Samsung EX2F Review: Retro Street Shooter

by Howard Creech Reads (3,530)
Editor's Rating
9.20

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 10
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 9.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Excellent Schneider zoom with a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture
    • Intuitive control layout
    • Very impressive noise mangement
    • Decent battery life
    • Easily usable by both beginners and advanced shooters
  • Cons

    • Battery charges in the camera
    • Would prefer a little more zoom

Quick Take

Looks can be deceiving - this is not your standard P&S. The EX2F impresses us with its retro design, f/1.4 lens and its straight shooting. 


My photographic heroes have always been “straight shooters” – documentary, street/candid, Natural/Available Light, and environmental portrait photographers.  Famous straight-shooters used compact Leica 35mm rangefinder cameras to capture many of the iconic moments that defined 20th century history.  The 21st century reincarnations of those classic rangefinders are small, feature rich, easy to use, and unobtrusive premium point and shoot digital cameras and compact camera systems. Samsung’s EX2F may look like a typical compact point and shoot digital camera at first glance and it will function nicely as a point and shoot camera, but it was actually designed for “old school” straight-shooters and photo enthusiasts. Unlike the “auto exposure only” digicams currently dominating the P&S marketplace, it permits full manual control of exposure. In hand, the new Samsung EX2F (which replaces the popular EX1) evokes tactile memories of those classic Leica IIIFs and M4s. Artists, photo-journalists and investigative reporters, street shooters, documentary photographers, and enviromental portraitists will absolutely adore the EX2F’s f/1.4 maximum aperture, which provides this elegant little digicam with the uncanny ability to capture beautifully textured and graphically realistic images in lighting that would severely challenge most cameras. 

The Samsung EX2F currently sells for $369.

Build and Design
The Samsung EX2F is an attractively understated camera with an 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor. It is small enough to be dropped in a jacket pocket and light enough to be used all day without fatigue. The EX2F features a robustly constructed magnesium body over a light-weight metal alloy frame.  The EX2F’s build quality is reminiscent of the precision machining and iconic mechanical engineering of premium quality German cameras from the fifties – it was clearly manufactured to withstand the rigors of heavy use. Most current point and shoot digital cameras come with a flimsy wrist strap, but the EX2F sports a neckstrap which not only provides better protection against drops and bumps, but also saves a few seconds when a Kodak moment occurs; since the camera is always ready to go – rather than in your pocket, or worse yet, at home.

The 12 megapixel Samsung EX2F is a well built imaging tool that was obviously designed for serious photographers. It is a somewhat “retro” looking little camera measuring 4.4 inches/112.1mm x 2.45 inches/62.4mm x 1.08 inches/27.55mm and weighing in at 11.2 ounces (318grams) with battery and SD card – the EX2F is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor.  The EX2F features superb fit and finish, excellent dust/moisture seals, and a functional handgrip which provides better stability and camera handling.
Ergonomics and Controls
The EX2F’s user interface is logical and uncomplicated – all buttons and controls are a bit small, but they are all clearly marked, sensibly placed and easily accessed. Along the top of the camera are the Power button, twin mode dials (one to select shooting mode and one to select drive mode), and the shutter release button (surrounded by the zoom toggle switch). On the front of the camera, just below the shutter button at the top of the handgrip (exactly where the index finger of the right hand rests naturally) is a control wheel which can be used to change various settings (depending on the exposure mode in use) like aperture or shutter speed. On the rear deck, above the compass switch, are the one-touch video and AEL (Auto Exposure Lock) buttons. Next are the menu and Fn (functions) buttons. Pushing the Fn button provides direct access to WB, image size, metering options, AF options, IS, etc. The EX2F’s compass switch (4-way controller) provides access to flash settings, macro mode, Wi-Fi, and the display. Surrounding the compass switch is a rotary jog dial which I used primarily in review mode. Other users might employ it to easily and quickly scroll through menu options. Below the compass switch are the review and discard/delete buttons. This control layout was designed by a serious photographer. I’ve never seen a better arrangement – the EX2F’s controls placement permits users to manage power (on/off), mode selection, drive selection, zooming, menu navigation, initiate/stop video capture, and still image capture with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand — without looking away from the LCD.  The EX2F functions beautifully as a street camera. Simply put the camera in program mode, select auto white balance and auto sensitivity (ISO) and pretend for an hour or two that you are Henri Carier-Bresson or Robert Doisneau wandering the backstreets of Paris.

Menus and Modes
When compared to the classic Leica rangefinders that inspired its creation, the EX2F’s menu system may seem a bit much, but photography was much simpler back in the day and veteran 35mm film shooters didn’t have nearly as many creative options as photographers do today.  The Samsung EX2F features a user friendly (but unavoidably complex) menu system accessed via a dedicated button above the compass switch. The menus are logical and easy to navigate. I have repeatedly praised the EX2F’s usability and the menu system is equally worthy of praise. The Samsung EX2F provides a complete selection of shooting modes including:
  • Smart Auto: The camera automatically selects all exposure parameters (except flash on/off) by analyzing the subject in the frame and then selecting the appropriate Scene mode for the subject and conditions.
  • Program: Auto exposure with limited user input (sensitivity, white balance, exposure compensation, etc.).
  • Aperture priority: Users select the aperture and the camera selects a shutter speed appropriate to existing conditions.
  • Shutter priority: Users select shutter speed and the camera selects an aperture appropriate to existing conditions.
  • Manual: Users select all exposure parameters.
  • Scene: Close-up, Landscape, Children,  Portrait, Night, Beauty Shot, Snow/Beach, Fireworks, Backlight, Dawn, Sunset, and Text.
  • Movie: The EX2F records HD video at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080p @ 30 fps with stereo audio.
  • Wi-Fi: Allows users to connect a smart phone to the camera and then copy videos and still images to the smart phone for easy image sharing.

Display/Viewfinder
Like most current P&S cameras the EX2F doesn’t provide an optical viewfinder — the EX1 offered an an optional OVF (that mounted in the hot shoe), but that option isn’t available yet on the EX2F. Users must rely instead on the 3.0 inch (614,000 pixels) tilt-swivel camcorder style AMOLED monitor screen for all framing/composition, captured image review and menu navigation chores. Most modern shooters rarely use optical viewfinders even if they are present. And, in many shooting scenarios, it is actually quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the monitor screen than it is through an optical viewfinder. The EX2F’s monitor screen can be rotated up to 270 degrees. This allows users to sneakily frame subjects, get closer and manage the plane of focus more accurately in macro mode, shoot above the heads of the crowd, and, when not in use, turn the monitor inward to protect it from smudges and scratches. 

The EX2F’s monitor screen is bright, hue accurate, fluid (movement is smooth – not jerky), automatically boosts gain in dim/low light, and covers approximately 100% of the image frame. The EX2F’s screen, like all monitors is subject to fading and glare/reflections in bright outdoor lighting, but I didn’t have any problem using the the monitor to frame and compose my images, even in bright outdoor lighting.  The default info display provides all the data this camera’s target audience is likely to want or need.



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