The new flagship EX1 sets the bar for creative compacts
Samsung have transformed
their camera image from cheap compacts to serious imaging tools, and the EX1 is
their most creative compact model to date. With full manual control and some
serious optics this takes on the likes of the Panasonic LX3, the Sony HX5, and
the Canon S90. So have the competition really got something to worry about?
Samsung EX1 Review – Features
With a modest 10MP resolution the EX1 doesn’t
over populate its 1/1.7in sensor, allowing it to perform better in low light,
offering an ISO range of 80-3200.
Images can be saved in both JPEG and Samsung’s native SRW Raw format, independently
or simultaneously. Though it does have video capture, this is at VGA rather
than HD resolution. Metering offers a choice of spot, centre-weighted or multi,
and the full range of manual shooting modes are accompanied by +/-2EV exposure
compensation, a Smart Auto mode, and a selection of 12 scene modes.
Schneider lens offers a limited 3x optical zoom, ranging from 24-72mm in 35mm
terms but does boast an impressive maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide end,
and just f/2.4 at full extension; this makes it perfectly suited for portrait,
travel, and landscape use. Image stabilisation is optical with digital image
stabilisation in addition. On the rear it features a 3in AMOLED screen, with
VGA resolution and a higher contrast ratio than LCD screens, for a crisper
image. There’s also a built-in flash, hotshoe mount and the ability to fit a
wide angle converter to the lens.
Samsung EX1 Review – Design
Though bigger than your standard compact, the EX1 is still
significantly smaller than even the sveltest Micro System Camera. The design is
rugged and functional rather than pretty, making it understated and mysterious
in its all-black finish. Buttons and dials are well-positioned, with a small
finger dial on the front grip in addition to the rotating ring around the d-pad
for general operation. The screen is fixed on a fully adjustable mount,
allowing viewing from almost any angle – including from in front. The lens is
reassuringly large, too, with a proper lens cap to attach. It’s just a slight
shame that the small grip around it is merely to hide the adaptor thread and
not a method of manual focus or zoom control.
Samsung EX1 Review – Performance
The AF system is fast but sometimes picks the wrong point due to the large focus area. Write times can be between two and four seconds depending on the file type, but can continue to shoot, at its 1.5fps burst rate, for over 100 shots. One annoyance is the way some functions are greyed out when other modes are in use – such as the face detection in Raw, or dual stabilised modes; and the Raw file type in burst setting – without always being clear why.
Samsung EX1 Review – Value
But the EX1 has a lot to offer and it does so at a fairly competitive price; its current street price of around £350 is slightly higher than the Canon S90 and Panasonic LX3 but only by around £40 and is likely to settle lower after a few months.
Samsung EX1 Review – Image Quality
Exposure is well balanced tonally, even in tough conditions, and the level of detail is very impressive for a compact. Colours however, can look a little artificial, even in the Raw files, though can be corrected using the Super Neutral setting in the Raw software. The auto white balance does a great job and coping with tricky conditions and even gave great results with mixed indoor lighting. Noise becomes more noticeable above 400 ISO, with obvious signs at 1600 and 3200. Thanks to the noise reduction though, this is well hidden in the JPEG files.
The EX1 is worth considering. It has a wide range of features, an impressive lens, and a stunning screen. It’s a lot of fun to use, with only a slight irritation of functions not working together. It’s not the smallest and is currently far from the cheapest; it lacks HD movie but produces great images and is a great choice for travel and portraits.