneth Gerb, the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Samsung Opto-Electronics America.

The speakers made it clear what Samsung's intentions are for the digital camera market. Simply put, Samsung is the "800 pound gorilla" of the electronics scene right now but they control just a fraction of the digital camera market, something like three percent of the total market share. To improve upon this Samsung has a very simple strategy- to offer more megapixels and larger LCDs than the other companies, but at the same price. This may seem like the obvious thing to do if you want to instill the feeling of value in products, but few companies besides Samsung have the pull or the capital to make something like this work.

After the presentations there was a short Q&A section. The executives did not reveal very much but they did say that though these cameras have no wireless capabilities Samsung does have such technology in the works. So be on the look out for developments in these future, even though these two may seem to be a bit behind in this respect.

DigiMax Pro815

DigiMax Pro815
- 8.0 megapixels
- 15x optical zoom
- 3.5" 230k TFT LCD
- dual LCD
- 1900 mAh Li-Ion battery
The more interesting of the two cameras was certainly the Digimax Pro815. At first glance this camera looks much like the inexpensive DSLRs which have started to take control of the ethusiast section of the camera market place, but at a closer look this unit is much different. The Pro815 is the first camera in Samsung's new "prosumer" class and it is actually an alternative to a SLR, not an SLR! It features a fixed Schneider-KREUZNACH lens that is capable of focal lengths from 28-420mm (35mm equivalent). This means that though you do not have the option of different lenses, Samsung has included a fixed, though very high quality, lens which can shoot wide-angle and tele-zoom alike.

The rear of the camera features the largest display used on a digital camera, a 3.5" TFT LCD. Most digital SLRs feature a 2.0" LCD, which is comparatively miniscule, which can be a problem when shooting at 8.0 megapixel, which is extremely large. The size of the screen and large viewing angle mean that images can be easily shared with other people.

On the top of the Pro815 is a the camera world's first top display, a 1.44" TFT LCD. This is for waist-level shooting but can also be useful when the camera is over your head, according to one of the speakers. Instead of viewing your shots here, this LCD can alternatively be used as a status LCD and will display shooting information. It is questionable how useful this feature will be, but it is a very thoughtful design and one that has much potential, especially for the involved photographer.
To power this robust camera and the two LCDs the Pro815 has a 1900 mAh 7.4V Li-Ion battery, which is the largest capacity battery in any of today's digital cameras. One charge will last up to 500 shots so even with all the LCDs running you should be able to fill up a few memory cards before you have to stop shooting.

The Samsung executives made it clear that this camera means business. Though it is not an SLR, it is still very capable of running with cameras like the Nikon D70s and Canon's Digital Rebel. Aside from its large LCDs and battery, the Pro815 features a startup and shot-to-shot time of 1.0 second and has a shutter time of down up to 1/4000. It also has lots of other features like continuious shooting and even the ability to shoot movie clips, though they are done in a MJPEG compression. The expected MSRP of this product is $849.

Some more details:
- 2/3" CCD sensor
- f/2.2 ~ 4.6 Schneider 7.2mm ~ 108mm lens
- 4x digital zoom (60x maximum zoom)
- High Speed mode (increases sensivity to ISO 800)
- New low noise algorithm

DigiMax i5

DigiMax i5
- 5.0 megapixels
- 3x optical zoom
- 2.5" 230k TFT LCD
- 17.3mm thick

The DigiMax i5 is Samsung's new ultra-portable camera. This model is part of the consumer line-up and it more aimed at family and travel shooting, which means features are traded for size and portability. With an expected MSRP of $349 this camera is ideal for home users and people who always want a camera around but don't have space to spare.

The optical zoom is completely internal and utilizes Samsung's SHD lens system. The lens has the equivalent to 39-117mm (35mm format) so it is rather versatile despite its size. With dimensions of 3.5" x 2.4" x 0.68" the i5 is credit-card-sized yet still has a 2.5" LCD.

At this size and price, the i5 is clearly intended to compete with camera's like Sony's DSC-T1 and Casio's ExSlim series. The popular T1 shoots at a maximum of 5 megapixels, has a 2.5" LCD, and is just about the same size at the i5. The i5 is available in silver, black, red, and grey. Each feature a body made of stainless steel for added durability, but the 2.5" LCD will be vulnerable regardless.

 Aside from its size the i5 does have a few exciting features. The foremost is the new Safety Flash technology. This function is said to "enhance image clarity and color in places without sufficient light source, when the use of flash is not desirable". This sounds a bit confusing but what it does is use photo algorithms to reinterpret color and sharpness to make an image look like it has be taken with a flash. The camera also has auto macro and its macro is capable of shooting up to 1 cm from the subject.

One of the strengths of the i5 is its movie shooting. The camera uses MPEG-4 compression which requires an added processor but is much better than MJPEG. Movies are shot at up to 30 fps at VGA resolution.

Possibly the most useful feature is the camera's text recognition capability. If the users take a shot of typed text the camera will be able to render the image and output a document of what was photographed! This is done using the included Digimax Viewer software and could be a great way to save some time or get involved in corporate espionage.

All told the Samsung Experience was a lot of fun. The speakers were not too exciting but the hardware was innovative and really set the stage for Samsung's rise to power in the digital camera world. In addition to these two cameras Samsung has a number of other cameras available as well as lots of cool things like cell phones which we got to see at the event. Keep an eye out for our reviews of these items...

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