Review: Samsung 16-50mm f2-2.8 (NX Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review (1 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

When Samsung first announced their 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens, we were incredibly excited that they offered something quite different from their previous products. The last very serious lens that they released was their 85mm f1.4, but now the company boasts a whole new level of professional quality–or at least that was the intent.

Samsung’s 16-50mm f2-2.8 incorporates weather sealing into the design, which works perfectly with the company’s NX30 camera. It also is quite a beefy optic to hold while shooting. But beyond this, the lens was designed with 9 aperture blades and 18 elements in 12 groups. And at its pretty hefty cost, we can gladly say that this is one of the best lenses that we’ve tested for street photography.

But as we all know, a lens system works with the cameras that are available to it.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (4 of 17)ISO 16001-250 sec at f - 2.8

Pros

– Very sharp image quality

– Pretty good bokeh

– Nice build

– Weather sealing

– Not a terrible large amount of distortion outside of the wide angle range

– Fast to focus

Cons

– Pricey

– A bit unbalanced with most of the company’s cameras

– Distortion on the wide side of the lens can be a bit annoying to work with in post-production

Gear Used

We tested the Samsung 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens with the Galaxy NX and the Adorama Flashpoint Streaklight set off by PocketWizard Plus III transceivers.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 16 – 50mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 24.6 – 77 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2 – 2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Samsung NX
Format Compatibility APS-C
Angle of View 82.6° – 31.4°
Minimum Focus Distance .98′ (.3 m)
Magnification 0.19x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:5
Elements/Groups 18/12
Diaphragm Blades 9
Features
Image Stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread 72 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.19 x 3.80″ (81 x 96.5 mm)
Weight 1.32 lb (.6 kg)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review (3 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Samsung’s 16-50mm f2-2.8 is quite the looker–and by that we mean that it is a beautiful lens that looks like Zeiss would have made it. Instead, the Korean manufacturer has taken their own route to making themselves stand out.

For the ergonomic tour of this lens, we start with the front element. It can be protected by the lens hood and you should also note that it doesn’t really protrude out of the body very much at all.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review (6 of 6)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 4.0

The lens’s body is dominated mostly by two rings. The front ring is the focusing ring that when used with the iFunction button on the side of the lens can control parameters like aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation. The back ring controls the zooming function.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review (4 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

On the side of the lens is where you can find said iFunction button along with two other switches. These switches are AF/MF and OIS. For what it’s worth, we found the OIS to be very effective.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review (5 of 6)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 4.0

When the lens zooms in and out, it extends for only a bit. When the lens hood is attached though, the lens seems to be much bigger than it really is.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (16 of 17)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 2.5

Samsung designed this lens with weather sealing in mind; and that is reflected partially in the build quality. This lens is a whole new level of beefy–we’re talking about whole, hearty, Campbell’s tomato soup beefy. Both focusing and zoom rings feel great in the hand when twisting them. In fact, we believe that they feel something like Canon’s L glass.

Autofocus

During our tests, we found the 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens to be very fast to focus and any issues that we had occurred because our Galaxy NX sometimes lags behind.

Ease of Use

Samsung’s lenses have always been a bit different to operate than standard lenses. For example, the lenses have a button on them that when pressed and used in combination with a dial can change settings. This lens is no exception to the rule and as long as the consumer keeps this in mind then they shouldn’t have too much of a problem with them.

Image Quality

The Samsung 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens is for sure the company’s best zoom lens in more ways than one. Surely we can start with the image quality. In our field tests, we found the sharpness to be incredibly good. If we had to compare it to anything, we would put it right up there with Sony and Olympus. However, we believe that Fujifilm has offerings better than this.

Then you need to consider things like bokeh: and this lens isn’t really a slouch when it comes to that parameter–though you’ll only really see it at the longer end of the lens.

Overall though, there is very little to complain about when it comes to image quality.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (13 of 17)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 2.0

We were always aware that Samsung produced good lenses, but we were even more blown away by what the 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens was capable of doing when it came to sharpness. The Galaxy NX’s LCD screen displays the images as super sharp to begin with but when you look at them on the computer you literally need to rub your eyes.

This lens is one of the best street photography lenses that we’ve ever tested, and the sharpness is only one factor that makes us believe this fact. When coupled with the fast focusing from Samsung’s cameras, you’ll achieve some tack sharp and crystal clear moments.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (14 of 17)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 2.0

Though this lens is a wide angle-normal offering, it is still surely possible to get bokeh. And while the bokeh isn’t anywhere as glorious at the company’s 85mm f1.4, it surely isn’t a slouch. For what it’s worth though, we’ve seen better from competing offerings despite the fact that it still isn’t at all terrible. This lens has nine aperture blades, but we still think that the bokeh from it could have been better.

What we can surely say though is that the lens seems to have a bit of micro-contrast added to make in-focus subjects pop out even more.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (11 of 17)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 4.5

Something that we’ve always really appreciated about Samsung lenses in combination with their sensors is their color rendition. However, this only applies to JPEG images. As such, JPEGs from the camera are bright, punchy and full of lively colors. When the RAW files come out, you’re still able to get much more out of it. For what it’s worth, we found the colors from this lens to be very Nikon-like in appearance and structure. If you’re a fan of Nikon’s colors, then you’ll like this lens. But Nikon now offers the least punchy colors in our opinion and experience.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (7 of 17)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 2.8

In our tests, we didn’t find very much color fringing. Indeed, Samsung did a great job at eliminating this problem. Further, in our edits we even weren’t able to create any fringing even when pushing the contrast quite a bit.

Extra Image Samples

Here are some extra image samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (1 of 17)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (5 of 17)ISO 16001-60 sec at f - 2.8
Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (9 of 17)ISO 4001-1600 sec at f - 4.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (10 of 17)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 4.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (12 of 17)ISO 4001-1600 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (15 of 17)ISO 4001-1600 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (17 of 17)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 16-50mm lens review images (6 of 17)ISO 16001-1600 sec at f - 2.8

Conclusions

Likes

– Beefy build quality

– Nice feel in the hand

– Weather sealing

– Decent range for walking about

Dislikes

– A bit too big for our liking based on the size of Samsung’s cameras

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

 

Samsung’s 16-50mm f2-2.8 lens has a lot going for it. Though Samsung states that they are #2 in mirrorless sales in the US, there is still a lot of bashing going on for the system–which really doesn’t deserve it. This lens exhibits excellent sharpness, great fringing control, and okay bokeh and color rendering. All of this is balanced out by a great feel and weather sealing. Indeed, it is the best zoom lens that we’ve tested for street photography.

However, a camera’s lenses are only as good as its system. And for what it’s worth, Samsung has been operating with pretty much the same sensor for many years now with tweaks to the processor and slight focusing tweaks. We believe that the company needs to come out with an even better sensor, processor and camera to really take the full advantage.

And then there is that $1,299 price tag. Samsung already has some great prime lenses, but we’re not so sure about needing such a high end zoom for every day use.

With that said, we award Samsung’s 16-50mm f2-2.8 4 out of five stars. This rating may change if the company releases a new sensor.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung NX30 first impressions photos (5 of 11)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Samsung NX30: The company’s flagship mirrorless camera is by far the best option to use this lens with. It is the only weather sealed camera as of the publishing of this review.