Samsung EX1

      Photo Review 8.5
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      leadpic_Samsung-EX1

      In summary

       A compact digicam with a fast, high-quality 3x zoom lens, P/A/S/M shooting modes and support for raw file capture – but only VGA video.The 10-megapixel EX1 is the new flagship of the company’s compact digital camera range. It features a new high-performance 1/1.7-inch (7.6 x 5.7 mm) CCD sensor plus a fast Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan lens with 3x optical zoom (24-72mm equivalent). It also boasts a 3-inch, swivelling AMOLED screen that provides users with a higher contrast ratio, deeper blacks and more accurate colours under most lighting conditions. . . [more]

      Full review

       

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      leadpic_Samsung-EX1

      The 10-megapixel EX1 is the new flagship of the company’s compact digital camera range. It features a new high-performance 1/1.7-inch (7.6 x 5.7 mm) CCD sensor plus a fast Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan lens with 3x optical zoom (24-72mm equivalent). It also boasts a 3-inch, swivelling AMOLED screen that provides users with a higher contrast ratio, deeper blacks and more accurate colours under most lighting conditions.

      The EX1 is targeted at photo enthusiasts and is built with such users in mind. Designed primarily for stills photography, it can also record video – but only with VGA resolution at 30 frames/second using efficient H.264 compression. As well as supporting the necessary shutter-priority, aperture-priority and full manual shooting modes, the EX1 also provides raw file support – including RAW+JPEG capture.

      Less sophisticated photographers looking for a camera they can ‘grow with’ can benefit from Samsung’s Smart Auto 2.0 (Still & Movie) scene recognition technology plus some of the advanced features, such as Dual Image Stabilisation technology, to ensure their pictures are sharp and correctly exposed.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Although too large for a shirt pocket, the EX1 is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket and would occupy little space in a handbag or camera bag. Design-wise, Samsung has ticked most of the necessary boxes by borrowing aspects of two of the most popular models on the market. With its swivelling monitor and multiple dial controls it hints at Canon’s PowerShot G11, while the slim form factor is reminiscent of Panasonic’s respected LX series (which will shortly be extended with a new model, the DMC-LX5).

      The black, mostly metal body looks and feels professional; all seams are tight and the overall finish is classy. The lens dominates the front panel and its f/1.8 maximum aperture puts it among the fastest in the Advanced camera category. Covering focal lengths equivalent to 24-72mm in 35mm format, its maximum aperture decreases to f/2.4 at full tele zoom, which is pretty fast for a small-sensor digicam.

      The large front element is protected by a clip-on lens cap, which is a bit of a let-down, being not up to the quality standard set by the camera and, in addition, a nuisance to use. No tether was supplied with the review camera, although the user manual indicates one should come in the box. However, it looks like being quite tricky to fit.

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      Samsung_EX1_Front

      Front view of the Samsung EX1 without the lens cap. (Source: Samsung.)
      To the right of the lens is a shallow grip that has a textured rubber cladding. An EV dial wheel is partially inset into the top of the grip. This multi-purpose wheel lets you set shutter speeds in the S and M modes. Press it in and rotate it to adjust exposure compensation.

      This dial also allows you to navigate options when the Menu is displayed or select a setting in the Fn (function) menu. You can also re-position the AF Frame after pressing the OK button on the arrow pad if the AF mode is set to Selection AF. Between the EV dial and the lens is a small LED that doubles as an AF-assist lamp and self-timer indicator.

      The rear panel is dominated by the AMOLED monitor, which is attached to the camera body with a swivelling hinge on the left side of the rear panel. With a resolution of 614,000 dots, this screen reproduces colours and tones very well. It also has a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display of moving subjects and video clips. Unfortunately, no viewfinder is provided – and a clip-on accessory finder is not available.

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      Samsung_EX1_Back

      Two rear views of the Samsung EX1 with the monitor exposed and reversed. (Source: Samsung.)

      Right of the monitor is a fairly conventional arrow pad surrounded by a rotating dial wheel. Pressing the upper edge of the arrow pad accesses the Display settings; the lower edge engages macro focus, while the left and right edges open sub-menus for the flash and ISO settings respectively. All settings are quite sensitive and it’s easy to open one of the sub-menus inadvertently.

      Below the arrow pad are buttons for the Play and Fn (Function) sub-menus. Above it are the Menu and Metering buttons. The Movie button sits above the metering button and engages video recording. Above it lies the AEL button, which locks a pre-set exposure value in shooting mode or protects the displayed image in playback.

