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Nikon Coolpix P510 Review

In this reviewing business you occasionally get waylaid: in preparing a new camera review I usually begin with the text sources and specs data to feel my way. In this case, I did so, quite carefully, but dug into the wordage of the Nikon Coolpix P5100. Wrong!

The way model numbers run these days, the shorter the better, the more highly specced. To put it politely, the P5100 is a dog, ideal for a tiny kid or even a smart chimp. But no more.

Nikon Coolpix P510.jpg

The P510 is a really different beast! And what a joy it was to discover this baby has a 42x optical zoom, along with 16.1 megapixel capture. In 35 SLR terms this means you get a 1000mm lens at full tele.

By way of comparison, for the last year I have owned and used Canon’s previous long zoom record holder, the Powershot SX30 IS. A powerful camera, it has a 35x zoom and gives rewarding photographs provided you respect the zoom stretch.

Nikon Coolpix P510-front.jpg

Nikon Coolpix P510-top.jpg

Early days and I found the P510 to offer the ‘pull’ — and then some! — of the Canon. It did appear to offer considerably more stabilising action than the Canon with the zoom at full tilt. But let’s see.

Nikon Coolpix P510_LCD_2.jpg

Nikon Coolpix P510 Features

Shaped like a faux DSLR with a pronounced speed grip at right, the camera is easy to hold and, thanks to the vari-angle finder, easy to view. Unfortunately, the 7.5cm screen swings only outwards and upwards … but not laterally. To my mind, cameras of this shape and size should always be ‘adorned’ with a vari-angle screen but when, tell me when, is a camera maker going to go the full hog and build in a retractable sun screen on at least the sides and top. I’m waiting …

The maximum image size is a generous 4608×3456 pixels or, as a print, 39x29cm.

Movies are in good shape: 1920×1080 at 30 fps.

Flowers 1.JPG

Bunnings frog.JPG

The external controls are average in number, with the mode dial offering entry to auto operation as well as Program AE, shutter and aperture priority and manual; also at hand is direct selection of the settings for night landscape, daytime landscape, backlit subjects plus a bunch of screen modes (inc 3D, panorama etc) as well as an effects setting which lets you apply filters to soften your image as well as capture such ‘looks’ as sepia, monochrome, low key, high key etc. Additionally, you can dial in your own settings with often used combos of shutter speed and aperture.

Menu.jpg

There’s little else to occupy your fingers, aside from the usual four way jog dial, dedicated movie record button, replay and buttons to power up the turret finder or the rear LCD screen; I found the former to be quite inadequate in definition and clarity.

Another comment is I discovered is that the minimum aperture is f8.3, a surprisingly ‘big hole’ and one that could make life difficult if you’re seeking maximum depth of field.

One interesting feature is a second zoom control, set into the left side of the lens barrel; using it nicely balances the camera in two hands. Good one!

Oh and there’s an Fn button which gives you quick access to single or burst shooting, plus options such as and intervalometer, and Best Shot Selector, an old Nikon standby which captures up to 10m images, then saves a single image that is the sharpest in the run.

GPS is on board with the data recorded with the images and, when the supplied software ViewNX 2 is installed on your computer, an onscreen map shows the shooting locations. There is also a log function that records movement over a specified interval, as a log data, even when the camera is not in use or is turned off, so you can track your travels.

Movies

In shooting movies with the P510 you have to focus first, then start shooting. Mid shoot, at full wide, the camera appears to find focus but you can’t apply this manually. Movie into tele and you’re lost. Best to set your tele position, focus, then shoot.

Having said this, the camera’s stabiliser works well throughout the movie capture.
You can’t shoot stills mid-movie but you can pull still frames later out of the video stream. Maximum size 1920×1080 pixels.

Harbour full wide 3.JPG

Harbour full tele 3.JPG

Long Lens

Using the P510 to its full capabilities takes a fair amount of patience: if you want to travel to ‘long tele’ land get ready to steady the camera. Propping it on the nearest fence or gate is a start but then you face the problems of getting the camera level. It’s a pity there wasn’t a viewfinder level indicator. Would’ve been a hell of a help. The tripod route is the only way.

Even though the pair of wide/tele test shots were taken on a cool autumn day the amount of atmospheric haze (as you can see from the pics) was extraordinary. The Harbour Bridge as seen in the tele shot was over a kilometre away.

Startup Time

About a second after startup I could shoot my first shot, then follow-ups could be reeled in at about a second a pop.

Distortion

My haven’t lenses on these digicams come a long way! The zoom exhibited exactly zero in the way of distortion, either at the full wide or full tele settings. Top stuff!

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO Settings

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 100.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 400.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 800.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 1600.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 3200.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO 6400.JPG

I figure you could use ISO right up to 3200, with the latter suiting certain subjects. By ISO 6400 the game is over!

