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: Performance
With the same 28MP sensor as the NX1, the NX500 delivers similarly excellent image quality. It’s capable of recording loads of detail at low sensitivities, while delivering very good high ISO shots too. The default colour JPEG rendition is attractive enough, erring on the side of accuracy rather than punchiness and saturation. However, blue skies tend to be understated, and don’t have the kind of rich, crowd-pleasing appeal that you get from the likes of Olympus.
Auto white balance gets things right more often than wrong, and there’s a specific mode to maintain warmth under artificial light. Metering tends to be fairly conservative, giving well-judged results on bright days but with a habit of underexposing in duller weather. However, the camera provides an accurate preview of how shots will turn out, so it’s easy enough to dial in some exposure compensation to fix this.
The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that comes with the camera is a decent enough performer, although as with similar compact power zooms, some compromises have been made to achieve its size and price point. It’s very sharp in the centre at its optimum apertures around f/5.6 to f/8, but has a tendency towards soft edges, especially at the long end. However I’d happily accept this as the price for its light weight
In a word, the NX500’s autofocus system is excellent. With a hybrid system of 205 phase-detection and 209 contrast-detection focus points that cover 90% of the image area, and the ability to track focus while shooting at 9fps, I found it rarely misses a shot. During the course of this review, I pointed it at oncoming trains and erratically moving drones, and it managed to track focus almost all of the time, only losing focus when the subject drifted well off-centre. This makes the NX500 one of the best in its class, with only the Sony Alpha 5100 and Nikon 1 system cameras able to match it.
For static subjects, the AF area can be placed almost anywhere within the frame by a tap on the screen, and focus with unerring accuracy. With moving subjects I preferred to let the camera choose the AF area, and found that it usually made the right decision, although it’s important to first activate AF with the subject in the centre of the frame.
In manual-focus mode, the NX500 inherits one of Samsung’s most annoying quirks – it will only ever give a magnified view in the centre of the frame. However, its peaking display works very well, giving a reasonably accurate depiction of what’s likely to be sharp.