Samsung EX2F Review
Samsung EX2F Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Bright colors with very good hue accuracy.
Saturation. The Samsung EX2F produces good saturation overall, with moderate oversaturation of reds, and minor pushes to greens, blues, purples and browns. Only cyan is slightly undersaturated, while most other colors are close to ideal. Mean saturation is 112.3%, or 12.3% oversaturated, which is just slightly higher than average, but still good. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. When using Auto white balance in simulated daylight, the Samsung EX2F produces Caucasian skin tones that were oversaturated and a bit too orange/yellow. Manual white balance likely performs better here. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Samsung EX2F produces a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, most visibly pushing orange to yellow and yellow toward green. Most hues are pretty close to accurate, though. Mean "delta-C" color error after correcting for saturation is excellent, at only 3.99; much better than average. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm cast with Auto and Incandescent white balance, though Manual is neutral. Average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting is too warm using Auto white balance setting, with a reddish cast. The Incandescent white balance option is better, but still a bit too warm with more of a yellow cast. The Manual white balance setting produces the most accurate color balance. The EX2F's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results with the typical amount of exposure compensation needed for this shot (+0.3 EV). Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Very good color, but high default contrast can make for tricky exposures.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
The Samsung EX2F performed fairly well under harsh outdoor lighting for its class, though default contrast is quite high. An average amount of exposure compensation of +0.7EV was needed to keep the mannequins's facial skin tones bright, resulting in quite a few blown highlights in her shirt and flowers. Overall color and exposure was very good in the outdoor far-field shot at the default exposure, with just a few clipped highlights and lost shadows.
Very high resolution, 2,000 to 2,100 lines of strong detail from in-camera JPEGs, about the same from converted raw.
Strong detail to
2,100 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
2,000 lines vertical
|ACR converted raw:
Strong detail to
2,100 lines horizontal
|ACR converted raw:
Strong detail to
2,000 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 2,000 lines in the vertical direction. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 2,800 and 3,000 lines. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't able to extract significantly more resolution, and it also showed more color moiré and didn't do as well as the camera at correcting defective pixels. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images overall, but with some visible edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits definition in low contrast areas.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, but with some visible
edge enhancement. Fine detail
is flattened by noise reduction.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Samsung EX2F captures sharp JPEG images with good detail at default settings. Obvious edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects, though, such as sharpening halos the crop above left, however that's quite common. Fine detail tends do get a little flattened, as can be seen with the pine needles. Still, good results here for a compact. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows moderate levels of noise suppression, as low contrast areas of hair show less distinct detail, and quite a few strands of hair are mushed together by noise suppression efforts. Performance here is a bit better than average for a compact digicam, though we'd like to see slightly less heavy-handed noise reduction as the camera offers no control over noise reduction strength. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
Raw vs In-camera JPEGs
As noted above the Samsung EX2F produces fairly sharp JPEGs, though fine detail suffers a bit at the hands of noise reduction. With a good raw converter, more detail can be preserved, though. See below:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image.
The image on the far left is a crop from an in-camera Super Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The next image is a raw file processed using Samsung's Raw Converter 4 software (a rebadged version of SilkyPix), using default settings. Results are a little soft using default settings, so the next image is sharpened in SRC with unsharp mask of 300%, radius 0.3. The sharpened version shows noticeably better detail than the in-camera JPEG, with fewer sharpening artifacts. The right-most image was converted with Adobe Camera Raw then sharpened in Photoshop with an unsharp mask of 300% and radius 0.6. As you can see, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion retains even more fine detail in the pine needs than the sharpened SRC version, but at the expense of higher noise. You can always adjust noise reduction to your liking, though, which is one of the advantages of shooting raw.
