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Samsung NX500 28 MP Wireless 4k Smart Mirrorless Digital Camera Review

by on May 16, 2016
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Overview

The release of the NX500 is Samsung’s statement that it too can create a quality midrange compact camera to run with the best Canon and Nikon have to offer. The NX500 keeps a majority of the features of the flagship Samsung NX1, but packs them into a more compact form factor at a more affordable price. Most notably, the NX500 keeps the NX1’s exceptional 28MP BSI CMOS sensor and hybrid autofocus system.

However, the NX500 doesn’t bring over every feature from the NX1 and dials back a few others. The image processor on the NX500, for example, isn’t quite as powerful, video recording lacks full-sensor readout, burst speed is slower and the NX500’s body isn’t weather sealed. Furthermore, the NX500 lacks an electronic viewfinder and built-in flash.

The NX500 does however make up for those features, or lack thereof, in other ways. As mentioned, the price compared to the NX1 certainly explains some decisions Samsung made with the NX500. The camera is designed for those who need a more compact and lightweight option compared to the larger NX1.

Unlike many other cameras in its class, the NX500 also features twin dial operation, making shutter speed and aperture adjustments a breeze. The absence of a built-in flash, which is usually lackluster for this size camera, shouldn’t be missed. Plus, the NX500 comes with a small external flash which can be used with the camera’s hot shoe if you need one. The NX500 also features a quality 180 degree tilting touchscreen LCD.

The NX500’s advanced Wi-Fi system is another standout feature. The system uses Bluetooth to maintain connection which keeps you from having to re-pair with a Wi-Fi connection every time you want to transfer a photo. The addition of 4K video capabilities also help the NX500 standout compared to other camera’s in its class.

While the NX500 is an excellent compact camera, especially for the price, it joins an already crowded market. Its 4K video capability sets it apart, but it does have some issues. Also, more and more cameras are offering 4K for a similar price making the NX500 less unique. All things considered, if you are considering a compact camera for shooting stills, the NX500 should be near the top of your list.

The Good

Samsung has managed to pack quite a list of features inside a relatively small body. The compact design of the NX500 inherits a lot from the NX300. Despite the sub $800 price tag, which even includes a lens, Samsung didn't cut many corners on build quality. The NX500 is constructed of both metal and sturdy plastic.

The camera’s grip makes it easy to hold, and it has just enough stickiness to prevent the NX500 from slipping out of your hand. All of the buttons and dials are thoughtfully placed, and the two control dials on the NX500 are a welcomed addition. These keep the user from having to press a button to swap between aperture and shutter speed. You can also customize what the dials do and there are three other function buttons that can be customized as well.

Image Quality: Overall, Samsung made the right decisions when considering which NX1 features to include and which to cut in the NX500. One area Samsung did not tamper with is image quality, which is excellent. In fact, image quality is probably the NX500's most compelling feature.

Just like on the NX1, the NX500 features a 28MP BSI CMOS sensor which produces superb images. It offers best in class performance and exceeds most other cameras in the same price range, especially when it comes to low light performance.

Video Quality: Compared to the NX1, the video quality of the NX500 isn’t quite as equal. However, compared to other cameras in the same class capable of shooting 4K footage, the NX500 is among the best. One quirk to shooting 4K with the NX500 is it uses a 4K (8.8MP) cropped area from the center of the sensor. This effectively gives the camera a 2.4x crop (relative to full frame). One of the effects of only sampling this small of a sensor area is low light performance suffers. It also makes shooting any kind of wide angle 4K video impossible.

If you can live with those tradeoffs, the NX500 produces exceptional 4K video for the price. The quality certainly isn’t near what you can get with a more expensive mirrorless camera like the Sony a7R II.

NX500 (2)

Check the Price of the Samsung NX500 28 MP Wireless Smart Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens on Amazon:

4.3 - 100 Reviews

The Bad

Samsung has pitched the NX500 as essentially a stripped down NX1. It’s important to approach the NX500 with this in mind, but it’s still near impossible not to compare the two. For example, the build quality of the NX500 is solid, but it fails to stack up against the everything-proof NX1.

Another miss for the NX500 is the maximum frame rate. While the NX500’s 9fps is probably enough for many users, a buffer depth of only five or six RAW files at 9fps is terrible. This might be the weakest point of the NX500, especially considering the inevitable comparison with the NX1. But it still gets blown away when compared to other cameras closer to its price range, like Sony's new a6300 which manages 21 RAW files before slowing from 11fps. Of course, the NX500 is still a bit easier on the wallet than the a6300, but not by much.

The DRIMe Vs processor in the NX500 is also stripped down from the DRIMe V in its big brother. A few results of the lower powered processor is the NX500 doesn’t support UHS-II-type SD cards or 4K video output over HDMI.

One of the immediately noticeable differences between the NX1 is the NX500’s lack of a viewfinder. Samsung certainly cut this out of the NX500’s design to achieve a smaller form factor, but it will certainly be missed by many. The absence of a viewfinder makes the NX500 a difficult camera to operate in sunlight. The LCD is excellent but like any display it’s almost useless in direct sunlight.

Final Thoughts

In spite of the criticisms above, there is a lot to like about the NX500. For photographers who are simply looking to take stills and don’t regularly shoot 10-20 RAW files in burst mode, the image quality is top notch. Again, considering the cost, the NX500 produces stills comparable to cameras twice the price.

If you're not bothered by the lack of a viewfinder, the NX500 is an exceptional camera for the price. If you have the budget the NX1 is certainly going to give you more features, but for about a third of the price the NX500 is a great deal.

Specs
  • Sensor: BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.5 x 15.7 mm)
  • Max resolution: 6480 x 4320
  • Effective pixels: 28 megapixels
  • ISO: Auto, 100 - 25600, expandable to 51200
  • Image stabilization: No
  • File format: JPEG, RAW (SRW)
  • Lens mount: Samsung NX
  • Touch screen: Yes
  • Screen type: Super AMOLED
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Minimum shutter speed: 30 sec
  • Maximum shutter speed: 1/6000 sec
  • Built-in flash: No (GN8 external flash included)
  • External flash: Yes (via hot shoe)
  • Maximum Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (30p), 4096 x 2160 (24p)
  • Video Format: H.265
  • Weight (including batteries): 287 g (0.63 lb / 10.12 oz)
  • Dimensions: 120 x 64 x 43 mm (4.72 x 2.52 x 1.69″)

NX500

Accessories

Samsung has built up an excellent collection of NX-mount lenses perfect for the NX500. Here are a few we recommend.

Samsung 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S ED OIS Lens

The 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S ED OIS Lens from Samsung is the first model in their Premium "S" Series. It provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24.6-77mm, excellent for both wide-angle and portrait-length perspectives. Its fast f/2.0 - 2.8 maximum aperture results in quality low light performance and allows for a pleasing shallow depth of field. The addition of optical image stabilization counteracts motion blur and results in significantly cleaner shots.

Samsung 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ED OIS Lens

If you are going to have only one lens, Samsung's 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ED OIS Lens might be the one to get. The impressive 11x wide-angle 27.7-308mm (equivalent in 35mm format) lens can handle just about any environment. The built-in optical image stabilizer helps produce sharp photos and video even when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Another highlight feature of this lens is that you can change shutter speed, aperture, ISO and more right on the lens.

Samsung 45mm f/1.8 T6 2D/3D Lens

The 45mm f/1.8 (T6) 2D/3D Lens from Samsung is a unique hybrid 2D and 3D lens. When it’s in standard 2D mode it has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 great for low light shooting and shallow depth of field capability. The lens is also capable of producing 3D photos and videos. The functionality is turned on via a switch on the lens which drops a secondary dual LCD shutter which then creates two slightly different images which are both processed into one 3D image that is viewable on 3D-enabled televisions or other viewing devices.

SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro UHS-I SDXC U3 Memory Card (Class 10)

The NX500 is useless without a memory card and the 64GB Extreme Pro UHS-I SDXC U3 Memory Card is one of best bets. It is a high-speed SDXC memory card rated Ultra High Speed Class 3 (U3) and SDXC Class 10, offering up to 95 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write speeds.

Highlights

Autofocus System: The impressive AF system is one of the NX500's highlight features. It is mostly inherited from the NX1 and offers 205 phase-detect AF points, 153 which are cross-type. These points work with 209 contrast-detect points to focus extremely quickly on a subject. Also, you don't have to worry about any potential AF accuracy issues you may get with a DSLR.

The most impressive part of the NX500's AF system is its ability to intelligently track and stay focused on moving targets. This is a particular upside to mirrorless cameras and it has changed what we expect from an AF system. Many cameras, especially DSLRs, still fail to automatically detect and focus on faces. The NX500 exceeds expectations and will not only automatically focus on faces, it will continuously track them to make sure they are still in focus when you hit the shutter.

As good as the AF system is on the NX500, not everything is perfect. One glaring issue circles back to the camera’s trouble with burst shooting. During continuous shooting the NX500 struggles to stay focused on any subjects moving around the frame. While the AF is great for capturing a single shot, this issues can result in out of focus shots when captured in bursts.

