Samsung Digimax GX1S

If you’re shopping for an entry-level digital SLR, it’s easy to become confused by the array of cameras currently available. The Samsung Digimax GX-1S should be one of your less perplexing options, though, because it is very similar to the Pentax *ist D2. Though the name on the front might read Samsung, the camera itself has the same sturdy, compact body, it packs the same feature set, and it delivers the same image quality as Pentax’s entry-level offering. They differ only in some minor cosmetic details, and the Samsung camera includes a different lens kit. The GX-1S represents Samsung’s debut in the DSLR market.

Overall, the GX-1S delivers perfectly acceptable prints for its target market. It has a 6.1-megapixel sensor that delivers up to 3,008 x 2,008 pixel images. The camera is compatible with all Pentax KAF mount lenses as well as Schneider’s D-Xenon series lenses. We tested the camera with its included lens kit – a Schneider f/3.5-5.6 18-55mm with a 28-84mm, 35mm equivalent focal length.

The Schneider lens is compact and the GX-1S delivers very good images, with nice colour and good contrast. The camera performs less well at capturing fine details, but depending on your typical print sizes, this may not matter that much. In our testing, we found low levels of noise up to ISO 400, and passable levels at 800 (though you’ll see noticeable noise artifacts, even when printing at small sizes). But 1,600 ISO is not that useful unless you’re willing to accept very stylised, noisy and grungy images.

This simple design makes the camera very easy for beginners to learn and use, and its feature set provides all the options a beginner-to-intermediate photographer would want so it will be a while before you outgrew this camera. The GX-1S includes a full assortment of Priority and Manual modes, as well as auto bracketing, drive modes, adjustable ISOs (from 100 to 1,600 in 1-stop increments), three metering modes, plus raw format.

The camera’s control layout is so simple because many of its controls have been relegated to in-camera menus. While essential controls such as shooting mode and exposure compensation can be accessed via external controls, any other adjustment will require a trip into the menu system, which can be a problem if you need to shoot quickly.

Secondary options such as ISO, white balance, Flash mode, and Metering mode are accessed by pressing a button on the back of the camera and then using the four-way rocker switch to select an option. This is not a bad mechanism, but it can be slow, and photographers who are used to making speedy adjustments will feel a little frustrated. Colour LCD screens can often be difficult to read in bright daylight, and though the GX-1S has a very good LCD, you might still find yourself squinting to make menu selections in bright situations.

OUR VERDICT

The Samsung Digimax GX-1S is a well-designed, capable camera for people who want to get started with a digital SLR. However, for a fairly comparable price, you can also buy the Canon EOS 250D, which offers more controls, better image quality and a larger selection of lenses. As with any digital SLR, it’s best to get your hands on the GX-1S before making a decision. Its small size and the thoughtful design may make it your first choice.

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