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My Christmas present arrived early this year. It was just what I wanted, a Samsung NX200 20+ megapixel camera. It looked beautiful coming out of the box. I put it all together, and dutifully read the entire manual which was remarkably long and detailed without really giving much of a clue as to how to actually take pictures. The viewing screen was amazingly clear, colorful and sharp, but that had a downside because the information bar at the bottom had some vitally important details like the film speed in a micro-type so small I could barely make it out when trying. This was important because I was shooting a fixed aperture F-8 and let the film speed float. Other than that tiny detail I liked everything about the camera except the lens itself.

The lens was bigger and heavier than the rest of the camera, which itself was only a little larger than the point and shoot Samsung ST700 which this new camera was supposed to replace. The removable optically stabilized zoom lens may be a miracle of the modern world but this particular lens was faulty from the manufacturer. At maximum aperture the right edge was very blurry, and if looked very carefully at the blur it could still be seen half way to the center of the picture. The center itself and the left side out to very close to the edge was very sharp. Another serious problem which is inherent in zoom lenses was the barrel distortion at wide angle zooming out to pincushion distortion at long lens range, and the lens was only reasonably flat in the mid-range. Those zoom problems can be largely fixed in post production, but at the loss of some quality. With the huge megapixel sensor there is some flexibility with image loss from these sorts of things. Camera blur can never be wholly compensated for even with the amazing program Focus Magic. That program can handle several pixels of motion blur and a couple of pixels of out of focus, but it couldn’t compensate for the blur from this lens.

So I and Santa’s little helper carefully reboxed the camera exactly as it arrived and drove to UPS and shipped it back. No tears but a little sadness because I was starting to appreciate the good things this camera provided. One thing I discovered was that I move the camera when taking a shot. The old rule of thumb with a 35 mm camera was – the minimum shutter speed equals the focal length. Thus a wide angle lens like a 30mm could be hand held at 1/30th second and a longish 100 mm lens could be hand held at 1/100th second. My camera motion became easily discovered when the camera was set to take multiple shots. This camera could do up to nine high resolution shots per second with a single button press, but I was using it at three frames per press. When I compared the three exposures on the computer screen I could usually see one picture was sharper. In really low light, candle light from two meters, with 12,000 ISO the exposures are long but doable, especially when hand is braced and held very still. The camera has optical image stabilization and digital stabilization so with a wide angle lens setting, dim light pictures were doable. Having multiple exposures increases the likelihood that even in the extreme low light shooting situation there will be a sharp picture. Of course this isn’t for quick shots.

My adaptation to the blurry lens was to stop down, but when shooting a brick wall for a test I could still see noticeable blur even at f-8. F-16 seemed quite sharp but that means shooting at a higher ISO, except on a sunny day, which means more grain. Why carry around a huge hunk of glass that can never be used? So I asked Santa to take it back. We hope for a full refund as promised, but there will probably be a month before I see another camera return from the cycle.

The internet is wonderful, and sometimes quick, but sometimes very slow.

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