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Samsung’s low light 3D lens is so many kinds of awesome

By Leigh D. Stark | 6:03 pm 17/01/2013

One of the coolest things we saw at the Consumer Electronics Show year was a lens. Sure, there was a hot oven and some big new TVs, but Samsung has a new 3D lens to go with its new NX300 camera, and it is as clever as it is cool.

I’ll come out and say it before we start: I don’t really get 3D photography.

Sure, 3D movies can be very cool to watch, provided you’re viewing on a decent set, but we haven’t seen many people at home really get that whole depth thing right when they’re capturing home movies.

There are so many times when we’d just prefer to stick on a pair of single channel glasses and bypass the 3D picture, viewing something in good ‘ol trusted two dimensions.

So 3D photos haven’t ever really grabbed us. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to seeing 2D images that it has become the tried and true norm for us.

Theoretically, movies sound like a better premise for 3D because the camera is changing, shifting around a view point and adding – sometimes – a story into the equation, making it possible for a 3D scene to be more than just stuck in one position, where it would be for a three dimensional photo.

But regardless of what grabs us or not, the technology used in Samsung’s new low-light 3D lens is quite clever.

Designed for the new range of mirror-less NX cameras, starting with the retro-trimmed NX300, the NX 45mm f/1.8 lens is a 3D capable addition to a camera that can shoot in standard 2D mode or in the slightly more depth-friendly 3D mode.

Up until this point, we haven’t seen many digital interchangeable lens cameras with 3D lenses. Off the top of our heads, there’s a Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds lens that has two lenses inside itself and a minimum aperture of f/12, which is a lot of light required to take an image, when you think about it.

But with Samsung’s new lens taking an aperture of f/1.8, that’s a lens that can work in situations without a lot of light, and since we generally use f/1.4 lenses on our own cameras, it’s something we completely get.

A lower aperture on a lens doesn’t just mean more usefulness in low light, but more depth control, and the ability to take portrait shots with creamy backgrounds that drop to a softer focus.

Throwing both of these technologies in the one certainly had us intrigued, so we asked to see how it worked.

While we’re not sure if the American Samsung reps were keen to see our Aussie Samsung guy take off that lens to show us how it worked, if there had been a camera on us, you’d have seen this reporters eyes light up.

A lens with an extra lens inside of it, technically, dividing this lens into two and making it possible for the camera to receive two pictures – a left and a right – at the exact same time.

It’s a 3D lens, and yet you can flick a switch and make it into a 2D lens, both of these levels of dimensionality benefitting from the low light usefulness that an aperture of f/1.8 can achieve.

When the lens is sitting on a camera that’s plugged into a TV, you can see the 3D effect instantaneously. Our demo unit was aimed straight at us, and provided we were wearing our 3D glasses, we could see ourselves in 3D, like a mirror that wasn’t flat.

Thus we found out that here in this new lens, Samsung had worked out a way to not only make it possible to shoot true 3D in photography, but also in movies, because the NX300 it’s launching alongside also, of course, captures videos.

In fact, the NX300 seems like a decently spec’d shooter, including a 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor the same size as what’s normally found in most enthusiast DSLR cameras (APS), low-light sensitivity ranging from ISO 100 to 25600, and Full HD 1080p video capture that works across either 2D or 3D with this lens.

The only issue we have with the new 45mm lens is that it’s not yet compatible with other cameras in the NX range, although Samsung wouldn’t rule out this as a possibility later down the track.

Leigh D. Stark traveled to CES as a guest of LG Electronics Australia.

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