The Samsung 45mm f/1.8 ($299 list) is a fast prime lens for the NX compact interchangeable lens camera system. The lens delivers a field of view that is roughly equivalent to a 70mm lens on a full-frame D-SLR or a 35mm film camera. It’s an awkward focal length, a bit too long to be your standard every day lens, and a bit too short for telephoto or to use as a dedicated portrait lens. It’s still a sharp optic, but it doesn’t oust the Samsung 30mm NX Pancake Lens as our Editors’ Choice for standard angle lenses for compact interchangeable lens cameras.
The lens measures 2.4 by 1.8 inches (HD) and weighs 4.1 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 30mm Pancake lens can focus as close as 9.8 inches. The lens is almost physically identical to the $500 Samsung 45mm f/1.8 2D/3D lens, which allows you to capture 3D photos when used with the latest generation of NX cameras.
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. It’s a much better experience when compared with the sluggish electronic manual focus Canon EOS M shooters must endure. 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 lens when paired with the Samsung NX210 camera. It’s one area where there are no disappointments; it exceeds the 1,800 lines per picture height that we require for a sharp image at every tested aperture. At f/1.8 it records 2,175 lines with sharp results from edge to edge. Stopping down to f/2.8 improves the resolution to 2,327 lines, and the score peaks at 2,586 lines at f/5.6. Distortion is a nonissue; the lens records only 0.3 percent. I did notice some chromatic aberration in the form of blue and red color fringing at the edges of the frame when shooting in Raw mode, but the NX210 removed it from JPG files. It was relatively minor, so Raw shooters won’t have any trouble fixing it in Lightroom.
There’s no question that the 45mm f/1.8 is a sharp lens, but it occupies an odd place in Samsung’s system. The 45mm focal length is a little too long to be an everyday lens, a bit too short to dedicate to portraiture, and it doesn’t focus close enough to work as a macro. If you’re an NX shooter who opted for the 20mm NX Pancake Lens to supplement your kit lens and want a longer prime to go along with it, you may be attracted to the 45mm f/1.8. But you’ll likely be better served with the company’s 60mm f/2.8 Macro ED OIS SSA; it’s more expensive and about a stop slower, but can focus extremely close. If you’re an NX owner and you haven’t yet moved beyond the standard zoom, go for the NX 30mm Pancake Lens. It’s got a fast f/2 aperture, and its optical size, price, and optical performance were enough to earn our Editors’ Choice award.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc