While camera enthusiasts may be reluctant to count the Korean electronics giant among "real" camera vendors, Reuters is reporting that big names like Canon and Nikon are (and should be) worried about Samsung's big push into the digital camera market. Quoting IDC research, Reuters reports that Samsung more than doubled its digital market share in 2006, making it the fifth-best-selling digital camera maker (after Canon, Sony, Kodak, and Olympus).
Samsung has set some lofty goals for itself, with plans to become the top digital camera maker by 2010 by increasing sales by 46 percent (to 17.5 million units sold) this year. Considering its success when it took the flat-panel TV market by storm, Samsung is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Back in 2003, when I was editor in chief at CNET.com, I traveled to Seoul and Tokyo to visit Samsung and Sony, respectively, on the same trip to Asia. The dramatic difference between the corporate cultures was very telling: Sony's product managers had a somewhat elitist "if you build it they will come" mentality, eschewing market research on user preferences, and relying on internal genius to drive product innovation. One exec actually told me that they knew better than their customers what features their customers want and need. In contrast, when I asked Samsung reps what they thought of the plasma vs. LCD debate for flat-screen TVs, they essentially answered "we'll back whatever users tell us they want."
So it's no surprise that the company is having its greatest success competing on price in the compact market, and will likely continue to do so, marketing to the least common denominator. But don't count the company out as an innovator completely. The wide-angle (3.6x optical zoom from 24mm to 86.5mm) Samsung NV24 HD, for example, drew interest at CES for its high-definition functionality and use of an AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen. (Samsung also drew attention for its G20 DSLR, based on the Pentax K20D.)