Samsung EX2F Review
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The Samsung EX2F is a new 12 megapixel compact camera aimed at serious photographers. The pocketable EX2F features a large 1/1.7” CCD sensor, bright f/1.4 lens with a 3.3x focal range of 24-80mm, wi-fi connectivity and a 3 inch swivelling AMOLED screen. If that doesn't pique your interest, the EX2F also offers full 1080p movies, an external flash hotshoe, RAW shooting mode, ISO 80-12800, Dual Image Stabilization technology, High Dynamic Range and full manual control over exposure. The Samsung EX2F is available in grey or black for £449 / $499.
Ease of Use
First impressions of the new Samsung EX2F are of very well-constructed camera with a high-quality all-metal body that just about squeezes into the compact category. Officially measuring 112.1 x 62.4 x 27.55mm and weighing 286g, the EX2F is smaller than its EX1 prededecssor and will just fit into a trouser pocket. The depth doesn't take the lens into account though, with the EX2F actually measuring around 45mm deep, which means that whilst the EX2F is still pocketable, it's a tighter squeeze than the official figures suggest and better suits a small camera bag.
The front of the EX2F is dominated by the 3.3x lens which provides a focal range of 24-80mm in 35mm terms. The 24mm wide-angle lens makes this one of the more versatile compacts in terms of focal range. If you're used to a "standard" 3x zoom lens which usually starts at around 35mm wide, then you will find that the lens on the EX2F provides an entirely new angle of view that can only increase your creativity.
The maximum aperture at wide-angle is an incredibly bright f/1.4, the fastest of any compact camera on the market, increasing to a still very respectable f/2.7 at full telephoto. The f/1.4 lens means that the EX2F can be used to shoot at higher shutter speeds or in lower-light conditions and still achieve comparable results to cameras with slower lenses. It also helps to blur the background more and concentrate the focus on the main subject of the photograph. The EX2F's lens also has an accessory ring that accepts compatible filters and conversion lenses.
Also located on the front of the camera are a sensor for the optional remote control, an AF-assist light/Timer lamp and the first of the EX2F's photographer-friendly touches, a dial for changing the shutter speed. Operated with your right forefinger, this dial is perfectly positioned at the top of the textured handgrip and makes it easy to alter the shutter speed when using that priority mode or the fully Manual mode.
Moving to the top of the camera, the EX2F's built-in flash is particularly neat, popping up out of the top of the body when you open it using the slider switch, and then stored safely away by pushing it back down. Samsung have also included a flash hotshoe, which as you'd expect accepts an optional flashgun. To the right of the hotshoe are not one but two circular control dials, the first for selecting from the various continuous shooting, bracketing and timer options, and the second for selecting the different exposure modes. There's also a seperate Power button and holes for the stereo sound.
The EX2F offers advanced controls over exposure, with full manual, aperture and shutter priority modes on offer, which will appeal to the more experienced photographer looking for a pocket alternative to their DSLR. The icing on the cake is support for the RAW format, which makes the EX2F a real contender in this respect. You can choose to shoot in RAW only, or RAW plus one of the three JPEG quality modes, giving you the best of both worlds. Shutter speeds range from 16-1/2000th second and apertures from F1.4 - F8.5.
The start-up time from turning the EX2F on to being ready to take a photo is fairly quick at around 2 seconds. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is a lot slower though at over 4 seconds - we're not sure why zooming just 3.3x takes so long, a problem that also afflicted the EX1. Focusing is quick in good light and the camera achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. The camera doesn't have any problems locking onto the subject in low-light situations.
It takes about 1 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card. Storing a single RAW image takes around 5 seconds, and unfortunately it locks up the camera for a couple of seconds, preventing you from using the menu system or shooting another image while the first file is being written to memory. The EX2F has an excellent Burst mode which enables you to take 10, 5 or 3 frames per second for an unlimited number of JPEG images (the Precapture option takes 10 images between pressing the shutter halfway, then fully), but sadly there is no burst mode for RAW images so you can't shoot more than a single RAW file at a time.
In addition to Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual, the EX2F also offers an extensive range of scene modes for less experienced users. One of those is Samsung's 'beauty shot' mode, useful for both acne-d adolescents and those of us who have over indulged by automatically retouching out spots and blemishes. Spotlighting the EX2F's intended audience as the family, Samsung clearly wants its users to have to spend as little time post-processing images as possible - if any. Samsung's Smart Face Recognition technology automatically adjusts the camera's focus and exposure for up to 20 faces, and it can even recognise the most photographed faces in your photos and focus on them. Smart Face Recognition also lets you quickly search for specific people in your photo album without having to browse through every single photo.
The Movie mode is much improved, offering 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixel modes in the MP4 format. There are also a range of high-speed modes available at 480fps (192 x 144), 240fps (384 x 288) and 120fps (640 x 480). The Smart Filters option provides a choice of 15 special effects that you can apply to JPEG images, including Soft Focus for a warm ambience and Half-Tone Dot for a comic-book look.
