A competitively priced DSLR with all of the controls needed by amateur photographers.Samsung’s first DSLR camera, the GX-1S, reflects its mixed ancestry in a body that appears almost identical to Pentax *ist DS2, and has remarkably similar specifications. Although compatible with most Pentax KAF mount lenses, the GX-1S is being supplied with a Schneider Kreuznach D-Xenon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which has been specially developed for the new camera. Its light weight (225 g) is a comfortable match for the camera body, but rather a snug fit on the camera body. It comes with a clip-on lens hood. . . [more]
Samsung’s first DSLR camera, the GX-1S, reflects its mixed ancestry in a body that appears almost identical to Pentax *ist DS2, and has remarkably similar specifications. Although compatible with most Pentax KAF mount lenses, the GX-1S is being supplied with a Schneider Kreuznach D-Xenon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens, which has been specially developed for the new camera. Its light weight (225g) is a comfortable match for the camera, but rather a snug fit on the camera body. It comes with a clip-on lens hood.
The GX-1S is one of the smallest DSLRs available and its body feels solidly built and comfortable to hold, with a textured grip and contoured thumb rest for your right hand. The camera’s general control layout is simple and logical. A ring switch around the shutter button powers up the camera. Moving this switch to the right engages the depth-of-field preview, allowing users to check what’s in focus at different aperture settings.
Behind the shutter release is the exposure compensation button plus a data LCD. The built-in auto flash rises above the pentamirror housing and carries a hot-shoe for add-on flash units. The viewfinder is large and bright, with a soft rubber surround that excludes most ambient light. It covers 95% of the field of view and provides 0.85x magnification. Diopter adjustment is provided. Left of the pentamirror housing sits the mode dial, which has settings for Auto Scene, P, Tv, Av, M and B exposure modes plus a Flash Off position and Night Portrait, Moving Object, Macro, Landscape, Portrait and Normal (full auto) shooting modes.
Much of the rear panel is occupied by the large (2.5-inch diagonal) LCD. Buttons on its left side access the Menu, Delete, Info and Playback settings, while to the right lie the four-way controller and Function button. Straddling the viewfinder eyepiece are the flash-up button and ‘e-dial’ adjustment wheel, with the AE-Lock button further right. One noteworthy feature is the latch for the SD card compartment on the lower right rear panel. It’s something most entry-level DSLRs lack.
Like the Pentax *ist DS2, the Samsung GX-1S defaults to the Bright image tone setting, which delivers images with increased contrast, saturation and sharpness. If you like your DSLR pictures to look like shots from a compact digicam, this is the setting to use. However, with shots taken in bright sunlight it tended to produce rather harsh results and we found the alternative Natural setting a better option. Three image sizes are supported (6M, 4M and 1.5M) with four quality levels (RAW plus three JPEG compression levels).
Samsung uses the PEF-RAW file format for raw images but, unfortunately we were unable to decode raw files from the GX-1S with either Adobe Camera Raw or RawShooter Essentials, and Imatest didn’t recognise the files. To convert test shot files to TIFF or JPEG format so we could assess camera performance, we had to use the supplied Digimax Master software. Digimax Master is straightforward to use and, best of all, not over-automated, but somewhat less versatile than the third-party applications we’d rather use.
The menu contains four sections: Record Mode, Playback, Settings and Custom Functions. Navigation is via the four-way controller and OK button, which are also used for settings accessed via the Function button. The Function button accesses the drive and flash modes as well as the white balance and ISO settings. Nineteen Custom functions are provided, along with seven drive modes: single, continuous, 12- and 2-second delay self-timer settings, two remote control settings (one with a 3-second delay) and auto bracketing.
In record mode, the Info button displays camera and exposure settings, covering focus and metering modes; saturation, sharpness and contrast adjustments; lens focal length; exposure mode; flash status; drive mode; ISO; image tone; image quality and size; colour space; white balance mode; and date and time. It also toggles between showing exposure data and a histogram in playback mode. The histogram is big enough to be useful but only shows tonal distributions.
Photographers using the GX-1S have plenty of exposure options. Each time you select a new exposure mode with the mode dial, a brief description flashes up on the LCD monitor. Flash modes include auto, manual and auto, and manual with red-eye reduction. No slow synch mode is provided but flash output is adjustable from -2.0 to +1.0 EV in 1/3 or 1/5 EV increments.
The colour space setting can only be changed from sRGB to Adobe RGB via the Custom menu, which also allows you to set the EV adjustment intervals, apply noise reduction processing, link AE and AF points, set the ISO range for auto sensitivity and define the size of the manual white balance measurement area. Other adjustments, covering displays and timings, are also provided in this menu.
