Samsung's pulling out the big guns with the EX-1 -- a fully featured, high-power compact designed to take on the likes of the Canon PowerShot G11 and Panasonic's new LX5. With its super-bright f1.8 lens, back-illuminated CMOS sensor and a price tag as low as £320, it looks like it's got every chance.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
It certainly looks the part. The EX-1 comes in black or gunmetal grey and looks equally impressive in both finishes. There are two dials on the top, including a conventional mode dial and a second for setting the drive mode (single, continuous, self-timer, exposure bracketing).
On the far left is a pop-up flash activated by a sliding switch. It's slightly tricky pushing the switch and keeping your finger out of the way at the same time, but you get used to it.
Round the back is a large, bright AMOLED display. Samsung says this offers a much wider viewing angle than the ordinary sort, and it does. You can also flip it out and rotate it for shooting at any angle.
The 3x zoom has two main selling points. One is the focal range, which is equivalent to 24-72mm -- wide enough to satisfy enthusiasts, and the other is the f1.8 maximum aperture. But while Samsung claims the EX-1 is the "world's brightest lens compact camera", it has a pretty slender margin over rivals such as the(f2.0) and Panasonic LX5 (also f2.0).
It performs well, delivering very good edge-to-edge sharpness right across the frame, and without any loss in definition at full zoom. There's little or no chromatic aberration, either, so there's no need to worry about Samsung matching the rest for lens quality.
Samsung's also made the brave decision to opt for a 10-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor rather than simply chasing megapixels. This seems to be the way to go now for the best all-round picture quality, especially at high ISOs, and the EX-1 does well here. Detail starts softening up past ISO 400 but the quality is still pretty good even at ISO 1,600.