Samsung NX500 Field Test

The traveler's NX1: A high-res, 4K-shooting, compact ILC

by | Posted | Video section updated: 03/22/2015

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
Over the Big Island of Hawaii in a helicopter. (Note: This was shot through the glass window of the helicopter.)
16-50mm f/2-2.8 S: 16mm, f/5.0, 1/500s, ISO 100

Introduction

Samsung made a big splash with their NX1 high-performance, prosumer, DSLR-like mirrorless camera. The camera is packed to the brim with some very impressive technology and has a lot of horsepower under the hood, promising top-notch image quality, autofocus and burst performance, plus most of the bells, whistles and dials that enthusiast or professional DSLR users have come to expect.

For me, a long-time DSLR user, the Samsung NX1 looked like an undoubtedly impressive piece of kit, however, after reviewing and using a number ever-smaller mirrorless cameras, I was starting to get swayed by the appeal of a lighter, more compact camera. The NX1 is quite a bit larger and bulkier than many of its mirrorless contemporaries, and it was a little concerning to me -- and, I'm sure, to many others out there.

Well, it wasn't soon after that Samsung came along with a solution: the Samsung NX500. Taking the more svelte, rangefinder-esque body design of the NX300 and cramming in the guts of the NX1, Samsung created a camera that aims to basically be an NX1 in a compact shell.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm Kit Lens: 16mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 200

To get some serious hands-on time with the new NX500, Samsung invited a group of press out for a once in a lifetime shooting event on the Big Island of Hawaii. Not only did I have an opportunity to shoot a wide variety of subjects in various lighting conditions, I also had a chance to shoot with a full array of Samsung lenses to fully get a sense of the performance and image quality chops. I brought along an NX300 and had access to an NX1 on the trip so that I could compare design improvements as well as see how this new compact mirrorless camera holds up to its bigger brother.

In this in-depth NX500 Field Test I'll cover my impressions with the camera's ergonomics, design and build quality, having never shot with an NX-series camera aside from the NX1. I will also give my take on its image quality and performance as well as handling with larger lenses and its wireless connectivity features. Samsung let us hang onto our NX500 review camera, and I have brought the camera back to the mainland with me so it can undergo our full IR lab testing.

To get things started, let's explore how the new NX500 looks and feels in the hand...

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm f/2-2.8 S: 16mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 100, +0.6EV

Design and Ergonomics

Samsung NX500 Review -- Product Image

The new Samsung NX500 mirrors the design of the earlier NX300 quite closely, with a slim, compact body and a curved, protruding handgrip that houses the battery and provides a nice amount of real estate to grip the camera. The exterior styling is also similar with a two-toned, two-textured design. The top plate is a smooth brushed aluminum while the remaining body is a covered in a colored, rubber-like textured material. Unlike the NX300, the NX500's rubbery texture extends all the way to the bottom of the camera, whereas the NX300 had a second exposed silver bottom plate.

The earlier NX300 had a boxier design with a completely flat top plate with stark, sharp edges, yet the ergonomics were not bad or awkward though -- the curved shape of the handgrip and small thumb rest protrusion is comfortable and secure. Nevertheless, with the updated NX500, Samsung has found room for improvement by angling down and slightly contouring the top of the handgrip. This minor design tweak makes the NX500 even more comfortable with a more natural forefinger placement over the shutter release button (and newly-added AEL button).

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image

Like the NX1, the NX500 also features dual control dials (one on the top plate behind the shutter button, as well as a new one on the back conveniently placed near the thumb rest), which is a nice improvement over the NX300 that only had one top-facing control dial. For fans of more manual controls, this minor addition is a big deal and makes exposure adjustments quick and easy. For even further customizability, the new AEL button on the top plate, the exposure compensation and custom buttons, as well as the rotation and function of the top and rear command dials can all be programmed and personalized to fit your shooting style.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot

On the earlier NX300, Samsung covered the majority of the camera body in a textured coating. While it mimicked a leather-like, rubberized coating used on many DSLRs and other larger cameras, the NX300's coating felt more like textured plastic. It provided some amount of grip, but it was still rather smooth and doesn't feel as secure in my hands as do cameras with rubberized coatings. With the NX500, however, the front surface of the handgrip has a little more friction and grip feel to it -- a nice improvement. The texture extends onto the rear of the camera, but this back portion remains a simple textured plastic, even in the thumb-rest area.

As with the earlier NX300 and other compact NX-series mirrorless cameras, the NX500 lacks a built-in EVF, opting instead for a more compact design. Samsung did make an add-on EVF (appropriately named EVF10) for their NX100 mirrorless camera, however it was not compatible with the later NX200, and now two model revisions later, a compatible, official EVF accessory for the NX500 is sadly still absent. Considering the more consumer-oriented target market for a camera like the NX500, the lack of an EVF is not all that surprising, as it's aimed at step-up users coming from compact digicams and smartphones, who've all learned to compose and shoot photos via a rear screen.

Being a DSLR guy myself, I'm a big fan of a viewfinder, especially a big, bright optical one if I had to choose. I enjoy the more stable holding position (especially with larger lenses) that a viewfinder offers as well as the ability to block out glare from the sun when shooting on bright days. Electronic viewfinders are nice as well, if they are large and bright, such as the one on the Olympus E-M1 or the Samsung NX1, for instance. An EVF lets you see even more shooting information, such as a histogram, horizon level or focus peaking, as you're composing your shots, and if the refresh rate is quick enough, the shooting experience is very similar to that of an optical viewfinder.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
85mm f/1.4: 85mm, f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO 800

I do hope Samsung will offer an accessory EVF for the NX500 in the future, though the outlook, I'd venture, does not look promising. The tilting rear screen on the NX500, however, is big and bright, and the ability to adjust the angle of the screen makes it great for most shooting situations, and yes, even selfies, with the completely 180-degree rotation. However, just as I experienced with the Panasonic GM1 that I reviewed a while back, the lack of a viewfinder makes shooting with larger, heavier lenses a bit awkward and more unbalanced since you're forced to hold the camera out in front of you instead of up against your body. This also puts handheld low-light shooting at a bit of a disadvantage as you're now more susceptible to inducing camera shake, particularly with slower shutter speeds.

As it stands now, shooting with the NX500 is all about the rear screen. The Super AMOLED touchscreen display on the NX500 is very similar to the one on the NX1 -- big, bright, and with accurate and responsive touch functionality. It's a big jump in resolution to the NX300's AMOLED screen, too. One of the big disadvantages to cameras that rely solely on exposed screens for composition is the risk of glare, reflections or an otherwise poor viewing experience when shooting in bright, sunny conditions. Shooting often in bright mid-day Hawaiian sun, I found the NX500's AMOLED display to perform rather well -- it was bright, colors looked great, text was sharp and glare was rarely a problem. The screen is not completely resistant to glare at certain angles, of course, but I quickly got used to this and could "look past it" or I could easily tilt the screen angle slightly to avoid reflections.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Product Image

One new feature of the NX500 over the older, original NX300 is the addition of a selfie mode. Making use of the new 180-degree rotating display, the NX500 will automatically enable a handful of selfie-specific shooting modes when you flip the screen up. By default, the camera's "Auto Self Shot" mode is enabled, and when flipping up the screen, the camera automatically enables a two-second self-timer as well as face detection, and "beauty face" functions. The sloped handgrip makes it quite comfortable and easy to activate the shutter release with your thumb while still having a good hold on the camera.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
Selfies are simple on the NX500, thanks for the flip-up screen and automatic self-shots options. I put to the test, as you can see in the bottom photo, as I flew down a zipline. (Note the hint of concern on my face.)
10mm f/3.5 Fisheye: 10mm, f/4.0, 1/80s, ISO 100 (bottom image).

For even simpler operation, you can enable smile detection or wink detection options to automatically fire a shot when the camera's face detection system identifies a smile or wink. These two features worked surprisingly well, with the camera quickly able to recognize a smile and fire off a quick shot. Wink-detection also worked well, though an inadvertent blink while you're positioning your selfie shot can trigger the camera prematurely. These smile shot and wink shot subsets of the face detection options are also available in normal "forward-facing" shooting modes. You can, of course, turn all these automatic shooting modes and self-timers off for quick-fire selfie shots using the shutter button.

Image Quality

Design and styling aside, the real question is how do the images look? Overall, the Samsung NX500 produces very good, high quality, high-resolution images. With the camera being so new, Adobe has yet to update Camera Raw to read the NX500's SRW files, so most of my assessment of image quality is based on in-camera JPEGs, though I have converted some RAW files into DNGs using the included Samsung DNG Converter software.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm Kit Lens: 16mm, f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 100

The NX500's 28.2-megapixel APS-C sensor and fast DRIMe Vs image processor manages to produce very good photos. At low ISOs, the fine detail is very impressive and colors are vibrant and pleasing to the eye at default picture style settings (i.e. Picture Wizard set to "off"). After having the opportunity to shoot a number of evening and sunset images, I was particularly pleased with the camera's ability to capture pleasant and smooth color tone gradients in the skies, with little to no banding or posterization. I was also impressed with the dynamic range, especially when shooting in higher contrast lighting, though I haven't been able to edit or examine a full SRW RAW file yet in Lightroom/Photoshop.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm Kit Lens: 16mm, f/3.5, 1/800s, ISO 100
I found the NX500 displays good dynamic range, as shown here in this high-contrast sunset scene. The top image is a straight-from-the-camera JPEG, and the bottom is a DNG conversion from the .SRW file with heavy Adobe Lightroom adjusts to demonstrate the amount of detail that can be pulled out of the shadows.

The NX500 is also able to handle higher ISOs quite well, too. Nowadays, ISO sensitivities like 800 and 1600 aren't really that extreme anymore, as processors and sensors get better and better. Shooting the Samsung NX500 in a variety of lighting conditions, I captured a number of images at various higher ISOs ranging from 800 all the way up to ISO 4000. The high ISO performance of the NX500 is impressive, especially when looking at RAW files. The in-camera JPEGs -- which I shot with default noise reduction processing applied -- look very good, however upon close inspection, NR processing artifacts are visible, especially on very high ISO shots. If you're not a pixel-peeper, then high-ISO JPEGs are very much acceptable.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
85mm f/1.4: 85mm, f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO 2000

For example, looking at this ISO 4000 shot below, at full view, the image is quite clean with low noise and lots of detail. However, if you look closely, you can see the artifacts from the NR processing. The converted DNG (which to my knowledge has no NR processing applied during the SRW to DNG conversion process), is quite a bit noisier without any noise reduction applied, though fine detail is quite good, edges are crisper, noise is rather finely grained. The DNG file was imported into Adobe Lightroom 5 and both luminance and color noise reduction sliders were set to zero. You can see both luminance and chroma noise is visible, but by default LR5 applies some color noise reduction, which I found easily eliminated the visible color noise.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm f/2-2.8 S: 16mm, f/2.8, 1/400s, ISO 4000, -1.0EV
Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
JPEG, With default in-camera NR processing -- 100% Crop
Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
DNG, No NR processing-- 100% Crop. Click image for the RAW file.

Autofocus and Performance

The Samsung NX500 shares a similar autofocus system to the larger NX1 -- the NX AF System III -- which is a combination of 205 on-sensor phase detect pixels (153 of which are cross-type sensors) that cover about 90% of the imaging sensor, as well as 209 contrast-detect AF areas.

