Best lens for Samsung NX500

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After 15 extensive Samsung NX lens tests, we chose the best lenses for the Samsung NX500: good, affordable and compact.

Not every photographer is a man over 40 with an SLR camera and a heavy camera bag. Maybe you’re a hipster, who—after positive experiences with a user-friendly Samsung smartphone – has his or her eye on a Samsung NX500. It is a light, compact camera with a top-class sensor, with which you can take much better pictures than with a smartphone (and even many SLR cameras), which can also film in theater quality (Ultra-HD / 4K). How great is it to have a camera with the very best "professional" sensor that a camera brand has to offer? But then in a luxurious, easy-to-take-along, compact system camera? And that you can also use for making selfies?
Because you were accustomed to photographing with a smartphone, you find the lack of a viewfinder—for “old-fashioned” photographers like me a reason to choose a Samsung NX1 over the NX500—is not that important. Only Samsung lenses fit on a Samsung camera. That is no problem for an NX500 owner. The selection of Samsung NX lenses with the weight of a bag of candy and a price under 300 euros is surprisingly big.  

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Not all cameras are black. Since the history-making statement by auto maker Ford (“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”), little has changed in the world. Nearly all system cameras (cameras with interchangeable lenses) are black. The NX500 is available in 3 colors. Even the lenses are also available from Samsung in white.

Best lenses for Samsung NX500: long live the pancake!

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If you buy a compact camera, then of course you also want its lenses to be compact and light. Modern SLR cameras are increasingly smaller and lighter. And yet it is not rare for the lenses that you buy with them to be twice as long and at least as heavy as comparable Samsung NX. Samsung has managed this by choosing a special “pancake” lens design for the lenses with a short focal length, which in terms of shape, weight, quality and price make a perfect combination with the Samsung NX500.
Are you a Samsung NX500 photographer who strives for the highest image quality, and do you find that more important than a compact housing? Then look at “The best lens for a Samsung NX1” (appearing soon), where the brighter, bigger and more expensive “professional” lenses with uncompromising quality are discussed.

Type Recommendation Explanation  
Universal kit lens Samsung NX 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Power Zoom ED OIS Just a bit more expensive than 300 euros, but more compact and ideal for video Test
Low Light Samsung 45 mm f/1.8 Short, bright telephoto lens with beautiful bokeh Test
Macro Samsung 60mm f/2.8 Macro NX Very high price-to-quality ratio Test
Wide angle Samsung 12-24mm f/4-5.6 ED NX / Samsung 16mm f/2.4 Do you want an inexpensive fixed focal length or a bit more expensive zoom? Test / Test
Fisheye Samsung NX 10mm Fisheye For anyone who loves spectacular shots Test
Portrait Samsung 45 mm f/1.8 Simultaneously sharp eyes and a beautiful background blur Test
Telephoto lens Samsung 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED OIS II A steal Test
Fixed focal length Samsung 45 mm f/1.8 Broadly usable and lets the NX500 fully shine Test
Bokeh Samsung 45 mm f/1.8 Beautiful bokeh does not have to be expensive

Test

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The best NX500 kit lens: Power Zoom or not?

When you buy a camera, that is usually offered in combination with a kit lens. Such zoom lenses are very inexpensive and offer a great deal for the money—although of course they are not as good as the more expensive lenses. Samsung also has a Power Zoom (Samsung NX 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Power Zoom ED OIS) in the lens selection, where the zoom is driven electronically, instead of you turning a zoom ring on the lens. As far as image quality is concerned, the regular 18-55 mm zoom, the 16-50 mm zoom and the 16-50 mm Power Zoom do not differ much from each other. Still, the shorter 16 mm focal length is a plus point that should not be underestimated for anyone who wants to get a great deal in a photo—for example because you are photographing indoors, where it is not possible to take a step back. The Power Zoom is certainly also attractive for making fluid video recordings, where you want to zoom in or out. For photographers, the advantage of the Power Zoom is that you only need a ring for manual focus, so that the Power Zoom is strikingly compact.

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Macrophotography with a Samsung NX500

A macro lens is a bit more expensive, more specialized lens, with a very high image quality. There are many lenses with which you can take a close-up. Other brands give such zoom lenses the “Macro” tag, even though it is not a macro lens. Samsung has 1 macro lens (Samsung NX 60mm f/2.8 Macro). And that is a real one, where the subject is the same size on the sensor as in reality (1:1 scale).
I love testing macro lenses, because they have such high image quality. A macro lens is, for example, can also be used outstandingly for portraits, reproduction or architectural photography. A macro lens is—regardless of brand—bigger and more expensive than the other lenses. As far as brightness is concerned (f/2.8), macro lenses lose out to other lenses with a fixed focal length, but the sharpness from corner to corner is to die for.

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Wide-angle lenses: zoom or fixed focal length?

