The Samsung 16 mm f/2.4 lens is the flattest wide-angle that we have ever seen. It fits on APS-C cameras with an NX mount. The field of view ("what appears in the photo") corresponds with the field of view of a 24 mm wide-angle lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. Such a lens comes especially into its own on mirrorless system cameras like the Samsung NX300 and the NX500, which as a result become real pocket cameras. How is the optical performance? Did it suffer from the super-small lens size? We thoroughly tested the Samsung 16 mm f/2.4 on a Samsung NX1 with a 28 megapixel sensor in practice and on our new test set-up..
Big in field of view, small in size
A lens with a hefty field of view, but in super-compact size! The lens is, measured from the mount, 23 mm deep and weighs just 72 grams. You do not often come across lenses that are that light, certainly not for an APS-C camera. It has 7 lens elements, of which 2 are aspherical, and an aperture with 7 lamellae. There is no built-in image stabilization. It has a pretty small distance ring. If you want to focus with it, you have to get used to the “focus-by-wire” principle: the ring works electronically, not mechanically, and is a bit rubbery with some delay in operation. There is no AF/MF switch; you have to operate that via the camera menu. With the iFn button, you can also use the distance ring for other things. The Samsung 30 mm Pancake that we recently reviewed does not have that option.
The lens, with f/2.4 (a very unusual number as well, usually it’s f/2.8), is rather but not extremely bright. If you are looking for a lens that gives you the greatest possible blur, then you’re better off with the 30 mm f/2 or the Samsung 45 mm f/1.8 fixed focal length.
Zoom or fixed focal length?
Next to a great series of fixed focal lengths, Samsung also produces a 18-55 mm zoom. Those who like to photograph with wide angles might think that there is little difference between such a zoom in the wide-angle setting and this 16 mm. We can say without hesitation that the fixed focal length is superior to the zoom lens. Corner sharpness, brightness, resolution: the fixed focal length is better on every point, and the compact build is also an enormous advantage. The 16 mm is also a good deal more expensive and lacks image stabilization. With a 16 mm lens you also get much more in frame than with an 18 mm lens. That matters.
This cheerful girl in the coffee bar also appeared to be a professional photographer. 1/25 f/6,3, 400 ISO
On the JPEG shot above, the barrel-shaped distortion that is so characteristic for wide-angle lenses is already largely (but not entirely) removed by the camera. For architectural shots, it is a problem, but not for everyday use.
Museum Kröller-Müller. 1/100 second at f/5,6. No trace of vignetting
The lens has a little bit of trouble with vignetting only at full aperture; after on stop stopping down, there is no trace of it. That is probably also already corrected in the camera itself by software.
Flare & chromatic aberration
It took some effort, but we did manage to make flare visible with bright back lighting. A good dose of flare in this picture, with the sun in frame, might look serious, but there are no ghosts to be found. And that would be the case with many other wide-angle lenses in this price class. A lens hood is not part of the standard equipment. Wide-angle lenses practically always have—due to a complex design—trouble with chromatic aberration; colored edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image. In both RAW files (opened in Photoshop or Lightroom) and jpg files saved in the camera, there is good correction, so that you have no trouble with it in practice.
Two stops stopping down (f/5.6) is a good compromise when you are going for the highest possible image quality.
We recently started reporting the sharpness of unsharpened RAW files instead of (obviously sharpened) jpg files. Strictly speaking, the MTF50 values for unsharpened RAW files are lower than those of sharpened jpg files. Do not compare these pictures with the pictures from jpg files. The center sharpness (measured resolution and in the practice shots) from the 16 mm is simply outstanding. The corners at full aperture have room for improvement, but we see that with many other (wide-angle) lenses that we have tested on cameras with a sensor of more than 24 megapixels.
Bokeh is the quality of the blur. Ideally, a light point outside the field of focus will be rendered as a circle with a soft edge. In this case, the circle is nicely even without all kinds of artefacts caused by internal reflections or aperture lamellae. The edges are reasonably sharp. With a lens like this one, not extremely bright and with a very short focal length, there is typically not much blur and the bokeh is less important than, for example, with a telephoto lens. You buy a wide-angle lens for the colossal focal depth, not for the bokeh.
Conclusion Samsung 16 mm f/2.4
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WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is saved in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop or Lightroom for the conversion of RAW files, then the RAW scores for vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion are the same as the jpg scores.
Super-compact and feather-light
Very good sharpness
Distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting are well corrected
No image stabilization
For the owner of a Samsung body, this 16 mm fixed-focal length wide-angle lens is a valuable asset.
With a shop price of less than 250 euros, the Samsung 16 mm pancake is attractively priced. The image quality is good. The extremely flat construction of this 16 mm means that bodies like the NX300 or NX500 can be used as pocket cameras. At the same time, the optical performance is very good. A classy performance. The lens is recommended for every serious amateur photographer with a Samsung camera.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.