Photography is my therapy and this week I received a (much needed given current events) megadose of therapy in the form of the Samsung 85mm f1.4 lens. Must admit I have already started giving it nicknames… Light sucker. DOF Whisperer. Photon cannon. Brick. Blunt instrument in a pinch. Captain make anything look good. Mr. turn night to day. And lastly the portrait machine. There will be more to come. Within a habit hobby that often defies logic, photography, for my next choice of light gatherer I for once chose to go with want instead of ‘need’ (a manufactured construct since both are purely wants). I voted for one trick pony over practical all arounder or multi purpose. This review was the final decider for me. Plus, while I enjoy shooting for the fun of it I do get a fair share of portrait offers. And I am glad I did.

Will you look at the gaping glass maw on this thing! I made it a point to definitely order and keep a filter on it as I have never had a lens with this much vulnerable exposed glass at the front end. Samsung lists it at $999, but most retailers have it for $799 or less. I picked it up from Adorama for $763. B&H Photo Video had bounced up to $799 for a minute, but as of this writing both Amazon and B&H are at $763 now also. That may sound steep, but compared to offerings from other brands that is quite reasonable. I had Nikon recently and their brand offering is twice this amount and even the after market versions are hundreds more. I am not saying they are not worth the price, because they are, but it does show how reasonable Samsung’s price is. Some website and personal reviews have dinged the Samsung for not having OIS, but I find this odd since neither of the higher cost options mentioned above offer OIS either. Plus with such a bright, open aperture I have yet to run in to any handheld handshake issues. I have yet to even bother mounting it on a tripod.

Enough of that. I close with a sample gallery of my first day and a half with the lens. On the casual portraits of my family taken minutes out of the box please notice the brightness, clarity and tight DOF this lens offers with no flash, at night with only interior household lamp lighting. On the outside and evening shots these were all standard issue opportunistic, spur of the moment, unplanned shots that show that this lens is very useful beyond portraiture. On the evening shots also notice the shutter speeds used compared to the amount of light visible in the picture. Very modest, mostly crop and straighten post edits with nearly no exposure adjustments. All shots were handheld. Here is an ongoing flickr album. Thanks. -ELW

Samsung NX 85mm f1.4… Wow…

Samsung NX30. Wonderful camera…

*Note: Since I wrote this SamsungCameraUSA’s twitter account reached out to me and sent me a gift. It was their 10mm Fisheye lens which has quickly become a favorite of mine.

Churned through a few cameras since dipping a toe in to digital interchangeable lens cameras 2 years ago (Olympus E-PL5, traded for an E-P5, then a Nikon D3300 along side a Samsung NX300). All were able to capture images to my satisfaction. All had their advantages. Had fun with them all, but for me the NX300 stood above the others in the end. Which I did not expect, honestly. Features for money was the initial draw, but those features brought quite the pleasant shooting experience. Not only did the NX300 win standard feature set bingo it brought unique features like expanded on board filters, robust built in WiFi and NFC functionality (No $50 WiFi dongle side wart required. Nikon, I am looking in your direction), articulating and responsive touch screen, etc.and those are what sealed the deal.

I knew my end goal was 2 cameras. One jacket pocket small and one with a built in grip and viewfinder. Preferably the 2 could share lenses. Olympus was undone by being worth the price, but more than I was willing to spend. Having traded my way to a second hand ( for $600) E-P5 going for near $999 new, I just could not bring myself to plunk down another $799 more (body only) than what I paid for the E-P5  used to get the grip and a built in EVF of the OM-D E-M1. For those who have it to spend it is undoubtedly worth it. It was just my personal preference to look elsewhere. Then with Nikon I could have gone 2 ways, purchase up or purchase down. Buy down in size for a portable since I had a grip and EVF? Problem is that I could not warm up to the Nikon 1 V series. I had made my peace with the M43 2x crop factor, but I could not see myself spending that much on a system with an even smaller sensor that would not be lens compatible with the Nikon I already had. Buy up because the D3300 was so reasonably priced and the lenses would be compatible? Then that would mean three cameras since neither would fit in pocket. Plus the cameras I started looking at (rhymes with full frame) started getting very expensive very quickly. Again, worth it for those who have it. But more than I was willing to spend. Being undecided regarding next steps I soldiered on with my blended camera family.

