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Samsung NX500 Review

Ben Andrews reviews the new Samsung NX500 - with a 28.2 megapixel APS-C BSI CMOS sensor, and 4K video recording, could this be the bargain mirrorless camera of the year?


|  Samsung NX500 in Mirrorless Cameras
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Samsung NX500 White (3)

The NX500 essentially takes the best tech from Samsung’s superb flagship NX1 interchangeable lens camera and crams it into a slimmer and sexier body. That means you get the same 28.2MP back-side illuminated APS-C sensor, 4K video recording and super-fast hybrid autofocussing system. A few advanced features such as the ability to output uncompressed 4K video via HDMI haven’t made the cut, but otherwise the NX500 shapes up as an ideal blend of performance and portability.

Samsung NX500 Features

Samsung NX500 White (5)

At the heart of the NX500 is the same 28.2MP APS-C-sized sensor found in the NX1. At the time of the NX500’s introduction, this is the largest back-side illuminated sensor in production, enabling better light sensitivity and reduced noise. The NX500 should also be just as capable as the NX1 in low light, thanks to a maximum standard sensor sensitivity of ISO25600 that’s expandable to ISO51200.

The NX500 also inherits the same NX AF System III autofocussing technology as the NX1. This hybrid focus system combines 205 phase-detection AF points (of which 153 are the more sensitive cross-type) with a further 209 contrast-detection points that cover an impressive 90% of the image sensor. Samsung is quoting a record-setting 0.055-second autofocus time for the NX500; just fast enough to beat the 0.06-second figure set by the rival Sony α6000.

Keen videographers will also love the NX500’s ability to shoot true 4K video (4096x2160 resolution) at 24fps, and also capture Ultra HD footage (3840x2160) at 30fps. These are again the same stats as you’ll find with the NX1, and the NX500 also uses the new HEVC H.265 video compression which consumes around half the file space as videos encoded in a conventional H.264 format.

However, the NX500 lacks the NX1’s ability to output uncompressed 4K video via HDMI and the two cameras also differ in their processing power. The NX500’s DRIMe Vs processor will allow a maximum 9fps continuous shooting speed, compared to the NX1’s 15fps.

Samsung NX500 White (1)

Other features sported by the NX500 include fast 802.11n Wi-Fi with NFC pairing for easy image sharing and remote camera control, plus there’s Bluetooth even more convenient connectivity.

Samsung Auto Shot mode is also present, which takes a typical subject-tracking autofocus system and enhances it to track two separate moving objects in frame, such as a ball travelling towards a moving bat or racket. The NX500 then detects the precise moment at which bat hits ball and snaps the perfect action shot.

Samsung NX500 White (6)
 

Key Features

  • 28.2 megapixel back-side illuminated APS-C sensor
  • ISO100-25600 (expandable to ISO51200)
  • 9fps continuous shooting
  • 1/6000-sec max shutter speed
  • 4K & UHD video with H.265 compression
  • Hybrid autofocus, 414 total AF points, 90% frame coverage
  • 0.055 max autofocus speed
  • 3.0” 1036-dot Super AMOLED display
  • Flip-up screen, touch sensitive
  • Wi-Fi with NFC pairing
  • Bluetooth
  • Separate hot-shoe flash module included
  • Available in black, white and brown colour options

Samsung NX500 Handling

Samsung NX500 White (8)

Samsung has gone to great lengths to ensure that the NX500’s compactness doesn’t compromise ergonomics. There’s a pronounced front grip that’s comfortable to grasp, even for those with large hands, and its leather-like covering adds a touch of class. On the rear of the camera is a good-sized thumb rest, yet Samsung has still managed to fit a command dial in alongside it.

You’ll also find a second command dial nestled into the brushed metal top panel, plus two customisable function buttons, one on the rear panel, and a second located on the side of the kit lens. Add the dedicated ISO button and you’ve got a decent amount of manual control. The only button that doesn’t fall easily to hand is the video record control, situated on the upper corner of the camera, out of reach of both finger and thumb.

But this is a minor criticism given the NX500’s impressive compactness. It’s just 119.5 x 63.6 x 42.4mm and weighs in at 341g, body only, with battery and memory card. This rises to 450g when the 16-50mm stabilised kit lens is attached, but that’s still 100g lighter than an empty NX1 body and makes the NX500 light enough to slip comfortably into a jacket pocket.

The most prominent external feature of the NX500 is its 3.0” flip-up screen that’s designed to make snapping a selfie a cinch. It’s touch-sensitive too, with great responsiveness that ensures you can pinpoint your preferred focus and exposure points with ease. The screen’s 1036-dot resolution is also impressively crisp, whilst the Super AMOLED display technology provides superb colour vibrancy and excellent black depth. Viewing angles are also outstanding and there’s enough brightness to overcome all but direct sunlight.

