Samsung 45mm f/1.8 NX 2D/3D
Lab Test Results
June 23, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
At CES2013, Samsung revealed a unique lens for its NX camera series - the 45mm ƒ/1.8 2D/3D lens. The lens incorporates a built-in LCD splitter/shutter system for use in shooting 3D images which can also be deactivated for regular 2D shooting.
Samsung's NX cameras employ an APS-C sensor, so the lens has a field of view more like a 70mm lens due to the camera's crop factor. It ships with a circular lens hood, takes 43mm filters, and is available now for around $400.
The Samsung 45mm ƒ/1.8 lens is very sharp, even when shot wide open at ƒ/1.8. Our tests show that it needs to be stopped down to ƒ/4 for tack-sharp results, but you'd have to peep pretty closely to see any significant softness. Diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, and generalized softness is visible when the lens is fully stopped down at ƒ/22.
Chromatic aberration is very well-controlled by the 45mm ƒ/1.8, though there may be some post processing being performed by the camera to compensate. Either way, it's barely noticeable at its worst - when the lens is used at its widest aperture - appearing a light blue/orange color shifts in areas of high contrast, in the extreme corners. Stopped down, it's not visible at all.
There's hardly any corner shading to speak of when using this lens - when used at ƒ/1.8, the corners are just a quarter-stop darker than the center of the frame. At any other aperture, corner shading is negligible.
Unsurprisingly, there is just a tiny bit of barrel distortion when using this lens - +0.2% in the extreme corners.
The Samsung 45mm lens uses an electronic Super Sonic Actuator (SSA) AF motor that's virtually silent and fast, taking right aroudn one second. 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.
This lens isn't really designed for macro shooting due to its 0.12x magnification, but it does offer a relative close minimum focusing distance of 45cm (around one and a half feet).
Build Quality and Handling
The Samsung 45mm ƒ/1.8 2D/3D is a very light and compact lens, weighing in at just 123 grams (4.1 ounces), and just 44.5mm long (under 2 inches). The lens is constructed out of dense polycarbonate with smooth white or black finish and a metal lens mount. The design of the lens - at least for 2D purposes - is fairly simple, with 7 lens elements in 6 groups, and the lens employs a nine-bladed diaphragm with circular blades to provide pleasing bokeh.
Of course the big deal with this lens is its 3D functionality. We don't actually have a 3D television in the SLRgear lab to really test out the 3D function, but we can describe how it operates and how you're meant to use it. A switch on the side of the lens ("2D/3D") activates or deactivates the 3D function, actually sliding in a dedicated lens element into the optical path. It's both an element and an LCD splitter, and it can be used in both video and stills applications. When you take a photograph, the LCD splitter alternates at a very high speed and two photographs are taken - one of the left side of the image, and the other of the right side of the image. The resulting image can be viewed as an MPO file (the standard container for 3D images) - though of course you'll need a 3D compatible television to this. As well, at the time of writing only the NEX300 camera is compatible with the 3D functionality. The final caveat for 3D shooting is that the LCD splitter impairs the optical path to some degree - it no longer operates as a ƒ/1.8 lens, but rather as a ƒ/3.5 lens - and the actual amount of light transmission is reduced (this is what the mysterious "T/6" designation refers to). So you'll need to use a slower shutter speed or a higher ISO speed to compensate.
In a final general note for 3D photography - at least, in how it's been implemented by Samsung - the effect really only works at a relatively close distance, and when the subject is fairly still. Since the camera takes two images, if there's a significant movement of the subject between those two images, the resulting 3D image will probably be pretty messed up.
The second switch on the lens 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 focus ring is about a half-inch wide and has a nice, smoothly rotating action to it. There are no stops at all at minimum and infinity focus distances, however, and the lens itself does not feature a distance scale or depth-of-field markings.
The lens ships with the LH45ANB hood, a round hood that extends the lens of the lens by about 1 1/2 inches. Oddly the hood uses a screw-in design rather than a bayonet mount, and it will not reverse onto the lens for storage.
There really isn't an alternative for this lens, especially if you are interested in the 3D aspect it provides.
Samsung has made an intelligent play with the 45mm ƒ/1.8. 3D photography and videography is relatively new, and at the time of writing, it's not clear if it will take off or not. So rather than create a dedicated lens that could flop, Samsung has chosen to integrate the 3D technology into an excellent lens that can also be used quite happily in a non-3D context. Simply put, if you're just shopping for a fast 45mm lens, you'll be quite happy with this lens, and if you're interested in 3D, you get that for free.
Check out some sample photos shot by our senior lens technician Rob Murray using the Samsung NX30. You can view more sample photos, plus download the full-resolution files, over at our Flickr page.
Flickr doesn't allow uploading of the Samsung 3D image files, so for those with a 3D display who'd like to view some 3D images taken with this lens, you can download the full-res files here: (.MPO format) Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3, Sample 4, Sample 5.
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.
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.
Samsung 45mm f/1.8 NX 2D/3D
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