Review Samsung NX 500

How great is it to have a camera with the very best “professional” sensor that a camera brand has to offer? But then in a luxurious, easy-to-carry, compact system camera? With which you can also make a selfie? A user-friendly camera, with which you can send your best photos, selfies and videos—via Bluetooth, NFC or Wi-Fi—to the smartphones or tablets of friends and family, or share them on social media?
The Samsung NX500 offers it all, in a beautifully finished camera body weighing less than 3 ounces, without a viewfinder, but with a 180⁰ tilting screen. Available since March 2015 in the Netherlands in black, white and brown.

Samsung NX 500 versus Samsung NX 300 / NX1

The Samsung NX500 has the same appearance as its predecessor, the Samsung NX300, with the most important difference being a very handy extra settings wheel on the back of the Samsung NX500. But the inside of the camera is completely different, with specifications similar to Samsung’s professional top model, the Samsung NX1.
With a list price of 749 euros, including Samsung 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 PowerZoom (silent electronic zoom, which is handy for video) lens, the Samsung NX500 finds itself in between the two other Samsung models.

  • 28 megapixel APS-C (1.5x crop factor) Back Side Illumination  (“BSI”) CMOS sensor (NX500 & NX1) vs traditional 20 megapixel APS-C sensor (NX300)
  • The NX1 has an electronic viewfinder; the other two Samsung cameras have no viewfinder.
  • The NX1 has USB 3 for extra-fast data transfer; the other two cameras have USB 2.
  • The NX1, with 15 images per second, is more of an action camera than the NX500 (9 images per second), never mind the NX300 (6 fps).
  • The Samsung NX300 and NX1 were bundled with Adobe Lightroom. With the NX500, that is unfortunately no longer the case.
  • In comparison with the NX300, the Samsung NX500 (just like the NX1) has an extra settings wheel on the back of the camera.
  • The NX500, just like the NX1, has a hybrid (phase and contrast detection) auto focus system with 209 AF points.
  • ISO range of the NX500 runs from 100 to 25,600 and is expandable to 51,200.
  • The tilting 3-inch (1,036 million pixels) AMOLED touchscreen of the Samsung NX 500 can be used for selfies.

Samsung NX 500:
Build quality, competitors & features

Samsung NX500 @ f/1.8, 1/25 sec + IS, 400 ISO

Selfie transcends face detection From a camera with a selfie screen, you expect more than just an auto-release. Because a mirrorless sensor focuses on the sensor signal, the camera has much more information available than simply the distance of the subject and the exposure parameters. You can set the NX500 to take a picture after you wink at it. It’s true, but it doesn’t work if you, like me, wear glasses. My partner demonstrates here that the setting whereby a photo is taken as soon as you show your teeth is a more effective mode for making a selfie.

Samsung NX 500 versus an SLR  camera (Canon 760D)

The Samsung NX 500, as far as specifications and performance are concerned, is comparable with a high-end SLR camera with two settings wheels for aperture and shutter time, like the Canon 760D. In the end, the most experienced amateur photographers choose a camera with two settings wheels, whether that’s an SLR camera or a system camera. In many respects, there are correspondences, in terms of specs and user options, between the 760D and the NX500. There are big differences in appearance: the Samsung NX 500 is smaller, lighter and quieter because of the lack of a mirror. The Canon 760D has a traditional viewfinder, and the Samsung NX500 does not, which further contributes to its compact dimensions. Making a selfie with an SLR is more difficult than with the NX500. I do not know any SLR with which you can tilt the screen as far as that of the Samsung NX500 without causing permanent damage. 

  • The Canon SLR is clearly larger and 10% heavier.
  • With the Samsung NX500, you focus on the screen; with the Canon, that’s normally with the help of the viewfinder.
  • The Samsung NX500 offers 195 AF points (with 153 cross-type sensors). This is more, spanning a larger part of the sensor, than with an SLR.
  • An electronic shutter, like that on the Samsung NX 500, is missing on the Canon SLR.

