Samsung 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 ED i-Function Lens

      Photo Review 8

      In summary

      An affordable, mid-range zoom lens for Samsung’s NX mirrorless cameras.Samsung’s 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens has been designed to be small and light and features a retractable design similar to the 14-42mm kit lens provided by Olympus with its PEN-series cameras. However, it’s just over 30 grams lighter. Compared to standard kit lenses, it is narrower by 2 mm at wide angle and by 5 mm at the tele end. But it lacks built-in stabilisation. . . [more]

      Full review


      Samsung’s 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens has been designed to be small and light and features a retractable design similar to the 14-42mm kit lens provided by Olympus with its PEN-series cameras. However, it’s just over 30 grams lighter. Compared to standard kit lenses, it is narrower by 2 mm at wide angle and by 5 mm at the tele end. But it lacks built-in stabilisation.

      When attached to an NX-series camera, the 2.5x zoom ratio covers a 35mm equivalent range of about 31-77mm, which is shorter than most kit lenses, including Olympus’s 14-42mm kit lens. The minimum focusing distance is 28 cm, which provides a maximum magnification of 0.22 times. The inner barrel is threaded for 40.5 mm filters.


      Side and top views of the Samsung 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. (Source: Samsung.)

      The review lens was supplied with the NX11 camera and the combined weight of camera body with battery and card plus lens is less than 535 grams. This is just over 100 grams lighter than the body plus 18-55mm kit lens.

      Build and Ergonomics
      With a simpler optical design than the standard 18-55mm kit lens, the 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens has nine elements in eight groups and includes one aspherical lens and one Extra-low Dispersion lens to minimise common aberrations. A seven-bladed diaphragm closes to a circular aperture to optimise bokeh.

      Like the 18-55mm kit lens, this lens has a plastic mounting plate. But unlike the 18-55mm lens, it looks and feels marginally lower in quality. It comes without a lens hood, although front and rear caps are provided.

      On the NX11, this lens extends approximately 39 mm in front of the camera body in the retracted position, while the inner barrel reaches out to 50 mm at the 24mm setting or 55 mm when zoomed in to the 50mm focal length. A 6 mm wide focusing ring is located at the front of the outer barrel, offering fly-by-wire focusing.

      You can magnify the centre of the screen by approximately 2.5x by selecting Menu > Camera Page 2 > MF Assist > Enlarge. Alternatively, you can display a vertical bar focus-assist indicator by choosing Menu > Camera Page 2 > MF Assist > FA. Unfortunately, you can’t have both operating together.

      The manual zoom ring is about 12 mm wide and closer to the camera body. Like the focusing ring it carries finely-moulded ridges to assist grip. The lens extension button is also located here. Between the two rings, the lens barrel carries marking for the 20mm, 24mm, 35mm and 50mm focal length settings.

      The iFn button sits on the same section of the barrel further around to the left. Pressing the button causes the adjustable functions to be displayed in a strip along the lower edge of the camera’s LCS monitor or EVF display.


      Using the i-Function button. (Source: Samsung.)

      When the mode dial is set to P, you can adjust the Exposure Value (compensation), White Balance and ISO settings by turning the focusing ring (designated ‘Value Ring’ for this purpose). In A and S modes, aperture and shutter speed adjustments are added respectively.

      Supported Scene modes are supposed to include Beauty shot, Portrait, Children, Backlight, Landscape, Sunset, Dawn, Beach & Snow and Night. However, we could only access them via the i-Function display in Lens Priority mode. It wasn’t accessible in the Smart Auto, Sound Picture, Movie, Panorama and Scene shooting modes.

      One of the problems we identified with our Imatest tests was that the view captured by the sensor with this lens is slightly wider than the LCD monitor and EVF produce. This made it difficult to frame shots with the test target aligned along the left side of the frame. Top-to-bottom framing/capture correspondence was closer and problems were, therefore, easier to avoid.

      Imatest testing on JPEG files showed this lens to be a reasonably competent performer that could match the sensor’s specifications at a few aperture and focal length settings. Best results were obtained a couple of f-stops down from maximum aperture and with the 24mm and 35mm focal length settings.

      Diffraction began to reduce resolution from about f/8 on and resolution was quite low between f/11 and f/22, particularly at shorter focal lengths. Edge to edge sharpness was average and slight softening was visible at all focal lengths, although only just with the 35mm focal length. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Lateral chromatic aberration was mainly in the ‘negligible’ band, reaching into the ‘low’ band with the 20mm focal length setting and the 24mm focal length at smaller apertures. In the graph below, the red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.


      Test shots confirmed our Imatest testing. Some coloured fringing was found in shots taken with the 20mm focal length but none was visible at longer focal length settings.

      With the camera’s Lens Distortion Correct function switched on, pincushion distortion was barely visible across the zoom range of the lens and not noticeable in test shots.

      Backlit subjects were handled quite competently with no loss of contrast due to veiling flare and little tendency to produce diffraction artefacts. Unfortunately, the lack of stabilisation made it difficult to obtain sharp pictures in dim or low-contrast lighting, particularly when subjects were inherently fuzzy.

      The close focusing limit of 28 cm makes this lens less than ideal for close-up work. However, it’s not quite wide enough for landscape photography, although the panorama mode on the NX11 is well suited for use with this lens at focal lengths between 20mm and 35mm.

      Buy this lens if:
      – You’re looking for a light and compact, general-purpose lens for Samsung’s NX cameras.
      – You require good performance at an affordable price.
      Don’t buy this lens if:
      – You need close focusing and macro capabilities.
      – You’d like built-in image stabilisation.
      – You want high resolution at all focal lengths, along with good flatness of field

      (based on JPEG files from the Samsung NX11)




      20mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/4.5.


      50mm focal length; ISO 200, 2/90 second at f/5.6.


      Panorama mode; 35mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/125 second at f/4.3.


      Backlighting; 38mm focal length; ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/9.


      Close-up with the NX11 in the Macro scene mode; 35mm focal length; ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/4.3.


      Close-up with the NX11 in A mode; 20mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/3.5.


      Close-up with the NX11 in A mode; 50mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/90 second at f/5.6.


      20mm focal length; ISO 800, 1/8 second at f/13.


      24mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/6.3.


      50mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/5.6.


      The type of subject that is difficult to focus upon; 20mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/5.


      Autofocusing in dim, low-contrast lighting; 50mm focal length; ISO 1600, 1/6 second at f/5.6.




      Picture angle: 70.2 to 31.4 degrees (30.8-77mm equivalent in 35mm format)
      Minimum aperture: f/22
      Lens construction: 9 elements in 8 groups (includes one Aspherical lens, one Extra-low Dispersion lens )
      Lens mount: Samsung NX
      Diaphragm Blades: 7, circular aperture
      Focus drive: Not specified
      Stabilisation: No
      Minimum focus: 28 cm
      Maximum magnification: Approx. 0.22x
      i-Scene Mode: Supports Beauty Shot, Portrait, Children, Backlight, Landscape, Sunset, Dawn, Beach & Snow and Night modes
      Filter size: 40.5 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 64 x 39.8 mm
      Weight: Approx. 119 grams





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      Rating (out of 10):

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      • Handling: 8.5
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      • OVERALL: 8.0