Samsung Digimax GX-1S Digital SLR

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, small body, it packs the same feature set, and it delivers the same image quality as Pentax’s latest 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 digital SLR 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-by-2,008-pixel images. The camera is compatible with all Pentax KAF mount lenses as well as Schneider’s D-Xenon series lenses. I 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 color and good contrast. The camera performs less well at capturing fine details, but depending on your typical print sizes, this may not matter. In my testing, I 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 very useful unless you’re willing to accept very stylized, noisy, grungy images.

The GX-1S is a well-built, well-designed camera that is very small, but doesn’t feel cramped. Even if you have large hands, you will be able to get a firm, comfortable grip on the camera. The controls are very simple: it has a power switch, a mode-selection dial, and exposure compensation control on the top, alongside a status LCD. The back of the camera holds a bright, 2.5-inch LCD screen, some button controls, and a four-way rocker switch to select further options.

This simple design makes the camera very easy for beginners to learn and use, but its feature set provides all of the options a beginning to intermediate photographer would want. It 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, and 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 like 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 may feel a little frustrated. Color LCD screens can be difficult to read in bright daylight, and though the GX-1S has a very good LCD, you might find yourself squinting to make menu selections in bright situations.

Performance

Image Quality Good
Battery Life Excellent

Scale= Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

The image-quality rating of the camera is based upon a panel of judges’ opinions in five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall. Battery life testers follow a precise script, including shots with and without flash, until the battery dies.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

Specifications

Resolution 6.1 megapixel
Zoom/Focal Length 28-84mm (35mm equivalent)
Battery Type AA
Media Slots Secure Digital (1)
Size (wxhxd) 4.9 x 3.7 x 2.7
Weight 1.8 lbs

Macworld’s buying advice

The Samsung Digimax GX-1S is a well-designed, capable camera for people who want a digital SLR. However, for a fairly comparable price, you can also buy the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (   , July 2005 ) which offers more controls, better image quality, a larger selection of lenses. As with any DSLR, it’s best to get your hands on the GX-1S before making a decision. Its small size and thoughtful design may make it your first choice.

[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography, 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]

Samsung Digimax GX-1S

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