WDC checks out the latest super-wide zoom offering from Samsung...
Samsung’s entry into the DSLR market has increased the number of lenses for Pentax users, as well as the newer Samsung DSLR owners. This lens, for example, is a Schneider-Kreuznach branded lens that fits both camera brands, thanks to their joint use of Pentax KAF mount.
Designed for digital SLRs, the 12-24mm is among an ever-growing number of super-wide zooms, and gives a 1.5x magnification effect when used with cameras that are equipped with APS-C sized sensors. Thus, in 35mm terms, the effective focal length shifts to 18-36mm which covers most people’s wideangle needs. Its construction consists of 13 elements in 11 groups. Those groups contain Extra Low Dispersion (ED) and Aspherical (AL) elements, with the latter designed to control the distortions which naturally occur with wideangle lenses. The lens is also equipped with a petal- shaped lens hood to reduce flare – caused by stray light entering the lens in bright shooting conditions – which can reduce image sharpness and contrast among other things.
In terms of handling, the lens is well made with a tough plastic and metal construction, and metal lens mount. The zoom ring walks the line nicely between loose and taut, while the narrower focus ring rotates freely in AF mode, reducing any danger of damage to the focusing mechanism. The autofocus mechanism is pretty fast, but is not the quietest operator in the world, with an audible whir as the motors shift the elements. The f/4 aperture is reasonably bright for most instances and produces a clear image in the viewfinder.
The small imaging circle produced by the lens keeps the weight and size down, with the lens offering a useful focal range when used on cameras with APS-C sized sensors.
Some level of distortion is inevitable when using wideangle lenses, and the Samsung does display some barrelling throughout. More concerning is sharpness, which isn’t too impressive at 100% viewing of the images on screen, though it’s acceptable on an A4 print. This is reflected in the charts, which peak at around 800 lwpph (matching the lowest resolution of Nikon’s admittedly more expensive 14-24mm, for example). The charts show quite a high level of chromatic aberration in the corner of the frames, although this is less obvious in real-world images than the charts suggest. Contrast is good, with plenty of shadow and highlight detail, and vignetting is not visually perceptible.
A lens with good build quality, a decent price and a useful focal length, but lacks critical sharpness and suffers some fringing at corners.