      Two prominent dial controls sit near the rear edge of the top panel. One is a mode dial with settings for eight shooting modes (Smart Auto, P, A, S, M, Dual IS, Scene and Movie). The other is the drive mode dial, which has settings for the single and Continuous drive modes as well as 10- and 2-second self-timers and a bracketing mode.

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      Samsung_EX1_Top

      Top view of the Samsung EX1. (Source: Samsung.)

      The power on/off button is in the middle of the drive mode dial. Between the dials and towards the front of the camera body lies the shutter button with surrounding zoom lever. An accessory shoe (for the optional SEF20A or SEF42A flash units) is located left of the drive dial, with a seven-hole speaker between them. The pop-up flash is recessed into the camera body near the left edge of the top panel and raised with a slider switch.

      A compartment for the USB/AV and HDMI ports is located near the lower edge of the right side panel. The battery/card compartment is in the base of the camera, where there is also a metal-lined tripod socket. The EX1 accepts SD and SDHC memory cards but not, unfortunately, the latest SDXC media.

      In general, the camera’s ergonomics are well thought out and most controls are reasonably quick to access. However, focusing manually is quite complex. First you must press the down button on the arrow pad to display the focus options (Normal, Macro and MF). Then you turn the zoom lever to select MF and rotate the navigation wheel surrounding the arrow pad to adjust the focus. Pressing the OK button locks the focus.

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      EX1-manual-focus

      Manual focusing.

      Controls
      The EX1 provides many of the same controls and functions as the NX10, which we reviewed in April 2010, although some have been simplified – or had their names changed – to suit the smaller camera. The longest exposure times (up to 16 seconds) are only available in the A, S and M shooting modes. The P mode is limited to one second.

      The only unusual setting on the mode dial is the Dual IS mode, which appears to combine ISO-boosting with lens-shift optical image stabilisation. You can’t engage these functions separately and you adjust aperture and shutter speed settings in this mode. The digital zoom and ISO adjustment are also blocked. In our tests, the camera set an upper limit of ISO 800, regardless of ambient light levels. Most other menu controls remain available.

      Camera controls are split between a main menu accessed via the Menu button, a series of direct buttons (mostly on the arrow pad) and a Function (Fn) menu. The main menu design has been adapted from the menu in the NX10 has a similar structure and appearance.

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      EX1-main-menu

      The first page of the menu in the EX1.
      The function (Fn) menu accesses many of the same settings but presents them in a different way (that requires slightly less toggling).

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      EX1-Fn-menu

      The Function menu.
      When you swap from one shooting mode to the next, a display on the monitor indicates the mode you’ve selected and provides a brief explanation of what it’s for.

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      EX1-mode-selection

      Mode selection.
      Scene mode selection is done via a series of icons that are displayed in a line across the screen, with the selected setting enlarged in the centre. This makes it easy to see what the adjacent modes are.

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      EX1-scene-modes

      Scene mode selection.

      The main menu page contains five sub-menus, which access specific settings. The illustration below provides examples of some of them.

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      EX1-menus

      Sub-menus accessed via the main menu page.

      The Picture Wizard settings from the NX10 have been adapted for the EX1 and renamed ‘Photo Styles’. Twelve styles are provided: Normal, Sketch, Defog, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative and RGB (which allows individual colour channels to be adjusted. Some examples are shown below.

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      EX1_Photo-Styles

      Photo Styles: top row from left: Normal, Sketch, Vivid; middle row from left: Forest, Retro, Cool; bottom row from left: Calm, Classic, Negative.

      Unfortunately when shooting with any of the Photo Styles other than the Normal setting, the Selection and Tracking AF modes are disabled. Goodness knows why this happens but it can be a minor inconvenience at times.

      The EX1 provides a similar range of white balance settings to the NX10, although there are only two settings for fluorescent lighting and none for flash. Fine tuning across seven steps in the magenta/green and blue/amber dimensions is also available for each pre-set. Kelvin temperature adjustments are also supported.

      Three additional scene pre-sets are provided: Frame Guide, Night, Portrait and Landscape. The Beauty Shot pre-set provides three levels of adjustment for each of the Face Tone and Face Retouch sub-menus.

      Face detection is also available, along with Blink Detection and Smile Shot options. You can also use the Smart Face Recognition function to register frequently-snapped faces (with ‘My Star’ setting). The system will prioritise focusing for registered faces. There’s also a self-portrait setting that focuses correctly when you hold the camera at arm’s length and point it towards you.

      Like many modern digicams, the EX1 also provides three filter effects: Miniature, Vignetting and Fish-eye. They don’t change the size of the imaging area but apply selective distortions to the shape and/or tone of the processed image. Dynamic range expansion is available with the Smart Range setting in the shooting menu. It takes two shots with different exposures and combines the brightest areas of the under-exposed image with the dark areas of the over-exposed one.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      Samsung’s website provides the same ‘approx. 10 megapixel’ figures for the effective and total pixel count in the EX1’s 1/1.7-inch type (7.6 x 5.7 mm) High Sensitivity CCD sensor. We’re not sure whether this indicates a reluctance to disclose the real total photosite count (which surely the company must know) or simply inattention to detail.

      Nevertheless, the camera’s effective resolution showed up as 9.98 megapixels in our Imatest tests, which is close enough to 10 megapixels to make no difference. We can probably assume the actual photosite count is a little more than 10 megapixels and each photosite has a surface area of approximately 2.08 microns square, which is reasonably large for a small-sensor digicam.

      The EX1 supports both JPEG and raw file capture and SRW.RAW files can be recorded with JPEGs at the camera’s three JPEG compression ratios: Super Fine, Fine and Normal. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Image
      size

      Pixels

      Aspect
       ratio

      Raw

      JPEG

      Compression

      JPEG

      RAW+JPEG

      10M

      3648 x 2736

      4:3

      24.98MB

      Super Fine

      5.69MB

      33.03MB

      Fine

      3.12MB

      27.68MB

      Normal

      2.27MB

      26.26MB

      9M

      3648 x 2432

      3:2

      24.38MB

      Super Fine

      5.09MB

      32.00MB

      Fine

      2.82MB

      27.68MB

      Normal

      2.06MB

      25.60MB

      8M

      3264 x 2448

      4:3

      24.38MB

      Super Fine

      4.65MB

      31.03MB

      Fine

      2.61MB

      26.95MB

      Normal

      1.93MB

      25.60MB

      7M

      3648 x 2052

      16:9

      24.38MB

      Super Fine

      4.36MB

      30.12MB

      Fine

      2.44MB

      26.95MB

      Normal

      1.80MB

      25.60MB

      7M

      2736 x 2736

      1:1

      24.38MB

      Super Fine

      4.36MB

      30.12MB

      Fine

      2.44MB

      26.95MB

      Normal

      1.80MB

      25.60MB

      5M

      2592 x 1944

      4:3

      23.81MB

      Super Fine

      3.21MB

      28.44MB

      Fine

      1.89MB

      25.60MB

      Normal

      1.45MB

      24.38MB

      3M

      2048 x 1536

      4:3

      23.27MB

      Super Fine

      2.17MB

      26.26MB

      Fine

      1.37MB

      24.38MB

      Normal

      1.10MB

      23.81MB

      2M

      1920 x 1080

      16:9

      22.76MB

      Super Fine

      1.59MB

      24.98MB

      Fine

      1.06MB

      24.38MB

      Normal

      0.88MB

      23.27MB

      1M

      1024 x 768

      4:3

      22.26MB

      Super Fine

      0.97MB

      23.81MB

      Fine

      0.77MB

      23.27MB

      Normal

      0.70MB

      23.27MB

                         

      The video capabilities of the EX1 are limited to VGA and QVGA resolution at 30 or 15 frames/second. The efficient H.264 (MPEG-4 part 10/AVC) compression format is used for both resolutions. Soundtracks are recorded monaurally.

      Single clips can be up to 20 minutes in length. The table below shows the recordable times on a 1GB memory cards.

      Video resolution

      30 frames/second

      15 frames/second

      VGA (640 x 480 pixels)

      25 minutes 50 seconds

      48 minutes 36 seconds

      QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)

      68 minutes 47 seconds

      99 minutes 53 seconds

      The user manual for the EX1 advises the sounds produced by the optical zoom and image stabiliser may be captured with video recordings. Users can opt to record video clips with or without soundtracks – or mute the sound while zooming.

      Playback and Software
      Playback options are similar to the NX10 with the standard single and index displays (6 thumbnails). You can toggle through the Display options (with/without shooting data and/or histogram) by pressing the top edge of the arrow pad. In playback mode you can also rank faces tagged as favourites and edit the list of faces thus tagged.

      Playback zoom is also available with magnification depending on the size of the original file. Slideshows can be played with or without background music and you can set intervals and select transition effects. Video clips can be trimmed and you can add voice memos to still pictures.

