Nikon COOLPIX P520: Good Gets a Little Better

 
Nikon COOLPIX P520

Nikon COOLPIX P520

The Nikon COOLPIX P520 only has a few new features, but remains a remarkably versatile superzoom. Ketan Kundargi finds out.

Till a year ago, Nikon COOLPIX P510 was one of the most interesting superzoom cameras that offered great performance and value. However, when Nikon decided to upgrade it, they seem to have been a little conservative. As a result, the Nikon P520 might seem like a twin brother of its predecessor, except for a few features. There are a few more megapixels, increased flexibility of the display screen and WiFi compatibility, but that is about it.

Features
The Nikon COOLPIX P520 packs a 18MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor and 42x optical zoom lens in a typical bridge camera body. With a focal length of 24-1000mm, it shares the top spot for maximum zoom in Nikon with its predecessor. The 3.2-inch display screen can be rotated 270° to make photographing from cramped corners and unusual angles more feasible.

The camera has a 99 point autofocus system that promises fast and accurate autofocus. It also features an advanced lens-shift Vibration Reduction Active Mode, which eliminates blur even when shooting in motion. The P520 actually takes a step down with the ISO limited to 3200 compared to 6400 in the Nikon COOLPIX P510.

Manual, Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority shooting modes, auto HDR, 360° panaromas, high speed burst mode of 7fps and built-in GPS for geotagging. The camera can record Full HD video with stereo sound with the option to use the optical zoom when recording.

While the camera still does not have builtin WiFi in spite of the upgrade, you can purchase and use the Nikon WU-1a dongle. However, with an additional cost of Rs 3510, I wonder how many users will actually want to invest in it. If you do buy it, you will be able to transfer your images immediately to a Android or iOS smart device and instantly share it on the internet.

Handling
The camera has the typical superzoom bridge camera look and feel to it. Extensive rubberised grip on the front and back makes handling the camera a comfortable affair. To control zoom, you can either use the zoom rocker on the top of the camera or choose to use the second one located on the lens barrel making it a DSLR-like experience. Shooting videos is easier with the dedicated video button on the back.

The Function button is one key shortcut for choosing your favourite settings when shooting. This can be further customised to select what settings you want or do not want in the menu.

However, the camera misses out on a dedicated ISO button and a secondary dial similar to a DSLR. Toggling between viewfinder and back LCD for display can be tiresome. No eye sensor or one touch button to switch between displays results in you having to turn the LCD flap over and shut it before you can use the viewfinder.

Performance
The Nikon COOLPIX P520 might not promise a lot of outstanding features, but the ones that it does offer it excels at them. Image quality is excellent and offers the same throughout the focal length. The camera produces colours as is and has a good control over noise. Even at ISO 3200, the image is still usable although it is a bit smudged due to the noise reduction applied. The high-speed continuous shooting mode is brilliant at 7fps but sadly limited to only 7 images due to the rather small buffer.

The camera reproduces excellent detail even in the shadow areas of the image. Exposure: 1/125sec at f/4.2 (ISO 80) Photograph/ Ketan Kundargi

The camera reproduces excellent detail even in the shadow areas of the image.
Exposure: 1/125sec at f/4.2 (ISO 80) Photograph/ Ketan Kundargi

The MultiZone AF is fast and trouble free at the wide end of the lens. But the moment you switch to the telephoto end, focusing becomes sluggish and tends to miss the subject. Optical image stabilisation, one of the key feature of any superzoom camera, does its job extraordinarily well. Images shot at a focal length of 1000m with a shutterspeed as low as 1/30sec surprisingly turned out to be perfectly sharp. Thankfully the VR does not drain too much of the already disappointing battery life. On a full charge, the camera manages to take only 200 shots before it has to be charged again.

Video quality is excellent and the stereo mike is a great help to record the audio well. Optical zoom, especially 42x, in video can be a huge advantage although it comes with its own audible barrel movement noise.

Conclusion
The Nikon COOLPIX P520 is a solid performer with impressive specs. As a superzoom camera priced at Rs. 23,950, it offers much more than any other cameras in the same range.

However, when you look at it as an upgrade, you are left wanting more. One expects the flagship superzoom to have RAW capability, better battery life, a hot shoe and other such serious features. This, of course, would be a camera for a different audience and would be at a higher price point. But until then, the P520 is a value-for-money camera that retains its sheen, despite the upgrade being subtle.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Manual control, 42x zoom, WiFi compatible
26/30
Performance
Good overall performance, slow AF at tele end
30/35
Build Quality
Metal body, compact
12/15
Ergonomics
Rubberised body, no dedicated ISO button
11/15
Warranty & Support
Two-years warranty, wide service network
4/5

 

MRP Rs. 23,950
OVERALL 83%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5 Stars
Who should buy it? Someone who does not need RAW and hot shoe and is happy with 42x optical zoom.
Why? While the camera does not match up to the specifications of some of its competitors, it is probably the best value-for-money camera at its price.
Tags: ketan kundargi, nikon, better photography, july, superzoom camera, 2013, Nikon COOLPIX P520