Then this happened. One day when tooling around I casually snapped this pic with my NX300:

Perfect shot? No. But the question it raised is why do I need anything more than this? And for me the simple answer was, I do not. Plus I loved things like the simplicity of NFC smartphone or tablet pairing, excellent remote viewfinder features, and one button upload to my laptop when I get home for instance. With the NX30 kit added I would have 2 bodies and 3 lenses (NX300 came w/ the 45mm and I had picked up the 30mm) for the price of some camera bodies alone. Samsung NX30 it is.

I rarely if ever shoot video, but here is a quick video I took at Duke Gardens to see how it would do hand held panning moving objects of different distances and different exposures. I believe I was using the 45mm f1.8 that came with my NX300, which focuses very quietly by the way. The 30mm f2.0 I purchased to make the NX300 pocketable is very compact and sharp, but it’s external focusing, while quick, is a tad too noisy in quiet environments.

When I looked I was pleased to find that the NX30/18-55mm kit had been recently reduced in price (from $999 down to $799). I immediately sold my remaining gear and bought an NX30 without hesitation. From B&H with free 2 day shipping to boot.

It was not my plan to go all Samsung, but here I am. Enough rambling. Specs are abundant on the web so I will not go into details (here are the ones from dreview). Updated Week 1 gallery with the NX30 can be found on Flicker, with some example shots included below.

Gallery of Shots from Week 1 with the Samsung NX30

Longwinded Samsung NX30 write up (with thoughts on the 18-55mm kit lens, other Samsung lenses I have as well as some legacy Minolta lenses with adapter) to follow. Based on my enthusiasm for the NX300 expectations were high and the NX30 has not disappointed. Until then I wanted to post some shots from the first few days with the camera, including shots taken on a quick trip to Duke Gardens on the way to choir rehearsal earlier this week. My go to place for trying out new kit. News of the NX1 and the new lens at Photokina earlier this week furthers my enthusiasm for Samsung products. Has not been a week since I took delivery of it yet, but I am putting this down as one of my best camera decisions so far. -ELW

 

 

Samsung is on to something with the NX300… so I just ordered an NX30.

Addendum: Samsung so impressed me with the NX300 that after some consideration I just sold my DSLR and ordered an NX30. Bottom line is that I realized I wanted an NX300 with a built in flash, hand grip, and an EVF. As an added bonus over my just sold DSLR the NX30 offers WiFi built in, a fully articulating touch screen, an articulating EVF, many more focus points, etc, etc. Plus I could share lenses between the 2 cameras. Looking forward to receiving it and taking first shots. -ELW

Recently I exercised an utter lack of brand allegiance by liquidating my, very much enjoyed, assemblage of Olympus gear. Why? Simple. Having an E-P5, many sundry lenses, and a very nice flash larger than my camera I was next planning to purchase:

  • Either an OM-D E-M10 ($699) or OM-D E-M1 ($1,399). A built in EVF to use in conjunction w/ my flash and fulfills my wish for having 2 camera bodies.
  • The very nice Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO ($999). Nice low light, lens envy. But would still give me only 1 camera body.

So I of course traded a few lenses for a Nikon D3300 w/ a 18-55mm kit instead with no out of pocket expense. Eric logic. I love a good deal far more than acquisition for acquisition’s sake.

Then I rather enjoyed the Nikon so for a moment I thought of trading the balance of my Olympus gear for a D7100 so as to have  a 2nd body. But I liked having a mirrorless camera so I instead traded for 35mm f1.8,  a 55-300mm and had a few coins left over for whatever CSC I decided upon. Nothing wrong with the E-P5 or the D7100. Great cameras. Just wanted to see what else was out there, and had become obsessed with interested in obtaining a tidy little CSC with an APS-C sized sensor like my newly acquired Nikon. I realized my initial issue was trying to get one system to do all things which was fair to none. My personal preference was to have a mirrorless to exploit it’s strengths of small size and lightness AND also a DSLR to gain it’s strengths of a burly hand grip for my mitts when using a zoom and a built in viewfinder. After a brief, but obsessive search I settled on trying out an NX300. Let’s get the negatives out of the way:

  • No EVF, on board or even optional. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Personal preference.
  • No built in flash, with a clip on included. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Again, personal preference.

Now on to why I gave it a shot.

The zoom kits (20-50mm non-OIS kit and 18-55mm OIS kit) are nice, but that focal range was well covered by my D3300 kit lens, furthermore by the 55-300mm and I am a sucker for fixed focal length lenses so the 45mm was the way to go kit wise. I expected to like the NX300, but it has performed well above price and my expectations so far. Because of the price gap I was not expecting it to hang in the same realm of the E-P5, but as this comparison shows the NX300 holds it’s own quite well in fact.

