hands-on Samsung EX2F

Samsung top-of-the-range compact camera has been upgraded with a new 12.4-million-pixel CMOS sensor and 3.3x f/1.4 zoom lens. Richard Sibley takes a first look at the EX2F IT IS more than two years since Samsung announced the launch of the EX 1. That camera s 1/1.7in, 10.1-million-pixel CCD sensor placed it in direct competition with the likes of the Canon PowerShot G11 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Since then, the market for small, high-quality digital cameras has boomed, with the PowerShot G11 being replaced by the G12, and the LX3 making way for the LX5. We have also seen Nikon launch the Coolpix P7000 and 7100, while Fujifilm and Sony have got in on the act with the XI0 and Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 respectively. With competition now much fiercer than when the EX1 was released, Samsung s new EX2F has a lot prove. NEW LENS One of the EX1 s main selling points was its 24-72mm (equivalent) f/1.8 zoom lens. At the time of its release it was the only compact camera of its class to feature an f/1.8 lens. The EX2F improves on this by featuring a class-leading Schneider Varioplan 5.2-17.2mm (24-78mm equivalent) f/1.4-2.7 zoom lens. This consists of 11 elements in nine groups, and the f/1.4 maximum aperture is a 0.3EV improvement on the older lens. There is also a built-in 3EV ND filter. Despite the f/1.4 aperture, the EX2F s 1/1.7in (7.6x5.7mm) sensor means that, like all compact cameras, the depth of field is only shallow when used in its macro mode. However, what the large aperture does offer is the ability to shoot using faster shutter speeds in low light What s more, even at the maximum zoom setting the aperture is still f/2.7, which is at least 1 stop better than most of its competitors. Optical stabilisation is also featured in the new lens. Samsung combines this with digital image stabilisation to offer what it terms  dual image stabilisation . With an f/1.4-2.7 lens and increased sensitivity, however, I would imagine that most photographers will simply be happy with the optical stabilisation. We will look at this in our full test of the camera in a future issue. NEW SENSOR The sensor in the EX2F has also seen some notable improvements Samsung has abandoned the 101-million-pixel CCD sensor in favour of a 12.4-million-pixel CMOS unit This new sensor should perform better in low light, and it also allows for an increase in sensitivity from ISO 3200 in the EX1 to an impressive ISO 12,800 in the EX2F. Unfortunately, the camera we have been using for the past couple of weeks is a pre-production version, so while it is fully functional it would not be fair to judge the image quality, as this is likely to change before the finished product hits the shelves. However, I can say that at low sensitivities JPEG image quality looks very good. Of course, the EX2F can also shoot Samsung SRW raw files. I found that shooting raw files slowed the camera down significantly between shots, but this may also be improved by the time we receive a final test version. It will also be interesting to see how much detail can be captured by the 12.4-million-pixel sensor and sharp 3.3x zoom lens. hands-on Samsung EX2FBUILD QUALITY In terms of build, the strong magnesium-alloy body of the EX2F is fractionally smaller than that of its predecessor. Measuring 11.9x62x28.9mm, in all its dimensions it is around 2mm slimmer than the EX 1. The EX2F is also lighter than the earlier model, weighing 318g compared to 356g. In real terms, the difference in size and weight is not that significant and the camera is still bulkier than a consumer compact camera That said, it is smaller than the Canon PowerShot G12 and Nikon Coolpix P7100, with which it will be competing One of the most impressive features of the EX2F, and which underlines the camera s high build quality, is the 3in, 914,000-dot PenTile AMO LED screen This is extremely bright and vibrant with a good level of contrast, which makes it perfect for both composition and image review. WI-FI COMPATIBILITY One of the first differences that most people will notice is the name. The addition of the F designation simply indicates that the EX2F is Wi-Fi compatible. We have seen this already on a number other current compact cameras, as well Samsung s NX20 and NX210. Wi-Fi connectivity in the EX2F works in the same way as on other Samsung models. The camera can connect directly to a smartphone and, using the Samsung Mobile Link phone application, transfer JPEG images directly to the phone. Images can also be uploaded from the camera to websites, including Picasa and Facebook. Although it took a couple of attempts to get the phone and camera to connect in the right order the system soon becomes easy to operate. It is a marvellous thing to have technology that allows pictures to be taken and then instantly published, and I was even able to edit some mages using the software on my iPhone before uploading it to the internet. It is a really great feature and one that I can only see becoming more and more popular. OTHER FEATURES As on other recent Samsung cameras, there are a variety of different picture modes, including miniature, sketch, cartoon and cross filter, which are more suited to young point-and-shoot photographers than the enthusiast market the camera is clearly aimed at However, three of these modes —vignetting, retro and classic (a black & white mode) did produce good looking JPEG images. From what I have seen so far, it looks like the Samsung EX2F will take on the established Canon Power Shot G series and Panasonic Lumix LX models in much the same was as the original EX1 did. The new lens looks as though it will perform well, and the addition of an f/1.4 aperture to the lens specification is significant. However, it was the cameraWi-Fi connectivity that i found most intriguing. As ever, though, it is image quality on which the Samsung EX2F will be judged, and I look forward to seeing just how capable the new sensor and lens combination is when we conduct our full test.

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