PMA, Day 1

February 21, 2010

Yes, I have been keeping one eye on the product introductions at PMA 2010. But anyone waiting for some industry-rattling blockbuster has likely been disappointed so far.

It seems that a few camera manufacturers are conspicuously snubbing the show this year. The “poor economy” is the glib explanation; but I wonder if there’s a some more complex backstory we haven’t heard yet.

There is a new international imaging exhibition in Japan called CP+, launching in Yokohama on March 11th. Camera makers may feel that the Asian market is the center of their future growth; and so that’s where the promotional dollars (er, yen) and media attention would be best targeted.

From the perspective of this blog, the one PMA unveiling of note is the Samsung TL500 (to be called EX1 in Europe). A friend asked me if this would change my “crackhead” assessment of Samsung; and the answer is “a little.”

Samsung TL500

Samsung TL500 (EX1)

The TL500 is apparently meant to go head-to-head against enthusiast compacts like Canon’s G11, or especially their S90; and Panasonic’s LX3. Pop Photo has a video intro here.

All these cameras are 10 megapixel models with roughly 2.0 micron pixel size. That’s significant, since each pixel grabs 60-100% more light than the tiny pixels used in mainstream point & shoots.

Panasonic’s LX3 is more compact than the TL500. But Samsung has matched its extrawide 24e lens coverage, while eking out an extra 1/3 stop of lens brightness.

Some complained that the LX3’s zoom range only extended to 60e (which is hardly even a portrait lens); and was only f/2.8 at that point. The new Samsung stretches that to 72e even while maintaining f/2.4 brightness.

Before anyone geeks out about the selective-focus potential here, remember that’s about equivalent to the DOF at f/11 if you were using an APS-C lens covering the same 72e.

If you need more telephoto reach than that, the Canon S90 gives you 105e, in a smaller package—albeit at a cost of a couple of f/stops. Another deficiency of the S90 is its lack of a hot shoe, unlike the others.

The styling of the Samsung is a bit unusual—rather angular and “brutalist.” I think I’d need to handle the TL500 in person to see whether that bothered me.

I’m amused that those chamfered ends seem to echo Kodak’s old (German-made) Retina cameras, the camera series that introduced the 35mm film cassette to the world.

Kodak Retina Cameras

1937 and 1952 Kodak Retinas

In their day, Retinas were considered quite desirable precision models. Most offered superior Schneider Xenar or Xenon lenses. Alongside the even swankier offerings of Leica and Contax, they helped cement 35mm film as a “miniature” format which could be taken seriously.

The TL500’s lens also carries the Schneider name (its manufacture is undoubtedly Asian, of course). And the physical size of the Samsung is a very close match to early Retinas, too.


3 Responses to “PMA, Day 1”

  1. petavoxel Says:

    On PMA’s Day 2, Sony announced it will “get EVIL” with a mirrorless compact camera line. This will use an APS-C sized sensor, putting them in direct competition with Samsung’s NX series.

    It will be a few months before we learn about specific products and lenses. Sony certainly has the technological muscle to make a good APS-C sensor.

  2. Robert Jeantet Says:

    On camera manufacturers “Snubbing” PMA… there used to be a time, forty, thirty, twenty years ago, when the US was the largest consumer market; manufacturers used to cater to American tastes and provide new products to America first, with the rest of the world having to wait for the US market to be satisfied. In the past twenty years, the European market has become more important, with the result that the US is now relegated to second place in the queue. I saw, years ago, small satellite dishes sprouting all over Europe, years before those dishes made it over to the US. Then came texting, common in Western Europe years before it hit the US.
    With the growth of the Asian market, it would not be surprising for the US to end up in third place in the queue. Money talks.

  3. […] in that category, few actual, working products got unwrapped. I did mention the Samsung TL500 already. But otherwise, there were vague statements about future possibilities and […]

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