Sometimes, looks are not deceiving. Our lab tests showed that, just as Samsung has admitted, the company's first digital SLR is a Pentax *ist DS2, with a new badge. In this case, that's a good thing for the South Korean giant, which desperately wants in on the dSLR market. Plus--for now at least--it should be a boon to Pentax's lens sales. It also marks the beginning of what will be a very interesting next few years, as giant electronics companies, such as Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic, start marketing digital SLRs.
In terms of design, features, performance, and even image quality, the Samsung GX-1S is exactly the same as the Pentax *ist DS2, so see our review of that camera for details. Samsung did change an icon or two here and there, such as changing Pentax's smiley face to a camera on the scene-mode dial, but the functions remain the same. Many controls, even commonly used functions such as ISO, white balance, drive mode, and flash mode are accessed through menus. Advanced shooters that use these functions often may find this arrangement cumbersome.
If you've got large hands, take note that the GX-1S measures a modest 4.9 by 3.6 by 2.6 inches without a lens. Even users with smaller hands will find that their pinkie finger hangs below the grip. It didn't cause a problem when shooting, but it feels odd compared to most SLRs. On the plus side, that also means you can get away with a smaller camera bag.
We were very impressed with images from the GX-1S. Colors were well saturated but not overly so, and in-focus areas exhibited sharp edges. Noise was minimal at ISO 200 and ISO 400. By ISO 800, noise became noticeable with colored specks invading shadows. At ISO 1,600, noise was prominent; at ISO 3,200, it was rampant. We noticed chromatic aberration (fringing around certain edges) only in some very high-contrast images.
Most people will be happy with the Samsung GX-1S, especially if they are stepping up from a point-and-shoot. Like most entry-level dSLRs, it provides a level of versatility and picture quality that should more than satisfy the majority of amateur photographers.
Editor's note: The overall rating in this review has been corrected to use the appropriate weighted average for its category; as a result, it drops from 7.2 to 7.1.