Nikon Coolpix P510 Verdict

Quality: about par with most other digicams in this sector.

Why you would buy it: you want a long zoom in a small package.

Why you wouldn’t: no reason.

On sale in three colours: black, red and silver. To me, the red does look a bit odd on such a well-configured camera.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Specifications

Image Sensor: 11mm CMOS; 16.1 million effective pixels.
Lens: f3.0-5.9/4.3-180mm (24-1000mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Metering: 224 segment matrix, centre-weighted, spot.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 8 to 1/4000 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC plus 90MB of internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4608×3456 to 640×480.
Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 960×540, 640×480 at 30fps.
Viewfinders: 10mm turret (210,000) plus 7.5cm LCD screen (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, MPO 3D, WAV, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: 100-12,800.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV output, mini HD, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 119.8×82.9×102.2 WHDmm.
Weight: 555 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon COOLPIX P510 at Amazon

Summary
Reviewer
Barrie Smith
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon Coolpix P510
Author Rating
4

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

  • Jack

    Hi! how about GPS fix time? In model P6000 its horrible :) Sometimes about 20 minut :( Is better now?

  • Malleswari

    Hi,
    we just bought nikoncoolpix p510 yesterday and trying to know how to take a blur background picture but no success. though we try setting lower 1/f value to 3.0 the image is sharper on both foreground and background. We really want to know how this feature works in this camera.

    thanks

  • Phil

    I was reading a complaint that there was no macro on the new 510? But the menu looks just like my p90. It has macro. I love my p90. Now I want the p150. I am totally an armature, but I love the pictures my p 90 takes.

  • jacqui moritz

    I have the Nikon Coolpix L120. Awesome camera and i love the 21x zoom on that. I saw the P510 the other day in a store catalogue for around $600. When i saw the 42x zoom I think i fell in love lol. I’m not a professional photographer, obviously or i would have a better camera, but the L120 does have just enough for my skill level. I would love to try the P510 though. Thank you for this review. :)

  • http://www.os-am.com OsmosisStudios

    Another great padded spec sheet.

    *rollseyes*

  • http://www.photoartbydan.com Daniel J. DiBernardo

    I bought the P510 as a back up camera to my Nikon D90, so when I am shooting with a 10-20mm super wide, I won’t be missing a shot when I needed a telephoto.

    I have only had the camera for two weeks, but have been able to hand-hold at 1000mm very effectively…maybe I am jsut lucky. I did not buy it for video, so no comments. I agree the viewfinder could be better, but this is the main reason I wanted this…do not like looking at a 3 inch piece of glass held out from my face. Overall, very pleased with camera.

    Only complaint…Nikon should have included a dedicated off-camera charger.

  • jayanta

    i hv a nikon l120 n it’s a nice camera no doubt. Bt m thinking for a new one,my choices are nikon p510, sony a35 & sony nex 7 for more zoom. M a amature,wnt to put my steps on this field. So which one wld b better according to their features specialy between d p510 n a35?? Plz help me.

  • asif

    Personally I would go for the nikon. I would never go for a sony camera. The only reason sony came out with cameras is cause they turned digital. Nikon though is purely about optics. So I feel the guys at Nikon know better at what their doing especially if you are really want to do some serious photography

  • http://fotochaynik.com/ Yura

    and I think that mirror chamber all the same better

  • jayanta

    thnx for suggestion asif

  • Grant Haller

    We’ve had the p510 for a couple weeks and took it on vacation. Mostly we shoot on auto mode. The salesman I think thought the 42x zoom was overkill. Boy was he wrong. We got some great shots on full zoom hand held. We looked at a Cannon but the Nikon was more comfortable, had a bigger screen, better viewfinder, and that amazing zoom. Of course you can’t expect miracles of the zoom, but it’s great to have. The controls you use the most are easy to access. I would recommend this camera.

  • Al Arabi MOSTOFA

    if i use p510 zoom maximum time. use all time zoom . then that was harmfull for my p510? any problem for maximum time using zoom?

  • Jessica Ventura

    I’ve had the Nikon P510 since August and I can say it’s a very good buy. The price was reasonable and it is the perfect camera for my liking. The reason for this camera was to use on a vacation and I took incredible pictures that will not doubt last a life time. Very happy and highly recommended.

    Gibraltar. X

  • Hugh Carmichael

    As a keen but not experienced amateur I bought the Nikon P510 for it’s powerful zoom lens to complement my old Olympus DSLR E410 with lense ranges of 14 -42 and 40 -150mm. This works for me and my budget.

    I notice some people say they are wary of Sony because they are only in the game because it’s digital and lack the lense experience. They forget Sony bought the camera arms of Konica and Minolta both excellent companies, technically, in the camera lense field.