Design, build quality and ergonomics

The Samsung NX500 is compact, light and simultaneously has a high-quality finish. With the combination of the sensor with Hybrid Autofocus and 9 FPS continuous images, you are able to capture fast action. The smart Samsung Auto Shot (SAS) function recognizes movements, so that the NX500 itself decides what the best moment is to take the shot. The camera makes use, like practically all consumer cameras of today, of an SD card. The ergonomics, in comparison with the NX300, are a bit improved, and this camera sits even better in your hand. The leather-like material with which the camera is finished is no longer so smooth and offers more grip. 

Screen and viewfinder

The screen on the back of the camera is large, sharp and bright. The latter is important, because the Samsung NX500 does not have a built-in viewfinder. I see ever-more photographers—switching from smartphones?—who no longer use a viewfinder. In sunny weather, the screen thus has to remain usable. This screen is among the best of the screens that you will find on the back of a camera. With Samsung’s smart-phone experience, that won’t surprise anyone. The Samsung NX500 is a user-friendly camera, with lots of options. That can go so far that you recognize movements with Samsung’s Auto Shot (SAS), after which the NX500 chooses the best moment to take the shot. I already wrote in the Samsung NX1 review: these kinds of features might look like fluff right now, but I’m convinced that a number of these kinds of developments, which in this case are made possible by AF sensors that span 90% of the image (which is not possible with an SLR camera), will be standard functions in a couple of years for the camera of the future. In the Nikon 1 series, you can see that Samsung is not the only manufacturer that believes in these kinds of developments.

Charging the battery by USB

The funny thing about Samsung cameras is that you can charge them without a charger. The Samsung NX500 can be charged via the USB connection. The USB cable can be connected to a computer or with the included plug to a wall outlet. The disadvantage of this method is that you cannot photograph while you charge the battery. I would certainly buy an external charger immediately. 

In-camera panorama photos


Samsung NX 500 with 16-50 mm Powerzoom @16 mm  f/4, 1/500 sec, 320 ISO

Various cameras, for example Nikon 1 and Sony, have an option for making panoramic photos by slowly turning the camera around. Samsung cameras also offer this option, but I never got around to testing it before. I did that this time, by making some panoramic shots with the Samsung NX500 during a springtime hike. With the combination of video and photography—as I imagine it—you see the panoramic photo created on the screen in front of you, while you move the camera. You press one time on the release button when you’re finished, and the panoramic photo is done. I was not able to discover any stitch flaws. And that’s impressive. Without a tripod. Without special stitching software. You can make panoramic shots while you hold the camera horizontally (which delivers panoramic photos of about 1000 pixels high) or vertically (panoramics of 1500 pixels high). That surprised me, since the 28 megapixel sensor has many more pixels available. Always hold the camera vertically when shooting panoramics in any case, since 1000 pixels is perhaps ideal for a panorama that you share via social media or on the internet, but it is a bit too low for a great print on the wall. If that’s what you want, then you’re still better off taking separate shots that you stitch together afterwards, for example with PTGui.

High resolution and image quality

First-class image quality and lively photos are guaranteed with the NX500. Even in low light, you shoot detailed pictures with the high-resolution, 28MP, Back-Side Illumination APS-C sensor. That was already clear from our review of the Samsung NX1, and it’s apparent again here. You also see it in our list of lens reviews for Samsung lenses on the Samsung NX1: with this 28 megapixel sensor and a good Samsung lens, you beat out many cameras with a full-format sensor and a big, expensive lens. The NX500 is equipped with a DRIMe Vs processor. The processor is faster than its predecessor. (Do they mean the DRIMe V, without the s at the end, of the NX1? I suspect not. I think they mean the processor of the NX300. These days, manufacturers are stumbling over each other in the race to emphasize that their most recent image processor delivers even high image quality than the last one, but there’s usually no noticeable difference in image quality. The strides that are being made in image processing speed with the development of processors are more impressive, I think, than in the image quality. I could not discover any differences between the DRIMe V of the NX1 and the DRIMe Vs processor of the NX500.)

Dynamic range


Samsung NX 500 met 16-50 mm Powerzoom @16 mm  f/3.5, 1/320 sec, 100 ISO

Both the practice shots and our Imatest results show that the Samsung NX500—just like the Samsung NX1—has a high dynamic range. You might expect that an APS-C sensor with 28 megapixels would have a lower dynamic range than a 20 megapixel full-format from another brand. That is—certainly at the lower ISO values—not the case. The camera chooses in selecting the exposure to protect the highlights as much as possible. You can later make the darker areas lighter in Photoshop or Lightroom, without having to worry about the appearance of color noise. In critical situations, such as in the practice shot above, the highlights in the jpg file are bleached out, but in the RAW file, can be converted into a light blue sky. If you work in jpg, then you can manually underexpose in such situations, in order to avoid over-exposure of the highlights. 


