As we hurtle ever forward into the digital age, as engineers and designers think of ever more ways to improve the functionality of our devices and of how to merge existing technologies into newer ones to suit a markets whims; Samsung has released the Galaxy NX to keep this process alive. A new take on the idea of what a smartphone can be and just how wide the scope of applicability is in relation to the technology we have developed in the past decade.
It is still well within living memory that strange time when cameras first began to appear on our mobile phones, when small grainy images could be captured and showed to friends and loved ones simply and easily. From there on in our predilection for the ability to capture and record what was happening around us has only grown, our appetite was whetted and the tech industry has fed us fat ever since. As the cameras developed alongside the processing power of phones and the bandwidths available to them people began to share their photos with each other at first over infrared and Bluetooth and then onto GSM, GPRS, 3G and Wi-Fi. Every new method of sharing our pictures which were of ever increasing quality has been adopted with gusto. Alongside this entire industries have sprouted from the ground and made more than a few people very, very rich along the way. The advent of online photo sharing and the dissemination of home computing amongst the populace allowed us to share photos with our relatives across the world and eventually networks began to sprout; those network creators and enablers being the ones getting rich. We reached the point when the iPhone and the Symbian factions of the time allowed us to share direct to the internet our high quality photos with their improved camera quality, fast internet and retaining that familiar phone shape. These developments also enabled the video sharing market to establish itself with Youtube starting more than a few peoples careers. Now there is a new potential method for sharing, the Galaxy NX.
When you first see the NX you may think; “Ok, so where’s the phone?”. That is the phone. It just happens to be a DSLR as well. Now you know the general idea of the device you’ll be needing some more information to familiarise yourself with this device. It is aimed at those who need to share on the move and instantly, it offers a wide range of lenses, sports a 20.3MP APS-S sensor and is also an Android phone. An interesting mix of concepts, it doesn’t look like a phone; but it is. Ah, but also it isn’t; it cannot do voice calling. People had the same mixed reaction to the first camera phones with the same quirk arising; looks like a phone, but it’s a camera too? But the people bought it because it was new and after they had played with one for a while and looked back through their photos they became attached to the idea and it saved the hassle of remembering to bring the camera to family gatherings. Our culture has changed massively since the advent of cameraphone technology and this latest iteration has many applications despite not being able to make voice phone calls.
People do have a yearning for higher quality images on their devices that they can share with the world.
However, not all people; consider how the image of a photographer has changed in the past decade alone. Long gone are the days when it was the reserve of technical boffins, mixing wizardous elixirs in darkened rooms to produce a photograph. It’s all sleek, sexy and universally accessible and this has led to a shift in attitudes towards photography. The general populace who now have access to cheap, good quality cameras are the ones who have enabled the market boom of online photo sharing and associated markets, not the boffins. This dissemination of the technology to the unfamiliar is what has enabled its success, people were familiar with their phones but not with cameras and so the cameras had to look like phones. When you say the word ‘Camera’ to someone they will still think of the familiar DSLR shape, there is still some disconnect between the two. A DSLR can look like a fearsomely technical device to the unfamiliar whereas a camera phone is very familiar. Could the Galaxy NX be the device to bring a higher level of photographic quality to the masses? This bloggers opinion is that it probably won’t be.
It is a step back toward the necessity of “bringing the camera” to events worth documenting, it breaks that seamlessness of photo, video and audio connectivity with the world by only accounting for the photo and video linkage with the rest of humanity online. By forgetting the main reason that the general populace purchases a phone is so that they can be called anywhere, anytime; Samsung has isolated this product from a vast portion of the potential market. It being a device which already looks unfamiliar to the new breed of everyman photographer means that it having voice connectivity would be an extra weird factor to the public, hold a DSLR up to my ear? The public won’t swallow it without some considerable investiture in promotion but even so, this would not bring back that key phonecall functionality which brought the camera phone to the masses.
But what about the market outside of the everyman photographer, what about the protographer? Whereas the everyman photographer doesn’t know what he doesn’t like as he is unfamiliar with the trade, so the protographers know what they like and know what they don’t like. Samsung seems to be pitching this to the professionals who NEED to share their images immediately though again, I do not see them taking to this so readily. Professional photographers can take hundreds of photographs in a shoot and then begin the work of sorting and processing them after the actual shoot. Any post-processing achievable on the NX’s Android based image processing software will certainly be achievable on a desktop or laptop but with greater accuracy and scope of effects which the professionals require. The same applies for any video editing which can be achieved on the device, professionals need a much wider scope than is feasible or easy to achieve on a tablet phone with the bulk of a DSLR. Protographers do not transfer their photos onto their smartphones for editing and then share them, so will the higher image quality allow them to make that leap? Doubtful, protographers know what they like and the established DSLR manufacturers will most likely keep their market share here too. Samsung is not a known DSLR name.
One area of society which has developed alongside the smartphone revolution and been inflated by the interesting winds which pervade these time is that of the Citizen Journalist and these fellows, indeed journalists in general, may find the NX to suit their purposes and Samsung would do well to take note of its devices application as a live-feed news camera and focus its promotional efforts along those lines with the everyman and protographer markets likely to be switched off by the device. The recent spate of protests and riots which have spread around the world have been the best documented that humanity has ever witnessed. Consider the Summer Riots of 2011 in England; London is the most watched city in the world in relation to its CCTV presence and affluence of citizenry meaning that they can afford video phones and share their experiences direct with the populace enabling established news outlets to propagate what is happening on the ground even if they are not directly present. If dedicated citizen journalists had access to these cameras at the time they could have fed live information directly into the internet where police could co-ordinate their own actions and responses. The citizen journalist is in greater numbers in countries experiencing ongoing unrest such as the middle east and recently in South America and of more use than merely for documenting unrest that everybody knows it happening. What is different about the Middle Eastern and South American protest spates is that there is a heavy level of information blackout on the protests. Consider the fact that Turkish TV has been running repeats of dramas, soaps and daytime television the entire time many of its cities have been burning and filled with rioting citizenry. Few people had learnt of the Brazil riots until they were well established and widespread. The Galaxy NX would find a welcome market here as it would allow quicker access to the established media outlets and allow people to document their struggles and remotely store the data should their own storage be compromised. However, with the recent protests relating to widespread poverty I guess it will be a while before citizen journalists in these locations have access to such a device.
All in all the Galaxy NX is a funny duck, misunderstood by the general populace, pooh-poohed by the professionals and out of reach of those who really could make use of it. Though some device are made that are wonderful examples of how we can merge our devices they must be the first casualty in starting a wider wave; keep following TechWench and we shall bring you information on these devices as they begin to appear and as we spin on into an uncertain yet synergistic new world. Oh; I don’t see anyone gaming on this device either. It’s a DSLR.