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Samsung NX500 review: The NX500 is a great general-purpose ILC, if you don't miss a viewfinder

Ready for action with great video, the Samsung NX500 is a nice choice for families and travelers.

Lori Grunin
Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
8 min read

Although it's a little more expensive than most competitors, considering it lacks a viewfinder, the Samsung NX500 offers a lot of useful features, excellent video quality, and action-friendly performance that makes it a nice choice for families and travelers.


Samsung NX500

The Good

Attractive and well designed, the NX500 delivers great photo and video quality.

The Bad

A shallow manual may leave you scratching your head when it comes to connectivity and video playback.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung NX500 offers a lot of useful features, excellent video quality, and action-friendly performance that makes it a nice choice for families and travelers.

The NX500 costs a little on the high side for an interchangeable-lens camera (ILC) without a viewfinder: $600 (AU$1,000 , about £600) in a market where most of the competitors run about $100 less (price differentials aren't as straightforward elsewhere but run about £50- £100, AU$100-AU$300). For the money, though, you get a slightly broader feature set that includes 4K movie capture.

Image quality

Unsurprisingly, the photo and video quality definitely surpasses its smaller-sensor competitor, the Olympus E-PL7. Samsung has crammed most of the high-end components from the NX1 into the NX500's body: same sensor, same DRIMe V image processor, and almost the same 4K recording capabilities (it can't stream 4K over HDMI and has no mic input).

For a camera in its price class the photo quality is quite good, though, with excellent rendering of colors, white balance and tonal range; I'd say it's probably one of the better ILCs under $1,000. Unfortunately, it can't match the sharpness at middle ISO sensitivities of a slightly more expensive camera like the Nikon D5500 which lacks a blurring antialiasing filter on the sensor.

Given that it has many of the same imaging components, it's a great lesson in the huge difference a lens makes. The NX1 ships with an excellent, fast lens (16-50mm f2-2.8); the NX500 ships with an at-best better-than-average 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom kit lens. So photos that stay sharp through ISO 6400 on the NX1 start to lose some sharpness at about ISO 1600 on the NX500 and the out-of-focus areas look much better on the NX1. (Unfortunately, I didn't still have the lens from the NX1 to retest with the NX500.)

The 4K video is excellent; sharp and reasonably high contrast with few artifacts.

Samsung NX500 full-resolution photo samples

See all photos

Analysis samples

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In JPEGs shot with the kit lens, in-focus areas retain sharpness well through ISO 1600, though you can see areas slightly away from the focus area start to get mushy. Lori Grunin/CNET

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ISO 3200 is probably as high as you'd want to shoot JPEGs and retain a reasonable amount of detail, at least with the kit lens. Lori Grunin/CNET

Enlarge Image
You can really see the difference a lens makes when comparing the NX500 with its 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom kit lens to the NX1 with its more expensive 15-50mm f2-2.8 lens. Lori Grunin/CNET

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The NX500 renders neutral but nicely saturated colors. Lori Grunin/CNET

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If you're willing to trade off for some grain above ISO 3200 you can get a little more detail and a little less color noise out of the raw files. Lori Grunin/CNET


Overally, I'd rank the NX500's performance as good but not great. It takes about 1.6 long seconds to power on, focus and shoot, partly because the lens has to extend. Long startup times are one of the drawbacks of ILCs. (The E-PL7's time is faster because the kit lens isn't a power zoom.) Time to focus and shoot is competitive at 0.3 seconds for both raw and JPEG.

Note that after the latest firmware update (version 1.1), the lag time on our dim light test rose substantially to about 0.8 -- the test approximates an exposure value of 3.5EV, which is pretty dark. But in just slightly more light, roughly the equivalent of a dim home interior at 5EV, it drops back to 0.3 second again. (If you're curious, Wikipedia offers a chart mapping EV to real-world conditions.) So in practice you should experience the faster speed far more often than the slower one.

It slows a bit when you throw in the time to process and write photos to the card as it does in our shot-to-shot tests, where both raw and JPEG times round to half a second. With the bundled flash enabled, two sequential shots take about 1.2 seconds as you wait for it to recycle. That's pretty typical for an non-dSLR.

However, it leads its field for continuous-shooting performance at 9.1 frames per second, with continuous autofocus, sustained for at least 30 JPEGs. In practice, it's hard to keep a moving subject framed at that speed without a viewfinder, but I had a decent hit rate with the 50-150mm f2.8 lens, despite the large lens' being somewhat unwiedly on the camera.

The NX500's autofocus system operates pretty well, though its multipoint autofocus is as unreliable as most cameras' -- it frequently selects the closest objects in the scene, though it occasionally chooses randomly and even if you don't move the camera or change the scene it never seems to select the same points twice in a row.

Typical shooting speed

Olympus PEN E-PL7 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.8Samsung NX500 0.3 0.8 0.5 0.5 1.6Samsung NX1 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 1.0
  • Typical shutter lag
  • Dim-light shutter lag
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: Seconds (smaller is better)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Samsung NX1 14.4Samsung NX500 9.1Olympus PEN E-PL7 3.6
Note: Frames per second (larger is better)

Design and features

The camera is an attractive retro two-tone, solid-feeling with a big enough grip for comfortable single-handed shooting -- as long as the lens is relatively lightweight. On top, the power switch surrounds the shutter button, with a small, flat autoexposure lock to its right. There's no built-in flash, just a bundled unit that slides into the hot shoe. To its right is the mobile button for enabling Wi-Fi/NFC and a vertical adjustment dial.

