A Fond Memory of Riding a Train Through Italy With Belinda and an Old Camera.

On the train with a Hasselblad V series camera and an older 100mm Planar lens. That, and bagful of Tri-X 400. An elegant several weeks of slow travel.

Sunday morning rituals. Some photographic, some not.

Sunday morning. Texas has been hit once again with unseasonably cold, wet weather. Yesterday, it never got out of the low 40's and, while my friends in the great north may laugh at that I'll have to defend our delicate response to the cold by stating (unscientifically) that would blood must be thinner and our layers of fat less optimal which means we have more difficulty hanging onto that body heat. 

I heard random rain drops tap against the roof and the new gutters on the house as I lay in my very warm and comfortable bed this morning, weighing the relative merits of actually getting up. I grabbed my phone and looked at the temperature; it was 41, but that was three degrees warmer than yesterday. I'd slept in a bit and missed the 8:30am swim practice I usually attend. I made coffee and a breakfast taco with eggs, potato and uncured ham, and sat at the dinning room table in the soft light coming through the french doors that lead out to the side yard. I read the New York Times on an iPad. 

A bit later Belinda and Studio Dog stirred and we suited up for a nice walk through the neighborhood. We didn't get far before a very undecided rain started to fall in little wisps. As the rain got braver and more insistent Studio Dog put her foot down. She was up for many activities including: squirrel chasing and maintenance, boundary fence reconnaisssance, barking practice, intruder notification services and kitchen floor spot cleaning; but she was not up for a walk in driving rain and strongly suggested we return to home base. I was hoping the walk would go on allow me to procrastinate about making it to the second swim practice (I was still sore and tired from yesterday's intensive 4,500 yards....) but the shortened walk left the door open for yet another swim practice. I didn't have a good reply thought up when Belinda asked, "Are you going to the ten o'clock???" so I grabbed the striped green and white towel I've been using at the pool every day for the last week and a half, pulled on some lightweight gloves and headed to the car. 

When I got to the pool five minutes later you could see puffy clouds of steam rising up from the surface of the water and mix with the heavy, cold, wet air. I could see from the parking lot the final throes of the first workout. Several people in the fast lanes were doing butterfly springs and tossing up spurts of white water behind them. I grabbed my swim bag from the car, tossed whatever camera had been sitting on the front seat under a hat and headed into the locker room. 

The walk from the locker room to the pool, and the reciprocal walk from the pool to the locker room, were the hardest parts of the workout. The rest was just good swimming and that's fun. Once you are in the water and warmed up everything is fun. And, to my mind, pushing off the end of the pool in a great streamlined form is one of the closest acts we humans get to controlled flying. It's fun. 

Our coach, Kristen, was bundled up as though we were in the middle of a blizzard but I guess she needs it because she's a very competitive triathlete with very little body fat to insulate her from the cold. Her bundled state didn't keep her from pushing us to get a bit of work done. Fun to swim some backstroke as freezing raindrops fall from the sky and smack into your goggles and your bare skin. 

When the clock struck 11 am (it's actually a digital display so the numbers just keep changing...) we were done and scampering off to the warmth of the new locker rooms the pool built last year. Very posh. 

On the way home I remembered that I'd given Studio Dog the very last of her bone shaped, liver treats last night and I decided to go by Tomlinson's pet store on the way home to see if they were open on Sunday. My devious plan went like this: If the store is open I will get the treats and then treat myself to a medium sized latté at the Starbucks in the same little shopping center. If the pet store is not open I'll just head home and make a cup of coffee in the Keurig miracle machine. It was cold enough outside that my concern about filling the landfills with little K-cups was overruled. 

The store was open and the treats acquired. Treats for dog and treats for swimmer. I splurged and also bought donut. Something very rare for me which makes me think that I'm getting soft since turning 60. Studio Dog greeted me (as usual) at the front door and, like a TSA agent, insisted on inspecting the bags in my hands. The donut got a passing nod but the liver flavored treats got a big "two paws up." She insisted on sampling one immediately so we doggedly went through our usual routine: She had to sit, shake hands and recite on Shakespeare sonnet in order to get her treat. She flubbed the sonnet but I relented and gave her the treat anyway. 

The rest of the day I'll putter around, cleaning up the studio, packing and re-packing odds and ends and then heading over to my friend house for dinner. Will is making us his very famous barbecued ribs. Should be just the right antidote for the bitter cold. 

In case you are interested I decided to take the Nikons with me to New Jersey next week. The only rationale I can think of is that they seem like cameras that would be comfortable in New Jersey and, maybe the post production will be easier. It was mostly a mental coin toss.


Don't forget. The Craftsy.com courses are all on sale. Even mine!