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Photo: Ton Niessing

A lens with a focal length of 18 mm or lower is ideal for making overview shots with the Samsung NX500, whether those are indoor shots, landscapes or a group portrait at a wedding. We have tested multiple Samsung wide-angle and standard zoom lenses that you can use for this:

A very beautiful wide-angle zoom from this list that we can recommend to every Samsung NX500 owner is the Samsung NX 12-24 mm. In comparison with similar zoom lenses of other brands, the Samsung NX 12-24 mm is surprisingly light and compact. The unique, short focal length of 12 mm gives your shots a wide view, which you cannot experience with the other Samsung zoom lenses. You might think: What does a couple of mm matter? But it is a world of difference. A possible disadvantage relative to the other Samsung zoom lenses is the lack of image stabilization, so that you have to hold the camera very still in low light in order to ensure that the shot is not blurred. The Samsung NX 16mm f/2.4, is less expensive, brighter, more compact and optically better (sharper corners), also without image stabilization. 

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Samsung NX 10mm Fisheye

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A Fisheye lens is actually a specialist lens with deliberate, characteristic distortion. Honestly said, we do not expect that there are many Samsung NX500 owners who are looking for Fisheye. But for adventurous photographers looking for a distinguishing characteristic, a Fisheye is a unique chance to develop your own, striking style. The Samsung lens package is so big that even that NX500 owner has his or her wishes granted. With the surprisingly small and light Fisheye lens from Samsung, you make beautiful, characteristic Fisheye shots.

Portrait lenses

A good portrait lens is bright and has a focal length of 85 mm or more (converted to a full-frame sensor). Due to its compact construction, a model quickly feels at ease when you shoot portraits with the Samsung NX 45 mm f/1.8, instead of the much larger (but also more expensive) Samsung 85 mm f/1.4. Because a 45-mm focal length (which corresponds with 70 mm on a full-frame sensor) is relatively short for a portrait lens, it is smart not to get too close to your subject. If you leave a bit of extra space around the head when making a portrait, you prevent the model’s nose becoming too long on the photo. If you do not make a screen-filling head shot, then the long-nose problem does not occur, and the only other tip we can give you is to shoot portraits with a preferred aperture of f/1.8, so that the background is nicely blurred and the model stands out more. The 45 mm f/1.8 is already strikingly sharp at full aperture and, despite its compact dimensions, it has little vignetting. Those are unique properties for a bright lens.

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Telephoto lens for Samsung NX500: Samsung 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED OIS II telephoto zoom

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If you want to bring a subject closer to you, then you need a lens with a long focal length (150 mm or more). The Samsung NX 50-200 mm zoom lens is a bright, attractively priced telephoto zoom. We do not dare to make any statement about the Samsung NX 18-200mm, which you could also choose, because we have not yet tested it.

Tip: If you are planning to buy a Samsung NX500, then look for the kit with both an 18-55 mm and the Samsung 50-200 mm F4-5.6 ED OIS II telephoto zoom. Such kits are more attractively priced than the components are separately. By buying everything at once, you get off cheaper than if you buy the individual components.


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Lenses with a fixed focal length?

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Experienced photographers like to work for creative reasons with a fixed focal length. Because you cannot zoom in or out, a fixed focal length forces you to think more carefully about the composition of a photo. Samsung has a large selection of affordable, compact and optically outstanding lenses with a fixed focal length that we have tested:

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Why do we choose the same lens (45 mm f/1.8) more than once? Several of the Samsung lenses with a fixed focal length are absolute must-haves when it comes to image quality. The Samsung NX500 is a camera for ambitious starters or amateur photographers who like to head out with a compact and versatile set. Where professional photographers are happy to choose a specialized lens suited for each kind of photography, starters will prefer an inexpensive set with 2 or 3 lenses. We have taken that into account with our recommendation, by not recommending a different lens for every application.

Low Light: Concert photography, night photography and other fireworks

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Concert photography and night photography place heavier demands on lenses when it comes to internal reflections. Because a photo often includes much darker parts and a single intense light source, ghosts and reduced contrast as a result of internal reflections stand out even more on concert shots or night photos. A lens often consists of multiple lens elements, which are currently equipped with special coatings that should prevent internal reflections. A lens design that consists of as few lens elements as possible (7 or fewer is a good start), that is a first step that limits the number of internal reflections. A high brightness (f/1.8) ensures that you will have less trouble from motion blur when you take pictures with low light. The lack of image stabilization absolutely does not always have to be a problem. If the subject that you want to photograph in the dark is only present for a short time, or moves, then image stabilization does not add much. With an attractive price as the third criterion, we came up with the Samsung 45mm f/1.8 as the ideal low-light lens. 45mm

Great bokeh  with the Samsung NX500?

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For creative shots, sharpness is usually not decisive. A great, hazy background (‘bokeh’) makes an important contribution to the mood of a photo. The larger the sensor, the longer the focal length (preferably longer than 80 mm) and the larger the aperture (preferably smaller than f/2.8), the better the background blur/bokeh. The distance from the subject also determines how nice the background blur is. The closer you can get to a subject and the further away the background is from your subject, the hazier and quieter the background becomes.
The shot above looks as though it was made with a professional SLR, but it is made with the Samsung 30mm f/2. The Samsung 45mm f/1.8 is a great starting point for beginning to play with bokeh. And if you get bitten by the bokeh bug, you can save for a Samsung 50-150mm f/2.8 S OIS or a Samsung NX 85mm f/1.4.

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Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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