I now have a nice balance. A very nice family event (soccer, recitals, etc.) and long zoom camera in the Nikon D3300 and a very nice compact walkabout camera in the Samsung NX300.

In fact I like the NX300 so much I have already ordered a Gariz half case and will soon be picking up a 30mm f2 lens (since purchased) for that added bit of portability while giving the closest Samsung equivalent to my favorite focal length. Plus instead of potentially laying out an additional $699 to $1,399 to obtain a second body I acquired 2 bodies and 4 lenses on an even swap without a penny spent. Some last thoughts and some sample shots:

  • It takes really nice pictures.
  • A very balanced body with the prime lenses.
  • Manual controls via the i-Fn which makes great use of the focus ring (unused during AF anyway) and is an execution many should take a look at.
  • I really cannot say enough good things about the control layout. Quite impressive given the real estate available.
  • Viewed as what it is, a DSLR sized sensor teamed with compact camera dimensions (assuming you stick with fixed lenses), and well thought out controls, it does not disappoint. It is not a small DSLR, nor do I believe it was meant to be. Even Samsung acknowledges this by producing the NX30.
  • Well implemented Panorama vertical or horizontal.
  • Very nice in camera edit mode for effects (the color edits are my favorite), cropping, and more are very intuitive to use.
  • Great full auto implementation.
  • Touch screen focus very snappy.
  • Power on to ready to shoot quite snappy.
  • Sensor clean can be set for power up, power down, or manual.
  • Continuous near 9fps shooting.
  • Burst folders stored in folder in camera.
  • Likely owing to a bright aperture and quick shutter release, but camera shake is a non issue even for a near 70mm full frame equivalent lens.
  • Having variable playback speed recording in camera (slo-mo to Benny Hill) is a nice touch.
  • In camera video fade in/fade out.
  • Quick AF.
  • Manual focus aids like focus peaking and auto zoom with available always on hybrid manual focus override are executed here better than I have seen before. Want to tweak the autofocus lock? Simply twist the focus ring during shutter half press to automatically zoom in (5x being my preference) and activate focus peaking. Here is the nice piece. Focus zoom location is driven by the last autofocus point.
  • Very small and light.
  • One touch ‘Direct Link’ is a simple add, but very effective.
  • Capture still during video playback in camera is another nice touch I have not noticed on other cameras before. May have been available, but implemented well here.
  • Subtle back thumb grip, shape of the front right of the camera, and the leatherette covering around the middle makes for a camera that is very comfortable to hold and walk around with.
  • Overall it looks like Samsung developers sought to integrate features in a seamless manner that made them quite intuitive to use and easy to discover rather than seeming like afterthoughts. On other cameras features may have been available, but at times they seemed difficult to find and activate or slightly clumsy to use.
  • A few things I am forgetting I am sure, but will add as need be.
  • A great bargain in my book.
  • And… it takes really nice pictures.

-ELW

Samsung camera is on to something with the NX300…

20140602_152137

SAMSUNG CSC

Recently I exercised my utter lack of brand allegiance in general by liquidating my, very much enjoyed, assemblage of Olympus gear. Why? Simple. Having an E-P5, many sundry lenses, and a very nice flash larger than my camera I was next planning to purchase:

  • Either an OM-D E-M10 ($699) or OM-D E-M1 ($1,399). A built in EVF to use in conjunction w/ my flash and fulfills my wish for having 2 camera bodies.
  • The very nice Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO ($999). Nice low light, lens envy. But would still give me only 1 camera body.

So I of course traded a few lenses for a Nikon D3300 w/ a 18-55mm kit instead (**since traded for an NX30 so I could share lenses across 2 cameras) with no out of pocket expense. Eric logic. I love a good deal far more than acquisition for acquisition’s sake.

Then I rather enjoyed the Nikon so for a moment I thought of trading the balance of my Olympus gear for a D7100 so as to have  a 2nd body. But I liked having a mirrorless camera so I instead traded for 35mm f1.8,  a 55-300mm and had a few coins left over for whatever CSC I decided upon. Nothing wrong with the E-P5 or the D7100. Great cameras. Just wanted to see what else was out there, and had become obsessed with interested in obtaining a tidy little CSC with an APS-C sized sensor like my newly acquired Nikon. I realized my initial issue was trying to get one system to do all things which was fair to none. My personal preference was to have a mirrorless to exploit it’s strengths of small size and lightness AND also a DSLR to gain it’s strengths of a burly hand grip for my mitts when using a zoom and a built in viewfinder. After a brief, but obsessive search I settled on trying out an NX300. Let’s get the negatives out of the way:

  • No EVF, on board or even optional. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Personal preference.
  • No built in flash, with a clip on included. Honestly didn’t care. I wanted small and reasonably priced so something had to lose out. Again, personal preference.

