Overall, focusing with the EX1 is fast and accurate. You can even set it to manual focus and use the ring control on the back to get your subject in focus. What we love most is the selectable focus point, which allows you to pick from 45 focus points on the screen. However, you can't select a focus point on the far edges of the frame.
An example of the depth of field at f/1.8 using macro mode.
Despite the noise and some softness, the overall picture quality of the EX1 can be quite good. Colours come out rich and bright for the most part (especially if you use the vibrant setting, although we found that we couldn't use the selectable focus point while in this setting) and the clarity of photos is good when viewing at a high-definition resolution. We did notice some purple fringing though, and there is also some lens distortion at the wide angle (24mm), which can make things look more slender than they really are. The softness was especially evident around bright areas of photographs and it's similar to what we saw in the Canon PowerShot G11, which is also a 10-megapixel compact camera with a 1/1.7-inch sensor size.
The EX1 captures colours accurately for the most part, and the built-in colour settings can be used to give your photos a bit more 'pop'. This shot was taken as the sun was about to set. We used ISO 100, f/2.4 and a 1/30sec shutter in manual mode. Even at such a low ISO setting, there is still some noise noticeable in the sky.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Samsung EX1 is its ease of use. There are separate physical controls for the shutter and aperture settings, you can easily change ISO speed and you can access all of the main settings (such as white balance and focus mode) by pressing the Fn button on the back to bring up the quick menu. The quick and main menus are both supremely easy to use. There is a separate dial for selecting the shooting setting (single, burst, bracketing and timer) although when using the timer setting you have to remember to switch the dial back to normal (single) mode. The power button is located in the centre of this dial and is very easy to overlook when you first use the camera.
The hinged, three-inch AMOLED is very bright and crisp. It also gives you a live preview of what your image looks like according to the exposure settings you selected. You also get a built-in, pop-up flash and a hot-shoe, but there is no built-in optical viewfinder. All up though, the Samsung EX1 is a lot of fun to use and it will capture very good photos more often that not.
The Samsung EX1 has a fast f/1.8 lens and manual controls that make it a good choice for an enthusiast or professional photographer who wants a fully manual but small camera for casual shoots. It supplied great depth of field during our tests, and it can take vibrant looking photos. However it does have some problems with noise, even at low ISO speeds. Despite this, its asking price and excellent ease of use definitely make it a manual camera to consider.