Unlike early mirrorless cameras with only contrast-detect AF, the NX500 autofocuses extremely quickly. In decent to good lighting, the NX500 autofocuses nearly instantaneously upon a half-press of the shutter button. Even in dim, indoor lighting, the camera is quick to focus, though it can struggle on lower-contrast and very small subjects. The NX500 differs from the NX1 in that it doesn't use the patterned AF illuminator and instead uses a standard AF-assist lamp. In poor lighting, with the shockingly-bright-green AF assist lamp disabled, AF performance is noticeably slower, unless there's good contrast in your subject, in which case it's still quite fast.

Of course, AF performance can vary depending on which lens you're using. The included 16-50mm Power Zoom kit lens is very fast to focus, but, for example, using the Samsung 85mm f/1.4 at night without the AF assist beam can be a bit frustrating with sluggish autofocus. I was able to test out a variety of different lenses with the NX500, and I'll dive into that in the next section, but first, let's move on to general shooting performance and speed.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
85mm f/1.4: 85mm, f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO 400

In addition to snappy AF performance, the NX500 is a quick and nimble camera. Our review unit is now undergoing in-depth performance testing in the lab, but from my personal experience, the camera felt very nice and fast to use, with quick shot-to-shot speed. Especially if you disable Quick Review, the camera can snap a shot and be ready for another right away.

Being a smaller, more compact camera, it's no wonder that some compromises had to be made compared to the brawny NX1, and burst rate is one of those areas. The continuous burst rate of NX500 tops out at 9fps, which, in and of itself, is a pretty respectable speed. Using a fast 50MB/s Samsung SDXC PRO 64GB memory card, I varied between shooting just Super Fine JPEGs and RAW+JPEG pairs. When shooting only JPEGs, the camera was quick and speedy with no slow-down due to buffer filling or writing files to the memory card, for what felt like an indefinite number of frames. (I came across no shooting scenarios where I needed an extraordinary continuous number of frames, though.) However, when shooting in RAW+JPEG (or just RAW-only), with Continuous High burst mode, the camera pretty much grinds to a halt after about five or so frames as the camera's buffer fills and it starts to write images to the memory card. After a brief pause, you can fire off about three more frames while it's still writing to the card, but it will soon pause again. This behavior is also similar in Continuous Low burst mode, but the pausing or slow-down once the buffer fills is not so jarring as the burst rate is slower. So, if you want to minimize waiting and potentially missing a shot, be sure to either shoot with JPEG only and/or use the absolute fastest SD card you can find (the NX500 is UHS-1 compliant).

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
It was difficult to shoot wildlife with longer lenses, especially on lower-contrast targets such as humpback whales just breaching the ocean's surface. Plus, with a limited buffer capacity with RAW files, capturing good handful of shots as the whales briefly splashed and jumped was a challenge.
55-200mm f/4-5.6 III: 200mm, f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 1250

Shooting with Various Lenses

As I mentioned, I had a chance to test the NX500 with a variety of Samsung glass beyond the standard kit lens. For general purpose shooting, the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Power Zoom OIS lens was solid performer, though. The telescoping design automatically retracts when the camera is powered off, making this combo very small and compact -- great for traveling. Even with general shooting, I found that 50mm was still a bit too short for some good, close-in telephoto shots, though, but it does have a decent close-focusing distance at full telephoto (just shy of one foot). I understand the desire to keep this kit as small and compact as possible, though, so a 50mm max tele focal length is a decent compromise.

One aspect of the kit lens that I'm not too wild about is the power zoom mechanism. The zooming function is completely electronic with no mechanical connection between the zoom ring and lens elements. While the zooming is quiet (great for video), I found the zooming speed a little slow for my liking, even if I really cranked the zoom ring quickly -- the lens would zoom only so quickly. The three-speed adjustable side zoom buttons are a great feature for video recording, however, as they help maintain a steady hold on the camera while recording and provide a smooth zoom.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
60mm f/2.8 Macro: 60mm, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 250