  • Chetan pandya

    I read some review that p510 does not give good pictures in law light.
    Any one has experience. I want to buy it .

  • Charma

    I LOVE THIS! I got it as a graduation present, great quality.

  • hoppykins83

    I bought this camera back in February and have loved the features on it, especially the zoom. I read a previous post saying they couldn’t blur the background, I also had problems with that and then realized I had to go into Macro mode and its done the trick. If you are in the regular mode it won’t let you distort the background even if your subject isn’t in it. You do have to get pretty close to the subject in Macro to blur, but it works. I’ve started to use my father in laws Canon rebel xs and although this is a point and shoot, I’ve enjoyed it just as much! Canon’s ultra zoom camera competitor in the point and shoot category is $100 more.

  • MaryJane

    Would you consider this camera a good backup camera for weddings?

  • michele

    I’ve had the P510 since last August and love it. I bought it mainly for bird photography, and have no complaints at all. It’s light, easy to use and at full zoom the image stabilization is brilliant. And being able to go from macro to full zoom without having to fiddle with lenses is a bonus. I carry it with me all the time. I’d recommend it to anyone.

  • Jforte

    Has anyone taken a class for this camera in the Charlotte,NC area or online that they would recommend.

  • Adam

    I bought this camera for my travel trip through Yellowstone, Muir Woods, Malibu, and The Grand Canyon. This camera (and the trip) are really getting me hooked on photography as a whole. It is a great camera to let you dip into the deep end of manual control, bracketting photos, and zoom.

    A few comments from earlier I will reply to: if in aperture control and you are trying to keep a shallow depth of field, a f/3 will give a shallow depth when doing macro shots. It is less obvious at distance, though. But this has nothing to do with the camera, just basic optics.

    A while ago someone was weighing this vs a Sony NEX 7, completely different cameras and budgets. If you got the budget and skill, Sony NEX 7 with an apsc is far better.

    Low Light: Just be patient. Open up the aperture and bump up the ISO to 200 or 400, and family around a birthday cake will appear just fine! Of course, I hope you’re not singing happy birthday to a 1 year old! lol

    As a backup camera: YES! For any occasion! If you are a pro, just make sure you figure out all the extra controls for white balance, metering, noise, sharpness, and ISO and you’ll be good to go! It also has a great SLOW MOTION capture. The 1080p30 video quality is also very good. Just be wary of the focus controls if changing zoom.

    Note: as of this time the camera is discontinued but the p520 has minor improvements.

Some older comments

  • Adam

    September 18, 2013 03:30 am

    I bought this camera for my travel trip through Yellowstone, Muir Woods, Malibu, and The Grand Canyon. This camera (and the trip) are really getting me hooked on photography as a whole. It is a great camera to let you dip into the deep end of manual control, bracketting photos, and zoom.

    A few comments from earlier I will reply to: if in aperture control and you are trying to keep a shallow depth of field, a f/3 will give a shallow depth when doing macro shots. It is less obvious at distance, though. But this has nothing to do with the camera, just basic optics.

    A while ago someone was weighing this vs a Sony NEX 7, completely different cameras and budgets. If you got the budget and skill, Sony NEX 7 with an apsc is far better.

    Low Light: Just be patient. Open up the aperture and bump up the ISO to 200 or 400, and family around a birthday cake will appear just fine! Of course, I hope you're not singing happy birthday to a 1 year old! lol

    As a backup camera: YES! For any occasion! If you are a pro, just make sure you figure out all the extra controls for white balance, metering, noise, sharpness, and ISO and you'll be good to go! It also has a great SLOW MOTION capture. The 1080p30 video quality is also very good. Just be wary of the focus controls if changing zoom.

    Note: as of this time the camera is discontinued but the p520 has minor improvements.

  • Jforte

    July 26, 2013 06:15 am

    Has anyone taken a class for this camera in the Charlotte,NC area or online that they would recommend.

  • michele

    June 14, 2013 09:36 am

    I've had the P510 since last August and love it. I bought it mainly for bird photography, and have no complaints at all. It's light, easy to use and at full zoom the image stabilization is brilliant. And being able to go from macro to full zoom without having to fiddle with lenses is a bonus. I carry it with me all the time. I'd recommend it to anyone.

  • MaryJane

    May 30, 2013 10:41 pm

    Would you consider this camera a good backup camera for weddings?

  • hoppykins83

    April 5, 2013 01:49 pm

    I bought this camera back in February and have loved the features on it, especially the zoom. I read a previous post saying they couldn't blur the background, I also had problems with that and then realized I had to go into Macro mode and its done the trick. If you are in the regular mode it won't let you distort the background even if your subject isn't in it. You do have to get pretty close to the subject in Macro to blur, but it works. I've started to use my father in laws Canon rebel xs and although this is a point and shoot, I've enjoyed it just as much! Canon's ultra zoom camera competitor in the point and shoot category is $100 more.

