After conquering cameras with the NX1, now Samsung may quit them forever

samsung exit camera business nx1 flash
In 2014, the NX1 was perhaps the most advanced mirrorless camera in the world. Built around the world’s first 28-megapixel, backside-illuminated APS-C sensor, it could churn out bursts of full-resolution images, at up to 15 frames per second, and 4K video in the new H.265 format. Despite all the power and complexity, the camera even managed to pull 500 shots from a single battery, well above most of its mirrorless peers.

Yet this miracle came from a company that most pro photographers would have scoffed at just years ago: Samsung. Now, despite rave reviews for the NX1, recent observations suggest Samsung’s first high-end camera may also be its last.

So what happened?

Samsung builds the perfect camera

The most impressive thing about the NX1 may be that Samsung bothered to make it at all. In the beginning, Samsung’s digital camera sector consisted of point-and-shoots that weren’t exactly anything to write home about. But Samsung treated cameras as seriously it did cell phones to televisions: It didn’t want to compete, it wanted to dominate – particularly with mirrorless cameras.

The NX1, as Samsung’s first stab at a professional system camera, was an instant success.

In the years leading up to the NX1, Samsung introduced a slew of new models, and experimented with 3D, Android, and size. There were hits and misses – but each year saw Samsung’s R&D getting stronger. The NX1 was the culmination of all those years.

As good as it looked on paper, I actually expected to dislike the NX1. Although similar in appearance to its predecessor, the NX30, the NX1 incorporated virtually all-new tech and was announced just six months later, making it very much a first-generation product. With virtually no photography pedigree, I felt it was nearly impossible for Samsung to succeed with its first high-end camera. I assumed it would be nothing but a computer with a lens attached.

Instead, I found a surprisingly approachable, well-rounded photographic machine, with specs that were as competitive in the real world as they were on paper. I was astonished, and I wasn’t the only one.

samsung-nx1-front-angle-2

DP Review handed the NX1 its coveted Gold Award, with a score that’s a full ten-percentage points above the NX30; DXOMark called it the “new king of APS-C hybrids,” lauding the sensor’s dynamic range, low noise performance, and color depth; Digital Trends’ own David Elrich named it “our favorite camera of 2014,” beating out the full-frame Nikon D750. Samsung had done the impossible. It didn’t just have a strong showing, it blew everyone else away.

The NX1, as Samsung’s first stab at a professional system camera, was an instant success, at least among the press. Whether or not it sold well may be another story, but penetrating a market takes time, especially when that market is made up of enthusiast and professional photographers with thousands of dollars invested in lenses from other systems. People don’t switch to a new camera brand overnight. The NX1 did what it needed to do: drawing positive attention to the Samsung name, presenting it as a viable option for real photographers. In recent years, Samsung impressed us with its new cameras, and, from our observations, was a camera brand to watch.

From camera darling, to the forgotten one

Over the past several months, the NX1 (and its downscaled counterpart, the NX500) has quietly vanished from store shelves. Given the age of the products (the NX1 was announced in September of 2014) the idea of them being discontinued at this point isn’t altogether shocking or unexpected. What’s troubling is that no replacement models have been announced; Samsung didn’t even show any NX cameras or lenses at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show. Either Samsung is sandbagging its next camera release for reasons unknown, or, more realistically, it’s quietly exiting the market.

Given the age of the products the idea of them being discontinued at this point isn’t altogether shocking.

Recent news have only supported that conclusion. As reported in News.com.au, Samsung officially announced it will “reduce its focus” on standalone digital cameras in Australia, following the departure a month ago of the company’s digital imaging manager in that country. This comes just months after Samsung effectively pulled out of the U.K., as well. While still appearing as current on Samsung’s own product page, many U.S. retailers have also listed the cameras as discontinued. Even Amazon shows only a handful of NX1 as available, while the NX500 is fairing a little better.

Adding to the intrigue, Samsung representatives denied the rumor last December that the company would exit the market, but there has been no news since to suggest it is still actively developing new interchangeable-lens models. And, our attempts to reach Samsung for comment have been unanswered.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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