Color reproduction

The color reproduction of the Samsung NX500—without selecting an image style—is just good. In daylight (picture below left), the greatest color deviations are found in the blue and yellow colors. A light blue sky in beautiful weather will sometimes change into postcard blue, and in the shadows, the pictures are somewhat cool. In artificial light, the orange color haze, in comparison with most other cameras that we have reviewed, was remarkably limited. The orange and magenta colors in particular are those with which automatic white balance had difficulty with the glow-lamp light. Because the color deviation is not the same for all colors, color balance is less simple to correct with an adjustment of the white balance. The differences between the image styles of modern cameras—lively, portrait, natural, etc.—are usually greater than the differences between the sensors of the different brands. Color reproduction thus also makes a modest contribution to our final assessment of a camera. 


Samsung NX500 color reproduction in daylight Samsung NX500 color reproduction in artificial light


The Imatest results for noise with the Samsung NX500 were a bit lower than those with the Samsung NX1. Both cameras excel at low ISO values. Above 3200 ISO, I prefer RAW files, because I can then exercise more influence over the noise suppression.
It is possible that (small) differences between the image quality of the NX1 and that of the NX500 are caused by the use of a different RAW converter. The NX1 and NX500 also have a slightly different processor, and there may also be differences in the firmware of the two cameras, leading to small differences in image quality. I’ll check back on this when the NX500 RAW files can also be processed in Lightroom.

Video and more…

I paid little attention to the image quality of the Samsung NX500 in this review. It is certainly a design that is worth the effort to come back to later, since the Samsung NX500 makes both 4K and UHD videos that look very sharp. Without a microphone or headphone connection, this camera is not intended for a professional videographer, but it is well suited for those who, next to photography, would like to take an occasional clip without having to drag along a dedicated video camera.

Sharing images & handy software update

With the test model, there was no CD included with software, and with Lightroom and Photoshop, it was not yet possible to open RAW files from the NX500. I therefore wanted to resort to the RAW converter from Samsung. I could not find the correct version on the internet. But Samsung came up with a handy alternative for this. Connect the camera to a PC or Mac, and the camera will be recognized as an installation CD with which an update can be carried out. On my PC, Windows lagged terribly, but when I realized that I could only run the “camera CD” as Administrator, it went flawlessly. The camera retrieved the most recent version of the RAW converter from the internet. And with that, I could open and edit RAW files from the Samsung NX500.
Just as with the Samsung NX1, you can note from the user options for editing files on the camera and sharing them via social media that Samsung has shared experience from their successful phone division with the camera division. It seems obvious, but it does not go without saying for every multi-national that divisions share their knowledge and experience in order to be of the greatest possible service to their customers.    


With wide-angle shots, it is unfortunate that you lose a small amount of field of view. With telephoto shots, that’s a small advantage. The new DRIMe Vs processor makes modern MP4 H.265 4K video (4096 at 2160 pixels, with 24 frames per second) files, which cannot yet be edited with all software. For UHD images, the camera achieves 30 frames per second.
What surprised me is that it is not possible to export the highest-quality video recordings (4K and “Pro” files) to an external recorder. I also saw no connection for an external microphone or headphones. For making 4K video, a part of the sensor is used, so that you get a small bit of extra crop factor. Videos, thanks to this modern codec, are compressed to half of the file size, without this being at the cost of the image quality.
I would love to do a direct comparison between the NX1 and the NX500, in order to see whether I can discover differences in image quality.

Electronic shutter: not completely silent

On the Samsung NX500, you can choose between the use of a traditional, mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter. The disadvantage of an electronic shutter is the chance of the “rolling shutter effect.” If you use the electronic shutter, then the rows of pixels on the sensor are read, lightning fast, in sequence. With a train racing by, the pixels at the top of the image register the train fractionally earlier than the pixels at the bottom, so that vertical lines of the train on the shot come out a bit slanted. Modern cameras with an electronic shutter already show much less rolling shutter than cameras from a few years ago. But it can still happen.

