As one of Samsung’s flagship point-and-shoot cameras, the EX2F is nicely styled shooter that offers plenty of user-adjustable controls. It also sports an amazing fast-aperture lens, large sensor, beautiful display, and great use of Wi-Fi. It can’t rival a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but the EX2F is a very good point-and-shoot.
Features and design
When you hold the EX2F in your hand, the heft and size tells you right away that it’s no ordinary point-and-shoot. With a rangefinder-like design, dials, and a solid metal (magnesium alloy) construction, you can’t help but feel like a street or war photographer when you’re shooting with it. You can stash it in your coat pocket, but there’s nothing small or compact about it.
The EX2F, of course, was not created for the average user. The ideal buyer would be someone who wants to step-up from a basic shooter, but isn’t ready to embrace a bulkier camera that uses interchangeable lenses. Because the EX2F only has a 3.3x Schneider-Kreuznach optical zoom lens, it isn’t a bridge camera like the megazoom models with 20x zooms or longer. But, like an entry-level DSLR, there are manual and semi-automatic shooting modes, in addition to the Smart Auto and scene modes, RAW uncompressed image capture, and Full HD video capture at 1080p at 30 frames per second.
One of the highlights of this camera is the F/1.4 aperture lens, which lets you achieve a shallower depth-of-field and capture bright photos with vibrant colors. Supporting the lens is the large 12.4-megapixel back-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor. The camera has a wide ISO range of 80 to 12,800.
The other highly touted feature is the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi, and Samsung currently has one of the best Wi-Fi implementations in cameras (it helps when you have a camera division in the same company that makes smartphones). To enter Wi-Fi mode, simply turn the mode dial to “Wi-Fi” and you’re presented with a menu that lets you transfer images to any smart device running iOS or Android. You can use a smart device as a remote viewfinder and shutter; upload images to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, or Photobucket; e-mail your photos and videos; upload to a cloud storage service; automatically back up your files to a PC wirelessly; or play back content on a device connected to the same network, like a Samsung TV. (There’s also a Smart Link button on the navigation button to enter a preset Wi-Fi function with one touch.) What makes Samsung’s Wi-Fi feature is that it’s fairly simple to set up and easy to use; it had no issues finding Wi-Fi networks or smart devices. We were able to transfer images to a test phone, as well as using the phone to operate the camera remotely – nifty.
But it isn’t perfect. For example, to use the remote viewfinder and file-transfer features with your smart device, you have to download two separate apps (we tested it with an iPhone 4S); Samsung has recently combined all its camera mobile apps into one, but that app isn’t supported by the EX2F. And, you still have to drill through several menus to get connected, and the whole process does take some time.
Colors pop off the screen and images look life-like, making it one of the better displays we’ve seen.
On the downside, we wish it were touch capable. Now, we’ve criticized other cameras’ touchscreen displays for being more of a hindrance, but the EX2F begs for it. The menus are well designed and laid out, but navigating through them using the physical buttons takes some getting used to. Sometimes we wish we could just press what we want on the screen and go directly to it. Fortunately, a scroll wheel on the camera front makes it easy to quickly adjust exposure compensation, aperture, and shutter speed.
This type of camera demands a viewfinder. While framing our shots with the display isn’t a problem, we would have loved the ability to bring the camera to our eye for better control. (Samsung offers an external optical viewfinder accessory that fits on the hot shoe.)
As for camera design, the front has a small grip for your right hand, lens, scroll wheel, and AF-assist light/timer lamp. The ring around the lens unscrews to let you mount an optional conversion lens. The bottom has the battery and SD card (support for SDXC up to 64GB) compartment and tripod mount. On the right side is a door that opens to reveal an HDMI port and a port that doubles handles both USB and A/V cables.
On the top, you’ll find a flash release for the pop-up flash, a hot shoe, power button, stereo microphones, shutter button, zoom toggle, drive mode dial, and mode dial. The dials are super handy: The mode dial lets you switch between shooting modes on the fly, while the drive mode dial lets you quickly adjust settings for burst mode, bracketing, and timer, to name a few. We were pleasantly surprised by how useful they were, not having to go through menus.
The back of the camera is dominated by the display, but scrunched together on the right are the various function buttons for video recording: exposure lock, menu, playback, delete, an Fn button to access various shooting options (like ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, etc.), navigation buttons that double as display, flash, one-touch Wi-Fi, macro, and “OK” buttons (surrounding them is another scroll wheel for navigation).
Inside the box
Besides the camera, inside the box you’ll find a USB cable and AC adapter, a battery pack, neck strap, CD containing the full user manual, quick start guide, and lens cap. Note that Samsung does not include a battery charger, which is available separately; the battery is charged in-camera via USB.
Performance and use
Despite its more advanced features, the EX2F is a relatively easy-to-use camera. As mentioned, the menus are well laid-out and simple to understand. What we like, however, are the “help” dialog boxes that pop up on the display to explain what some of the settings are for. For example, highlight the exposure compensation with the navigation button and a box appears, telling you that it’s used to adjust brightness. For users stepping up from a basic camera, who may not be familiar with all the bells and whistles, these dialog boxes will be helpful. (If you’re completely green to this type of camera, spend some time with the user manual found on the CD.)
The EX2F takes very good images under normal shooting conditions, thanks to the lens. Colors are brilliant and accurate. However, sometimes it’s too bright: During a test shoot when a bright sun was overhead, images were a bit overexposed, requiring us to tone things down.
With nighttime shots, the camera did a respectable job, but there’s noticeable noise at ISO 800. Even at ISO 3,200, the images were still usable. But the wide aperture brings in enough light that keeping it at ISO 400 should suffice. The camera stumbles when there’s very little light around, but having the ability to manually adjust the settings to compensate is what makes a camera like this so useful.
Video quality isn’t bad, although a video shot at night looked a bit noisy and soft, and with a slight hiccup. As we’re walking and recording, the image stabilization did its best to compensate.
Overall performance is very good. The camera starts up in less than a second, and there’s minimal shutter lag. The autofocus is also snappy, even in low light. If you’re used to a faster, longer zoom, the EX2F will disappoint; it takes nearly 3 seconds to reach full zoom.
As for battery life, we were able to get about two days of on-and-off use before we got to the one-bar territory. Samsung rates the battery life at approximately 130 minutes of continuous use, or 260 photos.
Is the EX2F as good as a DSLR? Not quite. The EX2F, at the end of the day, is still a point-and-shoot, but a very good one. The camera produces quality photos, thanks to the large sensor and excellent lens. The AMOLED screen is also marvelous, as is the Wi-Fi. But users stepping up from a lower-end cam may find the lens’ short focal range and slow zoom unattractive.
The $449 list price is a bit high for a point-and-shoot (although you can get it for lower), but you do get some nice advanced features not found in lower-end point-and-shoots. If you’re absolutely interested in stepping up to a higher-end camera that’s not a DSLR, consider investing in a mirrorless camera like Samsung’s NX, Sony’s NEX, or Micro Four-Thirds models from Panasonic and Olympus. Get yourself a nice pancake lens to keep the small form factor, but still have the option to add a different lens when needed.
- Fast, bright F/1.4 lens
- Beautiful AMOLED display
- Useful “help” menus
- Excellent Wi-Fi
- Slow zoom
- Short focal range
- Photos can sometimes be overexposed