It’s a relatively well-known fact that in the camera industry the big profits are in SLR systems rather than compact cameras, which is why all the camera companies have been falling over each other to get consumer-priced digital SLRs into the shops. With the DSLR market expanding by 39 percent in the last year (more than double the growth rate for compacts) and estimated to be worth $1.6 billion by the end of this year, competition has been fierce, and has already seen a couple of casualties; two big well-established camera brands, Konica-Minolta and Kyocera-Contax, have disappeared after decades in the industry. Meanwhile several big electronics companies have muscled their way to the front, eager for a share of a lucrative market dominated by Canon and Nikon. Sony has already succeeded in claiming the third biggest DSLR market share ahead of Pentax and Olympus, based solely on the success of its outstanding debut model the Alpha A100, while Panasonic has used its partnership with Leica to good effect, making some nice high-end kit for the legendary German company, as well as a somewhat less well-received DSLR of its own.
After enjoying something of a renaissance for its compact camera range, Samsung has also found a way into the digital SLR market by re-badging a series of Pentax models. A Samsung representative has assured me that the company will soon launch a DSLR of its own original design, but in the meantime the re-badging tactic provides the company with a bridgehead from which it can build brand familiarity. I’ve already taken a look at the entry-level GX-1L, which started life as the Pentax *ist DL, but this week it’s the turn of Samsung’s latest offering, the GX-10. This is a bit unusual for me, since the GX-10 is a re-badged version of Pentax’s latest top-of-the-range DSLR the K10D, a camera which I have yet to review. I’ve been after Pentax to send me a review sample since the K10D was launched at the end of last year, but Samsung has beaten them to it. I don’t mind too much, since either way I get to play with a nice new camera, but it does mean that I will not be comparing the performance of the two models, since I haven’t handled the Pentax version.
One thing I can compare however is the price. The Samsung GX-10 is currently available for around £550 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, or £600 as a two-lens kit with the addition of a 50-200mm f/4-5.6. The Pentax K10D on the other hand is £600 for the 18-50mm kit, or £750 for the two lens kit. Bear in mind that the lenses sold with the Samsung version are also Pentax products, re-badged with the Schneider-Kreuznach label, and are identical to those sold with the K10D. The word from those lucky few who have handled both cameras is that the Samsung’s menu system is slightly different, so it’s possible that there are some minor differences in firmware, particularly the Samsung’s use of the Adobe DNG RAW format rather than Pentax’s proprietary PEF RAW file type, and the lack of wireless compatibility with Pentax flash units. There are also some minor cosmetic differences in the body shape and the size of some of the control buttons, but other than that the two cameras are as alike as peas in a pod, so one has to ask, is it worth paying between £50 and £150 extra just for the Pentax name? There may be some slight advantage in second-hand resale value a couple of years down the road, but if Samsung continues to build its reputation as a camera manufacturer even that may be questionable.