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How the NX Lenses are launched into the World. PART I : The NX Lens Developers by MARTA

The Samsung NX series camera won high praise from users when it was unveiled last year. One of the most important things for interchangeable lens cameras is the lens. Offering iFunction on top of the optical function, how did the Samsung NX lens come to life? I met with lens developers from different fields to learn about how the NX lens was created and other behind-the-scene episodes.

1. Please introduce yourself. Geonmo Kang (Vice President, Lens R&D Group) : My interest in camera and lens dates all the way back to my younger years when my father bought me a camera. I joined Samsung in 1984 and since then I’ve been working in the camera field. Sungwook Choi (Principal Engineer, Opto-Mechanics Lab, Lens R&D Group) : I joined Samsung a little over 20 years ago and I’ve been working on interchangeable lens design for three years now. Woojong Cho (Principal Engineer Ph.D, Control Lab, Lens R&D Group) : I majored in laser optics and I am currently in charge of developing and applying new technology to control and run interchangeable lens. Youngwoo Park (Principal Engineer, Optics Lab, Lens R&D Group) : Hello, I am in charge of the NX lens optical design. I personally like to take pictures and I have strong interest in lens, which naturally led me this field. Hyuckki Lee (Principal Engineer,Superprecision Optics Lab,Lens R&D Group) : Making lens has long been my dream. I was so deeply moved after reading about this one kid who was featured in a kid’s magazine making cameras and telescope with lens, I purchased lens glass on my own to cut it myself and process it as I wished. Later, I developed my own lens and polished it myself. In a constant pursuit of my dream of becoming a lens developer, I created my own polishing machine. At university, I spent 28 days in a tent in order to capture the sight of Halley’s Comet, and ultimately I became the first person in Korea to do so.

2. It is true that Samsung is a follower in the lens area behind other players? Can you briefly explain the background of your path to where you are now? Geonmo Kang : Many think that the NX lens came out of nowhere, but it is actually the culmination of over 20 years of research into film cameras and SLR cameras. The first motto that underpinned the lens development team for the NX lens was ‘best-in-class optical function,’ and the second motto was to sell lens to the consumers at a reasonable price. Youngwoo Park : When the NX was first released, the compact system camera market was underdeveloped, so we were the first to try many technologies. It was quite challenging to stabilize the function.

3. What challenges did you face while developing the lens? Geonmo Kang : I had made many prototypes, but because I didn’t have enough experience in mass production, I went through a lot of trial and error. Sungwook Choi : The NX uses a bigger APS-C sensor than other companies. At the initial stage, developing a competitive product at the right size and performance, while also using a big sensor was difficult. Although I had a lot of experience in compact camera, it was my first time developing an interchangeable lens, so dealing with it was difficult at first with many trial and error. Woojong Cho : Different from existing DSLR lens, the NX system uses contrast AF, which means that control is difficult and leads to many issues. In order to overcome the innate limitations of limited lens performance due to small camera size, we adopted the latest technology used in DSLR. However, it was challenging because the technology was not stable at the time. Youngwoo Park : We designed various types of lenses that will fit well with the compact and light-weighted NX. In the process, researchers invested a lot effort and time. Hyuckki Lee : Lenses are like living organisms that do not always turn out as you planned. The key lesson I learned while studying polishing abroad was how to communicate with the lens. It may strike you as odd that I talk to an inanimate object, but interestingly, when you communicate with the lens, you find solutions. Talking with the lens while polishing has now become a habit.

4. Where did you focus to differentiate your lens from competitors? Youngwoo Park : We wanted to minimize the weight of the lens that moves for focusing for rapid AF. We also developed a proprietary control technology to ensure a certain level of OIS correction.

5. Do you enjoy taking pictures? Geonmo Kang : I like to take close-ups and enjoy capturing ordinary objects in our everyday life. I also run a photo blog. Youngwoo Park : I take a lot of pictures using the NX10 and 30mm lens. Hyuckki Lee : I enjoyed taking pictures ever since I was young, so it has become a hobby for me. Being able to take pictures with the lens I made is a special privilege.

6. As a developer, what do you think are the advantages of the NX lens? Geonmo Kang : Best-in-class optical function. We put special effort in ensuring balance of the center of the lens with the surrounding.

7. Can you briefly talk about the lenses to be rolled out in the future? Woojong Cho : A premium lens that sets Samsung’s unique status will be launched. One is the 18~200mm super zoom lens which will be released in the second of half. It is the first to apply AF mechanism called VCM(voice coil motor), with no noise and quick AF. The second is a macro lens named F2.8. It is the first among compact system cameras to have SSA(supersonic actuator). The F1.4 85mm lens, another lens with VCM, has the widest diameter among compact system camera.

8. Do you have any words for younger students wishing to become a lens developer? Hyuckki Lee : Even with digitalization, lens will remain analog. For those students who like the feel of analog lens, continue to develop yourself with the dream of becoming the best expert in the analog field. So, that was a sneak peek into how the NX lens was created! Obviously, the NX lens is not an outcome of overnight effort, but a product of long research and development. I was particularly impressed with the pride each developer had on the lens development work and their passion and commitment. In the next posting, I will meet with the lens planner, marketer and designers to talk about their work on the NX lens.

Next post will be published May 17th. Until then, take care!

How the NX Lenses are launched into the World - PART I : The NX Lens Developers