The Samsung 12-24mm f/4-5.6 ED Wide-Angle Zoom ($599 list) is a lens that produces an ultra-wide field of view when used with the APS-C sensor found in Samsung NX cameras. While it can exhibit rectilinear distortion in certain shooting situations, it’s still an incredibly sharp lens, and one that easily earns our Editors’ Choice award thanks to its image quality and value.
The lens features a modest 2x zoom ratio that covers an 18-36mm field of view in terms of full-frame photography. Its f/4-5.6 variable aperture isn’t as ambitious as the similar Sony 10-18mm f/4 Wide-Angle Zoom Lens—although its zoom ratio is only 1.8x, its field of view is slightly wider and the aperture is fixed at f/4 throughout its zoom range.
The 12-24mm lens measures just 2.6 by 2.5 inches (HD) and weighs 7.3 ounces. It includes a petal-style lens hood and supports 58mm screw-in filters. The front element doesn’t rotate, so using a polarizing filter is possible. That type of filter alters the direction that light travels, which can be used to eliminate reflections in glass or water and generally improves image contrast, and is a common accessory for the landscape photographers who are likely to see the appeal in such a wide lens. The lens can focus on objects as close as 9.5 inches, which makes it possible to blur the background of your shots, even when working with a wide field of view and modest aperture. It supports iFn control, which lets you use the manual focus ring to control other camera functions via a tap of a button, located on the lens itself. There’s also a toggle switch to change between autofocus and manual focus.
Shooters moving from a point-and-shoot to a mirrorless camera likely aren’t used to a lens this wide, as even the widest compact cameras only capture a 23mm field of view. Care is required when composing shots with a lens of this type as to minimize distortion. Even though Imatest shows that the lens exhibits virtually no pincushion or barrel distortion, you should be careful when shooting group shots. Moving in close to a person and framing them at the edge of the frame will stretch them out to the point where they’ll never let you take their picture again. This can be minimized by zooming by backing up and zooming in a bit when possible, as well as keeping the camera parallel and level in relation to your subject. This isn’t an issue that is unique to this lens—even the best wide-angle optics can exhibit similar effects when used without care.
The lens is incredibly sharp at every tested focal length and aperture. We tested it along with the Samsung NX210 and the lens was much better than the 1,800 lines per picture height that we use to define a sharp image. At 12mm f/4 it recorded 2,385 lines, it notched 2,330 lines at 18mm f/4.5, and managed 2,349 lines at 24mm f/5.6. It’s the sharpest lens of this focal range that we’ve tested—the Sony 10-18mm exceeded 1,800 lines at its widest, but its resolution dropped to 1,570 lines when zoomed all the way in.
If you’re in the market for a mirrorless camera system and are shopping based on the availability of a top-notch ultra-wide-angle zoom lens, the Samsung NX system should be on your radar. The 12-24mm f/4-5.6 ED Wide-Angle Zoom captures razor-sharp images with minimal distortion and is quite compact when you consider its impressive field of view. The only black mark against it is a comparatively slow aperture, but this is offset by the high ISO capabilities of the latest cameras and simple physics—capturing more light would require a much larger lens with a more complex design, which would put a strain on your back and your wallet. As it stands, the lens earns our Editors’ Choice award due to its image quality, size, and cost.
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