The Nikon P510 marks a new development in bridge cameras for Nikon; featuring an eye-watering 42x optical zoom alongside a 16MP CMOS sensor and 3in tiltable LCD screen, it’s clear that this is a serious shooter.
Nikon COOLPIX P510 review – Features
While the P510 features all the hallmarks of the popular ‘bridge’ tag, there’s no debating the headline of these being the 42x optical zoom. The lens covers a phenomenal focal range of 24 – 1000mm in 35mm equivalent terms, making it capable of wide-angle work alongside super-telephoto shooting, all inside one relatively compact body.
Those concerned with camera shake will be assured by the presence of Nikon’s second-generation advanced lens-shift VR which, the manufacturer claims, will allow shooting speeds of up to four times slower than without it switched on.
As mentioned, the P510 offers a full specification to accompany the headline optical zoom. The model features a 1/2.3in backlit CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 16.1 megapixels, accompanied with Nikon’s EXPEED processor aimed delivering ‘clear shots in any light’.
A welcome feature on bridge cameras, and especially one with an extensive focal range such as the P510, is a tiltable LCD screen. Such a feature allows for the camera to be used at unconventional angles, with framing still possible, as is often the case at the tele end of such a zoom. The P510 features a 3in tiltable LCD screen with a 921k-dot resolution and Nikon Clear Color Display technology, making it one of the better-specified variations on the market.
The P510 benefits from the inclusion of Full HD movie recording at a resolution of 1080p, complete with stereo sound capture, while optical zoom complete with auto focus is also supported during movie capture.
As you would expect with a bridge camera, the Nikon P510 offers a host of manual controls. The model offers full PASM control over shooting settings, as well as featuring a ‘U’ setting wherein photographers can store their preferred settings for instant recall when needed. The model also features Auto and Scene Auto Selector modes for those wanting the camera to make decisions on settings for them, whilst a host of special effects are also accessible through the main menu system.
Other highlights of this burgeoning specification include on-board GPS technology, which geotags the exif data of your images with the location of capture, as well as 3D image capture technology, although this is of the lesser single-lens variety as opposed to stereoscopic.
Nikon COOLPIX P510 review – Design
There’s no denying that the P510 is bulkier than your average bridge camera, although it is still remarkably compact when considering the range of the optics contained within its body. The body is formed of the standard bridge camera design – a large hand grip sits to the right side of the camera body and protruding barrel on the front of the camera in which the lens is housed. Despite the fact that the 42x optical zoom has resulted in a front-heavy camera body, the handgrip is suitably deep enough – and well rubberised – so as to accommodate a firm hold whilst shooting.
As you would expect with a bridge camera such as the P510, the body features a range of controls aimed at both improving the user shooting experience and offering quick access to advanced functionality. For example, the body features two zoom rockers – the first of which sits in the conventional position surrounding the shutter release buttons, with the second sitting on the left side of the zoom barrel. The latter of these buttons is in the exact place where ones thumb sits when holding the camera to shoot and is a clever and welcome addition.
Another welcome addition, and a hint at the advanced nature of the camera, is an ‘Fn’ button on the model’s top plate. The Fn button sits between the shutter release button, power button and raised command dial – therefore is easily accessible whilst shooting – and can be assigned to toggle a range of shooting functionality.
The rest of the camera body houses a pair of command dials for adjusting shutter and aperture settings, a dedicated video record button for those looking to shoot movie, as well as a conventional layout for the remaining function buttons.
As mentioned previously, the Nikon P510 features a 3in, tiltable LCD screen. The screen pulls away about a horizontal pivot, and then can subsequently be tilted around a range of approximately 180 horizontal degrees. Although this is an effective implementation of a tilting screen, it’s not necessarily the most effect – a design whereby the screen pivots on a hinge to the left of the camera body, thus allowing 360 degree rotation, is far preferable.
Despite all of these design tweaks hinting at the advanced nature of the camera, it’s worth mentioning that the P510 is lacking a quality finish. The area surrounding the shutter release and power buttons is somewhat plasticky in finish for example, while the rest of the body is also hardly finished to a high standard. The same is true of both of the command dials on the rear of the camera and, on the whole, it appears Nikon has concentrated on saving a few pennies in the overall finish.