Tilting LCD: The NX500 features a Super AMOLED display with 1.04 million dots making it one of the best looking displays in its class. The LCD flips upward by 180 degrees which activates selfie mode, and it can also point downward by about 45 degrees.

The display is also touchscreen and you can set separate focus and exposure points by dragging them around on the screen. The touch display supports the features you would expect like touch AF and shutter, menu navigation and image playback. But it also has a neat trick that lets you separate the focus and exposure areas and then move them around which is ideal for tripod shooting.

Advanced Wi-Fi System: Similar to the NX1, the NX500 offers one of the most sophisticated wireless systems available. Most of the functionality can be accessed through Samsung’s Smart Camera app. However, you won’t get the full experience unless you’re using an Android phone. iPhone users don’t have access to all of the NX500’s wireless benefits. I know what you’re thinking, but it seems the differences comes down to Apple’s restrictions on iOS rather than Samsung’s preference for the Android platform.

Maybe the most notable connectivity feature of Samsung’s app is Remote Viewfinder, which has an elaborate set of features. The viewfinder can be used in auto mode, but when you put Remote Viewfinder into one of the P/A/S/M modes it gives you quite a bit of control over shooting. The only limitations of using Remote Viewfinder is you can't shoot RAW or capture 4K video footage. As mentioned, the app has a rich feature set so if you do decide to purchase a DX500, or DX1 for that matter, the app is worth checking out.

NX500 (4)

Check the Price of the Samsung NX500 28 MP Wireless Smart Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens on Amazon:

4.3 - 100 Reviews

Overall Performance

There are two primary areas where the NX500 excels, autofocus performance and still image quality. Compared to other midrange mirrorless cameras on the market, the NX500 stands out with the same hybrid autofocus system found in the NX1. The hybrid AF system really distances itself from the pack in challenging scenarios. The NX500 is able to stay reasonably locked onto low contrast subjects, something most cameras struggle with significantly.

The AF system’s depth tracking is also exceptional. The NX500 does a fantastic job tracking a subject as it moves toward or away from the camera. Again, this is another area where the phase-detect AF system in the NX500 really separates it from its competition.

Overall, the NX500’s AF system is quick, responsive and accurate. Its on-sensor phase detection is more accurate than anything you can get from a DSLR. It does perform a bit slower than the flagship NX1, but considering the price difference the NX500 fairs well.

An important consideration to note when it comes to AF performance is the lens. As mentioned in the Accessories section, Samsung has built up a nice collection of NX-mount lenses, but you’re going to want to use one of Samsung's newer lenses to get the best performance. See the Accessories section for our recommendations.

At launch, the NX500 stirred up some buzz about the prospect of a 'mini-NX1' capable of shooting 4K video. When the NX1 was released it set the bar for 4K video in a stills camera, and the idea of a compact camera with similar performance was exciting. Unfortunately, the NX500 didn’t fair as well on the video front as it did with image quality compared to the NX500. However, that's not to say it’s bad. It’s just that labeling it a 'mini-NX1' is a bit of a stretch.

The NX500 shoots 4K footage with a 2.4x crop. If you can move past the crop factor, 4K footage from the NX500 is great considering the price and compact size of the camera. I just wouldn’t plan on shooting too much footage in low light. The 2.4x crop factor uses only a small total area of the sensor which results in considerably higher noise.

Pricing

You can pick up an NX500 in one of three color options, brown, black or white, for a suggested retail price of $799. The camera also includes a 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 power zoom lens with optical image stabilization.

Check the Price of the Samsung NX500 28 MP Wireless Smart Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens on Amazon:

4.3 - 100 Reviews

Positives
  • 28MP BSI CMOS sensor (APS-C)
  • DRIMe Vs processor
  • Samsung NX lens mount
  • Hybrid autofocus system
  • 3" flip-up touch Super AMOLED display
  • 9 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K/UHD video recording
  • Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth
Negatives
  • No viewfinder
  • Slow maximum frame rate
  • Non-weatherproof build
  • Limited 4K video functionality
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Bottom Line
 

If you approach the NX500 as a midrange mirrorless camera, it is among the best in its class. However, when comparing it to the flagship NX1 its limitations quickly become noticeable. For the photographer looking for an ultra portable stills shooter, you can’t get much better than the NX500. Just realize that with any compact interchangeable lens camera, you are going to make a few compromises.

The NX500 inherits one of the best APS-C sensors around and its paired with an exceptional hybrid AF system. However, you are giving up speed, an electronic viewfinder, video functionality and quality and a rugged build. If the key draws of the NX500 meet your needs, we highly recommend it.

Check the Price of the Samsung NX500 28 MP Wireless Smart Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens on Amazon:

4.3 - 100 Reviews

 
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