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Samsung NX500 review – hands on

Samsung NX500 front

We go hands-on with the NX500, the “slimmed-down NX1”, at Samsung's 2015 European Forum

Samsung announced the NX500 CSC camera as an alternative to the much larger, DSLR-rivalling NX1 earlier today. We were able to go hands on with the svelte camera at Samsung’s European Forum.

All three colour varieties, black, white and brown, were on display. The colour choice only extends to the camera grip, which uses a leather-like material that gives it a touch of retro appeal as well as making the camera easier to hold. The rest of the body has a silver metal finish, again adding to the retro-inspired design. The NX500 is particularly light and felt nicely balanced in our hands when paired with its 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS power zoom lens. The camera feels suitably premium for a camera of its price (expected to be around £550-600).

Two adjustment wheels makes it easy to change exposure settings on-the-fly, which should appeal to anyone who has shot with a full-body DSLR. These can be set to adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed or exposure compensation; we set them to aperture and shutter speed controls and the NX500 was immediately pleasingly easy to get to grips with. Dedicated buttons for ISO, autofocus control, exposure compensation and timer modes are on the back, and there’s a dedicated recording button for video too.

The 3in Super AMOLED touchscreen display was nice and bright. The screen is articulating, making it easy to shoot from interesting angles, including the ability to flip up 180 degrees for anyone looking to frame selfies. The touchscreen also made manipulating controls and menus a breeze. It looked impressively sharp, although it remains to be seen how it performs outdoors and in bright sunlight; with no electronic viewfinder (EVF) it will need to stay bright and legible in order to impress us.

You can also use the touchscreen for touch-to-focus. The NX500 uses Samsung’s NX AF System III hybrid auto-focus, which we found focused very quickly when switching rapidly between objects close to the lens and those further away. You’re also able to change the autofocus detection point size.

If you opt to use manual focus, the zoom ring takes over focus duties. The touchscreen displays a zoomed in view allowing you to make micro-focus adjustments to ensure a sharp shot, which we found very useful. There are also zoom buttons integrated into the lens so you don’t lose the ability to zoom while manual focusing. Having a choice of using the zoom buttons or rotating the barrel of the lens gives you some added flexibility depending on your shooting situation. This is especially true when shooting video when it’s better to use the buttons rather than rotating the barrel if you want steady video.

The NX mount currently has around 30 lenses to choose from, with a wide selection of primes, zooms, wide angles and macros, although there’s stiff competition from Panasonic and Olympus with the Micro Four Thirds format.

There’s no built-in flash, but there is an accessory hotshoe on the top if you want to add an external flash, which generally provide more pleasingly lit images anyway. The NX500 can also be paired with a smartphone through Bluetooth, and there’s NFC for quick-pairing as well, which will allow for easy image sharing as well as remote control options via your smartphone. The camera also has built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

The NX500 has other useful features such as motion detection and autoshot that will help users time the shutter release for the best photo. While we weren’t able to take away any shots for closer scrutiny, what we at least saw on the NX500’s display looked good. On paper the 28MP BSI APS-C sensor makes the NX500 a very exciting prospect and should hopefully mean its low-light shooting capabilities are solid. Add to that 4K video recording and the NX500 could be a great all-rounder.

We’ll get the NX500 into our labs for a full review as soon as we can but our initial impressions were very good indeed; Sony’s Alpha A6000 is the only CSC that comes close in terms of raw pixels and the price looks to be very competitive. Expect more detailed impressions a little closer to launch in March.

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