Nikon Coolpix P520 - Digital Photography School

Nikon Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 review.jpg

It was love at first sight!

Totally smitten!

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.

BK_LCD_1.jpg

Nikon Coolpix P520 top zoom.jpg

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.

Full wide 2.JPG

Full tele 2.JPG

Controls

Nikon Coolpix P520 top.jpg

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.

Scene modes.jpg

There are 17 scene modes, including settings for beach, sunset, food shots, fireworks, panorama, 3D photography etc.

Special effects.jpg

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.

Nikon Coolpix P520 back.jpg

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.
Menu.JPG

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.
Board rider 2.JPG

Fish 4.JPG

Water bottles.JPG

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.

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO Tests

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 80.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 400.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 800.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 1600.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 3200.JPG

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO 6400.JPG
All OK until ISO 3200, when a little softness appeared. By ISO 6400 softness increased but, surprisingly, noise was very low.

Startup Time

It took about two seconds from startup to first shoot; follow ons about two seconds a shot.

Distortion

No problem at the wide or tele ends of the zoom.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review Verdict

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!

Nikon Coolpix P520 Specifications

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.

Summary
Reviewer
Barrie Smith
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon Coolpix P520
Author Rating
3

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

  • Simon

    there is no support for RAW file format

    That’s pretty standard for this kind of camera though, isn’t it? I’ve owned two generations of the comparable Canon SX range (SX10 and SX40), and they don’t do RAW either. Great cameras, but they’re not high-end SLRs, and shouldn’t be judged by the standards of something costing two or three times as much…

  • Ed

    I looked carefully at the P520 as a “walkaround” and “travel” camera because of the optical zoom and 16MP sensor, and because it provides a fully functional system for basic to more advanced photography in a compact solution. I use a Nikon D5100 so the features of the P520 were very similar (you can see the comparison here: http://snapsort.com/compare/Nikon-Coolpix-P520-vs-Nikon-D5100

    Since traveling (especially air travel) with camera equipment is difficult at best these days, the Coolpix line is a great solution. Although the true DSLR with interchangeable lenses has better (IMHO) image quality, the Coolpix is not lagging far behind.

    One thing missing from the P520 that was available on the earlier “P” series models is the ability to switch from the LCD to the electronic viewfinder (EV) with a simple button. The button was located to the left of the EV eyepiece on prior models and made it easy to select the source. As best I can determine, the EV is only active when the LCD screen is rotated to the closed position. As a result, I opted to purchase the Coolpix P510. I also found that there are not many differences between the “older” model and the new (e.g. 16MP vs. 18; 3.2″ flip-out vs. 3.0″ angled LCD were the most significant differences, but there are others. Again, you can see the details here:
    http://snapsort.com/compare/Nikon-Coolpix-P520-vs-Nikon-P510

    Another factor for me at least was price. I found a refurbished (by Nikon) P510 for nearly $200 less than the going price of the P520. So…my suggestion is to analyze the differences before you jump on the “latest and greatest” model (as I’ve regretfully done in the past). Both models are great compact lightweight cameras that produce superb results!

  • http://ivorphotography.co.uk Ivor

    It’s a pity that almost all bridge cameras no longer produce RAW images. That is the one thing that would stop me from buying this excellent looking camera.

  • mark wegner

    Which one will be better option….Sony HX200V or Nikon p520?

  • Eeps

    The Panasonic FZ200 does RAW and has a max aperture of 2.8 throughout its range. The focal range is shorter though (25-600) and no wifi nor GPS. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs (sigh)

  • http://digital-photography-school.com/nikon-coolpix-p520#respond Ian Etherington

    I have just bought a Nikon Coolpix P520 camera. And am wondering how the automatic flash works. There is clearly a button to open the flash but was hoping that this function would be automatic in required circumstances. Many thanks. Ian.

  • Dave

    In my first few days of shooting with the P520, i like it a lot. The 18mp let me zoom to the full extent and still get good definition and clarity. The 18mp also let me blow up pics in iPhoto and still have good clarity.

    The only thing I’m not crazy about is how long it takes to auto-focus. When shooting at a party, it was uncomfortable as the subjects had to hold their smiles for too long while the camera focused.

  • Vince

    Ian. There is no completely automatic flash on this camera. You must raise it with the button, before it can automatically fire.

    I believe the Canon SX50 HS shoots RAW. That was my first choice, but the salesperson talked me into this camera instead.

  • suzi

    can anyone telll me why the focus on the coolpix p520 seems to oscillate when taking video? It does not stay in permanent sharp focus regardless of the setting or the distance?

  • Sachin Mishra

    I want to buy nikon p520. but i am confused with Fujifilm hs28exr. which is better option. which will give the better pictures.

  • Eva Sheftel

    I just bought a wireless mobile adaptor for my cool pix P520 but can stay connected with my iPhone 5 just for a second. I thinking returning the wifi adaptor. Thank you for help

  • Penny

    First off, I’m not a professional :) But I would love to get the color & some of the softness that comes on the Playback Menu screen under Filter Effects & then “miniature”. Is there anyway to do that in the manual settings or something? Remember I’m not a professional so please speak layman :) Thanks in advance!

  • green520

    Hi,
    I just had my camera a few weeks ago. And I just noticed that the Soft and Sepia option are greyed out. Could anyone advice how can I turn this on?

  • Dezi’s photographer

    Hi,my name is desireah Vincent ,I am an experienced photographer .
    wanted everyone to know that i got my new camera and it’s so much better then my other .
    If someone would like there photograph taken ,I’m in Lake Charles Louisiana ,my phone number is
    # 225-305-8509 please call me are text me are email me .this camera is the best ……….

