Samsung's first digital SLR has a 24-million-lens headstart.
Autofocusing speed is slower than that of other cameras in this class, notably the Nikon D50 and Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, but the AF has good sensitivity, able to autofocus down to a very dim EV 0.
In addition to conventional exposure modes (all-auto, program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual) and scene modes (Action, Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Close-up), the camera has Auto SCN, Samsung's name for the Pentax Auto Pict mode. In this setting, the camera analyzes movement, subject distance, and other factors to automatically choose...which scene mode to set!
While it may sound like overkill, it works seamlessly and is a good choice for an outright beginner.
As we've noted with the Pentax variants of this camera, the external control simplicity of the GX-1S comes at the expense of more menu surfing for many controls. The function button serves as a fast menu for white balance, ISO setting, drive modes, and flash modes.
Other settings, including the flash exposure compensation, autofocus settings, and meter modes, require forays into the menus. Like its Pentax cousins, the Samsung menu contractions include such arcana as "Swtch dst msr pt" and "Mag to Strt Zm Plybk."
The info button on the back of the camera shows all the current settings of the camera at a glance. In playback, it displays all the setting info of the frame being displayed, which can be toggled with a histogram display and highlight warning.
Special-effects filters -- black-and-white, sepia, soft focus, stretch/squeeze -- can be added afterwards to a shot without altering the original file.
Two Schneider-branded digital-only lenses -- the 18-55mm kit lens and a 50-200mm f/4-5.6 -- are being offered. While these two zooms appear to be optically identical to Pentax versions, and are, like the Pentax optics, manufactured in Vietnam, Samsung would not say whether the lenses differed in any substantive way.
The GX-1S also accepts all Pentax DSLR and current film SLR lenses, with a 35mm lens factor of 1.5X, as well as a horde of older Pentax optics with varying degrees of functionality (see "Optical Profusion" sidebar).
It works with Samsung and Pentax accessory flash units for TTL flash. (The Samsung SEF-36PZF flash is identical to the Pentax AF-360FGZ.) While the built-in unit cannot be used as a TTL trigger, use of a Samsung/Pentax flash in the accessory shoe can provide wireless TTL automation with one or more units off-camera.
nPower comes from four AA batteries or two CRV3 lithiums; it ships with alkaline batteries rather than rechargeable NiMHs. The GX-1S lacks program shift and a PC flash terminal.