Other lenses I used were the Samsung 10mm f/3.5 Fisheye, 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S, 85mm f/1.4, 50-200mm f/4-5.6 and a prototype of the new 300mm f/2.8 S. The fisheye lens was very fun to use, and size-wise, was very similar to the 16-50mm kit lens. The other lenses I used were much larger and, in the case of the 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S and 300mm f/2.8 S, much heavier.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Product Image
NX500 + 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S

Using longer and heavier lenses with the NX500 can be cumbersome and awkward at times, due mainly to the lack of an EVF. Despite the heavier weight, I found the 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S to be comfortable and manageable to use on this small camera. However, the longer telephoto lenses posed a bit of a challenge. I had the opportunity to photograph whales on a boat tour, and trying to frame and focus on far-off subjects with telephoto lenses while holding the camera out in front of me, instead of up to my eye as with the NX1 or a DSLR, was difficult at times. The 50-200mm is actually a rather lightweight lens, so comfort-wise it wasn't all that bad, though to keep things steady at 200mm on a moving boat without a viewfinder was tough.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Product Image
NX500 + 50-200mm f/4-5.6 III

The heavy 300mm f/2.8 lens, on the other hand, was another beast altogether. The compressed perspective and shallow depth of field made it difficult to acquire focus on small subjects like the tips of whale fins, and being low-contrast objects, the camera also struggled to maintain focus when using Continuous AF and the lens would often hunt widely. It's certainly not a lens designed for use with the NX500. It's big and heavy and very unbalanced when using handheld, which, to be honest, isn't all that unexpected with such a lens is mounted to a small camera like the NX500. 

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
85mm f/1.4: 85mm, f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO 400

Like the 16-50mm f/2-2.8, the 85mm f/1.4 is another heavier lens, but one that I found to be rather comfortable with the NX500. Once you get used to balancing the majority of the camera and lens' weight with your left hand, the pairing nice. As I mentioned earlier, the NX500's AF assist beam is very bright, and rather disrupting, I find, for low-light candid photography. Using this lens during a luau, I made sure to disable this to avoid distracting people. When disabled, I noticed this combo could be very tricky to focus, and it would sometimes take multiple tries on the same subject for the camera to eventually snap into focus. However, the resulting images at f/1.4 were stunning.

Video

UPDATE 03/22/15:
Video section updated with improved 4K sample movie and additional notes on video shooting

Like the Samsung NX1, the new NX500 offers both 4K ultra HD and Cinema 4K video resolutions using the space-saving H.265 HEVC video codec. Unlike the NX1, though, 4K video capture is capped at 15 minutes in length rather than the more standard 29min, 59sec, and 4K capture is only done via the internal SD card (HDMI output is limited to 1080p on the NX500). You are also limited to just Normal and HQ image quality, while the NX1 offers a higher "Pro" option.

As a consumer-oriented camera, in casual everyday scenarios, the 15-minute time limit on 4K video is not all that problematic because for small clips here and there, that's plenty of time, and a majority of users probably aren't going to record a solid 15 minute video -- at least not very often. However for more professional or enthusiast users, filming documentary scenes, interviews or recording events, for example, you could run into issues with this time limitation. If you do record for a straight 15 minutes, the camera will automatically stop recording, and you'll have to manually re-start the recording process -- in other words, it will not automatically start recording a new 15-minute clip. For 1080p video, however, the time limit is extended to a more comfortable 29:59 limit.

In addition to the rather short 4K time limit, there's another, perhaps more serious "quirk" regarding 4K video capture. The Samsung NX500 doesn't use the full size of the sensor for 4K. Instead, the camera has a 1:1 center crop to get the 4K resolution from the sensor's full 6480 x 4320 resolution, and in doing so introduces a noticeably narrower field of view when shooting 4K video -- about a 1.6-1.7x crop, with Ultra HD (3840x2160) looking slightly more cropped in than Cinema 4K (4096x2160). There's no cropping for 1080p and 720p video resolutions, though.

