Review: Nikon P510

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There are many who don’t want a DSLR, who don’t want an ILC (mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera), who simply don’t want to change lenses. They would be perfectly happy with a camera sporting a fixed but versatile zoom.

The Nikon Coolpix P510 fits that bill quite nicely.

In fact, the P510 is remarkably similar in capabilities and handling to an ILC, with a price less than one. Plus, it offers both viewfinder and LCD composing, something you have to look far and wide for in an ILC.

So, yes, the P510 has a lot going for it.

Chief among them is a 42X zoom lens. It starts at the equivalent of a 24 mm wide-angle lens and heads on up into the stratosphere of a 1000 mm super telephoto. From my shooting, that lens is remarkable in the clarity and sharpness of the images it produces.

Let’s put it another way: If you were going on the trip of a lifetime, wanted to travel lightly, yet wanted to be able to handle any photographic eventuality, you’d be hard pressed to find a better camera to take than the P510. It would let you capture the magnificent expanses of Africa’s Serengeti plain, and get photographically close to a lion in the grass without it knowing you were in the vicinity. It would let you photograph all of the crowd at a papal blessing in St. Peter’s Square, or capture racing F1 cars under the lights in Singapore.

At longer tele positions, the camera’s stabilization system is a must. And it works.

The lens is not perfect; on a camera costing less than $500 I wouldn’t expect it to be perfect. But it is remarkably good, faltering only when pushed to the extreme – exhibiting some aberration when shooting into the sun.

The lens is only part of the equation, the other being the exposure and image processing system, a variant on Nikon’s fabulous Expeed system. It worked beautifully for me. Impressive.

I’m not going to repeat all the details of the camera (you can find them here). I want to look at a couple of specific items of note.

The first is its size. It is larger than most ILCs. Certainly Nikon’s own J1/V1 is dwarfed by it. A major part of that size is the lens. A zoom of that range cannot be small, even with a small (but 16.1 megapixel) sensor.

The other component of the camera’s size is its grip. What you gain in making it a highly hand-holdable camera, you lose in added size. I consider it to be a better than fair tradeoff.

The second item of note is one already mentioned. The camera has a viewfinder. Sure, you can use the 3-inch LCD when shooting at the lower end of the zoom range, but when you start zooming out, you need to brace the camera, even if you’ve got the stabilization system at work. Being able to hold the camera against your face instead of held out at arm’s length when shooting telephoto shots can make a major difference in getting a sharp picture.

So, is the Nikon Coolpix P510 worth its suggested price of $450? Oh yes, absolutely.

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