The 45mm f/1.8 2D/3D ($499 list) is a unique lens in the Samsung NX system. From an optical perspective it’s identical to the 45mm f/1.8 lens, but adds an internal dual shutter system that allows you to capture 3D images and video when you pair it with the NX300 camera; it is not compatible with any other NX cameras at this time. The dual shutter system is a unique design that allows the optic to serve double duty as a fast 2D lens, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
When you’re buying a lens with a fast f-stop like this one, the ability to shoot photos with beautiful, smooth, blurry bokeh behind your subject is a major advantage. When you’re shooting 2D images at f/1.8 you get that—but the dual shutter system changes that. The shutters take two images in rapid succession to merge into a 3D photo, and their odd shape shows up in the bokeh. It’s especially noticeable in out-of-focus highlights, and it also gives the 3D bokeh a rough look that is slightly boxy. Video shot in 3D is recorded at 1080p30, but stills can’t be captured at full resolution. They’re recorded as MPO files, which is a container format that stores the two 4-megapixel JPG images that make up the 3D image.
The lens measures 2.4 by 1.8 inches (HD) and weighs 4.3 ounces. Adding the screw-in plastic hood nearly doubles its height. In a departure from the norm, the hood cannot be reversed for storage or transport. Using it will improve contrast and reduce the chance of lens flare, but will also require a bit more space in your gear bag. Minimum focus is limited to 19.7 inches, which is a bit constricting when trying to frame tightly. Samsung doesn’t bill this as a macro lens, but it would be nice if it focused a bit closer—the short focus distance is somewhat limiting. The 30mm Pancake lens can focus as close as 9.8 inches.
Flipping the AF/MF switch to the manual position lets you control the focus as you see fit via a physical ring, but turning it simply tells the camera to adjust the focus via electronic means. The response is rather quick, and the center of the frame is automatically magnified for precise control. There’s also a physical switch to toggle between 2D and 3D image capture. The other control button on the lens is one that is exclusive to the NX system. It activates the iFN system, which gives you quick access to camera settings. After pressing the button you can adjust the settings of your choice via the focus ring.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the 2D images that the lens captures when paired with the 20-megapixel NX300. The lens is impeccably sharp, bettering the 1,800 lines per picture height mark at every tested aperture. At f/1.8 it records 2,205 lines, and stopping down to f/2.8 boosts the score to 2,416 lines. Closing the iris to f/4 gets you 2,661 lines, and the lens peaks at 2,720 lines at f/5.6. Distortion, which can make straight lines appear curved, is a nonissue.
I evaluated 3D performance by connecting the camera to a Samsung 3D HDTV and viewing images with active shutter glasses. The three-dimensional separation was there, and when it worked for the subject matter, it was a neat effect. My images already had a very nice depth to them thanks to shallow depth of field, but the 3D allowed me to get a get a slightly different perspective on my subject by moving my gaze to the left or right. It’s not a very practical way to share your photos with friends and family; looking at the same shots taken in 2D versus 3D mode, my preference was to the 2D versions. The bokeh was much smoother, without the ugly squarish highlights, and they were saved in full 20-megapixel resolution—perfect for making a large print of a favorite image.
The 3D functionality comes at a $200 premium, and you’ll have to be a serious 3D junkie to get the most out of the lens. If you are, it’s worth a look—just be aware that between the NX300 camera and lens you’re looking at $1,300 for the privilege of capturing photos in three dimensions. If 2D is more your speed and the roughly 70mm (35mm equivalent) field of view appeals to you, the 2D version of the lens is a better buy. It doesn’t cost as much and it can be used on any NX body. Both versions of the lens have a few handling issues—the screw-in hood doubles the size and the minimum focus distance is limiting for a prime of this focal length. But if you’re a fan of the short-telephoto field of view and are willing to work within those limitations, you’ll end up with a sharp lens that can gather a lot of light.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc