Review Samsung NX 30 mm f/2: Can't get more compact
Jop Steenhof de Jong,
The Samsung 30 mm f/2.0 is pancake lens that is suitable for nearly all applications. It is a lens with NX mount, which means that you can only use this lens on Samsung APS-C cameras. The focal distance corresponds with 48 mm in Full Frame. A compact standard lens, which is suitable for large buildings and broad landscapes, but simultaneously does perfectly well as a portrait or all-around documentary lens. Due to the very large lens opening, you can create beautifully blurred backgrounds. We tested the lens on a Samsung NX1, the high-end mirrorless viewfinder camera, due to the 28 megapixel BSI sensor. But the super-compact build, ergonomically seen, come even better into its own on compact mirrorless system cameras like the Samsung NX500. Does the optical quality suffer from the super-compact build?
Can it be one ounce (85 gram) more? Samsung NX 30 mm f/2
Samsung 30 mm, f/4, 1/30, 100 ISO A beginning photographer will probably sooner choose f/2 than f/4 under these kinds of low-light conditions, in order to prevent motion blur.
The 30 mm lens weighs just 85 gram and is really super-flat; from the mount, it extends forward just 22 mm. With such a lens, a mirrorless system camera, like the Samsung NX500, is suitable for a jacket pocket or a good-sized pants pocket. And that with an APS-C sensor! Due to the flat construction, the distance ring is rather narrow, and there was no space for the iFn button, which you find on many other Samsung lenses. That focus ring works electronically and not mechanically; it has a bit of a “rubbery” feel when you focus manually. But due to the generous focal arc, you can work in manual focus very well. AF works quickly. This lens does not make use of internal focusing, which might be able to lead to even faster AF in a future version. There is no built-in image stabilization. The mount is made of light metal. Everything looks sleek and tidy. The front lens is small, not even 2 cm; the filter mount is a bit larger (43mm). The shortest setting distance is 25 cm.
Fixed focal length or Kit zoom lens?
Many bodies are delivered with a not-too-expensive zoom lens in one box. For an APS-C camera, you are usually talking about an 18-55 mm. For standard documentary work, you can work very well with that. Such lenses often have image stabilization, but are not very bright and in terms of optical performance do not stand up against fixed focal length lenses. If you have a compact Samsung body like the NX3000 or the NX500, then this 30 mm seems preferable to us to the 18-55 because of the flat shape and the larger aperture. You also learn to make better compositions when you begin using a fixed focal length instead of a zoom lens. The Samsung 30 mm NX f/2 is a bit more expensive than the 18-55 mm zoom lens, but the shop price of the two lenses is significantly below 300 euros.
Vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberration
The usual barrel-shaped distortion with wide-angle lenses is automatically corrected with Samsung lenses—even in RAW files—when .SAM (=Samsung RAW) files are opened in Lightroom or Photoshop. And jpg files are also correct for lens flaws in the camera. For this Samsung lens (just as with Panasonic and Olympus lenses) you will search in vain in Lightroom or Photoshop for lens correction profiles. Without lens correction, the distortion would have been visible (-1.65%) barrel-shaped distortion. Vignetting is also automatically corrected and is no longer measurable in the JPEGs.
You really have to search for the chromatic aberration (colored edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners). At full aperture, you do see a bit in the corners. In practice, it is really not a problem.
Samsung 30 mm, f/4, 1/30, 100 ISO
On this point, the 30 mm scores a bit lower, since flare was noticeable shooting directly against the sun. Although we do have to report that it took effort to capture visible flare. A lens hood would do wonders, but that is not automatically included.
Samsung 30 mm, f/4, 1/30, 100 ISO
If you express the resolution in line pairs per mm (lp/mm), the Samsung 30 mm f/2 comes out above 90 lp/mm.
Both the contrast and the resolution (detail sharpness/micro-contrast) of this lens are very good. It is typical of pancake lenses that the sharpness in the corners lands a bit behind that of the center. The corners get better when you stop down to f/8, but in the center, the quality then decreases as a result of diffraction. At full aperture, this lens offers a sharpness in the corners of 1000 lines per image height (in an unsharpened RAW file). That is higher than the center sharpness of a number of lenses that we have reviewed earlier on a camera with a sensor of < 20 megapixels. You get the best results with the Samsung 30 mm f/2 at f/5.6. For practice shots, we tested the 30 mm Samsung on an NX1 next to the 24 mm STM from Canon on a 760D. The Samsung scores better; note the green roof tiles. The difference in sharpness—thanks to the good performance of the Samsung 30mm f/2—is greater than you would expect based on the difference in megapixels (28 for the NX1 and 24 for the 650D). This Samsung 30 mm pancake is a very sharply rendering lens.
The accuracy of the autofocus is comparable for the combination of 30mm f/2 + NX1 with that of an SLR camera without front- or back-focus problems. With bright lenses (22 megapixels) that the camera, depending on distance and focal length, focuses too far forward (front-focus) or too far to the back (back-focus). This systematic focus error has to be considered in the regular accuracy of the AF. Because the Samsung cameras have a hybrid AF system, which focuses on the sensor signal, you will never have trouble from front-focus or back-focus with a Samsung lens.
Click on the illustration for an enlargement to 300%.
Samsung 30 mm, f/4, 1/30, 100 ISO The shortest setting distance is 25 cm.
Bokeh Samsung 30 mm f/2
The quality of the blur, the Bokeh, is particularly seen at full aperture (f/2). Note the white edges on the circles. We noted a reasonably “clean” bokeh but with fairly sharp transitions at the edge. Just as with most lenses on a camera with a full-frame sensor, the bokeh at full aperture has a cat’s eye character.
Conclusion Samsung NX 30 mm review with Samsung NX1
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 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 converting RAW files, then the RAW scores for chromatic aberration, vignetting and distortion are the same as the jpg scores.
The low price, the weight and the compact dimensions might give you the wrong impression. The Samsung NX 30 mm f/2 offers professional image quality for a starter’s price.
The Samsung 30 mm f/2.0 is a great and attractively priced lens with very good optical performance and a solid, super-compact construction. Where ergonomics are concerned, it comes best into its own on the compact Samsung bodies like the Samsung NX300 or Samsung NX500. The image quality of this little pearl, however, is so high that you would not go wrong with it on a Samsung NX1.
Author: Jop Steenhof de Jong
Photography has been a hobby of mine for many years. For me, it's about the joy of creating. I like to find and share knowledge in depth topics again. After years of having fun with contributions made to the Dutch magazine "Camera Magazine", I test now with at least as much pleasure for CameraStuffReview.