The NX500 places the NX1’s impressive 28-million-pixel sensor into a compact body. Andy Westlake finds out whether it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Samsung NX500 review: Features
Even a passing glance at the specification sheet reveals that the NX500 is an exceptionally well featured camera; indeed Samsung’s biggest problem may well lie in persuading potential buyers that this relatively unremarkable-looking model can – on paper – outperform anything else at its price point, including DSLRs. That 28-million-pixel sensor offers the highest resolution available for APS-C cameras; you’d have to spend double the money to surpass it. This is backed up by 14-bit raw recording in single-shot drive mode, to record the maximum image data deep into the shadows.
The sensitivity ranges up to ISO 25,600 as standard, and ISO 51,200 when extended, with the sensor’s backside-illuminated design giving it an advantage at higher settings. Tucked away in the menu is a state-of-the-art auto ISO program that allows the user to specify not just the maximum allowable sensitivity, but also a minimum shutter speed (from 1sec to 1/1000 sec). Alternatively, the camera can set the minimum speed based on the focal length of the lens in use, but with a user-selectable bias towards slower or faster speeds depending on their preferences. Auto ISO can even be used in manual mode, and combined with exposure compensation to control the image brightness. This is all incredibly flexible, and matched by few other brands.
When it comes to continuous shooting, the NX500’s DRIME Vs processor is slimmed down compared to the NX1’s DRIME V, but it’s still powerful enough to support nine frames per second for up to 40 shots in JPEG mode, although only five shots in raw format. The sensor’s on-chip phase detection means it can track focus on a moving subject while shooting at this rate too. Indeed, autofocus is essentially the same as on the NX1, with a hybrid phase and contrast-detection system that covers practically the entire image area. Naturally, face detection is available for portrait shooting, along with rather gimmicky smile-shot and wink-shot shutter release modes.
Other features include a multi-shot in-camera, high dynamic range mode to deal with extremely high-contrast scenes, although this is JPEG only. Alternatively, Samsung’s Smart Range+ mode can render more of the dynamic range captured by the sensor in the camera’s JPEG output. There’s also a highly customisable intervalometer mode, with the option to make a full HD time-lapse movie in-camera.
Naturally, a whole range of image-processing options is on offer, including vivid, portrait, landscape and retro modes, and a very attractive black & white mode labelled Classic. JPEG shooters can further indulge themselves with vignetting, miniature, and partial colour effects too. For raw shooters, a copy of Adobe Lightroom is included in the box, which adds greatly to the overall value.
This being Samsung, a full array of connectivity options is built-in. As usual it has built-in Wi-Fi for connection to a smartphone or tablet, allowing image sharing and remote control, with easy NFC-mediated set-up simply by the tapping devices together. But in a feature unique to Samsung, it can do all the same things using a less power-hungry, shorter-range Bluetooth connection. I found that both methods worked very well with my Samsung tablet, but the camera would only to talk to my iPhone 4S over Wi-Fi.