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Nikon Coolpix P510 Review

July 2012 | By Theano Nikitas, Barney Britton

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)

Click here for full specifications, user reviews, sample images and more...

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.

These two images were taken from the same position at the 24mm and 1000mm ends of the P510's optical zoom range. As you can see, the P510 has quite a reach... Note the heat haze in the image shot at 1000mm - this is by far the biggest threat to image quality when shooting at telephoto settings, outdoors.

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).

Smaller than a DSLR, the P510 is nevertheless quite a handful, and a deep, pronounced grip makes it very comfortable to hold and use. Just hidden in this view is a rubber 'back stop' for your thumb, but just visible is the rear control dial. To the right is the P510's direct movie shooting button and an electronic viewfinder sits centrally and above the 3in tiltable LCD screen.
Here's the electronic viewfinder close-up. The knurled wheel to the left is a +/-4 diopter adjustment and the small button below it switches between LCD and EVF live view modes. The P510's rear LCD is tiltable and although not as versatile as a fully-articulated display, it is very useful for high/low angle shooting.

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.

The P510's rear panel is home to the combined 4-way controller/control dial, at the cardinal points of which are direct control points for flash mode, self-timer, exposure compensation and macro focus mode. At upper left and lower right, playback and image delete, respectively.
The top of the P510 plays host to a customizable Fn button, combined zoom collar and shutter release and the exposure mode dial. This provides access to a good range of options including an automatic mode, program AE, shutter- and aperture-priority, full manual and a custom user setting.
The P510's biggest selling point is its 42X optical zoom lens. This lens features a separate zoom switch on the barrel, which is ideally placed for operation with the left hand. A conventional zoom switch can be found around the shutter button but this side-mounted control is more convenient for video.

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.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 5
jayantdole

I am using nikon p510 since last 2 years and enjoyed very much making its use. Now I want to in script my name in the photos taken by me. Will you please tell me how I can do it. Thank you.

0 upvotes
Rolfens

The 1000mm (equiv) makes a good topic of conversation - it's pretty impressive, and also is a good tool for spying on neighbors and other voyeur activities. To be honest it's also great for taking photos of the moon, setting sun and some other things. I've used this camera on several occasions and the zoom is very impressive, especially for something in this range (not pro DSLR bodies with super expensive tele lenses).
This is probably the best way to take a close-up photo of the moon or setting sun without spending thousands of dollars in gear. The IS is very effective, even at 1000mm, and that is something else that is impressive. The body looks nice, solid (for it's range) and light. The rest of the camera and specs are far from being stellar, though...

0 upvotes
Philipandrew

I have a Coolpix P510 and very pleased with it. However, I notice there is a red box that now flashes with what looks like a figure of a clock (white) inside........and it flashes just above the movie number 1080/30 on the LCD screen on the lefty hand side! Can anyone advise me what this is??? I don't think it was there before and I cannot seem to remove it?? The Guide book doesn't explain and again I would value any information on error messages and where I can source these?
Any help would be really appreciated
Philip Andrew

0 upvotes
ritzmasto

what your suggestion about problem mentioned by Lalljee above. I am considering buy this one. but still confuse at this moment.

0 upvotes
Lalljee

I have a coolpix P510, however, the close up ( even at 10 feet distance tend to get skewed to the either ends. I do not see this mentioned in any of your reports, nor any of the other reviews till now. As a result, some of the most precious moments have been lost forever. If this is a known problem, what is the solution that is recommended is also not mentioned

0 upvotes
Total comments: 5