Sensor: 18.1MP 1/2.3in. CMOS
Optics: 42x optical zoom (24-1000mm equiv. in 35mm format) f/3-5.9 NIKKOR glass lens
Dimensions: 125.2mm (W) x 84.1mm (H) x 101.6mm (D)
Weight: Approx. 550g (with battery)
Est. battery life: 200 frames
Memory: 15MB internal memory; SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible
- 42x optical zoom with capable VR
- Built-in GPS
- Articulating screen
- Good image quality
- Poor build quality
- Slow AF in low light
- Cannot shoot in RAW format
The Nikon P520’s 42x optical zoom, aided by its Vibration Reduction system, is more than capable of making sure that distance doesn’t stand in the way between you and that perfect shot.
As “phoneography” spikes in popularity, the flexibility of optical zoom remains to be one significant edge bridge cameras have over camera phones, and the Nikon Coolpix P520 packs a monster load of that into its system.
The Coolpix P520 is Nikon’s latest entry into the superzoom market, with an ultra-powerful 42x optical zoom. This is perfect for those who have to shoot scenes from afar—a soccer game, for instance.
Falling secondary to the optical zoom range is the P520’s built-in GPS, which logs the location details of a shot. This feature should definitely appeal to those who do travel photography, or simply want to document their jetset life. The camera doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, but it is compatible with Nikon’s Wu-1a wireless adapter that works in tandem with an app—both available for Android and iOS—that allows the user to use his or her mobile device as a remote viewfinder and shutter trigger.
Another feature the camera lacks is the ability to shoot in RAW format. This may not be much of a deal to casual users, but to those who want more control in post, it’s a necessary element. Is the P520 for such people? Based on its features and where it is situated in Nikon’s hierarchy of cameras, perhaps not. But the lack of RAW recording is a deficiency nonetheless.
The P520’s 18.1-megapixel sensor is enclosed in a plastic body—shiny plastic, but plastic nonetheless. It is because of this plastic exterior that the camera gives off the look and feel of flimsiness and hollowness.
Like a DSLR, the P520 also has a nice mode dial on top, allowing the user to switch between PASM, full auto, scene, effects, and custom modes. No dial for the index finger is present on the grip, but there’s one for the thumb at the back of the camera. The thumb dial controls shutter speed parameters both in Manual mode and Shutter Speed Priority mode. Meanwhile, the dial enclosing the five-way multi-selector at the back of the device controls aperture values.
The P520 has a 3.2-inch 921k-dot LCD that articulates 270 degrees, which means you can make sure your framing is accurate at any angle just by tilting the screen to the position you’re most comfortable with.
While the LCD is able to reproduce punchy colors, I can’t say the same about the 201k-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF). Also worth mentioning is how difficult it is to switch between EVF and LCD. You have to keep the LCD tucked away before you can see anything through the EVF. Not having an eye sensor was really frustrating, and pushing the Display button did no good, either, as the button simply toggles the variety of settings seen in the live view.
The thing with superzoom cameras is that they need to have a good image stabilization system because it’s hard to keep the shot steady when you’re at the telephoto end. The system within the P520—called Vibration Reducation (VR)—is able to keep most shots steady.
The AF system and matrix metering do well for daylight and indoor shots, but the AF hunt is slow for night shots and dim scenes. Auto white balance comes out a bit on the warm side, so it’s better to go with the appropriate preset just to be sure. Color is generally well-balanced, and I like how the yellows come out highly saturated. The P520 has a somewhat wide sensitivity range, being able to go as low as ISO 80 and as high as ISO 12800. Image quality is suitable for web at all ISO levels, but if you’re planning on producing normal-sized prints, it’s best not to shoot higher than ISO 800. As you would expect, ISO 80 provides super-fine images, but performance results when shooting at this level are best when there is a lot of sunlight.
Macro focusing is a nice bonus, along with 7fps burst shooting, an auto-HDR option, Easy Panorama, and a dedicated video recording button for recording Full HD movies. The battery runs for half a day of heavy use, which includes both stills and videos. The lack of a hotshoe is something more advanced users might not like.
Pricing a bridge camera at PHP 25,590 may not be a good idea, what with entry-level DSLRs getting cheaper by the minute. Its value, though, is that it provides the user with a powerful zoom range right out of the box—something a DSLR cannot provide unless it comes with a powerful lens attached, although in that case, I’m guessing it would cost way more than what the Nikon Coolpix P520 is offering for this camera.
Words by Racine Anne Castro
First published in Gadgets Magazine, September 2013