Samsung 20 mm f/2.8 is a lens that you use as a reporter of special or everyday events, as a tourist or a casual picture snapper. A lens with a 20 mm focal length on a Samsung NX camera has a field of view ("what you get in the picture") that corresponds with 30 mm full-frame equivalent and thus captures just a bit more than the 50 mm standard lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. This lens is part of a series of super-flat fixed-focal lengths for Samsung cameras. The compact construction of these lenses makes the NX3300 or the NX500 usable as pocket cameras.
Samsung 20 mm f/2.8: all-around focal length, bright, very compact and very good optically
This practice shot is made with the Samsung 20 mm f/2.8 @ 100 ISO, f/8, 1/200 sec on the Samsung NX1. It is a standard jpg shot. Click on the practice shot for an enlargement. On the NX500, you will achieve exactly the same image quality as here, because the sensor and processor of the NX500 has the same image quality as that of the NX1.
Build and auto focus
This 20 mm lens is a little bit bigger than the 30 mm pancake, which we tested previously. The 20 mm (30 mm in full-frame equivalent) is a moderate wide-angle, of which the field of view also falls within the range of most standard zooms. Fixed focal lengths score in terms of optics in all cases remarkably better than zooms and are thus a must-have for a serious amateur. This lens does not have built-in image stabilization, but it does have the iFn technology with which you can use the distance ring for settings of, for example, aperture. The weight of just 90 grams and the exceptionally compact dimensions of this fixed focal length are pleasant plus points relative to the kit lens that you got with the purchase of your Samsung camera. There is a narrow distance ring, an iFn button, but no AF/MF switch. You have to set that with the body. Everything looks sleek and precise. The front lens is tiny; the filter mount, at 43 mm, is equal to that of, for example, the 16 mm or 30 mm Samsung NX lenses. That makes it easy, because you can thus use the same filters without an adapter ring. A lens hood is not part of the standard equipment. The shortest distance setting is just 17 cm. AF works fast and silently. When you focus nearby, the lens moves a tiny bit, nearly unnoticeably, forward. Like all amateur lenses, this lens is not extra-well sealed against dust or splashwater.
Vignetting, flare, chromatic aberration and distortion
RAW files opened in Photoshop/Lightroom or jpg files that are stored in the camera show no visible vignetting, regardless of aperture.
The lens design, with 6 elements in 4 groups, is surprisingly simple. An important plus point of such a design is a high transmission and little chance of internal reflections. Flare in the form of reduced contrast or ghosts with bright backlighting were not really seen in our test. As usual with wide-angles, there is some vignetting at large apertures without automatic lens correction; even at full aperture, that is just ¾ of a stop. At f/4, that is no longer a problem. Ever-more brands are starting, like Samsung, to automatically correct lens errors such as chromatic aberration, vignetting and distortion in RAW files that you open with Lightroom/Photoshop or in jpg files that you store in the camera. The distortion is barrel-shaped and quite visible (-4%) in unedited RAW images (.SAM). In both JPEG shots stored in the camera and RAW shots that you edit in Photoshop or Lightroom, it is as good as invisible.
As far as sharpness is concerned, the high resolution of the Samsung NX1/NX500 comes nicely into its own. At full aperture, the corners do leave something to be desired. We often see that with pancake lenses, and that is already resolved in this case by stopping down 1 stop. The sharpness (resolution; we determine that via the MFT50 method) of this lens is very good starting from f/4. On the shots below, you see the corner at full aperture on the left and with stopping down by 1 stop on the right. Our test camera was an NX1, which with 28 megapixels on an APS-C sensor places very high demands on the resolving power of a lens.
Bokeh Samsung NX 20 mm f/2.8
You do not buy an ultra-flat, 20-mm, wide-angle lens for the background blur/bokeh. This lens makes pictures with a big focal depth possible. Light points in the background are noisy. Bokeh fans are better off with the lenses with a longer focal length, like the 45 mm f/1.8, or the, significantly more expensive, 85 mm f/1.4.
Conclusion Samsung NX 20 mm review with Samsung NX1
Look in our overview of reviewed lenses to compare this lens with other lenses.
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".
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Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. 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 are the same as the jpg scores.
High build and image quality
Light and compact
Universally usable focal length; perfect for street photography
No AF/MF switch on the lens
No built-in image stabilization
The Samsung NX 20 mm f/2.8 is a must-have for any street photographer, wedding photographer or holiday-maker with a Samsung NX camera.
With all the attention to high-tech, high-end lenses that have been released in the past months, you could almost forget that there are also good, affordable lenses. The Samsung 20 mm f/2.8, which has already been on the market for a couple of years, is one of those. A pancake lens design has a light weight and extremely compact dimensions as the most obvious advantages. Samsung has succeeded in designing a 20-mm pancake lens whereby surprisingly few compromises have been made as far as the image quality is concerned. Keep in mind that a Samsung NX lens can only be used on 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.