Samsung NX500 Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Lower than average mean saturation levels with very good overall hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to see results across the ISO range, and click on the links for larger images.

Saturation. The Samsung NX500 produces images with colors that are generally less saturated than most cameras at default settings. The NX500 pushes dark blues, reds, dark green and browns a bit while undersaturating yellow and light green slightly. Default mean saturation is 105.9% (or only 5.9% oversaturated) at base ISO, which is lower than the typical 110% mean saturation we normally see. Saturation remains stable up to ISO 1600, but falls from there as ISO increases, to a low of only 88.9% (11.1% undersaturated) at ISO 51,200, likely in an attempt to reduce the appearance of chroma noise. You can of course tweak saturation to your liking. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Samsung NX500 did fairly well with Caucasian skin tones, though it rendered lighter tones a touch warmer than we'd prefer and darker skin tones had a slightly orange push. Still, not bad overall. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Samsung NX500 shifts cyan toward blue, red toward orange and orange toward yellow a bit, but other shifts in color were very minor; even the cyan to blue shift we normally see is relatively small. Mean "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 4.04 after correction for saturation, which is very good, better than average, and remains better than average across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
The Samsung NX500's Manual white balance setting worked well indoors, but other settings produced moderate to strong color casts. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was too warm with the Auto setting, with a reddish cast. The Incandescent setting resulted in a fairly strong orange/yellow cast. Manual white balance produced very good results, though. The Samsung NX500 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation, which is the average amount required for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Somewhat cool, muted colors. About average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

The NX500 produced somewhat warm skin tones in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with Auto white balance, so we preferred the slightly cooler and pinker results with the Manual setting. The NX500 required +0.7 EV exposure compensation to keep facial tones bright on the mannequin, which is about average for this shot among cameras we've tested. Default contrast is a little high, as it usually is, but despite the bright appearance, only a few highlights in her shirt and flowers are blown, and shadow detail is quite good with relatively low noise. The NX500 did a very good job with our Far-field shot, producing just a slightly dim exposure at default settings, though colors look somewhat cool. The Samsung NX500 did an excellent job preserving highlights here, and again, shadow detail and noise are quite good.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Very high resolution, about 3,050 to 3,100 lines of strong detail in JPEGs, about the same from ACR converted RAW files.

Strong detail to
~3,050 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,100 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,050 lines horizontal
ACR processed SRW
Strong detail to
~3,100 lines vertical
ACR processed SRW

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart at the highest quality setting reveals sharp, distinct line patterns to about 3,050 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 3,100 lines in the vertical direction. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur before the limit of our chart (4,000 lines) in both directions. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the matching RAW file shows similar resolution, but with a lot more color moiré than in-camera JPEGs, as if often the case. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp and crisp images, with fairly minor edge-enhancement artifacts visible around high-contrast subjects. Low to moderate levels of noise suppression at base ISO generally leaves excellent detail.

Very good definition of
high-contrast elements
with less visible sharpening
artifacts than its predecessor.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast but
the NX500 does better than most here.

Sharpness. The Samsung NX500 captures sharp, crisp, detailed images with slightly less obvious edge enhancement artifacts than typical competitors. Yes, sharpening halos are still visible around high-contrast subjects such as the text and border in the crop above left, but they aren't quite a strong as most. Overall, excellent results here. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows relatively minor noise suppression in the darkest areas of the model's hair, as most individual strands of hair are well defined except in very low contrast areas. Overall, detail is very good for an APS-C sensor at base ISO, especially one with 28 megapixels of resolution. Excellent results here as well. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Aliasing Artifacts. There are what look to be aliasing artifacts and "jaggies" in areas of fine vertical detail and high local contrast, such as in the strands of hair on the model's forehead at lower ISOs (see ISO 100 crop at right). And you can also see a wavy moiré pattern in our red-leaf fabric below. We've seen similar artifacts in images from previous models with a weak or no optical low-pass filter. The aberrations are fairly subtle, but they're something to be aware of if you plan to make very large prints of similar subject matter.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Samsung NX500 produces sharp, detailed in-camera JPEGs at base ISO, but you can often do better with a good RAW converter. Let's see how Adobe Camera Raw performs with the same image:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

