Nikon Coolpix P500 review
Verging on greatness, the P500 is let down only by noisy images in anything other than the best light
If we handed out awards based on specifications alone, Nikon’s P500 would be first in line. Somehow, Nikon has crammed a 36x optical zoom into a body only 103mm deep. It weighs less than 500g and shoots 1080p video at 30fps.
Better still, the P500 has a 12.2-megapixel sensor, an indication that Nikon is sidestepping the megapixel race in a bid for better quality photos. Of course, the sensor is still tiny at 1/2.3in.
Another winning specification is the 921kpixel, articulated 3in screen. This tilts up and down by 90 degrees to let you take shots from interesting angles. The only blots on the P500’s copybook are the lack of a RAW mode and a hotshoe for an external flash.
Unusually, there are two zoom controls: one surrounding the shutter release, and the other on the lens barrel. The main control has both slow and fast speeds, but the barrel rocker switch only moves the lens slowly.
Wrapped around the video-recording button is a switch to change from HD to HS. The latter stands for high speed and records at 240fps, albeit at only 320 x 240 and without audio. There’s also the option to shoot at 120fps at 640 x 480. The footage looks great in bright light.
The P550’s performance is respectable. Time from off to first shot is only 1.4 seconds and there’s a five-frame continuous mode that runs at 8fps and shoots at full resolution. If you want more than five frames, you’ll have to put up with a reduced frame rate of 1.8fps.
Image quality is good, but not great. In bright light, the P500 produces superb photos with sumptuous levels of detail. Colours are muted in typical Nikon style, but exposures are always well judged. The problems come when light drops and ISO speeds rise, with fine details smeared at ISO 400 and above. The P500 struggles to focus in low light at anything beyond 600mm, and with moving subjects even in better light.
We wanted to like the P500 more, and it does have notable attractions, such as the screen and the 1080p video mode. Only the image quality stands in the way of it walking away with top marks.
|Camera megapixel rating||12.0mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||36x|
|Camera maximum resolution||4,000 x 3,000|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||116 x 103 x 84mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||220 shots|
|Aperture range||f3.5 - f5.7|
|Camera minimum focus distance||0.01m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||23|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||810|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/1,500|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||8s|
|Bulb exposure mode?||no|
|RAW recording mode?||no|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 2EV|
|ISO range||160 - 3200|
|Selectable white balance settings?||yes|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||yes|
|Progam auto mode?||yes|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||yes|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||8.0fps|
|Memory-card type||SDHC, SDXC|
|Data connector type||Proprietary USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||no|
|Software supplied||Nikon ViewNX 2|
|Accessories supplied||USB and AV cables|