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: Build and handling
Despite its fashionable two-tone black-and-silver finish, the NX500 is a fairly ordinary-looking camera, and lacks the stylish appeal of competitors such as the Olympus Pen E-PL7. Most of the body is covered with a rubberised, textured coating, which combined with the curvaceous handgrip and subtle thumb ‘hook’, makes the camera comfortable to use and feel unusually secure even when held one-handed. The plastic base-plate is colour-coordinated with the main body, offset by the silver top-plate. A door on the handgrip conceals micro-HDMI and micro-USB ports, with the latter used for charging the battery.
The NX500 has a decent array of buttons and dials, which combined with the clear touchscreen make it quick and easy to use. Crucially, the touch controls mostly complement, rather than replace the physical ones. So while it’s quickest and easiest to select the autofocus point using the screen, for example, this can also be done using the OK button and the D-pad. There’s a decent element of customisation on offer too, with three user-configurable buttons and the ability to define exactly how you want the two command dials to work in each exposure mode. Multiple custom modes can be saved to the ‘C’ position on the mode dial, and assigned both user-specified names, and example images for quick identification. This means most photographers should be able to set the camera up to their liking.
One feature that does require the touchscreen is the ability to bias the metering separately from the focus point, in a fashion that will be familiar to smartphone users, by pressing down on the screen and dragging the metering area away from the AF area. This can be really useful in high-contrast situations if you want to focus on a dark subject but expose for the highlights. My main criticism of the NX500 with regards to handling lies with the twin command dials, which are both decidedly small and fiddly, with rather imprecise clicks. They don’t hinder shooting as such, but they make it a less enjoyable process than it could be.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of Samsung’s excellent iFn control system. Pressing a button on
the side of most lenses cycles through the main exposure settings – shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO and white balance – and allows you to change them using the lens control ring (which on most iFn lenses is the manual focus ring). The more I used the NX500, the more I found myself preferring this method of control. It’s worth noting that the included 16-50mm lens zooms electrically rather than mechanically, using either the ring at the front or buttons on the side of the barrel, which helps keep the lens compact. Samsung’s other NX lenses use a traditional mechanical zoom.