In 2014 my sister was looking forward to buying a new camera and asked for a suggestion. I don’t remember when or where I first heard about Samsung EX2F. It caught my attention because of the compact body design and fast 5.2mm-17.2mm (24-80mm full frame equivalent) f1.4 lens, Manual mode and RAW capture.
Later on when she bought one we discovered it also had WiFi capabilities which was perfect for her, storing and quickly sharing good quality pictures via smartphone. She was on Android at that point in time. Several years after she changed to iPhone 7 and EX2F took a very humble place on a shelf.
Nevertheless this was not the end of the story. I had one a chance to use the camera, but it wasn’t until 2018 when I got a chance to put my hands on the Samsung EX2F while travelling.
I brought an analogue camera (Yashica FX-3) with me planning to shoot lots of film, but after the first day of playing with Samsung EX2F I found myself shooting digitally mainly. RAW capture was not something I was interested in at that time and to save some space on my phone, after experimenting I decided to shoot in 5Mpx resolution JPEG. I had to do everything right “in camera” and in the beginning it was very challenging. Checking histogram constantly, bracketing and so on, but after some practice I started exposing by screen, making little adjustments if necessary on my smartphone before sharing a picture.
The Samsung EX2F features a 12 megapixel 1/1.7” BSI sensor, which makes it difficult to achieve shallow focus, although the small sensor size has never frightened me. I find “shallow depth of field” a compelling creative tool, but starting in photography with a Four Thirds System taught me to love deep focus and I do consider it an important layer in my photography.
The Built-in ND filter was the other cool feature I haven’t seen in any other camera in this category before. Quickly turning it on/off gives you a comfort of shooting in any lightning situation throughout a day.
It permits you as well shooting wide angle portraits at fully open aperture, close to the subject dropping background out of focus.
A Happy Owner
That trip was a very enjoyable experience that persuaded me to buy my own Samsung EX2F. In the beginning I was using a camera with the very same logic, shooting medium resolution JPEGs, to practice photography everyday and to share some pictures on social networks.
I got the camera secondhand for ⅓ of the original price. A previous user unscrewed the front ring and put a conversion tube making it possible to mount 52mm thread filters in front of the lens. In the beginning I would only use that conversion to put a UV, or rest my hand with a greater comfort.
After a while I did remember about the Cokin filter system and went to a local photography store to buy one for the Samsung EX2F. The Cokin Fog 1 filter grabbed my attention and I bought it too.
During that period I shot mostly on film and lots of B&W. So I established a particular taste and expectation of how a B&W image should look in terms of contrast, grain, etc. But it always felt cumbersome to have my SLR with three fixed focal lenses and a camera bag on a day to day basis. I was looking for a compact solution to replace this system but all compact 35mm film cameras with Manual mode that I have found, besides being great cameras, were quite pricey.
So I’ve decided to try shooting RAW on EX2F and make a film simulation in post, since I already knew what a film look I am after. The result was way better than anything I was hoping for. The Samsung EX2F was born again for me.
I find the Samsung EX2F almost perfect for street photography. The small sensor permits me to set focus manually near infinity and forget about it until the rest of the day, concentrating on other aspects of photography. It fits my pocket and is easy to carry everywhere. I don’t have a second battery, but usually one charge is enough for the full day. During the breaks it can be charged from a power bank too if needs be.
There are some downsides to a small sensor, low light performance being one of them. Samsung EX2F benefits from a BSI sensor technology, producing cleaner pictures. Generally I find images useful up to 1600 ISO when shooting in RAW. The slightly older Olympus E-620 (2009), another camera I own, despite having a bigger sensor (more than twice the size compared to EX2F, but not BSI) has similar noise amount at the same ISO.
Conclusions and some thoughts
I would say that there many things one could wish to have been done better in the Samsung EX2F (like buggy Drive mode and Mode dials), but considering it’s age (8 years now) and the price you can get one for, there are only two (impossible) things that would have make this camera close to perfect street photography camera (in my opinion): a descent EVF and a decent external focusing ring.
Speed of the evolution and application of new technologies has created many interesting products. We strive to own or put our hands on newer and better equipment. This is an exciting and fun thing to do. Nevertheless this chase for new, does not allow us to reflect on the legacy (digital photo and video cameras in particular). There are many products on the market that for one or another reason were neither revolutionary nor commercial success, but they remain interesting pieces of gear to get to know and use. For me Samsung EX2F falls into this description.
At the end of the day these products were designed to create images. And they do so. Obviously the very first camera that produced a digital image will not withstand a comparison against a brand new digital camera from 2020. Although this doesn’t mean that this camera can’t be used to create an image that can be appreciated. Finally, in my opinion, embracing the limits and possibilities that these cameras provides us with is an important approach for image making, like we can observe this appreciation happening in many commercials and music videos that are using VHS or Hi8 cameras to recreate 80-90’s look.
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