The Wi-Fi options here are many and varied, and include the ability to sync up with a handset in order to use your phone as a remote viewfinder - though this first requires the downloading and installation of Samsung's 'MobileLink' software onto the phone. There's also the ability to let the camera search for a local wireless network in order to directly upload imagery to the likes of facebook, Picasa, YouTube and the ilk, or connect to a wireless network to email a selected picture to an email account - the address input within the camera with the aid of an on-screen 'qwerty' keypad. Inputting letters involves tabbing back and forth via the aid of the back plate it would have been faster still, but least it worked for us. There are further automatic wireless back up (either to your desktop or a cloud service) and TV link options for those who have the relevant tech at their disposal.
The final mode on the dial is the clever Smart Auto. As it sounds, this is the manufacturer's equivalent of the intelligent auto modes on competitors from Panasonic (its Lumix range), Sony (the latest T-series Cyber-shots) and Canon (Digital IXUS family). The camera automatically chooses the appropriate settings based on the detected type of scene, detecting 17 different types of scene, so beginners can use this mode and rarely have to choose the right mode themselves. Incidentally, as you turn the shooting dial, a virtual version with the same settings rotates in tandem on screen, highlighting and explaining each one as you select it.
|Tilting LCD Screen||Top|
In practice the Smart Auto system works very well, with the NX210 usually picking the most appropriate combination of settings for the current situation. Obviously not all situations are covered by the scene modes that the system uses, but it does work for the majority of the time. It makes it possible for the less experienced photographer to easily take well-exposed, sharp pictures of people, scenery and close-ups by simply pointing and shooting the camera and is more intuitive than the traditional scene modes (which are still available).
Completing the top of the EX2F is a responsive push/pull zoom lever that surrounds a tactile shutter button. Once you've zoomed in and got your composition how you want, with a half press of the shutter button the Samsung EX2F is commendably swift to determine focus and exposure, the AF point highlighted in green and an operational 'beep' confirming you're good to go on and take the shot. With very little noticeable shutter lag, at highest resolution setting an image is committed to memory in just under two seconds, the screen blanking out briefly, which isn't bad at all.
The rear of the Samsung EX2F is dominated by the three-inch swivelling AMOLED screen, with eight controls located at its right. The AMOLED screen is brighter and sharper than traditional LCD screens, with 614k dots and 10000:1 contrast ratio. It's also easier to see outdoors, although it doesn't completely solve the issue of viewing in bright sunlight or from extreme angles. It is significantly better than the majority of compact camera screens, and worth paying a premium for. The ability to flip and twist the screen through almost any angle is a great feature that makes it easier to take photos with the camera low to the ground, high above your head or for candid people shots.
At the top of the run of controls on the right of the screen is a useful one-touch movie record button, making it a cinch to start and stop your movie masterpieces, and the welcome Auto Exposure Lock button . Underneath is the Menu button which provides a range of selectable options, the brevity or otherwise of which is dependant on the particular mode the user is in. Alongside is a button for the useful Function menu. As expected the amount of information and options accessed via a press of 'Fn' varies dependant on which shooting mode is selected. For example in Smart Auto mode the user merely has the ability to adjust the image size, ND filter anf flash. Twist the dial around to Program mode however and there's the ability to adjust 15 key options via an onscreen graphical display, making it easy to change the camera's main settings.
Directly underneath is a four-way directional Navigation pad with an OK button at its centre. This will be familiar to just about anyone who has ever used a digital compact before. Ranged around the four points are options for toggling the Display modes to show a nine zone compositional grid, all shooting information or just the very basics (i.e simply the number of shots remaining), the currently selected Wi-Fi option, macro and focus modes, and the various flash settings. We miss not having the EX1's dedicated ISO button, now reallocated to the Wi-Fi setting, and also a dedicated button for the ND filter, a la the Panasonic DMC-LX7 - having to dip into the Function menu to turn it on and off quickly became tiresome in bright sunlight conditions when shooting wide-open at F/1.4.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Surrounding the navigation pad is a slim circular wheel that performs a number of functions, most importantly changing the aperture, and also scrolling through images in and menu options. In conjunction with the Front Dial, this makes it very easy to use the EX2F in full Manual mode. Below the Navigation pad are the self-explanatory Playback and Delete buttons.
Once you have captured a photo, the Samsung EX2F has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 20 onscreen at the same time and in a special Calendar view), zoom in and out up to 11.4x magnification, resize, rotate, change the photo style, apply a smart filter, and adjust apply redeye fix and face retouch, and adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation and even add noise. You can also view slideshows with various effects, delete, protect, add a voice memo, set the print order and copy to a card. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback.
On the right hand side of the Samsung EX2F (if viewing from the rear) we find an included mini-HDMI port for hooking the snapshot up to an HDTV. The required HDMI cable is an optional extra though, so bear in mind if you're on a budget.
Alongside the HDMI connection is a proprietary connector for Samsung's power and sync cable - the EX2F is recharged with the battery in-camera, either from an electrical socket or or alternatively straight from a USB port connected to your computer, rather than via an external recharger, which means that annoyingly you can't use the camera with a second battery whilst charging the first. Battery life is good for approximately 250 shots from a full charge, adequate if not incredible.
The bottom of the Samsung EX2F houses a metal tripod mount and a sliding cover for protecting the shared rechargeable battery and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compartment, and there's also 22Mb of internal memory. Also in the box is a quick-start guide as a hard copy, the full manual on CD ROM, plus a shoulder strap.