Samsung EX2F

12MP | 24-80mm (3.3x) Zoom | $499 (US) £420 (UK) €370 (EU)

The Samsung EX2F is a successor to the company's EX1 (known as the TL500 in some markets). Its name is now the same across all markets, and gains the 'F' that Samsung uses to denote its Wi-Fi capable cameras. It sees a 12MP BSI CMOS sensor supplanting the 10MP CCD that was used in its predecessor, and beyond these changes carries forward that camera's impressive specifications. Its lens starts off both wide and impressively bright (the 24mm equivalent, F1.4 figure being used extensively in the marketing material) but slows down soon after, meaning it's pretty quickly out-gunned by several cameras in this class.

Key Features

  • 12.0MP 1/1.7" BSI CMOS sensor
  • 24-80mm (equivalent), F1.4-2.7 optically stabilized lens
  • ISO 80-3200
  • Front clickable control dial and rear four-way dial
  • 1080p30 video with stereo microphones
  • 3.0" fully-articulated OLED screen with 460k dots
  • 240 shot battery life (CIPA)
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Hot shoe for external flash units
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
On paper the EX2F's spec is very convincing - it uses a 12MP BSI CMOS sensor (almost certainly the same one as used in the Nikon P7700 and Olympus XZ-2), and a flip-out swivel OLED display that, despite the lower dot-count, offers resolution equivalent to most of the other cameras in this group. The Wi-Fi feature, that can be used to connect the camera either to your home network or directly to an Android or iOS handset or tablet via downloadable apps, is unusual in this company. It has features such as a built-in ND filter to allow the use of its wide apertures even when outdoors.
The EXF2 sits in the middle of this group in terms of size. It fits nicely in the hand and its construction feels solid.

The EX2F has a promising looking specification, including the same fast lens as its predecessor, plus Wi-Fi capability. Despite a Wi-Fi position on the camera's mode dial, there's also a Wi-Fi position on the four-way controller which locks the camera up for several seconds if accidentally pressed.

The Samsung is one of the few cameras here to feature a flip-out screen - in this case a VGA-resolution OLED panel. The Samsung's Fn menu is rather good - allowing quick settings changes, when used in conjunction with the front dial. Hard-to-predict feature incompatibilities rather take the edge off the shooting experience, we found.

The EX2F is a well-built camera and one of the few to offer a flip-out swivel display. It's generally comfortable to use, though some of us found we had to reposition our grip on the camera each time we tried to use the front dial - which suggests the ergonomics could do with a bit more work.

Sadly the EXF2 isn't as well polished as most of the other cameras in this cohort. It features less customization and more quirks than any of the other cameras here, making for an occasionally infuriating shooting experience. Several settings are mutually incompatible but with no apparent logic or indication of the conflict, making it nearly impossible to resolve. While we can just about accept that Face Detection mode wouldn't be available in Raw shooting mode (though it's unusual on a modern camera), it took a long time to diagnose that a change to the image processing settings (even a one step increase in contrast) will also disable it. Furthermore, the camera's Wi-Fi button locks up the camera for almost 3 seconds if you  press it accidentally. It can be re-configured to perform other functions but they're all Wi-Fi related, so an accidental press involves a 3 second pause and some button pressing to cancel the action.

The Wi-Fi features themselves are potentially useful but, as with most wireless solutions we've tried so far, aren't as simple as you'd like them to be (though the Samsung system seems to be one of the more reliable). As such, it's hard to recommend the EX2F if you want to use Wi-Fi regularly (using an Eye-Fi card in the other cameras here will be similarly effective), and the rest of the camera's performance isn't good enough for Wi-Fi as an occasionally-used feature to tip the balance in the Samsung's favor.

Performance and Image Quality

The EX2F's image quality is competitive in this class, although it doesn't excel. Metering and white balance can be a little unpredictable, meaning images can come out too bright or with too much of a cold, blue tint from time to time. The camera corrects chromatic aberration rather aggressively, giving odd hazy halos on high-contrast edges. Add a high level of sharpening (and a loss of Face Detection if you try to adjust it) and the over-processed-looking JPEGs don't really show off the camera's full potential. The best way of getting to the camera's full image quality is to shoot Raw which, in the case of the EX2F, means capturing oddly large ~30MB files.

Wide Angle (24mm Equiv.) Telephoto (80mm Equiv.)
The EX2F does well in the outdoor test shots - the lens performance is very good at wide-angle though the telephoto end isn't quite up to the same standard. Detail is well resolved, if a bit over-sharpened for our tastes. Still, a very solid result.
The portrait shot sees skin tones rendered a little on the warm side but is generally good. The rather short lens means the EXF2 doesn't allow very shallow depth-of-field, despite the relatively wide aperture, meaning there isn't the same degree of subject isolation as many of these cameras can offer. The flash shot is a touch too bright but skin tones remain neutral, so it's not too much of a problem. The EX2F has made little effort to retain any ambient lighting, so the subtle post-sunset sky outside the window in this shot is effectively just black. 
The EX2F's articulated screen can help get shots that would be guesswork without it. Its Wi-Fi feature also allowed us to publish this full-resolution image on the web before we reached shore. The EX2F's lack of orientation sensor means all of your images will need to be rotated manually. This is worth remembering before you share them. 

Summary

None of our criticisms should be taken to mean the camera is a disaster - it's actually pretty good and can produce some pleasant results. However, its rivals are all so good that simply being 'pretty good' isn't enough. The EX2F doesn't offer anything that at least one of its rivals can't do at least as well, either in feature or image quality terms. If you're desperate to have Wi-Fi capability, you may find a Wi-Fi capable card placed in one of the other cameras is just as useful.

Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)

Studio Comparison Tool Samsung EX2F Samples (25 images)

What we like: Good image quality. Wi-Fi capability. Solid build quality. Quick-to-use Fn menu.

What we don't like: Frustrating interface quirks spoil user experience. Over-processed JPEG output. Huge Raw file size. Limited lens reach.

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