Samsung's first digital SLR has a 24-million-lens headstart.
It's funny how kids sometimes look a whole lot more like one parent than the other. Take the new Samsung Digimax GX-1S ($699, suggested retail, with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Schneider D-Xenon lens). The offspring of Samsung and Pentax, the GX-1S looks almost exactly like the Pentax *ist DS2, save for different badges on the camera and lens.
Of course, that makes perfect sense, given that virtually all the genetic material of the GX-1S comes from the Pentax model. As we noted in our May 2006 issue ("The Giants Are Here!!!"), the GX-series cameras represent Samsung's jump start in the digital SLR market in partnership with Pentax.
The company is expected eventually to produce DSLRs of its own design (possibly by autumn of this year), but for now the electronics behemoth is marketing clones of Pentax's 6-megapixel *ist DS/DL cameras. (Meanwhile, Pentax is concentrating on the new *ist DS-inspired K-series DSLRs -- see page 71 -- and the popular entry-level *ist DL, which sells for $550, street, with an 18-55mm lens.)
Samsung's use of the *ist DS platform isn't a bad thing. The GX-1S combines simple operation and fine ergonomics with sophisticated autofocusing and a good range of advanced controls in a lightweight, well-made body.
Similar to its Pentax twin, image quality of the GX-1S ranks Extremely High, with an average of resolution of 1,500 lines, plus Excellent color accuracy and stellar noise suppression -- it rated no higher than Very Low through ISO 1600, and just Moderately Low at ISO 3200.
But like its Pentax twins, the low noise at higher ISOs comes at the expense of about 10 percent loss of resolution. With its exceptionally low noise, moderate contrast, and accurate color, this new Samsung makes for smooth, creamy skin tones in people pictures, and clean shadows in available-light shots.
Here's a rundown of some of the camera's other characteristics:
nThe polycarbonate body is built over a stainless-steel chassis and lensmount, with a glass pentaprism; at 1.3 pounds (body only) it ranks as one of the lightest DSLRs in production.
nAn 11-zone autofocus array consists of nine cross-type sensors in a 3x3 grid, plus linear sensors at each side that act as sentry points for subjects moving across the frame. The AF system can be set (via menus) for autoselection of the focusing point, user selection, or central point only, and for single-frame or continuous AF.