To say there is competition between Samsung and Panasonic is something of an understatement. They are the Chelsea and Arsenal of the consumer electronics world, arch rivals in almost every field in which they operate, and not least in the area of digital cameras. Samsung entered the digital camera market a year later than Panasonic, and at least at first didn't seem to take the new technology seriously, whereas Panasonic was producing top-quality cameras as early as 2001. As a result Samsung has been playing catch-up, launching cameras to compete with specific Panasonic models, such as its compact NX system which competes directly with Panasonic's G-Micro system, or the WB650 which is a direct rival for the Lumix TZ10. Samsung has also launched a camera that is a close match for one of Panasonic's strongest model lines, the high-end compact LX series.
The Samsung EX1 was launched in February this year, several months before Panasonic announced the Lumix LX5, and so it should be seen more as a response to and rival for the LX3, however it is an exceptionally well-specified camera and compares well to the newer LX5 also. It features a 10-megapixel 1/1.7-inch (1.09cm) CCD sensor (the same size and resolution as the LX3, the LX5 and the Canon PowerShot G12 and S95), a fully-articulated 7.62cm (3.0-inch) AMOLED monitor with a resolution of 307,000 dots (VGA), and a superb 3x zoom Schneider-Kreuznach lens with a focal length equivalent to 24-72mm and a maximum aperture of f/1.8, making it the fastest lens on any current digital compact, beating the f/2.0 optics of the LX5 and S95.
With the EX1 Samsung has pulled out all the stops to produce a semi-pro compact that can compete on equal terms with the established brands in the field. It is extremely solidly built, with a strong all-metal body, good secure handling, a comprehensive array of well designed controls, Raw mode shooting, and fast, efficient performance. It is an extremely impressive camera by any standard, but one of the most remarkable things about it is the price. The Panasonic LX5 is currently selling for around £360, while the Canon G12 will cost you a hefty £390. Even the compact Canon S95 is selling for around £300, however thanks to its immense industrial manufacturing capacity Samsung is able to put the EX1 into the shops for around £280. It is, to coin an over-used phrase, a lot of camera for the money.