Samsung 60mm f/2.8 Macro ED OIS SSA NX
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Lab Test Results
June 16, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
Among the lenses Samsung released in 2011 to supplement the NX system was the 60mm ƒ/2.8 Macro ED OIS SSA NX i-Function. There are a lot of acronyms in this lens, but most are easy to figure out: it's a macro lens, designed to produce images at 1:1 resolution, and is equipped with a number of features to help it do just this. It's composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, with 1 Aspherical lens and 1 Extra-low Dispersion lens, accounting for the "ED" designation. It's also equipped with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Samsung's brand of electric focusing, SSA ("Supersonic Actuator"), as well as Samsung's unique "I-Function" button, which can enable the user to select different functions from the lens itself. As the Samsung NX cameras employ an APS-C sized sensor, the lens will provide an effective field of view of around 90mm. The lens ships with a circular hood and is available now at a street price of around $500.
Wide open at ƒ/2.8, the lens exhibits excellent central sharpness, with a slight amount of corner softness. This corner softness is reduced as the lens is stopped down, until it is as sharp as sharp gets by ƒ/8. Diffraction limiting begins to set in by ƒ/11, but your eyes won't notice it until ƒ/22, where a generalized softness is present in images produced with that aperture setting. It's possible to stop down to ƒ/32, and interestingly it produces no worse results for softness than are found at ƒ/22.
The Samsung 60mm ƒ/2.8 has excellent resistance to chromatic aberration, with hardly any trace of color shifts even when viewed at 100%. If you'd like to peep your own pixels, take a look at our sample images.
Corner shading is only noteworthy when the lens is fully wide open at ƒ/2.8, at which point the extreme corners are around 1/4 EV darker than the center. At any other setting, the is no corner shading to speak of.
Distortion is exceptionally well-controlled by the lens; technically there is a very small amount of distortion, but it's so small as to be effectively negligible.
As mentioned above, the Samsung 60mm lens uses an electronic Super Sonic Actuator (SSA) AF motor that's virtually silent and fast. As is typical in macro lenses, it has a long focus range to cover so it is not super quick to focus, though is it nice and quiet. While the AF system is very snappy for short changes in focus distances, the lens takes over a full second to rack from minimum distance to infinity. Overall, the lens's AF performance is quick enough for most subjects, particularly with short changes in subject distance. The SSA AF system allows for full-time MF override, and the front element doesn't rotate during focusing operations, making life that little bit easier for polarizer users.
Designed specifically for macro use, the 60mm ƒ/2.8 offers full 1:1 macro resolution with a minimum close-focusing distance of 18.7cm (just over 7 inches). It's worth noting that this distance is calculated from the sensor, and taking into account the length of the lens (84mm) you end up with a working distance of around 4 inches from the end of the lens to the macro subject. This isn't a huge amount of room, and that's without the lens hood in place.
Build Quality and Handling
The Samsung 60mm ƒ/2.8 ED SSA is a light and compact macro lens, weighing in at just 389 grams (13.7 ounces), and just 84mm long (around 3 inches). The lens is constructed out of dense polycarbonate with smooth black finish and a metal lens mount. As mentioned previously the lens is composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, with 1 aspherical and 1 ED glass element; the 7-bladed circular aperture diaphragm helps create smooth, pleasing background blur. The lens takes 52mm filters.
In addition to the focus and I-Function rings (more on that in a second) there are two control switches: one is a focus limiter switch, which restricts the focusing distance from 18.7cm to infinity (off) to either side of the 40cm point. For greater clarity, if you engage the limiter with the focussing distance below 40cm, it limits from 18.7cm to 40cm, or above 40cm, it limits the distance from 40cm to infinity.
The second switch is the I-Function button, which operates the camera's I-Function, well, function. This unique system is a derivation on other manufacturer's systems where you push a button and rotate a command dial to fine-tune a function; in Samsung's employment, the button and dial are located on the lens. The system allows you to adjust all sorts of camera exposure and image quality settings. Simply press the i-Fn button to toggle through settings like ISO, exposure compensation and white balance presets or even effects and filters -- depending on the camera model used -- and then rotate the ring to adjust as desired. It's a very handy feature, especially when paired with sleeker cameras like the Samsung NX300 that do away with a front control dial -- since there's extra space on the lens, you might as well utilize it!
The large focus ring is about an inch wide and has a nice, smoothly rotating action to it, with soft stops at at minimum and infinity focus distances. The deeply ribbed rubberized coating makes it easy and comfortable to grip. The lens itself does not feature a distance scale or depth-of-field markings, however, if you are in the scene mode, select MACRO mode and manually focus the lens, it will display a scale with magnification ratios, as well as the focussed distance (in feet and meters) in camera. It will show a pointer on the scale where the lens is focused.
Finally, Samsung has included Optical Image Stabilization in this lens, which can be a welcome alternative to lugging around a tripod. Samsung's marketing materials don't specify how effective its OIS system is, but our testing shows that it can confidently produce somewhere around two-and-a-half stops of hand-holding stability. Check out our IS Test tab above for more detail.
At the time of writing, you're not going to find any alternatives if you're a Samsung NX system user when it comes to macro lenses - none of the third-party manufacturers produce a similar lens.
Samsung has produced an excellent macro lens in the form of the 60mm ƒ/2.8. As a macro lens, it does what it's supposed to do - produce images at 1:1 resolution - and offers several features which greatly assist in this endeavor. It's particularly welcome to see Samsung introducing an on-screen, electronic distance scale and focusing indicator. If you're a Samsung NX user and you're interested in getting into macro photography, it's a fairly economical way to get there.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
View real-world sample gallery images, including full resolution files, over on our Flickr page.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
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