      Editing adjustments for still pictures include resizing, rotating or applying a Photo Style or Smart Filter effect. You can also correct red eyes in flash shots, retouch skin texture and adjust brightness, contrast and saturation post-capture. You can also add noise to images in playback mode if you want a grainy effect.

      We didn’t receive any software with the EX1 provided for us to review but the user manual (which is downloadable from Samsung’s website) lists the same software as provided with the NX10. We’ve already covered this in our review of the NX10. Unfortunately, the Samsung RAW Converter 3 software we had for the NX10 would not open raw files from the EX1. Nor would the SilkyPix application on which it is based and Adobe has still to release a version of Camera Raw that supports the EX1.

      We managed to obtain a copy of Samsung RAW Converter 3.2.2.3 from the technical expert at Samsung Australia. This enables us to open the files for assessment. How we wish Samsung had taken a leaf from Ricoh’s book and standardised on the DNG raw file format!

      The user manual is attractive to look at and reasonably easy to read. But it doesn’t provide full explanations of many of the camera’s functions. Novice users may find it confusing.

      Performance
      Test shots taken with the review camera were mostly sharp and colourful and at low ISO settings, there was plenty of detail. Saturation was modest for a small-sensor digicam. Autofocusing was reasonably fast but patchy in accuracy, often failing in the Centre AF and Multi AF modes. The Selection mode made it possible to set a precise focusing point – but was comparatively slow to use. The tracking AG and face detection AF systems tended to lose track of moving subjects too frequently for either mode to be considered reliable.

      Metering accuracy was also patchy and frequently off-the-mark and exposures appeared to be pitched towards recording shadow details. Consequently, blown-out highlights were common in outdoor shots.

      In the auto and aperture-priority modes, the metering system tended to bias settings towards keeping ISO as low as possible. As a result, many low-light and backlit shots were blurred because the camera set shutter speeds too slow for the stabilisation system to handle. The best solution was to use shutter priority – and keep an eye on aperture settings.

      Shooting raw files provides roughly half an f-stop of exposure latitude for extracting detail from highlights that are just burned out in JPEG files – although you can never recover highlights with greater over-exposure. Raw files are also slightly less noise-affected than JPEGs taken with the same sensitivity settings.

      Imatest showed resolution to be up to expectations for the EX1’s sensor – but not at all focal lengths, apertures and sensitivity settings. At the shortest focal length there was a close correspondence between centre and edge resolution, but differences became progressively wider as focal length was increased. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests on JPEG files.

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      Samsung_EX1_Res-vs-FL-graph

      Resolution held up well as far as ISO 800, after which we found a steady decline in sharpness coupled with colour shifts in both JPEG and SRW.RAW files at ISO 1600 and ISO3200. Imatest revealed a slight increase in resolution in raw files at all ISO settings, bringing the best ISO 80 and ISO100 files to slightly above expectations for the camera’s sensor resolution. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests on JPEG and SRW.RAW files.

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      Samsung_EX1_Res-vs-ISO-graph

      Although slight coloured fringing could be seen in many outdoor shots, lateral chromatic aberration was almost entirely within the ‘negligible’ range. It edged into the ‘low’ range at the extremes of the 5.2mm focal length. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

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      Samsung_EX1_CA-graph

      Little noise was visible in long exposures taken at high ISO settings but beyond ISO 800, images became progressively softer and colour shifts were evident. Flash shots were similarly affected by colour shifts at high ISO settings but showed marginally less softening than long exposures.

      Auto white balance performance was well above average. Most of the orange cast was removed from shots taken under incandescent lighting. Shots taken under fluorescent lighting were almost colour-neutral. The pre-sets tended towards slight-to-moderate over-correction. Manual measurement removed all colour casts.

      Flash performance was generally very good and the flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at ISO settings of 400 and above. We found no evidence of red eyes in flash shots.

      Close-up shots were sharp but the small size of the EX1’s sensor made it difficult to obtain clutter-free backgrounds. Digital zoom shots were a little soft and slightly artefact-affected. The lens was fairly flare-prone but normal backlighting was mainly handled well.

      Video quality was as expected from a VGA camera with monaural audio. QVGA clips were pretty ordinary.

      The review camera powered up in just under a second and shot-to-shot intervals averaged 2.6 seconds without flash and 4.3 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.4 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. Processing times were disappointingly slow.

      It took 2.5 seconds to process a JPEG file, 7.6 seconds for each RAW file and 9.4 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair. The camera locks up while files are being processed. You can still shoot towards the end of the file-processing sequence but after about four shots the camera will pause for up to 10 seconds while it catches up with the processing.