The Adobe Camera Raw 9.0 conversion on the right (which was sharpened in Photoshop using USM of 250% with a radius of 0.3) reveals better detail than the camera JPEG, particularly in our difficult red-leaf fabric swatch. Detail in mosaic crop also looks a bit more refined than the camera JPEG, which tends to look a little coarser. The ACR conversion also shows more noise at default settings, though noise levels are fairly low at base ISO for an APS-C sensor with this high resolution. Also notice the wavy moiré pattern in the red-leaf fabric, a result of the NX500's lack of an optical low pass filter.

At lower ISOs, the Samsung NX500 generally does a good job at rendering the excellent detail captured by its 28-megapixel sensor in its JPEGs, but like many cameras, it struggles with our red-leaf fabric, likely treating the fine thread pattern as noise and thus blurring much of it out.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent detail vs noise tradeoff to ISO 1600, though default noise reduction is a little heavy-handed at higher ISOs.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

ISO 100 is very clean and extremely sharp and detailed, with just slight reductions in fine detail as sensitivity is increased to ISO 200 and 400. At ISO 800, noise reduction is a bit stronger which softens the image more noticeably, but fine detail is still very good. Image quality at ISO 1600 is almost as good, just slightly softer with more visible luminance noise, but we start to see more sharpening and noise reduction artifacts as the processor tries to maintain sharpness, as well as some color bleeding (see below). At ISO 3200, a larger drop in fine or low-contrast detail occurs with stronger noise processing, while some blotchy chroma noise starts to become noticeable in darker areas, though overall image quality is still fairly good for this sensitivity and resolution. ISO 6400 shows stronger smearing and chroma blotching as the processor struggles to keep noise in check, though there is some fine detail left. Image quality at ISO 12,800 and above falls off more rapidly, with a stippled, almost painted look and strong chroma blotching at 12,8,00 and 25,600. ISO 51,200 is much grainier with a strong peppered effect and is almost devoid of fine detail. (Note that 51,200 is expanded ISO.)

Overall, NX500 JPEG image quality is generally pretty good up to ISO 1600, but falls behind some of its competitors at higher ISOs due to somewhat overzealous default noise reduction. The good news is that the NX500's RAW files appear to competitive with the best 24MP APS-C sensors in terms of high ISO performance, despite the higher resolution and smaller pixels.

As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO, as printed results often to correlate well to images viewed on a monitor at 100%.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4, using one of three very sharp reference lenses. For the Samsung NX500, we used the very sharp 60mm f/2.8 Macro ED SSA NX. To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. If you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us about it; we already know it. :-) The focus target position will simply have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.

Color Bleeding at Higher ISOs

ISO 1600

As mentioned above, we did notice some colors tended to "bleed" out from abrupt edges into darker areas a little excessively in JPEGs (most cameras do to some degree), as seen in the above crop at ISO 1600. And turning down noise reduction didn't help much. There's no such issue when converting RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw, though. (Mouse over the links to compare.)

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very high resolution with very good dynamic range. Good low-light performance, though autofocus struggled.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Samsung NX500 performed well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. Overall, we preferred the +0.7 EV image, which is about the average amount of exposure compensation needed for this shot. The +1.0 EV shot has a few too many blown highlights, while the +0.3 EV is too dim in the face. As mentioned, default contrast is a little high, as it usually is, but despite the bright appearance of the mannequin's shirt and flowers in the +0.7 EV shot, only a few highlights were blown, and shadow detail is quite good with relatively low noise. Very good performance in this difficult lighting.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Face Detection
Just like most cameras these days, the Samsung NX500 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

Interestingly, face detection didn't seem to affect the exposure. Full Auto mode (above right) is however brighter, employing a larger aperture than we normally use for this shot (f/2.8 vs f/8), and a faster shutter speed (1/320s vs 1/25s).

