The EX1 easily adapts to its user. A beginner can switch it to automatic and shoot with no problems while a more advanced user can tinker and adjust the many options to their liking. Depending on how comfortable and familiar you are with a camera, you’ll find no real problems here. The slick menu interface reminds me of the sort of enormous, cutting-edge, high-end televisions that you see but can never afford…or at least the one on the Playstation 3.
It’s pretty hard to get lost as the camera basically tells you what each one of your button presses has done and doing whatever you just did usually reverses the effect. Key functions such as ISO or macro can be adjusted without going into the menu but further tweaks require a bit more digging.
Shooting doesn’t get much harder. The rear click-dial adjusts the aperture settings (in manual or priority mode) and the front dial adjusts shutter speed.
While the front dial is placed in a bit of an awkward spot for your index figure, I found it very easy to use with my middle finger while keeping my index finger on the shutter release. I’m not sure if this is the way Samsung intended but it makes sense to me. Depending on the size of your hand, your results may vary and I admit it probably isn’t the best place for that dial.
In manual or priority modes, the LCD changes in real time to show you what the lighting situation will look like so you can easily adjust shutter and aperture settings.
Movie mode is triggered by the red button on the rear panel and can be use in any shooting mode. However, adjusting the movie shooting options can only be done when the shooting mode dial at the top of the camera is set to movie (apart from through the menu options). While in movie mode, the shutter release continues to shoot regular photos rather than beginning a video recording but neither the shutter or aperture settings can be changed. Stills taken while in movie mode will be taken as if the camera were in automatic mode.
Strangely, the manual focus is operated by the zoom rocker and is difficult to use. Actually, the few times I managed to get it to work, the pictures have turned out out of focus despite appearing to be in focus in the live view. Not sure if this is a flaw with the hardware or if maybe there’s a problem that can be fixed in later firmware revisions.
Like with most built-in flashes, the one on the EX1 is a bit of an afterthought. It isn’t powerful enough to light anything further away than a few steps but it will do the job in a pinch if you find yourself needing one for a group photo in a dimly lit area. However, as the lens is a f1.8-2.4 aperture, most of the time a flash will be rather unnecessary if you shoot wide open.
The Image Stablization
One of the main selling points of the EX1 is that it features two methods of image stabilization. The optical stabilization can be enabled in any mode through the menu options but the digital image stabilization is only available in the dual stabilization shooting mode. I suppose this is for situations where you need a very slow shutter speed in low lighting and don’t think the optical stabilization is enough.
Unfortunately, in dual stabilization mode, aperture and shutter speed options are set to automatic and can’t be changed manually. Therefore, I found this shooting mode a little clunky and redundant. For just about every situation, shooting in priority or manual will probably yield better results as you have greater control and the optical stabilization is enabled anyways.
The battery is small in size but I managed 294 shots on the charge, quite a few more than the reported 240 shot capacity advertised.
Unlike most cameras, the EX1 doesn’t charge through a external charger. Instead, it uses a USB charger much like an iPod which means you can leave the charger alone and charge off your laptop’s USB when traveling.
The EX1’s image quality is excellent and probably benefits greatly from the bright lens and image stabilization allowing you to shoot at lower ISO settings. The flexibility of the camera settings will let shooters more familiar with photography to tweak even further and get better results. Shooting RAW, for example, let’s you keep a lot more detail in pictures and isn’t something commonly found in most consumer compact cameras.
Shooting in RAW, however, increases file size significantly and slows saving time by quite a bit. In fact, if you shoot RAW files in multi-shot, it takes more than a second to save each file.