Performance and Value
Nikon COOLPIX P510 – Performance
The first point to note is that all of the various buttons of the camera
body, as well as the general balanced feel, mean that the P510 feels
very comfortable in the hand. It would be easy to assume that the model
would feel cumbersome or difficult to operate, owing to the focal range,
but this is simply not the case.
The P510 specification quote a headline continuous shooting speed of
7fps, although this is a speed laden with caveats – the 7fps speed is
indeed achievable, but only for a duration of five full resolution
images, and therefore less than a second’s worth. A more realistic
judgement of speed is the 1fps rate, which will allow you to shoot up to
around 30 frames at full resolution.
A customary range of focus modes are present of the P510, one of which
being subject tracking AF – this performs well on the whole, although if
the subject is travelling through the frame at any great pace and the
photographer doesn’t track and pan with it, a loss of focus is far from a
rare occurrence. The good news is that the rest of the camera’s focus
system performs well: AF speed is generally respectable, albeit not the
fastest on the market, while accuracy is also pleasing. Unfortunately
full manual focus doesn’t feature, with there instead being the option
to pick a focus point from a range of 99 and allowing the camera to
focus there instead.
With the main feature of the P510 being its large optical zoom, the
performance of this feature is going to be a serious concern to
potential customers. Once again, there are few concerns to report in
this department. The zoom travels between wide and tele ends both at a
respectable pace and also with a minimum amount of audible volume. Other
potential pitfalls caused by the large optical zoom, namely shutter lag
or slow start-up and power-down times, are also noticeable by their
As mentioned, although the tiltable LCD screen isn’t implemented in the
best possible way by which it could be, it’s presence is still an
advantage on this style of camera. The screen itself, at 3in and
921k-dot in resolution, is striking and certainly performs well even in
difficult lighting conditions. For those who struggle with an LCD screen
in certain conditions, the P510 features a 0.2in, 201k-dot digital
viewfinder complete with dioptre adjustment. Now, this viewfinder is
still someway behind optical equivalents, but it is an improvement on
previous COOLPIX bridge cameras.
One feature which is lacking on the P510 is the option to capture Raw
files. This is far from unique to Nikon, with a wide range of advanced
compacts and bridge cameras somewhat mystifyingly choosing not to
include Raw capture alongside standard JPEG capture. It seems a shame
that such a full specification, along with advanced capture
functionality, is lacking the ability to capture Raw files.
Nikon COOLPIX P510 review – Value
With a street price of around £300 at time of going to press, the P510
is certainly a lot of camera for your money. When you consider how much a
set of optics covering an equivalent focal range would cost for a DSLR
or interchangeable lens camera, the value begins to look even better,
although it’s certainly comparable with similar superzoom bridge
Image Quality and Verdict
Nikon COOLPIX P510 review – Image Quality
When a camera features an optical zoom as
audacious as that found on the P510, there is always the nagging doubt
that image quality may suffer as a result. However, the good news is
that predicted image quality flaws with the P510 are largely absent and
image quality is, on the whole, good.
On first look it’s clear
that images display a good tonal range straight out of the camera, with
a good balance between shadow and highlights. Having said that, there
is a slight tendency for the P510 to underexpose, though as ever this is
preferable as it saves highlights from potentially blowing out.
model’s white balance is generally reliable, although it does on
occasion err to the warm side of the scale. Colours on the whole are
generally comprised of a natural palette, although they also do have a
tendency to appear somewhat oversaturated.
The lens itself,
despite performing well in relation to its large focal range, does
exhibit a few issues. Lens flare is evident in harsh lighting
conditions, and can result in softening of fine detail at the tele end
of the zoom. Having said that, the lens offers a pleasing level of
sharpness right up to the corners of the frame.
ISO noise is
generally well controlled, with settings between ISO 100 to 400 all
eminently usable. When you head beyond this level, quality does drop off
with ISO grain appearing throughout the frame, although on the whole
the performance is on a par with similar bridge cameras.
Nikon COOLPIX P510 review – Verdict
no denying in that if you decide to purchase the P510, you’re going to
be getting an awful lot of camera for your money. The model also
performs well in use, mostly managing to sidestep any potential pitfalls
of having that massive 42x optical zoom. It’s not without it’s flaws –
it lacks Raw capture, the tiltable LCD screen could be better and build
quality is not the best. However, it’s certainly one of the most
impressive bridge cameras currently available.