Dynamic Range Expansion settings
The Samsung NX500 offers two dynamic range expansion options: Smart Range+ and HDR. Smart Range+ is works similar to Canon's Highlight Tone Priority, preserving highlights at the expense of noisier shadows. The HDR mode captures two different exposures and merges them for greater tonal range than what is possible in a single exposure, and the NX500 offers 3 HDR strength settings. Note that there is no control over the strength of Smart Range+.

Dynamic Range Expansion: Outdoor Portrait

As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, Smart Range+ worked well, boosting shadows and midtones without blowing any highlights (in fact, it slightly reduced highlights).

The HDR settings work differently by combining two exposures and as you can see from the images and histograms, mostly just the highlights were reduced without affecting the shadows and mid tones. (HDR modes in general are not meant for portraits, though. We take them because lighting is better controlled in the lab versus our Far-field shots below.) Note that the HDR image is noticeably cropped as a result of the alignment process (even though these were taken on a sturdy tripod).

Dynamic Range Expansion: Far-field
Dynamic Range:
HDR High

Here, you can see Smart Range+ and HDR at work with our Far-field shot. Smart Range+ boosted shadows and midtones while toning down highlights, though the results are a little subtle. (Apologies for the change in framing, as our "Off" shot was taken at a focal length of 34mm, while the others in this series were taken at 32mm.)

The HDR modes also brought out a lot of shadow detail while brightening the overall exposure without blowing highlights, with the stronger settings only further reducing highlights slightly compared to the rest of the images Interestingly, we don't see any ghosting from movement within the frame between the two exposures. When investigating this with prior NX models, we concluded Samsung's HDR mode actually does attempt to process movement out, similar to Sony's Anti Motion Blur technology. It's not always 100% successful though, so ghosting is still possible but is less likely or noticeable.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Samsung NX500's dynamic range to that of the Sony A6000 and Panasonic GX7, premium mirrorless models competing with the NX500 at similar price points. You can always compare other models on

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Samsung NX500's dynamic range is excellent, easily besting the Sony A6000's below ISO 400, matching it between ISO 800 and 6400, and only slightly trailing it at higher ISOs. At base ISO, the NX500 managed about 13.9 EV versus 13.1 EV for the A6000, which is a record for a sub-frame mirrorless camera!

The Samsung NX500 does even better against the lower-resolution Four Thirds sensor in the Panasonic GX7 at base ISO, which scored 12.2 EV at its base ISO of 125, about 1.6 EV less than the NX500. But the GX7 gradually catches up as ISO increases, closing matching the NX500 at ISO 3200 and above. Still, that's quite an advantage at low to moderate ISOs.

Bottom line? With a maximum score of about 13.9 EV, the Samsung NX500 offers excellent dynamic range (in fact, as of this writing it's the highest of any APS-C mirrorless camera tested by DxO, including the NX1 which tops out at 12.2 EV).

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Samsung NX500 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
Minimum NR

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/250s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

Low Light. The Samsung NX500 performed reasonably well in our low light test. The NX500's slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds captured bright images at the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle) at ISO 100. Noise is of course low at ISO 100 and is well-controlled at ISO 3200, though the maximum ISO of 51,200 is quite noisy and not recommended.

Auto white balance did a good job here at higher light levels, producing fairly neutral if slightly cool and greenish color balance at ISOs 100 and 3200, though ISO 51,200's high noise shifted midtones and darker areas toward magenta.

We didn't notice any significant banding (fixed pattern noise) and only saw some minor heat blooming at the highest ISO, however we did see a few hot pixels here and there.

The Samsung NX500's autofocus system struggled in low-light, though. It was only able to focus down to just below the 1/2 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is poor. And the NX500's built-in focus assist lamp didn't seem to help at all.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their larger sensors, compact system cameras like the Samsung NX500 tend to do better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Bundled Flash Test Results

Exposure and Range
A weak flash with narrow, uneven coverage. Above average exposure compensation required.