Now on to why I gave it a shot.

  • $499 for the 45mm kit?!? (I chose to go with Adorama for the 1st time and had a great experience with them.) The 45mm lens alone is $384. Works out to a $115 APS-C camera.
  • **Note** Since I posted this it appears the 45mm kit is no longer available. The most reasonable NX300 package I found after a quick search is the 18-55mm lens kit. This is the lens that came with my NX30 and it is also a great lens. I recommend this over the smaller non-OIS lens since I find the image stabilization to be very effective.
  • Some impressive reviews here, here, and here.
  • A plethora of wifi/NFC upload, mobile phone sync/remote viewfinder app, email and cloud connectivity options. I likey.
  • Some nice fixed focal length lens choices. Nothing against Samsung’s zoom lenses, but that is what I bought the Nikon for.

The zoom kits (20-50mm non-OIS kit and 18-55mm OIS kit) are nice, but that focal range was well covered by my D3300 kit lens, furthermore by the 55-300mm and I am a sucker for fixed focal length lenses so the 45mm was the way to go kit wise. I expected to like the NX300, but it has performed well above price and my expectations so far. Because of the price gap I was not expecting it to hang in the same realm of the E-P5, but as this comparison shows the NX300 holds it’s own quite well in fact.

I now have a nice balance. A very nice family event (soccer, recitals, etc.) and long zoom camera in the Nikon D3300 (since traded in for a Samsung NX30) and a very nice compact walkabout camera in the Samsung NX300.

D3300_NX300_B&W

D3300_NX300

In fact I like the NX300 so much I have already ordered a Gariz half case and will soon be picking up a 30mm f2 lens (since purchased) for that added bit of portability while giving the closest Samsung equivalent to my favorite focal length. Plus instead of potentially laying out an additional $699 to $1,399 to obtain a second body I acquired 2 bodies and 4 lenses on an even swap without a penny spent. Some last thoughts and some sample shots:

  • It takes really nice pictures.
  • A very balanced body with the prime lenses.
  • Manual controls via the i-Fn which makes great use of the focus ring (unused during AF anyway) and is an execution many should take a look at.
  • I really cannot say enough good things about the control layout. Quite impressive given the real estate available.
  • Viewed as what it is, a DSLR sized sensor teamed with compact camera dimensions (assuming you stick with fixed lenses), and well thought out controls, it does not disappoint. It is not a small DSLR, nor do I believe it was meant to be. Even Samsung acknowledges this by producing the NX30.
  • Well implemented Panorama vertical or horizontal.
  • Very nice in camera edit mode for effects (the color edits are my favorite), cropping, and more are very intuitive to use.
  • Great full auto implementation.
  • Touch screen focus very snappy.
  • Power on to ready to shoot quite snappy.
  • Sensor clean can be set for power up, power down, or manual.
  • Continuous near 9fps shooting.
  • Burst folders stored in folder in camera.
  • Likely owing to a bright aperture and quick shutter release, but camera shake is a non issue even for a near 70mm full frame equivalent lens.
  • Having variable playback speed recording in camera (slo-mo to Benny Hill) is a nice touch.
  • In camera video fade in/fade out.
  • Quick AF.
  • Manual focus aids like focus peaking and auto zoom with available always on hybrid manual focus override are executed here better than I have seen before. Want to tweak the autofocus lock? Simply twist the focus ring during shutter half press to automatically zoom in (5x being my preference) and activate focus peaking. Here is the nice piece. Focus zoom location is driven by the last autofocus point.
  • Very small and light.
  • One touch ‘Direct Link’ is a simple add, but very effective.
  • Capture still during video playback in camera is another nice touch I have not noticed on other cameras before. May have been available, but implemented well here.
  • Subtle back thumb grip, shape of the front right of the camera, and the leatherette covering around the middle makes for a camera that is very comfortable to hold and walk around with.
  • Overall it looks like Samsung developers sought to integrate features in a seamless manner that made them quite intuitive to use and easy to discover rather than seeming like afterthoughts. On other cameras features may have been available, but at times they seemed difficult to find and activate or slightly clumsy to use.
  • A few things I am forgetting I am sure, but will add as need be.
  • A great bargain in my book.
  • And… it takes really nice pictures.

-ELW