  • Charma

    January 29, 2013 06:38 am

    I LOVE THIS! I got it as a graduation present, great quality.

  • Chetan pandya

    January 28, 2013 02:29 am

    I read some review that p510 does not give good pictures in law light.
    Any one has experience. I want to buy it .

  • Hugh Carmichael

    January 16, 2013 08:46 pm

    As a keen but not experienced amateur I bought the Nikon P510 for it's powerful zoom lens to complement my old Olympus DSLR E410 with lense ranges of 14 -42 and 40 -150mm. This works for me and my budget.

    I notice some people say they are wary of Sony because they are only in the game because it's digital and lack the lense experience. They forget Sony bought the camera arms of Konica and Minolta both excellent companies, technically, in the camera lense field.

  • Jessica Ventura

    December 7, 2012 01:22 am

    I've had the Nikon P510 since August and I can say it's a very good buy. The price was reasonable and it is the perfect camera for my liking. The reason for this camera was to use on a vacation and I took incredible pictures that will not doubt last a life time. Very happy and highly recommended.

    Gibraltar. X

  • Al Arabi MOSTOFA

    October 8, 2012 03:48 am

    if i use p510 zoom maximum time. use all time zoom . then that was harmfull for my p510? any problem for maximum time using zoom?

  • Grant Haller

    September 20, 2012 03:07 pm

    We've had the p510 for a couple weeks and took it on vacation. Mostly we shoot on auto mode. The salesman I think thought the 42x zoom was overkill. Boy was he wrong. We got some great shots on full zoom hand held. We looked at a Cannon but the Nikon was more comfortable, had a bigger screen, better viewfinder, and that amazing zoom. Of course you can't expect miracles of the zoom, but it's great to have. The controls you use the most are easy to access. I would recommend this camera.

  • jayanta

    May 22, 2012 03:57 pm

    thnx for suggestion asif

  • Yura

    May 21, 2012 04:47 pm

    and I think that mirror chamber all the same better

  • asif

    May 17, 2012 03:26 am

    Personally I would go for the nikon. I would never go for a sony camera. The only reason sony came out with cameras is cause they turned digital. Nikon though is purely about optics. So I feel the guys at Nikon know better at what their doing especially if you are really want to do some serious photography

  • jayanta

    May 14, 2012 05:56 am

    i hv a nikon l120 n it's a nice camera no doubt. Bt m thinking for a new one,my choices are nikon p510, sony a35 & sony nex 7 for more zoom. M a amature,wnt to put my steps on this field. So which one wld b better according to their features specialy between d p510 n a35?? Plz help me.

  • Daniel J. DiBernardo

    May 11, 2012 02:49 am

    I bought the P510 as a back up camera to my Nikon D90, so when I am shooting with a 10-20mm super wide, I won't be missing a shot when I needed a telephoto.

    I have only had the camera for two weeks, but have been able to hand-hold at 1000mm very effectively...maybe I am jsut lucky. I did not buy it for video, so no comments. I agree the viewfinder could be better, but this is the main reason I wanted this...do not like looking at a 3 inch piece of glass held out from my face. Overall, very pleased with camera.

    Only complaint...Nikon should have included a dedicated off-camera charger.

  • OsmosisStudios

    May 7, 2012 09:28 pm

    Another great padded spec sheet.

    *rollseyes*

  • jacqui moritz

    May 7, 2012 05:03 pm

    I have the Nikon Coolpix L120. Awesome camera and i love the 21x zoom on that. I saw the P510 the other day in a store catalogue for around $600. When i saw the 42x zoom I think i fell in love lol. I'm not a professional photographer, obviously or i would have a better camera, but the L120 does have just enough for my skill level. I would love to try the P510 though. Thank you for this review. :)

  • Phil

    May 7, 2012 03:53 pm

    I was reading a complaint that there was no macro on the new 510? But the menu looks just like my p90. It has macro. I love my p90. Now I want the p150. I am totally an armature, but I love the pictures my p 90 takes.

  • Malleswari

    May 7, 2012 12:29 pm

    Hi,
    we just bought nikoncoolpix p510 yesterday and trying to know how to take a blur background picture but no success. though we try setting lower 1/f value to 3.0 the image is sharper on both foreground and background. We really want to know how this feature works in this camera.

    thanks

  • Jack

    May 7, 2012 02:54 am

    Hi! how about GPS fix time? In model P6000 its horrible :) Sometimes about 20 minut :( Is better now?

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