Review: Samsung EX2F point-and-shoot touts performance and Wi-Fi edge

The Samsung EX2F fits neatly into the advanced compact camera category but offers more than just a balance of manual and automatic controls. It’s outfitted with a superfast f/1.4, 3.3X (24-80mm) wide-angle zoom lens and built-in Wi-Fi. Samsung seems to have an edge over other manufacturers when it comes to integrating Wi-Fi into its cameras, and the EX2F is no exception.

Snapshooters shouldn’t be intimidated by this camera’s “advanced” compact camera designation. Automatic and “smart” modes expand the EX2F’s appeal to a wide range of photographers. With its manual controls, this camera is also a good option for people who want to develop their photographic skills.

Hardware and design

Well-built and sturdy, the EX2F measures 4.41 by 2.46 by 1.08 inches and weighs about 10 ounces. Available in black or white, the EX2F is a little too big to fit into shirt pockets or most pants pockets, but you can easily tote it in a jacket or coat pocket.

The EX2F has no built-in viewfinder and no optional electronic viewfinder; the optical viewfinder accessory listed in the camera’s user manual has been discontinued, too. If you’re set on having an optical viewfinder, look for a third-party hotshoe-mount model. The good news is that the EX2F’s 3-inch, fully articulating AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen works well under almost all lighting conditions. If you see any glare from the sun or indoor lighting, just tilt the screen until it disappears. The articulated LCD is also great for shooting overhead and at low angles, as well as for folding back into the camera body to protect the screen from scratches and smudges when the camera is not in use.

Samsung EX2F

Unlike the Canon S110 and other advanced compacts, the EX2F doesn’t have a rotating lens ring to adjust settings. Instead, the Samsung model offers a removable threaded ring. Given the camera’s limited 3.3X (24-80mm) zoom range, I hoped that an accessory lens was available to get a little more telephoto reach out of the camera, but no such luck. Rather, it’s a standard 52mm thread that can accommodate filters.

Fish-eye effects have become fairly common on digital cameras, and the EX2F is no exception. Additional Smart Filters include Vignetting, Miniature, Ink Painting, and Oil Painting.

The external controls are more than sufficient for operating the camera with ease. A pop-up flash sits to the left of the hotshoe/accessory port with a manual switch, while the power button, shutter/zoom combination, and two mode dials are positioned to the right. While having dual dials is not unheard of, the setup is a little unusual. The shooting-mode dial offers the standard Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority, Manual, Smart Auto, and Movie modes, as well as Wi-Fi and Magic Plus (scene/creative effects). The second dial is a drive-mode dial that accesses several continuous-shooting and self-timer options, Pre-Capture, and bracketing. The dual-dial concept is great, but the dials are both a bit stiff; on the other hand, that means there’s no chance of accidentally changing settings.

The Zooming Shot Smart Filter simulates the effect you can accomplish on a DSLR by zooming the lens during exposure. The process is much easier on the EX2F—just set the camera to the Zooming Shot Smart Filter and snap a picture.

A slightly recessed wheel on the front of the camera controls exposure compensation (EV) in shooting mode and lets you scroll through menus. The front wheel is easy to reach with your forefinger, and works well for menu scrolling. You can press the wheel in toward the camera body to change or lock EV adjustments. Beware, though: The wheel is very sensitive, and a little hard to control when you're making adjustments.

Rear controls include a tiny red movie button that’s a little too easy to press accidentally with your thumb when you're tightly gripping the camera. Among other controls are AEL, Menu, Playback, and Delete buttons, along with a four-way controller that handles the display, Wi-Fi (which you can customize to access a specific Wi-Fi function), focus (macro, autofocus, manual focus), and flash.

Thanks to the EX2F’s fast lens and effective image stabilization, I was able to shoot this image at 1/30th of a second with a no-visible-image-noise ISO of 80.