But the use of an electronic shutter also has various—perhaps more important—advantages. For the making of macro and telephoto shots, there is a chance of motion blur, as a result of a mechanical shutter that goes up and down in a blink, a disruptive factor that you want to limit as much as possible. Motion blur as a result of a mechanical shutter does not produce any blurry images, but you do not take optimal advantage of the quality of a sensor with high resolution. A 30-megapixel shot, thanks to shutter shake, might have the same sharpness as a 20-megapixel sensor. That’s a waste, even if not many people will not notice it immediately. You do not buy a camera with high image quality without reason, after all.
With the making of in-camera HDR shots, an electronic shutter also offers advantages, as I noticed in reviewing the test shots. For in-camera HDR shots, the camera makes a series of differently exposed shots in quick succession and merges them into 1 picture with an even greater dynamic range. In order to prevent motion blur, you’re best off making HDR shots from a tripod with many cameras, because otherwise the compiled photo becomes blurry. The Samsung NX500 takes the HDR shots in such quick succession that I could not see from the sharpness of a backlit photo (with a shutter time of 1/80 of a second) shot by hand whether the picture was a single shot or an in-camera HDR composed of multiple shots. I could clearly see the difference in the sky and the clouds: the regular shot had a white sky, against which the clouds did not stand out, while the HDR shot had a light-blue sky, against which the clouds stand out more clearly. And the results looked much more realistic than HDR shots made with dedicated HDR software. Samsung’s electronic shutter is not as quiet as Panasonic’s.

Ultra HD Timelapse

You can also shoot timelapse shots in 4K/Ultra-HD. With the Samsung NX500, you can take a 1-minute series of images with a speed of 10 images per second, which you can then play back more quickly on your PC. Real, longer timelapse shots are also possible, as long as you have sufficient disk space available. For short timelapse series, you can watch on the screen. For timelapse shots longer than 10 minutes, the Samsung NX500 switches off the screen in order to save power.

Conclusion Samsung NX500 review

Samsung NX500
@ f/5.6, 1/60 sec, 125 ISO
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Conclusion Samsung NX 500 review





  • Compact: Fits in the palm of your hand and weighs a bit more than a package of candy
  • 4K video with a small bit of extra crop
  • The same high image quality and fast AF as the Samsung NX1
  • Simple to use, but versatile in terms of options
  • Software update of RAW converter is possible via the camera (connected to a PC/Mac)
  • Simple sharing and editing of photos from the camera


  • No built-in viewfinder
  • A small bit of extra crop for video
  • Panorama mode maximally 1500 pixels high
  • 4K and Pro video images are not exportable to an external recorder

Too long, didn’t read (TL/DR)? The Samsung NX500 offers 4K video as well as the same high AF speed and image quality as its bigger brother (NX1), but it is more compact and simpler to operate.

It does appear as though there is an ever-clearer split among amateur photographers. On the one hand, there is a group of amateur photographers who are striving for the highest possible image quality. They prefer a “professional camera” with as many and as extensive of options as possible. And they really use those as well. That a camera is thus a bit larger and that it takes time to learn all the capabilities of the camera, is not a hindrance to this group. That’s why it’s their hobby (and sometimes their profession). The Samsung NX1 is an attractive choice for this group.
On the other hand, there is a group of amateur photographers who are also striving for the highest possible image quality, but they prefer to combine that with ease of use/simple operation of a preferably less expensive and in any case lighter and compact camera. Photography is, after all, a hobby. For the second group, it’s about the pleasure of photography, whereby you do have the option to exchange lenses and to play with exposure and focal depth, but where otherwise technical matters are as much as possible taken care of for them. This group of amateur photographers is the perfect audience for the Samsung NX500. Personally, I would sooner choose a bit larger camera with a built-in viewfinder and more buttons, like the Samsung NX1, while the image quality gives nothing up to the NX1. The Samsung NX500 thus belongs to the group of cameras with an APS-C sensor that, certainly below 3200 ISO, in terms of image quality compete head-to-head with a full-format sensor. This camera is absolutely recommended for those who want to make worry-free photos and want to come home with pictures that you can be proud of.


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