Samsung Samsung EX1 / TL500 - Panasonic LX3 Bokeh Shootout


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There was a time when advanced small sensor cameras had fast lenses. The Olympus E-4040, Canon G6, and Panasonic LC1 come to mind, amongst many others. Yet there were some dark times for a few years when the brightest lenses we saw from mainstream companies were f/2.8 and slower. Ricoh carried the torch, keeping fast lenses and RAW in their high end compacts, while giants Canon and Nikon went with ever slower lenses and even dropped RAW from their high end compacts for a spell.

We can thank Panasonic for bringing speed back to the mainstream with the LX3, and now Canon and Samsung have joined in the fun, adding bright zoom lenses to their advanced small sensor compact cameras. With speed comes the ability to get a bit of background blur without going far into the telephoto range. Both the LX3 and the new Samsung EX1 are capable of rendering relatively narrow DOF in the short telephoto range, and I thought it would be interesting to compare the quality of their out-of-focus blur (bokeh).

Thanks to B&H Photo for providing both of these cameras for ongoing testing on Serious Compacts.

For the purposes of this controlled bokeh shootout, I used both cameras at 60mm equivalent focal length and kept the subject distance fixed. I'll present three resized images with 50% crop bokeh comparisons from the LX3 at f/2.8, the EX1 at f/2.8, and the EX1 at f/2.3 (fastest available aperture at that zoom setting).

Image #1:


50% bokeh crops:


Image #2


50% bokeh crops:


Image #3:


50% bokeh crops:


The differences are subtle, and it isn't often that you'll see this much background blur with either of these cameras. However, when you do get some blur, the little Samsung renders some of the prettiest bokeh around, at least to me.

Here are the full-res JPEGs:

View attachment 277View attachment 276View attachment 278

Thanks to B&H for the loaner. If you're interested in either of these cameras, you can support this blog (and our ability to get gear to test) by buying using these links:

So the Samsung produces soft blur. Is it soft all over? Stay tuned ;).
The other standout feature of the TL500 is undoubtedly its rear screen - not only does it have a fully articulated screen, it also has the excellent VGA-equivalent OLED screen we first saw on the NX10. In principle OLED screens can be more efficient and offer greater contrast than LCD panels because they can selectively light just the pixels that need to be illuminated. They also promise greater viewing angles.

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