Thursday, June 25, 2015

Samsung NX500 firmware update

NX500 with kit lens
Just a few months after releasing the NX500, Samsung has already issued a significant firmware update for the NX500 (firmware v. 1.10), addressing some of the issues raised by users.  Hit the jump to see what has improved, what got worse, and what hasn't changed.

LIST OF IMPROVEMENTS
This is a major firmware update with many improvements listed by Samsung.  We'll see which of them have real-world improvements.  From Samsung's press release, here are the changes in version 1.10:
"Still Photo Enhancements:
  • Improvements to the overall Auto Focus:
    • Enhanced AF performance in low light condition
    • Enhanced AF performance in backlit and spot light
    • Enhanced AF performance in the corners when utilizing 16-50mm PZ lens
    • Enhanced Face Detection AF performance
    • Enhanced AF performance in movie mode
  • Added "Zone AF" mode
  • Increased the size of AF to 5 steps in AF "Area Size"
  • Increased the Face Detection Area of the sensor
  • Includes 4 most popular Pro Suggest presets (Cinematic, Memories, Gorgeous night, & High Speed)
  • Added "Selfie as Flipped" mode
    • The image is flipped to capture as in the preview.
  • Improved "Selfie" AF function in Timer mode
  • Continuous AF is default in "Selfie Timer."
  • Simplified EXIF data preview
Video Recording Enhancements:
  • Added "Pro" mode in movie quality and increased the bit rates for movie size and quality (up to 70Mbps)
    • Movie Recording Time changed to 25 minutes at FHD 60P/50P
  • Larger sensor read out data size with improved FHD quality up to 60P
  • Remains in Stand By mode after recording
  • "1280x720 (120P)" setting in the Movie Size Menu for easy access
    • Sound recording is available
  • Capture individual 4K frame forward & backward with precision
    • Embedded EXIF data in jpeg
  • Added NEW MF Responsiveness mode
    • Capable of setting to Low, Medium, High focus angle in manual focus mode"
FIRMWARE UPDATE PROCESS
Precautions: before updating the firmware, there are a few precautions:
1. Note that updating the firmware will wipe your settings.  See our recommended settings here.
2. Be absolutely sure that you do not turn off the camera while updating the firmware.  You can brick your NX500 if you do so.  Part of making sure the camera doesn't die in the middle of the update process is to use a fully charged battery.
3. Samsung recommends formatting the SD card.
There are two ways to update the firmware: you can do it in-camera or on a computer:
  • To do it in camera, connect the NX500 to a Wi-Fi hotspot.  Under settings, look for Device Information and choose Software Update.  The NX500 will download the firmware to the SD card.  After downloading the SD Card, select update firmware.  The NX500 will check the firmware integrity, and if it passes, it will commence installing the firmware.  Again, please do not turn off the NX500 while it's installing the firmware.
  • To do it in a computer, connect the NX500 via USB to your computer then turn on the NX500.  You'll see the NX500 switch to USB mode.  Run i-Launcher.  i-Launcher will automatically detect your camera and check for firmware updates.  Follow the onscreen instructions to download the firmware.  After the firmware is downloaded to your SD card, shutdown the i-Launcher and disconnect the NX500 from your computer.  Under settings, look for Device Information and choose Body Update.  The NX500 will check the firmware integrity, and if it passes, it will commence installing the firmware.  Again, please do not turn off the NX500 while it's installing the firmware.
IMPROVED 
Other than the objective changes listed in the press release:
  • Raw buffer: one of my complaints about the NX500 is that the raw buffer is only 6 or 7 frames.  Although the press release didn't mention it, it seems that the raw buffer has improved.  In lossless compression mode, the buffer has increased to 9 frames.  In normal compression mode, I get 10 frames.  I tested this with a Sandisk Extreme Plus (80 mbps) and a Lexar Platinum II 200x, and got the same results for both.  UPDATE: With the Sandisk Extreme Pro (90 mbps), I can get 18 raw frames with normal/lossy compression or 12 frames with lossless compression.  Further info re raw buffer improvement here.
  • Low light AF: based on brief testing, it seems the AF speed hasn't improved noticeably UPDATE: After some more testing, it appears that AF speed in low light has improved.  Low light AF speed is still lower than competitors such as the a6000, but the NX500 doesn't hunt as much anymore. Here is a video of the improvement in AF speed.
  • Backlight AF: based on brief testing, it seems the camera still has a tendency to focus on the rim light of backlit subjects.  UPDATE: I did further tests and found that the NX500 now focuses correctly on backlit subjects most of the time.  Please check back for test shots.  Here is a link to the test shots showing improved backlight autofocus accuracy.

WORSE?
  • Zone AF.  This one is a matter of opinion/personal preference.  Prior to the update, there were two AF Area modes: selection and multi.  In each mode, you could change the size of the AF area.  After the update, there are now three AF Area modes: selection, zone and multi.  Selection AF has one more size available.  Zone now allows you to select the two smaller AF Areas under what used to be multi.  Multi is now exclusively for an AF area that covers the entire frame.  I prefer the old AF area modes, where I could choose between three AF areas in Multi mode.
NO CHANGE
  • 4k and UHD Crop Factor: the firmware update changed the size of the sensor readout area, however the crop factor hasn't changed.  Changing the readout size does improve the video quality.
COMMENTS
The fact that Samsung released a major firmware update so promptly is an awesome sign of Samsung's commitment to its customers.  I'm optimistic that there will be other firmware updates with significant improvements in the future.