Shooting waste water treatment plants. Always nice when the sky cooperates.

In the early days of digital photography we were using the Fuji S2 for a while. It was a weird but wonderful camera with a sensor that did some sort of parlor trick to make its 6 megapixel sensor speak 12 megapixel. I liked it's color and skin tone rendering very much. I didn't like the combination of proprietary AND double "A" batteries in tandem. It seemed like the batteries were on alternating schedules and something was always being replaced.

One day we went on an annual report shoot with these cameras. I'd been hoping that the new (at that time) Nikon 12-24mm lens would arrive before I left and I got the phone call from my lens merchant just a few hours before the flight. The lens came in quite handy. The images looked great, even as 16x24 inch prints on the walls of the company's HQ. Guess the primitive nature of the tools was not enough to hamper our ability to do the work.

It sure looks like Samsung is winding down their camera sales everywhere in Europe. I suspect we are next. Does it even matter?

Disclaimer: I was part of the Samsung Imagelogger program until the Fall of 2014 when I decided to concentrate only on shooting cameras that I liked enough to spend my own money on. As part of the program Samsung sent me cameras and lenses to shoot with. I worked with the NX300, the NX30 and the Galaxy NX before resigning. I have had no connection with, or affiliation with, Samsung or their P.R. agency since that time. We parted ways on good terms and I have good feelings about the U.S. Public Relations company that represents the Samsung camera division in the U.S. 

It's strange to see a company start to fold up its tent in a product category and begin to decamp. Especially a company that is relatively new to a market, as Samsung was to the middle and upper end of the camera market. Their products were not on my radar prior to the introduction of the NX300 camera. I was contacted by their agency and offered that camera and the kit zoom lens they offered with it. In exchange, they asked me to shoot with it and post a couple of photographs to their social media site once a week, if possible. 

When they came out with the Galaxy NX camera, the mirrorless interchangeable lens model sporting an EVF and a bunch of connectivity options, they sent me that camera and also offered to send me to Berlin to shoot it and to attend the IFA show and the launch of the Samsung smart watches and tablets. Along with the kit zoom lens I also was loaned the 85mm f1.4 (killer lens) and the 60mm macro lens (the one I liked the most in their entire collection). I always considered the Galaxy camera a work in progress and I was probably not the right candidate to embrace a highly connected camera. It was one of the first cameras to run a full on Android operating system and that came with its own issues. Initially, the start up times for the camera were very long (nearly 30 seconds) and the camera did shut down sometimes in the middle of shooting.  The flip side is that the camera had bluetooth, wi-fi capability and cell network capability, along with being able to use most Android apps. Even Candy Crush. 

The major selling point of the camera was the ability to stay connected anywhere. It may have been a journalist's dream in that regard as an editorial shooter could deliver images, while shooting, anywhere in the world that there was a cellphone connection. But the miscalculation by Samsung was that this interconnection capability was enough to balance out the less than stellar AF and operating issues of the camera as a camera. Another fault, and one I mentioned in articles I wrote here, was the mediocre quality of the EVF. I must say though, if you were a shooter who liked to shoot tethered to a large TV screen, or if you are part of the new contingent of photographers who actually likes to compose and shoot using a rear screen instead of a viewfinder, this was a camera that did those things like very few others. I mean really; it had a five inch screen on the back and the quality of that screen was pretty darn good. 

But for a traditionalist who just wanted to turn on the camera and shoot it just didn't make the grade. The huge rear screen and always on Android system running in the background sucked hard on the battery, and even though it was a huge battery my shooting style meant having two to shoot with minimum. 

I'd heard of the NX1 long before I left the program but it kept being delayed and I was too busy to learn yet another menu system and start building yet another lens system so that is when I left the program. I will admit that I was a bit jealous as some of my former fellow Imagelogger members started getting their NX1's and little collections of very good zoom lenses to accompany them. 

It seemed as though the company learned a great deal from cameras like their Galaxy NX and were determined to make their mark in the camera world. But like the previous camera (the Galaxy) it seemed that the delivered camera was a work in progress and would become only a good, reliable shooter after a series of big and complex firmware upgrades. I considered it a number of times when considering new video solutions but always, in the end, the new h.265 codec stopped me from investing. 

Now we've seen a cascade of announcements over the last month telling first Germans, then the Dutch and now the Brits that all the Samsung cameras are being discontinued in their respective countries. The latest post from DP Review seems to me to imply that all of Europe will soon be eliminated as a market for that company's cameras. A far cry from their commitment to become one of the "big three" camera companies in the world. 

How did everything come apart for them? I can sum it up quickly. The previous products and their shortcomings sunk the NX1 before it was even launched. The heavy handed "Ditch the DSLR" campaign sent a condescending and easily refutable message to knowledgeable current camera owners and their focus on distribution through big box stores instead of supporting specialty dealers too were also causes. But I'll be honest and say that I never expected a wholesale surrender. 