ISO & Noise Performance
Respectable performance at lower ISOs, but the EX2F struggles with detail and chroma noise at higher sensitivities.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
|ISO 3,200||ISO 6,400||ISO 12,800|
The Samsung EX2F produces fairly low levels of noise at the lower sensitivity settings, though the effects of noise reduction such as smudging and loss of fine detail can already be seen even at the lowest ISO. Chroma noise in the hair and shadows is already a little high at ISO 200, a weakness we've seen with other Samsung cameras. At ISO 400, luminance noise is still quite reasonable and fine-grained, so a lot of fine detail remains intact, however more obvious chroma noise appears, especially in the shadows. ISO 800 of course shows more detail loss to noise reduction efforts, but is still fairly good for a compact. At ISO 1,600, noise reduction becomes much stronger, obliterating fine detail and giving the image a stippled effect. This effect becomes much stronger at ISO 3,200. At ISOs 6,400 and 12,800, noise reduction efforts are so strong that images look more like paintings than photos, with very strong discoloration in midtones and shadows. Note that noise is so high at ISO 12,800 that images are resampled down to a much lower 3-megapixel resolution. Still, slightly above average high ISO performance for a compact camera, though not as good as some competing enthusiast models. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good detail, though limited dynamic range. Very good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images and focusing in near darkness at all ISOs thanks to its fast lens.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Samsung EX2F struggled a bit under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above because of its limited dynamic range, but not as much as most compacts. The +0.3 EV exposure is too dim in the face and +1.0 EV is way overexposed, so we prefer the +0.7 EV exposure. That produced reasonably bright facial tones but also led to some washed-out highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, though not as many as we're used to seeing from a compact. The +1.0 EV exposure is much too bright, much brighter than it should be for the exposure compensation increment, so EV adjustment linearity wasn't very good here.
|Face Detection Examples|
The table above shows results with the default exposure using Aperture Priority AE, as well as Face Detection enabled and full Auto. As you can see, the EX2F's face detection helped with overall exposure, and full Auto improved exposure even more.
The Samsung EX2F also offers a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, where it combines an underexposed image with an overexposed one to capture an image with wider dynamic range. It's not meant for portraits as any movement will result in ghosting, and it was too much for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, but it should come in handy for HDR landscapes, etc.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low Light. The Samsung EX2F did well overall in our low-light tests, producing usable images at the lowest ISO and light levels we test, thanks to its very bright lens at wide angle. Noise is well controlled to ISO 800, and we didn't spot any issues with hot pixels or fixed pattern noise. Color balance using Auto white balance is a little on the cool side, though still pretty good.
The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted to well below the 1/16 foot-candle light level in our tests, which is excellent for a compact, again thanks to its bright lens. The EX2F was able to focus in complete darkness with the aid of its AF assist lamp. We did however notice the camera seemed to misfocus more often than average during our low light testing.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Good flash range, again with the help of the fast lens, but with uneven coverage at wide angle. Good exposure from Auto flash mode in our indoor portrait test shot.
|24mm eq., ISO 200||80mm eq., ISO 200|
|Auto Flash, ISO 160|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage is quite uneven at wide angle, with much more uniform results at full telephoto. The Samsung EX2F's Auto flash mode had no problems producing a bright image with our indoor portrait scene, and it only raised ISO to 160 while keeping shutter speed at a reasonably fast 1/60 second to help avoid motion blur.
ISO 200 Range. At wide angle and ISO 200, flash shots are actually too bright to 9 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. The target at 11 feet is reasonably bright while farther distances are a bit dim, so we'd say the wide-angle range is about 11 feet. At full telephoto, flash shots are bright enough up to 10 feet, and get darker from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 120
Auto ISO 400
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. Samsung rates the EX2F's flash range at 25.6 feet at wide angle and 13.5 feet at telephoto, when using Auto ISO. In the wide-angle shot above, the camera's exposure system was likely fooled by the white walls and ceiling despite using spot metering, so results at wide angle are inconclusive. At full telephoto, the EX2F's flash performed to Samsung's specifications, producing a bright image at ISO 400.
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We now also shoot two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good 13 x 19-inch prints from ISOs 80 and 100; ISO 800 prints look good at 5 x 7; ISO 12,800 images do not make a usable print.
ISO 200 prints are soft but usable at 13 x 19 inches, but we prefer the 11 x 14-inch prints.
ISO 400 images also make a good 8 x 10 inch print, and an 11 x 14 suitable for wall display.
ISO 800 prints are good at 5 x 7 inches, with 8 x 10's usable for certain purposes but soft and show noise in the shadows.
ISO 1,600 prints a good 4 x 6, and a usable 5 x 7.
ISO 3,200 prints a usable but grainy 4 x 6.
ISO 6,400 prints are very rough at 4 x 6.
ISO 12,800 are too blurry and noisy at 4 x 6; this ISO setting is best avoided.
The Samsung EX2F does fairly well given its 12MP 1/1.7" sensor, but print quality fades rather quickly as ISO rises.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Samsung Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Samsung Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Samsung Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung EX2F Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung EX2F with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.