Shooting modes and features

As you might expect from an advanced compact camera, the EX2F offers manual, semi-manual, and auto/smart exposure modes. Additional features include assorted useful options such as bracketing (exposure or white balance) and a built-in Neutral Density filter. For easy shooting, the camera has a moderate list of typical scene modes such as portrait, landscape, night, beach, and snow, as well as Beauty Shot and 3D options. As is typical for Samsung cameras, the EX2F is equipped with a number of creative modes too, including split shot (which combines two or three shots in one frame), panorama, picture-in-picture, a selection of decorative (and sometimes silly) frames, and Smart Filters with various effects (Old Film, Miniature, Cartoon, and more). The Creative Movie Maker mode is an easy-to-use feature that lets you create movies with both stills and video clips.

Automatic white balance worked quite well in this ice-rink shot, especially since various colored lights were in the background.

As with the Samsung NX20, the EX2F’s Wi-Fi features are generally easy to set up and use. It helps to have some Wi-Fi knowledge, and you’ll need to keep your smartphone or tablet next to you when using Samsung’s Mobile Link app (iOS or Android) to transfer images to your device. Once you set up a connection, though, it’s smooth sailing. Sending images via email or sharing online is a no-brainer, but you need an Android device to use the Remote Viewfinder app. One of the most difficult Wi-Fi tasks is typing in passwords via the virtual keyboard, which would be easier if the camera had a touchscreen.

Performance

Overall performance is pretty good, with fast startup and little shutter lag. Shot-to-shot time is respectable, even when you're firing the flash. The EX2F’s autofocus works best in bright light, sometimes struggling in low light and in low-contrast scenes. You can select focus points manually, but the points don’t extend too far from the center of the frame.

Although the EX2F offers both Raw and Raw+JPEG modes, continuous shooting is limited to JPEGs only. Selectable burst modes include 3 fps, 5 fps, and a speedy 10 fps. Not surprisingly, the last locks focus and exposure on the first shot.

Although the wide-angle lens showed a little distortion along the left side, the Samsung EX2F generally produced sharp images with crisp details. Upon close inspection, some people might say that the images were a little oversharpened, but prints of the images looked quite good.

Video

The EX2F's movie mode captures footage in MP4 (AVCHD) format. It’s capable of capturing up to full HD video (1920 by 1080) as well as 320 by 240, 640 by 480, and 1280 by 720. Several high-speed options—120 fps, 240 fps, and 480 fps—are available for slow-motion playback. Image stabilization is active during movie capture and is relatively effective at compensating for hand shake, but a tripod, monopod, or other steadying device helps to produce the smoothest footage. Additionally, you can select white balance, EV, and metering mode.

While the zoom works during movie capture, the lens motor is audible—but just barely if there is ambient noise. Image quality is pretty good, and you can apply Smart Filters for creative effects. You won’t be going to the Oscars with your movies, but you'll probably be happy to show them off to family and friends.

Image quality

I was pleased with most of my test shots. Exposures were generally accurate, and colors were well saturated but attractive. Overall, images were sharp, with good detail. On the other hand, some photos seemed a little oversharpened.

Since the focal range is limited at 3.3X (24-80mm), you’ll have to use your feet to zoom by moving closer to your subject. But the fast, f/1.4 lens is a bonus. With such a speedy lens, as well as the camera’s image stabilization, you can keep the ISO lower than average to avoid image noise. The EX2F, with a native ISO of 80 to 3200 (expandable to 12,800), doesn’t handle high ISO noise well, so it’s best to shoot in raw and/or keep the ISO below 800 whenever possible. When you do have to push it to 800 or 1600, keep your prints relatively small or limit sharing to the Web for the best results.

The EX2F takes sharp, well-detailed images as evidenced by this shot of a bale of hay, with individual hay strands visible upon close inspection.

Bottom line

The Samsung EX2F offers an appealing feature set for people who want to grow their skills, as well as for photographers who want to use a compact camera without giving up manual controls. Its fast f/1.4 lens helps to offset the camera’s struggles with autofocus and image noise under low-light conditions, but works best in bright light. Wi-Fi and a long list of creative options are welcome additions to any camera, and Samsung does Wi-Fi better than most, so this feature will please those who want to share images while they’re out and about.

Plenty of other advanced compact cameras are on the market these days, so shop around before you buy. Check out the Canon S110, for example, and if you don’t care about having Wi-Fi, the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic LX7 are also good options.

For more information, see the TechHive Test Center normal and low-light videos and test stills.

Photos by Theano Nikitas. All rights reserved.

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