A good thing, as in an effort to keep the NX500 as compact as possible, there’s no electronic viewfinder. Samsung has also done away with a built-in flash, but you do get a cute colour-coordinated hot-shoe mounted flash module included with the camera that’s capable of a GN8 power rating.

Samsung NX500 White (11)

The NX500 is capable of 370 shots per charge. That’s fractionally more than the 360 shots that the Sony α6000 can manage and the 350-shot rating of the Fuji X-E2. It also compares well to the 320-shot capacity of both the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7.

Samsung NX500 White (9)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response 0.1secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.4secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.7secs
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.3secs
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
8.13fps (34 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 2.05fps
Continuous Shooting - RAW
(shots before slow down)
7.5fps (6 shots)

 

Samsung NX500 White (7)
 

Samsung NX500 Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Samsung NX500 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - With 28.2 megapixels on tap, the NX500 is capable of resolving very fine detail. Even in landscape shots where some cameras can slightly smear distant foliage, the NX500 generates crisp, realistic images.

Colour is also captured vibrantly yet accurately, whilst reliable exposure metering and wide dynamic range ensures plenty of highlight and shadow detail in high-contrast shots.

Samsung NX500 Lens test images

Lens Performance - The NX500’s standard kit lens is a 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 24.6-77mm. The lens produces a hint of barrel distortion at wide angle, but nothing that you’d notice in real-world shooting. There’s no perceivable pincushion distortion when zoomed in. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is almost non-existent, and sharpness levels are high, with only slight softening towards the corners of frame.

Autofocussing performance is extremely rapid in good lighting. Although we couldn’t quite match Samsung’s 0.055-second performance in real-world testing, the NX500 still locks on to your subject practically instantaneously. This pace is maintained in dimmer conditions, and it’s only in very low light where the AF-assist lamp is required that the camera occasionally needs a second or so to find its mark.

Samsung NX500 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The NX500 produces clean, noise-free images up to and including ISO800. At ISO1600 grain is slightly more visible, but still very well controlled. ISO3200 shots display slightly more grain and colour speckling is also becoming more apparent. There’s more of the same at ISO6400, but the camera still manages to maintain good detail levels and shots present well at this sensitivity, even when viewed at full resolution.

However, there’s a more marked downturn in image quality at ISO12800 where grain is far more prominent, especially across black and neutral tones. On the plus side, Samsung hasn’t tried to supress this with aggressive noise reduction processing, so detail is still fairly well resolved. ISO25600 and ISO51200 shots suffer badly from grain noise though and these sensitivities are best avoided.

Samsung NX500 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto white balance performs well under both tungsten and fluorescent lighting and the camera consistently produces a neutral colour balance. There’s a slight colour cast when using the manual fluorescent preset though, whilst the tungsten preset leaves a more obvious colour shift when shooting under tungsten lighting. The NX500 also has an Auto WB+Tungsten mode that automatically adjusts white balance except when shooting in tungsten lighting, and predictably this setting retains the warm hue of an incandescent light source.

Samsung NX500 Digital filters

Digital Filters - The NX500 has nine Picture Wizard filter effects which preview live and are recorded at full resolution. They are: Standard, Classic, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Forest, Retro, Cool and Calm. There are also three custom options for saving your own colour presets.

A panorama scene mode will automatically capture panoramas and allows you to stop panning at will, rather than being restricted to pre-set widths. Images are largely free from ghosting, though they are resized to around 1080 vertical pixels.

Video - Videos can be captured at resolutions ranging from VGA 640x480, through HD 720p and Full HD 1080p at 60fps, to Ultra HD 3840x2160 at 30fps. It’s worth noting that this resolution is misquoted by many camera, monitor and television manufactures as ‘4K’, however true 4K equates to 4096x2160 resolution, which is the NX500’s maximum video quality.

Even when recorded in the new H.265 High-efficiency Video Codec, our 21-second 4K test video consumed 94.7MB, equating to around 16GB for an hour of footage. You can download the original 4K video here: zip file (4096x2160, 24fps, 94MB), as YouTube does not yet support the NX500's video codec. The 4K video modes take a crop from the centre of the image, giving a telephoto effect, and an example of the crop area can be viewed here.

