Customer Review

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good price but slightly less good performance, 26 Sep 2012
This review is from: Samsung 16MM F2.4 Wide Pancake Lens (Accessory)
I recently acquired an NX20 with 18-55 kit lens and was very pleasantly surprised with its performance, far better than I had expected possible for the brand. It is certainly as good as far more established photographic brands. However, a one-lens kit is not what I would normally use and was looking to expand the outfit in both directions; shorter and longer focal lengths. I had also bought the 50-200mm zoom in the interim. As there is currently zero independent lens support for Samsung cameras, I was obliged to consider only those lenses that Samsung offer. Although the range is expanding, there are relatively few options at the wide end and even fewer at the longer. I have another camera system and have a couple of pancake lenses for it. Both are excellent performers and I was hoping to match that level of performance with whichever lens or lenses I would eventually choose.

I was sufficiently curious about this lens to request a very short-term loan (about 10 minutes) from a dealer in order to shoot a few test shots. They did not have the 16mm in stock as a unique product but did have one as part of a kit with one of the compact NX models. In fact, I was able to borrow all three pancakes in turn for a similar period, but one at a time. My kit zoom served as a deposit! When subsequently viewing the images, I quickly realised that the shorter the focal length the slightly less satisfactory each lens was.

I had considered the possibility of buying all three of Samsung's pancakes, not necessarily because they were pancakes but because I wanted a fairly fast prime, and perhaps two - I recently bought the 30mm - and was considering either the 16mm (24-25mm equivalent) or the 20mm (31mm equivalent, although either 28 or 35mm are the nearest real-life equivalents) for interiors, landscapes etc. Of the two shortest lenses, the 16mm has the faster maximum aperture and the 20mm is about half a stop slower, although slightly faster than is average for a 28-35 lens for 35mm cameras. However, of necessity all pancake lenses require some design compromises to be made; the main aim is for compactness and performance is largely allowed to take care of itself. That is clearly the situation here.

Centre performance from the lens is very good to excellent, even at full aperture and does not significantly improve upon stopping down. Edge and corner performance is significantly worse at full aperture, improves quite dramatically when stopped down and appears to be best at around f8 or f11, although always falling somewhat short of its central performance. However, I was aware of rather curving lines and, on checking out several professional reviews elsewhere, found that there is broad agreement that the lens has a pronounced degree of barrel distortion. It can be largely (but not completely) corrected in camera (via menu options relating to distortion correction) and externally in software, such as with Adobe's Lightroom. Some barrel distortion is to be expected from many wide-angle lenses and it can be relatively high with one with a 24-25mm equivalent focal length. This lens exceeds that, and the distortion can be quite apparent with some subjects. It would be far less obvious with landscapes where there are few completely straight lines.

Although I did not print any of the images I shot (all of boring buildings in an equally boring narrow street), I was able to later view them on a monitor and there is a definite softness to those shot with this lens that I found initially difficult to pin down. The focussing was presumably spot on, as it usually is from my NX20 and it is only since that I discovered the cause. It is that the lens exhibits a very high degree of curvature of field. It has been commented upon extensively in those same technical reviews and means, in practice, that where there are several objects within a scene that are at various distances from the camera, they will not necessarily all be focussed on the same image plane; some may be slightly in front, others behind but it leads to an impression that they are not necessarily in focus. A well-designed lens (possibly using 10 or more elements) will reduce that effect to almost zero, but the simpler construction (7 elements in 6 groups and limited use of specialised elements) of this lens cannot manage to correct for the problem. It is not an obvious issue with either its 20 or 30mm close relatives.

A lens of this effective focal length is probably going to be used most often for interiors or landscape work. It could also be a candidate for street photography, especially if 'shooting from the hip', but the performance does let this lens down to some degree as, if used in that way, the image is likely to need some realignment (straightening of horizontals), cropping and probably some fairly hefty enlargement. The 20 megapixel performance from the NX20 should make this a relative breeze, but the lens performance could be a limiting factor. Another lens of a more traditional design and similar maximum aperture would be rather more expensive, were one available. However, the lens is not of a poor design and does not provide grossly inadequate performance, just that its inherent compromises are a little too evident. The lens should suffice for many users but the standard kit zoom (18-55 with the NX20) offers an almost identical focal length at its widest and actually better performance although also about a stop slower.

The designers have managed to squeeze in the iFn system but not the OIS as there is insufficient interior space. However, comparable lenses of other brands would probably often omit OIS for very different reasons; the benefits with wide-angle lenses are far more minimal. The lens uses external rather than internal optical focussing, similar systems apply to the other pancakes, such that the lens extends slightly with closer distances. The speed of focus is very good and at least the equal of that of the kit zoom; it may also be slightly faster. All the 3 current pancake lenses share the same 43mm filter thread so can easily share filters. None come supplied with hoods but the front elements are moderately deeply housed within the body. All three share similar plastic bodies and the usual metal mount. The two wider angle lenses are of similar size but the 30mm is slightly the slimmer by a few mm.

If the shorter focal length is important, you may need or want to choose this lens. At full RRP (just short of £300) it is probably too expensive for its level of performance but if available at discounts of 20-25%, it may be a worthwhile consideration. Otherwise the 20mm is a better bet for the more discerning user, and slightly the less expensive.
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Review Details

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4.5 out of 5 stars (6 customer reviews)
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£299.27 £225.06
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Andy_atGC
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Location: London UK

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