Thus, the nice wide-angle view you might have with photos, for instance, is now a much tighter shot when you record video. If you're serious about video with the NX500, you'll want to take this into account when framing your shots and what focal lengths to use if you plan on shooting in 4K. Thankfully, you're not completely in the dark as to how this video-centric crop looks before you hit "record." Pressing the "Custom" button (aka the Trash button), in shooting mode -- not playback mode -- will toggle you into a "Movie Standby" mode that will show the difference in framing, as well as display other video-related information like stereo audio levels.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot Image
Standard view in normal stills shooting mode.
Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot Image
Movie Standby mode. Note the significantly tighter field of view.
(Please don't be confused by the blue "zoom bar" in the bottom screenshot. I zoomed in slightly prior to entering Movie Standby Mode. What you're seeing here is, in fact, the actual cropped framing for Ultra HD 4K video.)

Another small annoyance is the lack of a dedicated Movie Mode. Video is, instead, simply triggered by pressing the record button near the thumb-rest, and video can be captured regardless of what stills shooting mode you're in. This is really handy for quick, off-the-cuff video clips, but after you finish recording a video clip, the NX500 automatically backs out of Movie Standby mode and returns you to the stills shooting view, complete with its wider angle of view. If you're shooting a bunch of videos back to back, you'll need to remember to re-enter Movie Standby mode every time after recording each clip if you want to check your composition and framing.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot

As for video image quality, as we experienced with the NX1, we ran into some playback issues right off the bat with Samsung's new H.265 video codec. The video compression is very complex and results in very small, space-saving files, however it takes a lot of computational horsepower for many media players to smoothly play these files at this time, and some media players on the computer will simply not play the normal NX500 H.265 videos files. (I'm looking at you Apple QuickTime.)

Thankfully, Samsung has included a movie converter app as part of the camera's bundled i-Launcher software. The converter application transcodes the H.265 files into more compatible, but less-compressed H.264 videos. To get a sense of the compression, a small 13-second 4K (3840 x 2160) video I shot was 64.7MB as an H.265 file, but a whopping 350MB in H.264! The Samsung Movie Converter apps works well and is simple to use, but as the screenshot above indicates, it can be quite taxing on your computer's resources to convert these H.265 videos -- so, the beefier the computer the better!

Viewing the transcoded H.264 versions, I found the video quality at 4K from the NX500 to be excellent, with crisp detail, great colors and nice dynamic range. Check out a sample video below, including download links for the both the H.264 version and the original H.265 one (again, note the difference in file sizes).

NEW (03/22/15) : Samsung NX500 4K Sample Video
3840 x 2160, H.264 Converted, Progressive, 30 fps, Pro Quality transcode
Download: Original H.265 (143.1MB MOV) or Converted H.264 File (693MB MP4)

In the above video, I also experimented with the tap-to-focus feature, which altogether works very well. It makes adjusting focus quick and easy without inducing too much (if any) camera vibrations. I inadvertently had the AF Shift Speed set to the quickest setting, however, so the focus transitions are very fast. For a more cinematic feel to focus transitions during video recording, the NX500 does offer some adjustment for AF Shift Speed: Slow, Normal or Fast. The NX500 also lets you fine-tune AF Responsiveness (+2 to -2), which tweaks how quickly the camera's autofocus adjusts to a new subject during recording.

Another indication that the NX500 is more consumer-oriented, at least when it comes to video, is the lack of both a microphone input and a headphone jack. Like the add-on EVF of yesteryear's NX100 I mentioned earlier, Samsung also used to make a hot-shoe-mounted mini-shotgun mic with a headphone jack (called the ED-EM10), that worked on earlier NX cameras, including the relatively-recent NX300, but it appears to no longer available based on a brief search around the web. If you can get your hands on one, I've been told there's no technical reason it wouldn't work on the NX500, but alas, an updated, official external mic for the NX500 doesn't appear available at this time either.