I presumed that Samsung was closing in on understanding a successful mix of features and operational "must haves" and would iterate a less expensive, streamlined and highly functional NX2, push some more lens options into play and begin to get some real, broad market traction. Their biggest marketing error was to emphasis non-photographic features like connectivity before they had convincingly hammered home their quality imaging proposition. If, instead of selling a camera style (mirrorless), they had focused on creating a brand image of a highly capable photographic creation tool, they would have (in my estimation) had much more success. 

If they had put the NX1 and the 85mm 1.8 lens into the hands a gifted fashion photographer and used his or her images in ads that extolled the quality of the artistic tools and how well they worked to realize a vision they would have moved the conversation from the novelty of sending your picture to grandma to making photographs you could eventually send to paying clients and publications. 

The "Ditch the DSLR" campaign that ran here felt more like condescension and scolding to me and less like suggesting some rational course in camera buying. If you already had selected a DSLR such as a Canon 5D3 or a Nikon D750 it's pretty likely you did not do so in a vacuum of information. You likely weighed all of the options and were also happy with the style of camera you selected. You would need to be unsatisfied with your initial purchase to even consider "ditching" it and starting over again, with all the attendant costs and learning curve. 

Had the NX1 launched with a codec similar to the one used in the Panasonic GH4 many videographers who chose to sit on the sidelines and watch would have been gleeful about the video qualities of the NX1 and rushed to buy it. The choice of the new, unwieldy codec was in large part the mortal wound on this camera amongst movie makers. And the sad thing is how easily this could have been avoided if the company had listened to end users instead of engineers. But this is ever the issue with technology companies that are not marketing companies. How else to explain that they can make great sensors, some of the industry's fastest processors and their own line of screens but can't make a dent in Apple's dominance in the cellphone market where Apple continues to earn the vast majority of all profits (irrespective of market share) in that industry? The simple truth is that Samsung's marketing, and their reading of affluent markets, continues to suck hard. 

In my estimation, the writing on the wall for their camera division is pretty clear. They are selling through inventory, country by country and then shuttering their camera operations. In the U.S., if inventory is there, they'll wait until after the holidays to make their announcement. Once the north American market shutters they'll dump the remaining stocks in east Asia and, I guess, call it a day. 

I'm sad about this because they finally got a bunch of stuff right on the NX1 and what they mis-read they could easily remedy in the next one or two generations. On the other hand, if I were running a division for a worldwide company and I could see that we'd been selling into a bubble that was now bursting I'd be running for cover as well. There is such a thing as opportunity cost everywhere. The more cash they poured into a declining camera market the less cash (and bandwidth) they have available to drop into other markets. 

We jaded photographers take companies like Nikon and Canon to task for what we perceive as flaws in their marketing strategies but it's clear to see that the bedrock of their marketing is not aimed at showing the features of a product but showing their products as solutions to make better images. And to do this they put their cameras in the hands of the very best people out there and use the images wisely. And everywhere. You can't market a camera in the same way you market a large screen TV our a washer and dryer and expect to reach the hearts, and then the wallets, of passionate hobbyists. And in this regard "passionate hobbyists" also includes nearly every working pro. We buy the promise, not so much the cogs under the hood.

Will Samsung's exit make a difference one way or another in the camera market? I can only speak to the north American market and I'll say that at most it will be a tiny ripple. They aimed most of their efforts not at the most engaged in our hobby but those who most likely price shopped and were impressed by lists of features and performance metrics which really had little to do with the emotional process of making photographs. I will miss the two lenses I spoke about. They were very, very good. Just as Nikon had a good run of letting an Italian company design their most successful camera bodies Samsung should have left all the branding decisions and creative decisions about feature lists to an objective and talented partner. I can feel it in my bones. This will be a division that was killed by its engineering department and product managers, not by lethal lapses in the products themselves. 

The two images here are among my favorites from the entire year of shooting in 2013. I did them with a camera that fought back and the two wonderful optics supplied with it. Because of that I will always remember the system as one with great promise. 

Finally, given the complexities of the camera market and the sheer amount of capital investment it takes to start a camera company from scratch I think the real tragedy here is that this may be the last attempt by anyone to start a single use camera company from scratch. We may have niche product makers like Go-Pro and DXO come in and out of the markets but we may never see a new contender for the higher end of the conventional camera market again--- and that's a bit sad to me.

A final note. It will be one of the ironies that surfaces every once in a while if the NX1, after it's discontinuation, becomes a cult video production tool. Coveted for video features that were good and a codec that may just have been too far ahead of its time......