Launched together with the NX10 are Samsung's three lenses, namely, the 30mm F2.0 pancake, the 18-55mm F3.5–5.6 and the 50-200mm F4.0-5.6 zoom lenses. Presumably, we have all checked out the scientific lab tests of them done by the big sites. Here we offer some subtle observations about the lenses made during the test period.
1) The lenses are not of premium optical quality but you certainly pay for what you get. Images produced by the three lenses are good in the centre but noticeably less so along the edges as shown in the following two photos and the 100% crops from them.
2) Also, the images seem to be a wee bit flat, lacking the same sense of depth as seen in GF-1's and GXR A12's images. Such shortcomings are less for the pancake lens and more pronounced for the zoom lenses.
3) Barrel distortion is not an issue. As for shake correction, it gives the user an elbowroom of about four stops down the safe shutter speed.
Bokeh and Focusing
4) The pancake lens produce image with agreeable – but not the best– bokeh in large f number. As shown in the photo, the background looks more like a mélange of colours which is too melted and mushy. Not to my liking.
5) On the focusing speed, it is generally fast. But there are some focusing issues which warrant a separate post for discussion. I'd like to add a brief note here that the like cameras of NX10 are without a dedicated module to do the focusing and the burden is taken up by the imaging sensor. The downside is the slower – but bearable in most occasions – focusing speed. The upside is that the focusing performance is the same for all AF spots across the frame. So this is give-and-take.
The subject is about eight inches away from the lens, which is the closest focusing distance afforded by the pancake lens. The AF (both in multi- and single-spot selectable AF mode) struggled a bit in locking the focus probably because the subject was backlit against a untidy background.
6) When using the pancake lens, one thing bothers me: there is no indication of the minimum focusing distance on either screens. This is inconvenient when the shooting is required to be made at a closer distance. Of course, to try and err is always an option but guesstimate is not the best option.
Working in Collaboration with the Camera
7) I do like the ergonomics in terms of the swapping of AF and MF. The AF-MF button is located where the thumb can comfortably reach, which is made complete with the options of moveable, enlargeable AF spot and the automatic magnified display of the MF spot.
8) The added benefit of the eye sensor makes the toggling between the LED and viewfinder screens for photographing and photo checking swift and easy. As discussed before, however, it will be nice if the already fast toggling can be made even without the slight lag. The NX10 is the smartest in this design among the competitors.
9) There is also a handy option to register the AEL button to hold the locked focus. This is useful in working around the less reliable focusing of the NX10. However, the locked focus is cancelled each shot. It becomes troublesome if the photographer needs to take consecutive shots of the subjects at the same distance.
A suggestion to Samsung is that the focus can be locked once and for all until the next press to turn it off. For the users, the way out is first lock the focus and then turn the lens to MF.
10) An extra note here is that operation-wise, the GXR's module-swapping way of changing lenses is still missed after having going through some inconvenient moments of swapping the NX10's three lenses.
We will talk about the focusing issues of the lenses in the next post.