Saturday, December 14, 2013

Samsung NX300 - Lens Priority

The first thing to note is that in Lens Priority the iFn feature only has two options: iDepth and iZoom. But, if you have selected RAW as your format then only iDepth is available.  To use iZoom you have to change your format to JPEG only (not even RAW+JPEG format will work).  iFn is only available on lenses with the iFn button (the 30mm, which is a great lens, doesn't have this function but the 16mm and 20mm do).

Unlike the other shooting modes P, A, S and M where you use the iFn function to select aperture, shutter etc, in Priority Mode while you use iDepth or iZoom the camera adjusts the shutter and aperture accordingly.

iDepth allows you to blur or sharpen the background i.e. adjusting your Depth of Field.  You can either choose to have the background as sharp as the foreground or blur out the background to "focus" the interest on the subject or object in the foreground.

iZoom is an interesting feature that allows you to digitally zoom in as well as physically use the zoom capabilities of your lens.  For example.  I can zoom in as far as the lens will allow on a subject some distance away and then digitally zoom in even further.  iZoom is supposed to be less degrading on the photos than the typical digital zoom but the resolution can change in comparison to zooming in just using the rotating ring.

iZoom and iDepth are disabled during 3D mode and 3D auto mode.  While the manual indicated that iZoom can't be used during video, it didn't say whether or not iDepth can be used in video but I can't seem to get it to work.  I also can't seem to find clear info about this on the net.  iZoom is also not available when capturing burst shots.

In P, A, S and M modes the iFn function can be customised so that you can select what you options you want when using the iFn feature.  The feature can't be used with 3D.

Using the iZoom feature.
In this photo I didn't zoom in with the lens or iZoom.  I wanted to show the difference starting off with the min focal length of the 18-55mm lens at 18mm.

Here the focal length is at its max of 55mm zoomed in just using the lens.

And here is where iZoom comes into play.  I used the max zoom allowed with iZoom at 2x.

On the pc I zoomed in 200% on the iZoom photo and found that degradation was kept quite low.  Although at two different zooms, there was less pixelation on the iZoom photo than on the 55mm lens zoom photo.

Using iDepth feature.
Here I started with the photo where the background was as sharp as the foreground and practically everything was in focus.

Here you can see the impact.  This is the max blurring applied and the background plus a few elements (like the ball in her hand) has been blurred out due to shallow depth of field.  This feature can make your subject or object stand out.

How do you use the iDepth and iZoom features?  

You need to use the mode dial on the top and select the i icon.  Compose, press the iFn button and a menu at the bottom will show.  

Here you can select iDepth or iZoom by using the left and right navigation buttons (drive and AF button). You then can either use the focus ring to change the setting or the jog dial (the same jog dial that you use to change shutter/aperture). You can refocus if need be and take the shot.

As zooming in digitally can create artifacts in the photo I'm guessing the iZoom feature was kept to JPEG photos as the photos are processed in camera where these artifacts are removed.  With RAW the camera records everything and removes nothing.

I don't know if I will completely take to the Lens Priority mode as I prefer to have control over shutter and aperture.  But, I do like the ability to zoom in further with iZoom and even though I prefer RAW over JPEG, I can make an exception here.

Next up, Smart Mode.

UPDATE:  thought I'd add this for anyone who loves taking photos of insects e.g. butterflies but can't afford the luxury of a macro lens.  While there is a Macro Feature on the camera, I think Lens Priority is a better choice as long as you have a lens capable of the iFn feature.  The standard 18-55mm kit lens is one of those lenses whereas the 30mm fixed prime isn't.

Lately we have had more butterflies in South Africa this Winter than we have had in the last couple of years.  I usually favour my Canon 650D and 100mm macro lens for more detail, sharpness and reach.  
But this time round I gave my Samsung NX300 and 18-55mm lens a try and these are the results. Just remember, the iZoom feature won't work with RAW format so you need to change over to JPEG (I usually choose Super Fine).

So you can turn your 18-55mm lens into a "macro".  It obviously won't match up to a macro lens but the 18-55mm is good enough to produce more than decent results. Just remember that you won't be able to get too close, but still close enough :-P. 

How to do this?

Quick Tutorial:

Make sure you have a iFn capable lens, the Quality (under the Menu setting) set to Super Fine.

For other settings under Menu this is what I have:
AF Mode - SAF
AF Area - Multi AF
MF Assist - Enlarge x5
Focus Peaking - Level set to High, Color set to White
Touch AF - Touch AF
OIS - Mode 1 (remember to turn this off if you are using a tripod or something to stabalise the camera as OIS will work against you here)
Drive - Continuous High
Flash - Off

The camera handles aperture, shutter and iso so you don't have to worry about that.  Keep in mind that the aperture will only go as far as the lens allows i.e. on the 18-55mm lens when zoomed out the aperture doesn't go past f5.6.  This can mean a shallow depth of field depending on the lens but f5.6 is ok for the purpose.

Find your subject/object, get as close as you can then zoom in as far as needed (or all the way to 55mm if you can't get closer).  Use the zoom ring closest to the camera, the larger one of the two (there is a smaller one on the end of the lens).

Now press the iFn button on the lens and you will see the same menu screen as above with the iDepth and iZoom, use the navigation buttons to move to iZoom (the right button is the AF).

Turn the smaller ring on the lens to increase the zoom value (I tend to go overboard and go for 2x), which is whatever you are happy with and how close you want to be.  Half press the shutter button to focus or touch the screen to place the focus where you want.  Quickly half press the shutter button again to retain that focus then all the way down to take a shot.

Don't wait too long after using the iZoom to focus and take a shot because the camera gives you a few second before you have to select the feature again by pressing the iFn button.

Have fun!


  1. Thank you for a lot of useful tips ! :)

  2. It was really useful, you have done a better job than the Samsung team explaining this feature. It makes a lot of difference for a beginner like me. Thanks.