Coverage. Flash coverage from the Samsung NX500's bundled flash is a bit narrow, leaving corners quite dim, and the bottom edge is particularly dark, at least in the shot above at 16mm. Narrow coverage isn't unusual, though (the flash's lens panel is usually optimized for a tradeoff between range and coverage), and some of the corner fall-off is from the lens itself. We no longer test coverage at telephoto, as wide angle is always worst-case.

Normal Flash
+1.0 EV, 1/100s
Slow-Sync Flash
0 EV, 1/15s

Exposure. Our Indoor Portrait test scene is reasonably bright with +1.0 EV flash exposure compensation, while the average for this shot is +0.7 EV. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced a bright image at the default exposure setting, with a strong pinkish cast from the ambient room lighting from the longer 1/15s exposure.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range

6.6 feet
ISO 200, f/5.6

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Samsung NX500's bundled flash is rated at a Guide Number of 8 meters at ISO 100. That works out to a distance of about 6.6 feet at f/5.6 and ISO 200. In the shot above, the NX500 produced a well-exposed target with those settings, so we'd say Samsung's Guide Number rating is credible.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent prints up to 30 x 40 inches at base ISO through ISO 400; Very nice 20 x 30 inch prints at ISO 1600; and acceptable prints are feasible all the way up to ISO 25,600 topping out at 5 x 7 inches.

ISO 100 through 400 images all display outstanding clean, crisp fine detail and great colors, which can be used for prints all the way up to 30 x 40 inches and larger; you're really only limited by the resolution of the sensor. At 30 x 40 inches, even at very close inspection, pixelation is practically nonexistent, but at normal viewing distances for these very large prints, details are nice and sharp.

ISO 800 prints are impressive up to 24 x 36 inches. Images are very clean with hardly any visible luminance noise thanks to the noise reduction processing. This clean-up does soften very fine detail somewhat compared to lower ISOs, however a 30 x 40 inch print would be suitable for wall display.

ISO 1600 images look similar to ISO 800, however the NR softens up fine detail just a little bit more, and so we're calling it at 20 x 30 inches here. Overall, the detail is still very good, and the colors are pleasing.

ISO 3200 prints drop down a size to 16 x 20 inches as shadow noise becomes slightly more apparent and softens up fine detail in those areas along with NR processing. We'd be okay with 20 x 30 inch prints for less critical applications, though.

ISO 6400 images look good at 13 x 19 inches, as the noise/NR processing effects further reduce fine detail resolution.

ISO 12,800 prints top out at 8 x 10 inches, as noise as well as noise reduction processing effects are becoming more and more visible and taking their toll on fine detail. Colors, as well, begin to appear a little on the drab side.

ISO 25,600 images reach the limit of what we can consider an acceptable print for this camera, with 5 x 7 inches. Detail loss due to noise and less pleasing colors really limit printing at larger sizes.

ISO 51,200 prints are all too noisy with lots of detail loss as well as drab colors to be considered acceptable, however a 4 x 6 may be okay for less critical applications, though we'd recommend avoiding this ISO level for prints.

The compact, travel-friendly Samsung NX500 really packs a punch in the print department alongside its larger sibling, the NX1. With a very high-resolution 28MP APS-C image sensor, this camera's files can create some really large prints. At base ISO until ISO 400, prints look excellent all the way up to 30 x 40 inches and larger. You're only limited really on how much you're willing to push the boundaries of the 28MP sensor's resolution. Fine detail is fantastic and colors are accurate at these lower ISO prints. At the middle ISO level, the NX500 still manages to produce some excellent and quite large prints. At ISO 1600, the NX500 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print, while IS0 3200 manages a good 16 x 20. At the extremely high ISOs, the NX500 can still make acceptable prints, with ISO 25,600 being the top limit at 5 x 7 inches. However, colors become less pleasing at these really high ISOs. The NX500 can hit ISO 51,200, but this ISO is best avoided for prints.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung NX500 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung NX500 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Buy the Samsung NX500

Editor's Picks