Nikon COOLPIX P500: The Attention Seeker

 
Nikon COOLPIX P500

Nikon COOLPIX P500

Armed with a 36x zoom range and a red chassis, the Nikon COOLPIX P500 is a striking package. Supriya Joshi checks whether its performance matches up to its looks.

When I first saw this camera, my first reaction was “Wow! A red camera! This should be fun.” As it turned out, this was the same reaction that almost everyone gave when they saw the Nikon COOLPIX P500. With a zoom range that goes beyond any other compact camera in the market, I realised that this was one camera that promised to be a lot of fun.

Features
Over the last couple of years, we have seen various manufacturers break zoom barriers by going beyond 20x and then 30x zoom, and with a 36x zoom this  Nikon camera continues the trend. What is even more impressive, is that it is incredibly light!
One thing that you may not realise about the camera when you only hear about its zoom capabilities is that the lens actually begins at 22.5mm. This makes it the only compact camera in the market to feature such an ultrawide focal length. In a market where most other cameras begin at 28mm and some do at 24mm, the P500 is considerably wider. Superzoom lenses often have a lot of compromises, but with this versatile focal length, I felt as if I was carrying about fifty lenses, conveniently fitted onto one camera.
The P500 features a number of automated and manual functions. It is certainly a rather fast camera, especially by compact camera standards. It can shoot up to 8fps and features continuous autofocus as well.
Like most manufacturers, Nikon has also jumped on to the panorama bandwagon, with an Easy Panorama mode. The camera also shoots Full HD video.

Handling
There is a zoom toggle switch on the lens barrel, besides the zoom switch on top. It is the first time we have seen something like this, but it helped minimise camera shake while shooting at longer focal lengths. We were also pleased to note that these toggle buttons can be customised to use two other functions—manual focusing and a snap-back zoom function that lets you go from the telephoto end of the zoom to the wide angle end instantly!
The P500 is not very easy to use when shooting at the extreme telephoto end. Framing becomes difficult because the slightest movement ruins composition. I had to make sure that I was not in an earthquake! Also, you must remove the lens cap before switching on the camera. In case you forget to do so, an error message is displayed, and the camera needs to be switched off and on again.
I found that the articulated LCD helped me be discreet. A red camera hanging from my neck was not helping my case, but I surprisingly went unnoticed when I made pictures by tilting the LCD screen.

Performance
I used the camera to shoot a variety of subjects, including fast moving ones and at different focal lengths. The camera does well in controlling lens distortion at both ends of the zoom range. In high contrast situations, there is a slight amount of purple fringing that occurs.
The colours captured are bright and vivid, and the camera does a good job in low light situations. Metering and WB performance is quite efficient as well. Considering that the overall performance was quite good, I found myself wishing that this camera had the option of shooting RAW images too.

Conclusion
Considering the focal length this camera offers—literally that of about five lenses—this camera is a great buy. For videographers, the Full HD video quality is great. But yes, the P500 does not have too many frills, and with the kind of cameras in the market today, I wonder if fun preset modes would have made this camera more attractive. That said, we will recommend the Nikon COOLPIX P500 for those who want a mix of convenience with control, along with a dash of red. Of course, this camera is also available in black, for those who have a more sober taste.

Final Ratings
Features
36x optical zoom, widest lens in the compactcamera market
26/30

Performance
Good low light performance, fast AF
25/30

Build Quality
Lightweight, sturdy grip
13/15

Ergonomics
User-friendly buttons, simple menu controls
13/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty
5/10

OVERALL: 82%
Value For Money: 3/5 stars

Tags: 36x zoom, august 2011, Compact camera review, Nikon COOLPIX P500, Supriya Joshi, Widest Superzoom Compact