Samsung EX1 compact camera
Robust, retro, low light performer
Review While Samsung’s NX100 APS-C sensor camera is making life difficult for those deciding on compact EVIL shooter, the company’s considerably cheaper EX1 is beginning to look like a bargain these days. Shop around and you can pick it up for under £300. The EX1 isn't an interchangeable lens model but its 24mm f1.8, 3x zoom is certainly a winner in low light, with Samsung making claims that it’s the world’s brightest lens on a compact.
Optical drive: Samsung's EX1
That lens has the words Schneider-Kreuznach on it. I used to use SK lenses in my black and white enlarger, and jolly good they were too. The body of this beast has the f1.8 emblazoned on it and evidently, Samsung is pretty pleased with this fact. It is a very worthwhile selling point. A fast lens delivers pin sharp detail, perfect contrast and no cheap special effects like vignetting and colour shifts in the corners. Oh no, wait you can add that in as an in-camera special effects treatment – more on that later.
Well now that might be all good if there was any sort of a decent sensor behind it, and there lies the rub. At 1/1.7in, like Canon’s G12, the EX1 lingers in smallville, when micro four thirds and larger sensors are fast becoming the norm in sophisticated compacts. Indeed, it belongs to an earlier generation of camera class and while 10Mp isn’t bad, as other manufacturers have plateaued here too, I still wouldn't write it on the front like it was a selling point. I mean, it is written on the casing, not on a removable sticker, which also smacks of retro too.
Still, the Samsung EX1 is a proper heavy duty, sexy looking, well dressed capable 'compact' even though its weight and bulk are somewhat at odds with that description. It has a great 3in AMOLED screen that protects itself with articulation, and can sit way off to the left. When shooting, the information appears well laid out, and overall you get a bright image showing on the display, even in strong sunlight.
The Mode Dial gives you the usual PASM, also Smart, Video, Scene and its Dual image stabilisation function. I think having the Dual IS choice is a pretty good idea, for when you are out of options on all the other parameters and have to just trust the cameras technology to deliver. The other dial up top is for your Single Frame, continuous and timed exposure and for turning the camera on.
Modes aplenty, but manual tweaks deliver the best results
With the screen in closed position, the very cool blue light would be the only thing to give away that this camera wasn't from a very credible German past. It really does look the business. When people saw it they assumed it was a much more technical camera than it is. Maybe this is its main appeal? Nice legs, shame about the face.
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...can actually get worse the faster a lens is.
I have the Canon 85mm F1.2 II. It is great at F1.2, but the edges of photos are quite dark (when used on a full -frame body). Stop it down to F3 and the vignetting is totally gone.
The size of the objective is one of the critical factors affecting vignetting. It's like having an inappropriately sized lens hood, but very out of focus (as you might imagine for a fast lens).
Fast lenses generally are sharper where telescopic resolving power is needed (which does not apply to this camera). The effects of diffraction (blurring) at the telephoto end for compact hyperzoom (> x20) cameras are testament to that.
For this camera, the limited wideangle/telephoto range and small imager may render vignetting insignificant.
However, vignetting can actually be beneficial...
further to what Ball Boy wrote...
the 'faster' the lens the larger the aperture, i.e. more light getting in, hence faster AF (if it goes through the lens) and shorter shutter times. a larger aperture also means a narrower depth of field, which makes everything that is not focused blurred ('background defocus' as the TV ads say). A smaller aperture means a larger depth of field, which makes everything in the frame sharper. Neither of these is better than the other. It's up to the photographer which he wants to use. Though a narrow depth of field is generally harder to work with.
Hence to get a sharper image on a wider aperture, you're actually relying on the quality of the optics.
Bring back the blue door! And I miss the cathedral.
That's 5.2mm f/1.8 actually. The equivalent aperture on 35mm full frame is f/8.2, and f/5.5 on APS-C. There really is no getting around the laws of physics.