Rumor busted: Samsung is *not* exiting the camera business! (At least, not the one you care about.)
posted Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 12:17 PM EDT
Good news, Samsung fans: Echoing Mark Twain's famous line, rumors of the demise of the company's camera division have been greatly exaggerated!
We first saw this story doing the rounds of English-language blogs a few days ago, after previously cropping up on the rather bizarrely-named Korean website NewsTomato late last week. The deal, so the rumor mill had it, was that Samsung was about to exit the camera business, something all of the stories attributed to an unnamed "industry insider".
When we first heard the reports ourselves, we didn't give them much credence, because frankly they didn't really make any sense. After all, Samsung has made a huge investment in its NX-mount camera line of late. With the launch of the Samsung NX1 late last year, the company debuted a brand-new image sensor and a super-advanced image processor, both of which it had developed in-house. And to our understanding, since the NX1's launch just ten months ago, it has been selling pretty well.
And it's not just the NX1 that has demonstrated Samsung's commitment, either. It has also been continuing to build out its NX-mount lens lineup, with more than a dozen distinct lens models now available for NX-series cameras. Finally, if you still had any doubts about the company's commitment, the speed and frequency with which it has been turning out updated firmware to hone and refine the NX1 to the needs of enthusiasts and pros alike should really tell you everything you need to know.
Why, then, would Samsung want to call it quits on standalone cameras so soon after setting itself the goal of redefining the high-end camera market? We couldn't come up with a good answer to that question, so reached out to Samsung themselves, to get to the bottom of it. Here's what the Samsung spokesperson told us:
Official statement from Samsung:
"Withdrawing from the camera business is not true and there is no official plan to stop production of cameras and lenses. Samsung continuously analyzes the varying needs and requirements of consumers in each market and region very carefully. However, we do not officially comment on rumors or speculation."
As is very often the case with such things, Samsung's official statement is carefully vague, but there may be a hint in there as to what's going on and the underlying cause of the rumors.
Notice the wording "cameras and lenses" in the statement. We wonder; might that be a particular reference to their interchangeable-lens NX line, as distinguished from their point & shoot models?
A decision to exit the point & shoot end of the market certainly wouldn't be any surprise: Apart from a few narrow niches (long-zoom, waterproof, and enthusiast pocket cameras like Sony's RX series and its competitors), we doubt anyone is making much money on fixed-lens cameras in this post-smartphone era. It's a low-margin, largely commodity business, with few opportunities for real differentiation, based on technical innovation. For a company like Samsung, with deep engineering and R&D resources, it makes sense to apply those abilities to products where they'll actually make a difference, namely interchangeable-lens cameras like the NX1 and NX500, with high-end capabilities.
Indeed, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we've already seen a strong signal that Samsung has probably been planning to exit the point & shoot business for some time. Looking back, the company hasn't introduced a single new fixed-lens camera since January 2014. (That's when a slew of cameras including the Android-based Galaxy Camera 2 and long-zoom WB2200F made their simultaneous debut.) If it had occurred to us to look back at that, we could have predicted months ago that an exit strategy was probably already in effect.
We obviously don't have any confirmation from Samsung on this, but our analysis is that they've decided to exit the fixed-lens camera business, in favor of focusing all of their future efforts on interchangeable-lens cameras. And frankly, we'd call that a sound plan, given how moribund the point-and-shoot market has become since the arrival of smartphones.
So, that's the word from Samsung, and our interpretation of it. Our guess as to what happened is that someone heard about and reported on plans to exit the fixed-lens market, but missed that important qualifier, and the whole thing got blown entirely out of proportion by the internet rumor mill. From the statement received and our own analysis of the situation, we're confident in saying that Samsung's NX fans have nothing to worry about. Period. The company has made and continues to make major investments in processor and sensor technology, and there's no sign that they've taken any step back from the aggressive path they've charted for themselves there.