Samsung EX2F £379.99
30th Aug 2012 | 11:03
Smarter than the average compact camera
Samsung announced its 12MP smart camera, the Samsung EX2F, in July, improving on the original Samsung EX1 by adding Wi-Fi capability for easy image sharing and boosting the pixel count from 10MP to 12MP.
The Samsung EX2F 24-80mm (equivalent) lens also has an even bigger maximum aperture than the Samsung EX1's optic, pushing up to f/1.4 from f/1.8. This means it has the largest aperture of any compact camera currently available.
The larger aperture enables slightly more control over depth of field, as well as faster shutter speeds to be used in low light to help combat blur.
However, the EX2F also includes a dual image stabilisation system (optical and digital) to minimise the impact of camera shake. Meanwhile, a built-in neutral density filter enables wide apertures to be used in bright light.
Samsung has extended the EX2F's low-light credentials with a 1/1.7-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor, and by keeping the resolution to a relatively modest 12 million pixels for better noise control.
Like most compact cameras, the Samsung EXF2 doesn't have a viewfinder built in, and images are composed on the 3-inch 614,000-dot swivel AMOLED screen, making shooting from a range of angles easier than with a fixed monitor.
Samsung has given the EX2F a pretty impressive burst mode, which enables full resolution images to be captured at 3, 5 or 10 frames per second (fps). A Pre-capture option also enables you to record 10 JPEG images taken after the shutter release is half-pressed, but immediately before it is fully pressed. It's useful for capturing the moment after an exciting event.
In addition, Full HD videos of up to 20mins long can be recorded in MP4 format. Lower resolution high speed recording at 480fps (192x144), 240fps (384x288) and 120fps (640x480) is also possible for slow-motion playback.
The Samsung EX2F is aimed at enthusiast photographers, who will appreciate the ability to use manual, aperture priority or shutter priory exposure modes and the option to record raw files as well as JPEG images.
Less experienced photographers, however, may prefer to use one of the Scene modes or the Smart Auto Mode that automatically selects the correct scene mode to use based on the camera's assessment of the scene.
There are also fun, creative options such as Panaroma, Magic Frame, Split Shot, Picture in Picture, Artistic Brush, HDR and Creative Movie Maker. Plus there are 15 digital filter effects as well, and a Dual Capture mode, which enables you to record video and 12MP stills simultaneously.
Priced at around £379.99/AU$549/US$449, the Samsung EX2F is in the same sort of price bracket as the Fuji X-F1 and Samsung Galaxy Camera. It's cheaper than some other high-end compacts, such as the Canon G15, Nikon P7700 and Olympus XZ-2.
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Thanks to its fairly liberal, but not excessive, smattering of control buttons and dials, most prospective buyers will recognise that the Samsung EX2F is aimed at keen photographers rather than novices. But that's not to say that it can't be used by inexperienced photographers.
Those happy to let the camera decide what settings to use will be satisfied to set the camera to Smart Auto mode via the option on the mode dial, but those who want to get a little bit more involved must scroll through the Magic Plus options - also accessed via the mode dial.
Owners of the Samsung EX1 will notice a significant weight difference when they pick up the lighter Samsung EX2F.
Although the drop in weight makes the Samsung EX2F feel a little less substantial, it also makes it more balanced and easier to hold one-handed, because the majority of the Samsung EX1's weight is over to the left side as you hold the camera.
The Samsung EX2F's grip is more ergonomically shaped than the Samsung EX1's, but it also has a less effective coating, so what's gained on the swings is to some extent lost on the roundabouts.
Control-wise, the layout of the Samsung EX2F is very similar to the Samsung EX1's, but there are a couple of changes, the most noticeable of which is the introduction of the Wi-Fi (Smart Link) button in place of the ISO option on the four-way controller on the back of the camera.
This provides quick access to some of the Wi-Fi enabled options such as Social Sharing (linking to Facebook, Picasa, Photobucket and YouTube), MobileLink, Remote Viewfinder, Email, Cloud, Auto Backup or TV.
Any of these options can also be selected by turning the Mode dial on the top-plate to Wi-Fi, but this button gives a quick route to your favourite one.
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The camera's Wi-Fi options are all pretty easy to use, with helpful prompts informing you when you need to install an app on your smartphone, for example to use the Remote Viewfinder, or to connect to your phone to the camera's network.
Because the camera stores Wi-Fi network passwords, your Facebook login details and so on, you only need to put them in once. From then on connection to your home Wi-Fi network or uploading images to Facebook is a breeze.
The Remote Viewfinder option, which enables you to use a smart device to trigger the Samsung EX2F's shutter (flash options, image size, self-timer delay and zoom) is a little disappointing, because it only provides limited control over the camera and the maximum image size is limited to 9MP. The zoom is also just digital rather than optical.
One problem with the Wi-Fi button is that it is easily pressed by accident, especially when shooting with the camera in the upright position, and it takes a couple of button presses to exit the Wi-Fi menu.
Another issue, of course, is that there isn't a direct control for the sensitivity, but the ISO setting can still be adjusted pretty quickly via the Function Menu. This is accessed by pressing the Fn button on the back of the camera.