A mode dial sits on the right edge; in addition to the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes and a custom settings slot, there's the SAS (Samsung Auto Shot) mode in which the camera has several different options -- a baseball-swing shot, a jump-in-the-air shot and a general shutter trigger when the subject passes a specific point option -- for capturing action.

On the corner of the angled thumb rest is a flat video record button. To the right of the display are a horizontal adjustment dial, exposure compensation button and quick-access function menu button plus the usual menu, review and delete buttons; the latter servces as a programmable button when not in playback mode.

A four-way navigation pad with center OK button provides direct access to drive modes, autofocus mode, ISO sensitivity and display options. OK lets you control the location and size of the autofocus area when you're in single AF mode.

The NX500 is ready for selfies and groupies. Sarah Tew/CNET

The back display is nicely designed; it can tilt down for overhead shots, tilt up for waist-level shots and flip up for selfies. Samsung's auto self-shot mode kicks in when you flip it up, which activates the self timer and invokes the company's Beauty Shot, which blurs your skin so that you look like you don't have any pores. You can turn that off.

Like Panasonic's cameras, you can extract 8-megapixel stills from 4K video with full EXIF metadata, which is a nice features. Features added in the firmware 1.1 update include the addition of a Pro movie quality mode, just like the NX1's with a maximum bit rate of 70Mbps.

You can't yet view the HEVC/H.265-encoded files easily on a computer; on Windows your choices are the bundled CyberLink software or VLC player, and on the Mac just VLC. (You can only get the software by connecting the camera to your computer and installing Samsung's i-Launcher software.) No video-editing software supports it natively, either, so to edit you'll have to transcode it either with Samsung's meh converter software or with VLC. The best way to play it back is to copy the files to the USB drive and plug it into the TV (I use the SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS II Reader/Writer to directly plug the card in.) You may still run into issues with your TV not being to decode the files.

As with Samsung's other cameras, the connected options are pretty good. The trickiest part: downloading the right apps in the right way on . It requires two if you don't have a Samsung phone, the Camera Manager app and the Samsung Accessory Service (SAS). When you launch Camera Manager, which you can download from the Play store, it will tell you it can't run until you download an install the SAS, which is not available via the Play store. Clicking OK will take you to the Samsung site to download and install the APK file.

However, if you do it that way the Camera Manager doesn't seem to realize that the SAS is installed. You have to try to first connect the phone to the camera via NFC, wait until the Camera Manager pops up and then follow the prompts to download the SAS. This odd glitch may be just a problem with my original HTC One , but I've had it with every Samsung camera I've tried to connect to so I'm putting it out there in case anyone starts searching the Internet looking for a solution to the same issue. There's no mention of the SAS in the documentation, either. Connecting on the iPhone or iPad uses Apple's crude but effective Wi-Fi-connection Settings approach.

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Bluetooth shutter, exactly what it says. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

The camera also has a novel option for phones, Bluetooth Shutter, which gives you a basic shutter -- in contrast to the full manual controls available via Wi-Fi -- that operates quickly after the initial pairing.

Other notable features include a basic interval shooting feature with an option to automatically creative a time-lapse video and the ability to manually enable the electronic shutter to decrease noise and vibration.

For complete details of its features and operation, download the NX500's manual.


As long as you don't pine for a viewfinder -- I admit, I do -- the Samsung NX500 much of what you need in a compact family and traveling camera.

Comparative specifications

Nikon 1 J5 Olympus PEN E-PL7 Samsung NX500
Sensor effective resolution 20.8MP CMOS 16.1MP Live MOS 28.2MP BSI CMOS
Sensor size 13.2 x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5 x 15.7 mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 1.5x
OLPF No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 160 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600/51200 (exp)
Burst shooting

(60fps with fixed AF)
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with fixed focus and exposure)
40 JPEG/5 raw
(mag/ effective mag)
None None None
Hot shoe No Yes Yes
Autofocus 105-point phase detection
171-area contrast AF
Contrast AF
205 phase-detection AF
(153 cross-type)
209 contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a -4 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30 - 1/16,000; bulb sec;
1/60 sec x-sync
electronic shutter
60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync 30-1/6,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/180 x-sync
Shutter durability n/a n/a n/a
Metering n/a 324 area 221 area
Metering sensitivity n/a -2 - 20 EV n/a
Best video H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p; 720/120p; UHD/15p
H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 24Mbps H.265 MP4
UHD/30p; C4K/24p; 1080/60p, 50p; 720/120p
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 10 minutes 22 minutes 29 minutes
IS Optical Sensor shift Optical
LCD 3-inch/7.5 cm
tiling touchscreen
1.04 million dots
Flip-down touch screen
1.04m dots
AMOLED tilting touchscreen
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x microSDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Bundled optional Bundled optional
Wireless flash No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 250 shots 350 shots 400 (est.)
Size (WHD) 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 in
98.3 x 59.7 x 31.5 mm
4.5 x 2.6 x 1.5 in
114.9 x 67 x 38.4 mm
4.7 x 2.5 x 1.7 in
119.5 x 63.6 x 42.5 mm
Body operating weight 8.4 oz (est.)
238 g (est.)
12.9 oz
364 g
12.3 oz
348 g
Primary kit $500
£400 (est.)
(with 10-30 PD lens)
AU$700 (est.)
(with 14-42mm PZ lens)
£600 (est.)
(with 16-50mm PZ lens)
Release date April 2015 September 2014 March 2015

Samsung NX500

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 7Image quality 9
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