      In the continuous shooting mode we were able to record 11 JPEG files in 6.6 seconds. It took 11.6 seconds to process this burst. Raw capture is not available in burst mode. Battery capacity in the review camera was lower than indicated in the specifications. We had to recharge several times in the testing period, which involved 239 still pictures and six video clips.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for an affordable, well-built compact digicam with PASM shooting modes.
      – You’d like support for raw file capture.
      – You want a large, bright, easy-to-view monitor.
      – You require good auto white balance performance.
      – You’d like manual AF point selection plus face detection and focus tracking.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You require HD video recording.
      – You require high burst capacity at high resolution.
      – You want an optical viewfinder.
      – You’d rather avoid the hassles associated with proprietary raw formats by buying cameras that support DNG.RAW.

      IMATEST GRAPHS

      JPEG images

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1084_colorerror_JPG
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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1084_colors_JPG
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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1084_YBL71_ca_JPG
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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1084_YAR39_cpp_JPG
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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1084_YBL71_cpp_JPG

      SRW.RAW images converted with Samsung RAW Converter 3.2.2.3

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      EX1_SAM_1084_colorerror_RAW

       

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      EX1_SAM_1084_colors_RAW
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      EX1_SAM_1084_YBL71_ca_RAW
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      EX1_SAM_1084_YAR39_cpp_RAW
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      EX1_SAM_1084_YBL71_cpp_RAW

      SAMPLE IMAGES

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0308_AWB-tung

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0307_AWB-fluoro

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1018_wide

      5.2mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/750 second at f/4.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1019_tele

      15.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.9.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1020_digizoom

      Digital zoom; 15.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/4.9.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0314_close

      Close-up; 5.2mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/1.8.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0366_night_ISO100

      6.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 16 seconds at f/1.8.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0369_night-ISO800

      6.5mm focal length, ISO 800, 12 seconds at f/4.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0371_night-ISO3200

       6.5mm focal length, ISO 3200, 4 seconds at f/5.8.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0356_flash-ISO100

      Flash exposure; 15.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0358_flash-ISO800

      Flash exposure; 15.6mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/5.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0360_flash-ISO3200

      Flash exposure; 15.6mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/60 second at f/5.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0361

      5.2mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0361_fringing-crop

      100% crop from the above image showing slight coloured fringing.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1024_flash-portrait

      Flash portrait; 15.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/2.4.

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      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1017_flare

      Lens flare with contre-jour lighting; 5.2mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/3.9.

      -
      Samsung_EX1_SAM_0364

      15.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/750 second at f/4.9.

      -
      Samsung_EX1_SAM_1013

      9.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/350 second at f/3.9.

      Specifications

       

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      leadpic_Samsung-EX1

      Image sensor: 7.6 x 5.7 mm High Sensitivity CCD with approx. 10 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
      Lens: Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan 5.2-15.6mm f/1.8-2.4 zoom lens (24-72mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 3x optical, up to 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.21), srw.raw; Movies – MP4 (H.264)/AAC
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432, 3648 x 2052, 3264 x 2448, 2736 x 2736, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1920 x 1080, 1024 x 768; Movies – VGA/QVGA at 30 or 15 fps
      Shutter speed range: 1/1500 to 8 seconds
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus double (2+10 seconds)
      Image Stabilisation: Dual IS (OIS + DIS)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: TTL Auto Focus (Centre AF, Multi AF, Selection AF, Tracking AF, Face Detection AF, Smart Face Recognition AF); range 80 cm to infinity; macro 5-40 cm (wide), 50-80 cm (tele)
      Exposure metering/control: Multi, Spot, Centre-weighted
      Shooting modes: P, A, S, and M plus Dual IS, Scene (Beauty Shot, Frame Guide, Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close-up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach & Snow); Movie
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (full size)
      White balance: Auto WB, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent (x2), Tungsten, Custom, Kelvin temperatures supported
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, On, Off, Red-eye, Fill-in, Slow syncro, Manual; range – 0.2 to 6.2 metres (wide); 0.5 to 5.1 metres (tele)
      Sequence shooting: Max. approx 2 frames/second (JPEG only)
      Storage Media: 22MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: No
      LCD monitor: 3-inch swivelling AMOLED screen with 614,000 dots
      Power supply: SLB-07A rechargeable lithium-ion battery
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 114.4 x 64.6 x 30.0 mm
      Weight: 356 grams (without battery and card)

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      Rating

      RRP: $599

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.0
      • Image quality(stills): 8.3
      • OVERALL: 8.5

      Buy