Nikon Coolpix P510 Review
16.1MP | 24-1000mm (42X) Zoom | $429 £399
The 16 megapixel Nikon Coolpix P510 is a compact camera in the superzoom class, that sports a 42X optical zoom, covering a currently unmatched focal range of 24-1000mm (equivalent), compared to 38X (23-810mm) from its predecessor the P500. As well as an extended zoom range, the new model also features a new 16MP CMOS sensor, the same as that used in the recently-reviewed Coolpix P310, and a handful of new features and enhancements, including GPS with logging and (according to Nikon) improved image stabilization compared to the P500.
Nikon Coolpix P510 key specifications:
- 42X zoom (24-1000mm)
- 16.1MP CMOS sensor
- 3in, tiltable 921k-dot LCD
- PASM shooting modes
- 1920 x 1280 video mode
- Inbuilt GPS with logging function
- Weight (with battery and SD card) 555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz)
- Dimensions 120 x 83 x 102 mm (4.72 x 3.27 x 4.02 inches)
The appeal of so-called 'super' or 'megazoom' compact cameras is obvious when you compare the focal range of their zooms against wht is available for DSLR and mirrorless system cameras. There's no doubt that in the current field, the Coolpix P510 wins the 'big numbers' game and, frankly, we were pleasantly surprised at what this camera can achieve with a 1000mm lens. Although cameras like the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS with its 35X wide angle zoom, the 30X Sony Cyber-shot HX200V and the 24X Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 offer impressive versatility, the Nikon P510 provides a meaningful amount of extra 'reach' that makes a difference when shooting distant subjects.
The Nikon P510 is all about increases - megapixels (16 versus 12), maximum shutter speeds (1/2000th second vs. the P500's 1/1500th second), and ISO sensitivity, which runs from 100-3200 with a HI 1 equivalent to 6400, compared to the P500's max setting of ISO 3200. It's a little slower though at 7fps continuous shooting instead of 8fps, but since both cameras can only capture up to 5 shots in a burst, the drop in framerate probably won't make much of a difference in day-to-day shooting. At wide angle, the P510's lens is a fraction faster (f/3 vs. f/3.5) than the P500's but slower at telephoto (f/5.9 vs. f/5.7).
Like the P310 and some Samsung models, the P510's battery is charged in-camera (an optional standard battery charger is available) and, at 240 shots per charge, battery life is decent without being outstanding.
Handling and Operation
Available in black or red, the P510's plastic body is complemented by a deep, contoured and textured grip. With its protruding lens barrel and prominent grip, the P510 resembles a small DSLR but without the bulk and weight. It's comfortable to hold and provides enough wiggle room between the grip and the lens barrel so your fingers don't feel cramped. At 19.6 ounces fully loaded, it weighs a couple of ounces more than the P500 but its physical dimensions are similar at 82.9mm x 119.8mm x 102.2mm (3.3 x 4.8 x 4.1 inches), with the P510 being wider than its predecessor by the small matter of 0.2 inches (5mm).
An electronic viewfinder (EVF) and 3-inch, 921k dot, hinged LCD both offer 100% coverage (the P500's EVF was 97%). The EVF is small and pokey, but generous diopter correction of -/+4 is available. (I usually have to peg the diopter to the far end of magnification without my reading glasses but can set it to the middle on the P510.) The LCD can be angled for shooting overhead and low angle shots and is clear and usable in all but the darkest locations. In extremely low light, it brightens briefly, but only long enough to quickly compose a shot.
Control layout is fairly standard with a zoom/shutter combination, mode dial, customizable function (Fn) button and on/off button atop the grip. A separate zoom lever is positioned on the lens barrel and can be operated with the left hand while supporting the camera to zoom, focus manually and to quickly return the zoom to its previous position. A pop-up flash and the GPS antenna are positioned on the top of the camera.
A button to the left of the EVF switches back and forth between LCD and the viewfinder (annoyingly there's no automatic switch). The control wheel, which cycles through menus (vs. the thumbwheel, which is used to change shutter and aperture settings), doesn't have a lot of play, so it's easier to accurately stop at a specific menu item.
While the P510 doesn't have an equivalent to the built-in help system of Sony's HX200V, for example, the camera is pretty easy to shoot with and fairly intuitive. As well as PASM, the exposure mode dial also provides access to a trio of scene modes, with a long list of others (including scene auto selector, portrait, sports, beach, snow, night portrait, pet portrait, two panorama options and 3D) when the 'SCENE' mode option is selected.