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It was love at first sight!
Pulled the P520 out of its unassuming box and there it was: a gleaming vision in deep cherry red.
At the outset, the red base colour and overlaid control ID texts picked out in white made everything abundantly clear … much better than the usual white text on black!
And what a piece of kit it is.
Hitting off with a 42x zoom that moves from a 35 SLR equivalent of 24mm at the wide end and slipping in to a tele of 1000mm, it’s quite a piece of glass, although I found the stabiliser to be wanting when I handheld the camera while shooting video.
The maximum still image size is 4896×3672 pixels, printing out to a final 41x31cm result.
Video can be recorded in Full HD at 1920×1080 resolution. While shooting video you can also shoot stills, with no interruption, although you will hear the click of the shutter.
Top: at the right end of the top deck you find the mode dial with auto, PASM, scene modes, night landscape, landscape, backlighting, special effects and special user settings.
There are 17 scene modes, including settings for beach, sunset, food shots, fireworks, panorama, 3D photography etc.
The five special effects include soft image, sepia, high contrast mono, high and low key shooting.
Forward and mounted on top of the pronounced speed grip is the shutter button, encircled by the zoom lever.
Behind is the Function button which gives access to the continuous speeds further to the rear is the on/off power switch.
Rear: next the top viewfinder is the display options button and further to the right is the video record button and the command dial; lower down is the replay button and the four way jog button which takes you to flash options, exposure compensation, macro and self timer; lower still is the menu and trash buttons.
To my mind the array of external controls is not at all intimidating. It’s only when you get to accessing the viewfinder menu that many more options become evident. Spend a few hours here and you will come away with a far better understanding of how the camera sings and dances.
Viewing is via the top finder or the rear, vari-angle LCD screen, variable by 180 degrees laterally and 225 degrees vertically.
There is built in GPS, so you can record and store shooting locations; there is also a pre-populated database of 1.86 million points of interest included.
It took about two seconds from startup to first shoot; follow ons about two seconds a shot.
No problem at the wide or tele ends of the zoom.
Quality: if you want to extract the full benefit of this camera, especially to enjoy the tele end of the zoom you need quite an amount of discipline (for ‘discipline’ read a tripod or firm shooting base!).
Most shots I took showed about average quality.
Why you would buy it: long zoom; easy to use; vari-angle screen.
Why you wouldn’t: long zoom can often lead to poor shots; AF at long tele a bit slow.
In spite of my generally glowing report, it’s not all a rosy picture: maximum lens aperture is f3.5, fully an f stop slower than many compacts; there is no support for RAW file format … JPEG is all you get in stills.
In two colours: red and black. Go for the red!
Image Sensor: 18.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Matrix, centre-weighted and spot.
Sensor: 11mm CMOS.
Lens: f3.5-5.9/4.3-180mm (24-1000mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 8 to 1/4000 second.
Continuous Speed: 7 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards plus 15MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4896×3672 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 960×540, 640×480 at 25 or 30fps.
Viewfinder: 8cm LCD (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, MPO (3D), WAV, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini, WiFi, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 125x84x102 WHDmm.
Weight: 550 g (inc battery and SD card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon COOLPIX P520 at Amazon.