This P510 really sets a standard (discussion plus images)....

Started Sep 26, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Ben Herrmann
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This P510 really sets a standard (discussion plus images)....
Sep 26, 2012

Hi gang...

I realize that so much has been said on this forum about the P510 - and rightly so. I had mentioned in a previous posting that I was never one inclined to invest in any of these super-zoom P&S cameras because of the IQ issues (compression, artifacts, etc). In the past, these types of cameras were really for folks who just wanted convenience....with a secondary consideration of IQ.

Now don't get me wrong here as there were several really nice super zoom P&S models out there in the past - i.e. the Canon SX-10 IS, the Panny FZ-50, and the Olympus FP-570. But for most everything else (released in the past 3 - 4 year time-frame), they were just an attempt at "me too" products where IQ was never a priority consideration. Now to clarify here - I'm not negatively referring to the awesome models of some 6 - 8 years ago...the Coolpix 5700, 8700, 8800 or the Canon Pro 1 or Olympus C-8080 - these were all awesome, but somehow the big 3 makers stopped focusing on them.

So now enter the P510. When I first saw images taken by the P510 shortly after its release, I was taken aback by the level of clarity and definitition for a camera of this genre. In addition, the color tonality of the P510 showed itself to be very dynamic (rich) in most cases. I subsequently jumped in and pulled the trigger on one and after many experiments with it, I'm really glad that I did.

1. Sensor Size and Dynamic Range. In the past these pin-head 1/2.3" sensor sizes were often a joke - and to watch the various brands rush to add more MP's just reinforced this travesty. Most of these releases translated into smearing (blurring), artifacts, and a complete lack of definition. Yet this P510 was different - quite different, in fact. The amount of headroom available in P510 files (within reason of course) had me astounded. Now granted, you typically can't go against the law of physics - meaning that larger sensor sizes typically allow for better IQ due to the larger size of each pixel. But somehow, in the case of the P510, the performance level of this sensor seemingly goes against that grain.

2. Working on P510 files. I set my P510 to JPG Fine, sharpening -1, contrast, -1, and color saturation at default (middle). I do this to ensure that the files aren't overly adjusted in-camera (which can lead to distortion and noise even if ever so slight). Any adjustments that I elect to make, I do so in the likes of Lightroom or Photoshop. I tend to typically only shoot in RAW mode (my preferred file format) when a camera has that option. I rarely ever invest in cameras that can shoot JPG only - but in the case of the P510, I made an exception. Importing the P510 JPG's into Lightroom turned out to be a revelation - almost like working on RAW files themselves. Time after time, I was impressed with how much information (DR) was buried in the P510 files. When I had to make some more adjustments, I was surprised to see that this small sensor was somehow different than the others. Of course, in some instances - due to the small sensor size - highlight blowouts will result (that's a given - and it even occurs with much larger sensors).

3. Rendition of Foliage. In the past - and to be honest - with many cameras out there (whether P&S or DSLR), foliage can often come off as "glitter," - that is distorted, blurry, or actually appearing like glitter (depending on lighting). In the P510 files however, I found that the foliage (leaves, grass, etc.) actually are rendered as highly defined - even 3D in some situations - but not glitter-like. This immediately caught my eye on my NEC calibrated monitor. I just couldn't believe that I was getting these types of results with this small sensor. I so wanted to be disappointed with the P510's performance so I could reinforce my previous attitudes about these types of cameras - but I couldn't. The P510 was making a believer out of me.

4. Clarity and Definition. In the past, with many P&S models that ranged between 12 - 16 MP models, the end result was more like definition and clarity levels that were more reminiscent of 5 - 8 MP's due to too much compression, smearing and compression artifacts. With the P510, I am amazed at the clarity and definition - all the way from the 24 MM wide end - through the 1000 MM long end. In otherwords, this set of optics can rival some DSLR quality lenses - it's that simple. Time and time again, I was surprised to see the clarity of the images captured by this camera.

5. This camera could have been a game changer. Let's face it, the P510 is one of the first long zoom P&S to have accomplished all of this - and with JPG's alone. After all, the options-set on this camera looks more like those found on a DSLR. But what Nikon failed to include, which would have made this P510 truly a game changer - and one that the others would try to surpass, is the addition of a RAW mode and an external hot shoe - not to mention adding filter and lens-hood capabilities. With an IQ level that results from a superb blend of a fantastic sensor and the superior optics, having RAW would have been the icing on the cake (glad to see that Canon did so with the SX-50 IS - but let's see what the IQ looks like). And with the addition of a hot shoe, it would have allowed the use of various quality Nikon flash units. Perhaps Nikon will keep this in mind for a future release - I certainly hope so. And let's not forget to add the ability to use filters and a lens hood.

I've included some scenic files in the next posting - so read on.....

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