Focusing options are also varied, with TTL autofocusing based on 11 focus points, which are individually selectable in the Select mode. Spot AF is provided and you can choose between single and continuous AF, the latter being activated automatically in the Moving Object mode. The GX-1S’s AE system uses TTL 16-segment multi-pattern evaluative metering with centre-weighted and spot options. The pop-up flash covers an angle-of-view equivalent to 28mm and has a Guide Number of 15.6 (metres at ISO 200).
The 6.1-megapixel sensor has the same specifications as the imager used in the Pentax, Nikon and Konica Minolta DSLR models with the same resolution – although we can’t confirm it comes from the same manufacturer, as Samsung has sensor-making facilities. Power is supplied by two CR-V3 lithium batteries or four AA batteries and rechargeables can be used.
Pressing the playback button displays the last image taken, and you can toggle through the images on the memory card via the four-way controller or display a nine-shot index by turning the e-dial to the left. Rotating the e-dial to the right enlarges the playback image, with up to 12x magnification available. You can scroll around images with the four-way controller and delete shots by pressing the delete button.
The Playback menu has four settings:
- Playback Display Method, which lets you select between images only, image + histogram, image + details or last memory;
- Bright Portion, which causes over-exposed areas to blink (four settings are provided: Off, Instant Review, Instant Review + Playback);
- Digital Filter, which lets you change the image to B&W or sepia or apply a soft focus effect or change the image height or width.
- Slideshow, which allows you to create an automated slideshow with 3, 5, 10 or 30 sec picture delay.
In playback mode the Function button can be used to input DPOF settings, apply digital filters (B&W or sepia) and play slideshows. The Info button can also be toggled between showing exposure data and a histogram in playback mode. The histogram is big enough to be useful but only shows tonal distributions.
Autofocusing was fast, accurate and flexible and the test camera turned in images that were sharp, bright and punchy. The AE system tended to underexpose by between half and two thirds of a stop in bright conditions, even with spot metering. We measured more than one stop of underexposure in dimmer lighting. The former reduced the incidence of blown-out highlights, while ensuring shadow detail was recorded, but the latter tended to emphasise shadow noise.
Imatest showed average resolution to be somewhat lower than we recorded with other cameras we’ve tested with 6-megapixel sensors. The best results were obtained at f8 with focal lengths around 35mm with a gradual fall-off at larger and smaller apertures and towards the extremes of the zoom range. Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible and we found no evidence of colour fringing.
Most colours were accurately recorded, but saturation was relatively high, especially for warmer hues, even with the Natural image tone setting. This gave shots a similar look to those from a high-resolution digicam. With the Bright setting, colours were more intense. White balance performance was best with the menu pre-sets and fluorescent lighting was handled better than incandescent in both auto and manual measurement modes.
Image noise was minimal at ISO 200 and almost as good at ISO 400 but by ISO 800 mottling was visible in shadows. At higher sensitivities overall noise became noticeable. The built-in flash lit up an average room, even at ISO 200, but produced shadowing in extreme close-ups.
Like all DSLRs the GX-1S is fairly responsive. Powering-up took about half a second and total capture lag averaged 0.2 seconds, reducing to 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot delay averaged 0.5 seconds without flash. Flash recycling extended this lag to between 1.3 and 4.2 seconds, depending on subject distance. Burst times and capacities matched the manufacturer’s specifications. It took six seconds to empty the buffer after a sequence of JPEG shots but close to 14 seconds to clear a buffer filled with raw image files. Power usage appeared to be conservative; the supplied batteries lasted throughout our tests. 
Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.7mm CCD with 6.3 million photosites (6.1-megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Pentax KAF bayonet mount
Lens multiplier factor: 1.5x
Image formats: RAW (PEF), JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
Shutter speed range: 30-1/4000 sec. plus Bulb; flash synch at 1/180 sec.
ISO range: Auto, ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Dimensions (wxhxd): 125 x 92.5 x 67mm
Weight: 505g (body only)
Focus system/modes: TTL phase-matching, 11 points wide AF/ single (with focus lock) and continuous AF plus manual focusing.
Exposure metering/control: TTL open-aperture 16-segment (coupled with lens and AF information) Metering; Multi, Center-weighted and Spot modes.
White balance: Auto, cloudy, daylight, flash, fluorescent, incandescent, manual, shadow.
Flash GN (m at ISO 200): 15.6
Sequence shooting: 2.8fps for up to 8 frames (JPEG), 5 frames (RAW)
Storage Media: Secure Digital card slot (no card supplied; up to 1GB guaranteed)
Viewfinder: Pentaprism with Natural-Bright-Matte Focusing Screen and -2.5 ~ +1.5m-1 diopter adjustment; FoV 95%
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch TFT display with 210,000 pixels
PC interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
Power supply: 2x CR-V3 lithium or 4x AA alkaline, lithium or NiMH batteries
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