Value For Money

The Samsung NX500 costs £599/$799.99 with the 16-50mm lens. This is more than the Sony Alpha α6000 which can be had for around £530, and whilst this won’t record Ultra HD or 4K video, it does have an electronic viewfinder and a slightly faster continuous shooting rate. Other comparable mirrorless cameras include the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, both currently retailing for around £500 with a 14-42mm lens. A Fujifilm X-E2 with an 18-55mm lens will set you back £730.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Samsung NX500 Verdict

We were extremely impressed with the performance, features and image quality of the Samsung NX1, but there was one major drawback with that camera: its size. By taking many of the key components from the NX1 and packaging them in a smaller, lighter body, the NX500 is a camera almost without compromise.

Image quality is superb, with excellent detail levels and well controlled noise levels right up to ISO6400. Video performance is also impressive, especially for this size of camera, as 4K recording has traditionally been associated in this sector with larger cameras like the NX1 and Panasonic Lumix GH4.

The NX500 offers even more value for money with its extensive wireless connectivity options and high Super AMOLED screen quality with touch sensitivity. Its tilting capability is arguably less important, but is handy nonetheless.

Cramming so much into such a small and light design is impressive, but it’s not without compromises. Unlike the Sony Alpha α6000, there’s no EVF or built-in flash, though the NX500’s included hot-shoe mounted flash unit is relatively powerful and recycles quickly. The new H.265 video compression format also has its issues, as whilst it provides excellent compression quality, it’s not currently as compatible with TV’s and computer video software as the more commonplace H.264 format.

Some may also miss the features that didn’t make the transition to the NX500 from the NX1, like the NX1’s faster continuous shooting rate and ability to output uncompressed 4K video, but it’s fair to assume these omissions won’t bother the vast majority of NX500 buyers.

If you’re after a small interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t compromise on image or video quality and is also packed with features, the NX500 is a great buy that offers superb value for money.

Samsung NX500 Pros

Excellent image quality
UHD & 4K video
Fast, accurate autofocussing
Wi-Fi, NFC & Bluetooth
High screen quality
Tiltable, touch-sensitive screen
Compact size
Manual controls
Good battery life

Samsung NX500 Cons

No EVF
No built-in flash
H.265 video codec compatibility issues

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Samsung NX500 is a great buy that offers superb value for money with excellent image quality, and 4K video recording.

Buy Online Now

 

Samsung NX500 Specifications

ManufacturerSamsung
Image Sensor
Pixels28Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)6480
Pixels (H)4320
Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution1036
Touch ScreenYes
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Centre
  • Touch AF
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/6000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program Variable
Metering
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity100 - 51200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
Viewfinder
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 4K
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS4K 24fps, UHD 30fps, FullHD 60/50/30/25/24fps
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Wi-FiYes
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery Type1130mAh Lithium-Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)370shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsiLauncher, Power Media Player, Samsung Movie Converter, Samsung Raw Converter, Samsung DNG converter
Dimensions
Weight341g
Width119.5mm
Height63.6mm
Depth42.4mm

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Photographs taken using the Samsung NX500

Stalker CastleDark Hair BeautyNatureWinter natureEmerald BackwashNatureOld timeold timeOld mountain farmBirdLandscapeNatureDog potraitReflections

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Comments


There doesn't appear to be any mention of RAW buffer performance or the well known 4k cropping issues.... strange

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joshwa Plus
9 905 United Kingdom
9 Apr 2015 9:16AM
We've added continuous shooting (buffer) information for jpegs and raw, as well as adding information about the 4K crop, thanks.
ChrisV Plus
12 2.3k 26 United Kingdom
9 Apr 2015 12:40PM
I'm not thinking about switching formats - i'm too heavily invested in m43. But the Samsungs might be the cameras make me reconsider APSc - especially with an f2 standard zoom. Apart from the fact that that pairing of premium standard/mid zooms appear to perform quite disappointingly. That's a shame because it rules out the system as a viable alternative for the semi pro/enthusiast IMO...

Nice try though.
celtxian 15 4 United Kingdom
27 May 2015 3:56PM
It seems like the sector has suddenly got quite active and now there is a difficult choice between the Panasonic G7, Sony A6000, Samsung NX500 and the Fuji X-T10! Granted if you want 4K video that narrows things down but when you look at the differences in lenses (Fuji has its WR range), the lack or provision of an EVF and the sensor differences it's hard to make one's mind up.

At the moment I am leaning towards either the Fuji or the Panasonic but the reviews make it hard to rule out either of the other two entirely.
27 Jun 2015 9:33PM
Samsung has released a new firmware for NX500, but still no news of improving that awful 1,7x cropping in 4K Video.
MUSTDOS 5 16 Lebanon
23 Nov 2015 8:05AM
Is it true that this camera has a shutter that is "too powerful" that would shake the cam and ruin the image at speeds slower than 1/60 sec? I saw it on TheCameraStoreTV

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