Review: Samsung 20mm f2.8 Pancake Lens (NX-Mount)

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Samsung has been making interesting moves in the in the photography world recently. Their NX cameras have all been really well designed and innovative so far. Along with these cameras, Samsung has also introduced some unusual but clever lenses. The 20mm f2.8 pancake lens is one of them: a small and simple wide-angle lens with an uncommon equivalent angle-of-view of 30mm. Read our review to find out how it fares in everyday use.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This lens is light and nimble.
  • The i-function button is a nice and easy way to adjust parameters.
  • The focal length works great for street photography.

Cons

  • The lens cap is easy to lose.

Gear Used

For this review, we used the 20mm f2.8 lens mounted to a Samsung NX300 camera body.

Tech Specs

These are taken from B&H product listing.

  • Focal length: 20mm
  • Aperture: f2.8-22
  • Min. focus distance: 6.7″ (17 cm)
  • Optical construction: 6 lens elements in 4 groups
  • Filter thread: 43mm

Ergonomics

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The Samsung 20mm f2.8 pancake lens has a minimalist design, both on the front and on the barrel. The front lens element is relatively small, and the rest of the front is dominated by the red and white brandings.

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The focus ring pulls double duty, it also works to control the i-Function button features. It’s easy to operate, even with gloves.

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The i-Function button might be a bit confusing when you’re new to Samsung’s cameras and lenses. I did not use at first, feeling a bit like Dede from Dexter’s Laboratory, “What does this button do? Oooh!”

Build Quality

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The 20mm f2.8 is lightweight and minimalist in design. It’s made of plastic and metal and overall seems to be well put together. Apart from the i-Function button and the focusing ring, there is nothing to fiddle with at all, so there’s not a lot that can potentially break.

Autofocus

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Autofocus with the Samsung 20mm f2.8 pancake lens is consistently fast and reliable. While on a photo walk, it was always quick to lock onto a subject. With the lens usually set to f11 on the streets, the subjects were all mostly in focus anyway. Still, wherever the focus point landed, the lens nailed focus right way. Indoors where the light changes and is often more dim than on the outside, the performance of the lens did not change much. It was still fast and reliable in a coffee house, enabling a quick snap.

Ease of Use

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The only thing you have to learn with this lens is how the i-Function button works. It’s an innovative new button that allows you access aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and the like, and changing them with the focus ring. That was actually sort of cool, and a new experience for me. Once you get used to it, the lens becomes a treat to use.

Image Quality

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The Image quality provided by this lens is good overall. There’s little to complain about. Right from when I put the lens on the camera, I was surprised with how well it worked. I put my usual camera down and walked around with the Samsung NX300 and the 20mm f2.8 for about a week to get a feel for it, and was always happy with the results.

Bokeh

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The bokeh is better than I initially assumed. For me that really pays dividends. I got up close to my subject, the camera focused, and I was happy.  Bokeh from the 20mm f2.8 is smooth and rather clean. For a wide-angle lens, there’s very little distortion even when up close to a subject.

Sharpness

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Wide open, the sharpness of the 20mm f2.8 is acceptable but not stellar. However, when you stop the aperture down past f5.6, sharpness improves a lot. I loved using this lens as a landscape lens and on photo walks due to its good sharpness stopped down.

Color Fringing

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There was very little color fringing noticeable in the pictures we took during the review period. Even when shooting in the snow, any kind of fringing was barely noticeable.

Color Rendering

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The colors straight out of the camera are very nice with the Samsung 20mm f2.8 pancake lens. The images can be used straight out of the camera with no problems, and can be uploaded to the internet via a phone without any retouching. Skin tones are rendered decently with this lens. Overall, the colors and the contrast are decent as well.

Additional Sample Images

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 Conclusions

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With the Samsung 20mm f2.8 pancake lens you get a nicely designed piece of glass. It’s small, light, easy to use and provides solid image quality, which makes is an ideal landscape and street photography lens. The i-Function button is one of the most innovative things I’ve seen on a lens in a while. The added functionality makes it a joy to use in fast pace situations. In the snow walking through a forest, on the streets of the city, or inside a coffee house this lens works very well. Overall, it is very versatile and great value.

 Recommended Cameras and Accessories

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.