Wireless Connectivity

Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot

Lastly, let's talk about the wireless connectivity on the NX500. Like the NX1, it features many of the same amenities in this area, including always-on Bluetooth (though this can be turned off in the menus, if you want), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) and Near Field Communication. As an iPhone user, I can't take part in the nifty touch-to-pair syncing that NFC offers, but I can still use the standard Wi-Fi connection. (Note: "Quick Transfer" is available for Android devices only.)

Samsung NX500 Review -- Screenshot

After pressing the "Mobile" button on the top of the camera, the set-up process is fairly simple, though Samsung begins the pairing procedure as if you're an Android OS user (simply tap through a couple beginning screens and select "Wi-Fi Manual Connection (iOS)" for iPhone and iPad devices). Be sure to install the Samsung Camera Manager app first, and then after pressing the Mobile button, connect your iOS device to the camera's own Wi-Fi network, and then switch over to open the Samsung app, and you're done.

You can either browser through and transfer photos, or opt for the remote viewfinder and have complete wireless control of the camera. You can adjust nearly every basic shooting option and exposure setting as well as tap-to-focus and, if you have a Power Zoom lens like the included kit lens, you can even zoom the lens using your smart device.

It all works rather well, though I did find the app to be a bit sluggish. It can take a while for the image thumbnails to appear in the app as does toggling between remote viewfinder and MobileLink mode to transfer images. Also, the pairing and connection process is a multi-step one for us iOS users, but once it's up and running, the process itself is fairly straightforward, though not the snappiest, however images do transfer quickly to your smart device, I found.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
60mm f/2.8 Macro: 60mm, f/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 100

Field Test Conclusion

All in all, the Samsung NX500 is an impressive little camera. The image quality is very good, at both low and higher ISOs, with files that are packed with fine detail and bright colors, as well as well-controlled noise at those higher sensitivities. The build quality is equally impressive. It's a solid-feeling camera, and not a cheap, plasticky toy camera. I took the camera ziplining with me and had it strapped to my harness. I was concerned about it banging and scraping against metal latches and carabiners, and while it did get jostled around, it survived with hardly a scratch, and the big Super AMOLED screen is still flawless!

The performance is also very good for the most part. It's certainly not as robust and beefy as the bigger NX1, with a rather small buffer when shooting RAW files, but for most uses, the NX500 is peppy and quick with great shot-to-shot performance. AF speed is super quick in most situations, though it can vary depending on the lens and light condition, as do most cameras, especially hybrid AF-capable mirrorless ones.

Ergonomically, the camera is very nice, but I think I'm in the minority for Samsung's target user for this camera: I'd like an EVF, especially since I love longer lenses, which obviously end up being much heavier! Using smaller lenses, such as the 16-50mm kit lens or small primes, the NX500 is light, compact, easy to hold and a breeze to carry with you all day during your travels, but as I've experienced with other small mirrorless cameras, adding larger, heavier lenses on the NX500 can get a little unwieldy. Nevertheless, the curved handgrip and improved exterior texture make for a secure hold.

If you're making the jump up from a smartphone or a compact camera to an ILC, or looking for a smaller camera to compliment your existing kit (and aren't tied down to a particular brand's lens system), the Samsung NX500 is a very attractive camera at a very reasonable price. The camera takes fantastic, high-resolution stills and great video all the way up to 4K, and it's all in a package that easily slips into your carry-on bag. While the NX500 might not fit the bill for the dedicated wildlife or sports shooter, for everyone else, the NX500 might just hit that sweet spot.

Samsung NX500 Review -- Gallery Image
16-50mm Kit Lens: 16mm, f/9.0, 1/400s, ISO 100

Up Next

The Samsung NX500 is currently undergoing our in-house testing here at Imaging Resource, so stay tuned for our extensive performance test results and additional lab test images, as well as our print and image quality analysis, and of course, our final IR conclusion. If you have any questions or comments for things you like us here at IR to examine while we still have the camera in-hand, be sure leave a comment below!

 



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