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Tech Lab

Small Samsung camera shoots like a pro

My wife, who does fashion and wedding photography, says you don’t get respect unless you’re packing high-end equipment. So she’s spent thousands on complex Nikons and massive lenses. She’d never show up at Boston Fashion Week toting the new EX2F pocket camera from Samsung Corp. It’s too cheap, too small, too simple. No one would be impressed.

Except me. I wield a pretty decent Nikon D90 myself, and I was delighted with the Samsung. It packs many of the advanced features you’ll find on a serious camera and throws in a remarkable set of wireless options that make it easier to share photos and to shoot them. Its 12.4-megapixel image sensor and large-aperture lens let me take excellent photos even in dimly lit rooms. And Samsung serves up all this goodness at a respectable price — less than $450 at Amazon.com.

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How much do you know about photography? Well, know this — the bigger the maximum aperture of the lens, the more light it can capture. Big lenses are better because they let you work in low-light situations. The EX2F has a maximum aperture of F 1.4. Take it from me — that’s big — bigger than the lens on my Nikon. As a result, I was able to shoot beautifully lit photos without flash even in a room with only a few lights on.

As with many point-and-shoot cameras, the EX2F has no viewfinder. Instead you rely on a videoscreen mounted on the back of the camera. When you change camera settings, the screen instantly shows what your photo will look like. And you can change the settings with ease, adjusting shutter speed, lens aperture, and light sensitivity just like the pros do. If the image looks too bright or dark or oddly colored, just tweak it a bit till you get what you want. Or just put the camera on automatic and open fire; in most cases, this worked fine.

There’s a pop-up flash on board, but only the desperate should use it; like all built-in flashes, it throws a harsh, unappealing light. Mounted on the left of the lens, the flash adds an ugly right-side shadow to your portrait shots. Samsung gets bonus points for including a flash hot shoe right above the lens, so serious shooters can bolt on a good external flash.

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I remember being awed a few years back by Eye-Fi, the camera memory card with a Wi-Fi wireless networking chip that would automatically upload shots to your home computer. These days, cameras like the EX2F have the Wi-Fi built right in, and Samsung has found plenty of uses for it.

Of course, you can program the camera to link to your home wireless hotspot. You can plug in your passwords for online services like Facebook or Google’s photo site Picasa, then send your pictures to them directly. And the EX2F is compatible with the Digital Living Network Alliance protocol, or DLNA, a service that lets home computers, TVs, tablets, and other devices talk to each other. With DLNA, I fed photos from the camera directly onto the screen of my home TV.

For more wireless magic, download a couple of apps for Apple Inc. iOS or Google Inc. Android devices. One of them, MobileLink, lets the EX2F transmit its photos to a smartphone or tablet. The screen of the mobile device shows thumbnail images of the photos in the camera. Pick the ones you want, and they’re sent to the device.

The other, Remote Viewfinder, lets you control the camera through your phone. Just set it up on a tripod and link phone and camera via Wi-Fi. Your phone will show exactly what the camera sees. You can snap the picture by touching the phone screen, then have a copy stored on the phone. With the holidays coming up, Remote Viewfinder is the ideal app for shooting those all-together-now family photos.

What don’t I like about the EX2F? Apart from the ugly built-in flash, I’d have wished for a GPS chip to let users geotag the locations of their photos. The videoscreen should have been made touch-sensitive. But worst of all is the camera’s name; EX2F is just geeky enough to scare off some consumers, just as the camera’s compact size and low price will earn the disdain of many a pro. Too bad; this is a cheap camera even my wife would like.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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