The EX2F is Samsung’s latest advanced compact and it arrives with a host of high-end features. As well as featuring a high-spec lens and sensor, the model boasts Wi-Fi functionality along with a vari-angle AMOLED screen. We take a closer to find out how it sits in the advanced compact market.
Samsung EX2F review – Features and Design
Photographers looking for an alternative to their DSLR when not wanting to carry around a heavy body, yet not wanting to sacrifice any of the functionality when it comes to advanced shooting, are now more spoilt for options than ever before. Where once the sole option was an advanced compact, there is now a plethora of Compact System Cameras which offer viable alternatives.
As a result, the advanced compact market has had to improve its offering to compete, and the good news for consumers is that it has duly done so. The EX2F is the latest advanced model from Samsung and it offers a specification with a host of highlights, and more than merits consideration as either a back-up to a DSLR or as a standalone advanced shooting option.
The Samsung EX2F picks up where its predecessor – the EX1 – left off, albeit with a host of improvements. The model features a relatively large 1/1.7in BSI CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 12.4MP, up from the 10MP resolution found on the EX1. Although this jump in resolution of 2.4MP may raise alarms with those concerned with high ISO noise, Samsung is confident that the sensor’s Back Side Illumination technology will counter this. Talking of ISO, the EX2F also now features an extended ISO range of 100 to 6400, expandable to ISO 12800. The sensor also again allows for Raw capture which will no doubt please advanced photographers.
One of the areas in which the EX1 excelled was regarding lens technology with the model offering a 4x optical zoom complete with an impressive maximum aperture of f/1.8. Samsung has gone one better with EX2F – although the model’s optical zoom is now slightly smaller, now standing at 3.3x, a maximum aperture of f/1.4 features along with a wide angle of 24mm. The lens is comprised of Schneider-KREUZNACH technology, and any concerns about camera shake are allayed by the presence of Dual IS image stabilisation technology, while the extra creative perk of an ND filter also features.
Another feature that remains from the EX1 is the impressive AMOLED display. The version on the rear of the EX2F once again measures in at 3in and features a 614k-dot resolution, with the AMOLED technology offering more vivid blacks and more accurate colours, according to Samsung. The good news is that it is also articulated – the screen is attached to the body of the camera on a hinge to the left hand side, upon which it can be pulled away around 180 degrees and then rotates on a horizontal axis about 270 degrees to allow for flexible shooting angles.
An area at which the EX2F improves on its predecessor is with regards to video capture. The model now features full HD video capture at a resolution of 1920 x 1080p and 30fps, as opposed to the somewhat undercooked 640 x 480 resolution found on the model’s predecessor. The camera also features an HDMI out port to allow for connection to an HD TV or various other devices.
Samsung has long been a champion of Wi-Fi functionality within its camera range, and the EX2F is the latest model to benefit from its inclusion. The Wi-Fi functionality allows for photographers to upload directly to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or a range of other social networks, as well as allowing emailing on the go by simply connecting to any wireless access point. The Wi-Fi functionality also allows photographers to back their images up directly to Samsung’s preferred Cloud services, namely AllShare Play and Microsoft Skydrive. Finally, the Wi-Fi connectivity allows for a Smartphone to be used as a viewfinder by simply installing a Remote Viewfinder application.
The Samsung EX2F features a solid design to match its advanced specification. While it’s certainly not light, it benefits by having a robust feel to it. The body is shaped from ‘high-intensity’ magnesium alloy according to the manufacturer, and has a slightly elongated rectangular feel to it. One positive result of the rectangular body is that the articulated 3in LCD screen sits comfortably against the rear of the camera whilst still affording enough room for a host of control buttons to the screens’ right. These buttons include a suitably stiff control wheel that also offers access to various shooting functionality, as well as six other function buttons.