The Function Menu displays up to 15 parameters, which can be adjusted simply by navigating to them and then using the dial at the top of the grip on the front of the camera.
Alternatively, the chosen feature can be adjusted by pressing the OK button and using any of the navigation controls. The display is bright, clear and easy to navigate, so setting adjustments can be made quickly.
Because the Samsung EX2F doesn't have a viewfinder, images must be composed on the articulated 3-inch 614,000-dot AMOLED screen.
Indoors or in low light, this provides an excellent view of the scene, but reflections are an issue outside in bright sunlight. The Samsung EX2F isn't alone with this problem, but it means that there can be an element of guesswork with the fine details of some compositions.
The AF box can also be hard to see on the screen in bright light, and it would be nice to have a touchscreen so you can set the point with the touch of a finger.
The fact that the screen is on an articulating hinge is a bonus. Because it makes it easier to shoot from very high or low angles, it tends to encourage you to do so, making for more interesting shots.
All things considered, the Samsung EX2F is a pretty pleasant camera to use. The Wi-Fi functionality has been fairly well thought out (although it would be nice to be able to connect an iPhone to the camera's network from within the activated app) and it adds extra fun and flexibility.
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In most daylight situations, the Samsung EX2F produces very nice images, with natural colours, plenty of detail and relatively little in the way of noise at the lower sensitivity settings.
The multi-purpose metering system performs well on the whole, delivering correctly exposed images in a fairly wide range of conditions.
It does an especially good job when confronted with brighter than average scenes, delivering images that look right straight from the camera with little in the way of underexposure.
However, it struggles a little more with dark and high contrast scenes.
Exposure compensation is available to +/-2EV, so it is usually possible to adjust the exposure to get a correct looking image (or manual exposure can be used), but in bright light, exposure can be hard to assess on the screen.
Fortunately, there is a histogram view, which can be accessed via the Disp button. However, this is a bit distracting to use for everyday shooting.
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Although it's not infallible, the autofocus system performs well in most situations, locking onto the subject and getting it sharp in most cases. The macro focusing function needs to be turned on with subjects closer than 40cm.
Images taken at ISO 80-200 have plenty of detail and little sign of noise, but the level of detail starts to drop off quite steeply once ISO 800 is reached.
The JPEG files don't suffer from noise, more the impact of its removal at the higher sensitivity settings.
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
Although the Samsung EX2F's JPEGs don't perform as well as those from the Canon G12, Nikon P7100 and Panasonic LX7 for signal to noise ratio at low sensitivities, the raw files reveal what the camera is really capable of if you choose to process images yourself.
Nevertheless, our resolution chart test images reveal that even the Samsung EX2F's JPEG files can out-resolve those from the other cameras.
Raw signal to nose ratio
JPEG dynamic range
While the Samsung EX2F's JPEG files have a respectable dynamic range of around 10 EV between ISO 100-400, the raw files are significantly better, hitting a high of around 11.5EV, which beats the Canon G12, Nikon P7100 and Panasonic LX7.
Raw dynamic range
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Samsung EX2F, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 80 the Samsung EX2F is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 80, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 100, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 6400, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 12800, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 80 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
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A pixel count of 12 million isn't particularly exciting these days, but it is sufficient for most situations that you would reasonably expect a compact camera to be used in. It also enables the camera to produce cleaner images than one with a higher pixel count.
Having a large maximum aperture of f/1.4 at the wide-angle end of the lens and f/2.7 at the telephoto end is also useful, because it enables faster shutter speeds than normal to be used when light levels drop. With close subjects it also enables depth of field to be restricted so that the background can be blurred.
Samsung is leading the way with Wi-Fi connectivity in cameras, and the Samsung EX2F makes good use of it, with several different ways of sharing images direct from the camera as well as a Remote Viewfinder option.
We found the Wi-Fi features easy to set up and use, and they are sure to be a hit with Facebook lovers and the like.
Having a bright 24-80mm lens makes the Samsung EX2F a versatile camera that can be used in all sorts of situations. It also feels well put together and should withstand regular use.
All the key controls are easy to access, and enthusiast photographers should find they quickly get to grips with it.
Once your home Wi-Fi network details have been input and your Facebook login details are stored, it's easy to share images direct from the camera.
If you want to use the Smart Filters you can't select the active AF point, this decision has to be made by the camera - which seems rather odd. You'll also have to forgo shooting raw files.
The Samsung EX2F would seem ideally suited for use with a touchscreen, but it doesn't have one. A touchscreen would speed up settings adjustments and inputting information such as Wi-Fi network passwords.
With the exception of the odd unusually dark or very high contrast scene, the Samsung EX2F is a very capable compact camera that delivers high-quality images with plenty of detail at the lower sensitivity settings, and natural colour.
Wi-Fi connectivity has been well integrated, and the system is easy to set up and use.
There are only a few niggles, such as the fact that some options aren't available when shooting raw files, and it takes a while to work out what settings you need to use to make the filter options accessible.
These issues and the lack of a touchscreen hold the Samsung EX2F back from being an up to the minute compact camera.