  • GypsyJas

    I can’t seem to access my sepia setting either and would love some direction

  • margoked

    Hi, I am writing probably in the wrong topic but can’t find out how to start a new topic, sorry.
    I have such urgent problem and hope somebody can help me.
    I captured some pieces of video by my Nikon and wanted to create a movie in a movie software (video-studio or pinnacle) but no one of them can open my captured files. I am getting nothing but white cadres, however in a video player it is a normal piece of movie – e.g. media player. What I am doing wrong or what SHOULD I do to get opened files in those programs.
    It is very important for me so I count for you help.

  • Vladimir Floyd Manic

    Hi,how can I set the video to slow motion ?

  • lucy locket

    Hi, Can anyone tell me how to turn off the date stamp on the front of all my pictures? I have a Nikon Coolpix P520.

  • Melissa

    Any suggestions on how to take photographs of sports or action?

  • olivia

    I loved your article, but how exactly do you change the shutter speed, in detailed steps please?!

  • Aa

    When i take picture with this camera” this file contends no image data “comes on and i cannot see the pictures or what i have on the camera can
    not transfer to the computer, what is wrong?

Some older comments

  • Penny

    October 2, 2013 03:50 pm

    First off, I'm not a professional :) But I would love to get the color & some of the softness that comes on the Playback Menu screen under Filter Effects & then "miniature". Is there anyway to do that in the manual settings or something? Remember I'm not a professional so please speak layman :) Thanks in advance!

  • Eva Sheftel

    September 16, 2013 03:36 am

    I just bought a wireless mobile adaptor for my cool pix P520 but can stay connected with my iPhone 5 just for a second. I thinking returning the wifi adaptor. Thank you for help

  • Sachin Mishra

    August 8, 2013 02:37 am

    I want to buy nikon p520. but i am confused with Fujifilm hs28exr. which is better option. which will give the better pictures.

  • suzi

    August 7, 2013 06:45 pm

    can anyone telll me why the focus on the coolpix p520 seems to oscillate when taking video? It does not stay in permanent sharp focus regardless of the setting or the distance?

  • Vince

    July 26, 2013 12:54 am

    Ian. There is no completely automatic flash on this camera. You must raise it with the button, before it can automatically fire.

    I believe the Canon SX50 HS shoots RAW. That was my first choice, but the salesperson talked me into this camera instead.

  • Dave

    July 21, 2013 12:13 pm

    In my first few days of shooting with the P520, i like it a lot. The 18mp let me zoom to the full extent and still get good definition and clarity. The 18mp also let me blow up pics in iPhoto and still have good clarity.

    The only thing I'm not crazy about is how long it takes to auto-focus. When shooting at a party, it was uncomfortable as the subjects had to hold their smiles for too long while the camera focused.

  • Ian Etherington

    June 29, 2013 10:57 pm

    I have just bought a Nikon Coolpix P520 camera. And am wondering how the automatic flash works. There is clearly a button to open the flash but was hoping that this function would be automatic in required circumstances. Many thanks. Ian.

  • Eeps

    June 29, 2013 10:35 am

    The Panasonic FZ200 does RAW and has a max aperture of 2.8 throughout its range. The focal range is shorter though (25-600) and no wifi nor GPS. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs (sigh)

  • mark wegner

    June 22, 2013 12:17 am

    Which one will be better option....Sony HX200V or Nikon p520?

  • Ivor

    June 14, 2013 02:50 pm

    It's a pity that almost all bridge cameras no longer produce RAW images. That is the one thing that would stop me from buying this excellent looking camera.

  • Ed

    June 14, 2013 11:09 am

    I looked carefully at the P520 as a "walkaround" and "travel" camera because of the optical zoom and 16MP sensor, and because it provides a fully functional system for basic to more advanced photography in a compact solution. I use a Nikon D5100 so the features of the P520 were very similar (you can see the comparison here: http://snapsort.com/compare/Nikon-Coolpix-P520-vs-Nikon-D5100

    Since traveling (especially air travel) with camera equipment is difficult at best these days, the Coolpix line is a great solution. Although the true DSLR with interchangeable lenses has better (IMHO) image quality, the Coolpix is not lagging far behind.

    One thing missing from the P520 that was available on the earlier "P" series models is the ability to switch from the LCD to the electronic viewfinder (EV) with a simple button. The button was located to the left of the EV eyepiece on prior models and made it easy to select the source. As best I can determine, the EV is only active when the LCD screen is rotated to the closed position. As a result, I opted to purchase the Coolpix P510. I also found that there are not many differences between the "older" model and the new (e.g. 16MP vs. 18; 3.2" flip-out vs. 3.0" angled LCD were the most significant differences, but there are others. Again, you can see the details here:
    http://snapsort.com/compare/Nikon-Coolpix-P520-vs-Nikon-P510

    Another factor for me at least was price. I found a refurbished (by Nikon) P510 for nearly $200 less than the going price of the P520. So...my suggestion is to analyze the differences before you jump on the "latest and greatest" model (as I've regretfully done in the past). Both models are great compact lightweight cameras that produce superb results!

  • Simon

    June 10, 2013 02:54 pm

    there is no support for RAW file format

    That's pretty standard for this kind of camera though, isn't it? I've owned two generations of the comparable Canon SX range (SX10 and SX40), and they don't do RAW either. Great cameras, but they're not high-end SLRs, and shouldn't be judged by the standards of something costing two or three times as much...

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