Continuing the advanced compact theme of having shooting controls present on the camera’s body, the EX2F’s top plate houses not one, but two mode dials side-by-side. The first of these dials offers direct access to the camera’s various shooting modes, while the second offers access to the camera’s drive mode. It’s a slight shame that the second mode dial can’t be customised, as it would be good to assign it to control something like exposure compensation, although it is good to be able to control so much functionality directly on the camera body rather than deep-rooted in various menus.
One final control feature is a scroll wheel housed on the front of the camera towards the top of the rubberised handgrip. While this is convenient for changing settings, one criticism is that it’s unfortunate that it’s not stiffer as it’s easily knocked whilst shooting.
Another potential criticism of the model’s design is the grooved ring around the EX2F’s lens. It gives the impression that by turning it you would be able to control one of the camera’s functions, and being able to do so would be a real benefit. However, unfortunately this isn’t the case, and instead the ring unscrews to reveal an adapter thread. Considering Samsung’s i-Functionality found on its other products, it’s a shame that such a feature couldn’t make it on to this model.
Performance, Image Quality and Verdict
Samsung EX2F review – Performance and Image Quality
There isn’t too much to complain about when it comes to the performance of the EX2F, and in general it’s a pleasing camera to use. That being said, there are a few minor niggles which are worth addressing. While the camera handles well in general, there’s certainly room for improvement – as mentioned, the control wheel on the front of the camera could do with being stiffer for extra resistance, while the lens ring could also benefit from extra functionality. There’s also an issue with the lens cap – if you switch the camera on when the lens cap is attached, the camera effectively ‘crashes’, meaning that you have to remove the lens cap, switch the camera off and then back on again, all of which takes time.
While the EX2F’s start-up time is generally respectable, shooting speeds are somewhat of a different matter. If you stick to shooting just JPEGs, there is little noticeable delay between shots. However, If you decide to shoot either Raw or Raw and JPEG, you’ll often find yourself waiting for the camera’s buffer to clear until your ready to shoot again. Not only that, but the camera also effectively freezes whilst the buffer is clearing, meaning that you can’t access functionality such as the camera’s zoom.
Although the EX2F might not be the fastest camera when it comes to shot-to-shot speed, the model’s focus system is generally good, offering both prompt and accurate focus performance. A full variety of manual shooting functionality is on offer, although those wanting to do more with their images in-camera can utilise on-board creative filters.
The Samsung EX2F features a 12.4MP, 1/1.7in backside illuminate CMOS sensor – larger than average compacts and with the promise of superior image quality. The good news is that on the whole image quality is impressive.
The sensor manages to capture a wide dynamic range, with highlights managing to be captured at the same time as a good level of shadow detail. Exposures also have a pleasingly even tonal range as a result, and appear natural straight out of the camera. As well as the even tonal range, the Samsung captures a natural colour palette which is just on the preferred side of neutral.
The EX2F is capable of shooting Raw and JPEG, and the difference between the two formats is noticeable. JPEG files are sharper out of the camera – although that’s not unexpected – while they are also feature a stronger contrast. Raw files noticeably preserve more fine detail through this lack of sharpening, but tend to display starker evidence of fringing at all stages of the zoom. Again, this isn’t completely unexpected, and is something that is readily attended in Raw processing.
Despite the hike in resolution on its predecessor, the EX2F still offers good performance at higher ISO settings. The model produces eminently usable results right up to ISO 3200 – even at ISO 800 there’s very little noise to be seen in JPEG files, and although there is some visible in Raw files once again it’s readily dealt with in post production.
Samsung EX2F review – Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the EX2F, and it certainly represents a positive step forward in the advanced compact market. It features a specification that truly impresses, with a high-specification lens, impressive LCD screen and full Wi-Fi functionality, while also offering Raw and HD video capture, as well as great image quality. The camera is only really let down by a few niggles with performance and design – it’s more sluggish when shooting Raw then it needs to be, while there are several questionable button designs and placements which cause issues when handling. One the whole however, the EX2F is a great advanced compact and certainly up there with the traditional heavyweights in this market.