Nikon Coolpix P510 Review

March 28, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |


The Nikon Coolpix P510 ups the ante in the ultra-zoom camera stakes by offering an incredible telephoto zoom setting of 1000mm. Remarkably it's still possible to hand-hold the camera in good light and achieve sharp pictures thanks to the excellent vibration reduction system, although you really need to use a tripod or other support for consistent results. The move to a 16 megapixel sensor hasn't spoiled the image quality, but it hasn't improved it either, being merely good, and the P510 still struggles to keep up with fast-moving subjects and lacks support for the raw file format.

The main attraction of the P510 is of course that 24-1000mm equivalent zoom lens, which covers the focal range of at least 4 SLR lenses, but there is a lot more to the Nikon P510 than just an insanely long zoom. It also offers SLR-like handling, manual exposure and focus, an eye-level viewfinder, an articulated and high-resolution LCD screen, built-in GPS and full HD movies with stereo sound, full-time AF and optical zoom as well. The P510 is a very well rounded package that is surprisingly compact and lightweight and which will more than satisfy the needs of many users.

In terms of handling, the P510 unfortunately suffers from some of the same issues as its predecessor. These include a lack of direct access to the ISO speed and white balance (although you can assign one of those to the new Function button), a missing second control wheel and the inability to attach an external flashgun. Generally speaking, however, the Nikon Coolpix 510 offers better handling and ease-of-use than the P500 and some of its competitors, with the inclusion of the side zoom control on the lens barrel a very welcome one, especially for videographers.

Image quality remains something of a mixed bag. It's not bad for a compact camera, but the ambitious move to a 16 megapixel sensor, despite it still being a back-illuminated CMOS one, hasn't done the P510 many favours. There is a little too much smearing of fine detail in the full-resolution images, even at the lower ISO speeds, with things starting to fall apart at ISO 400 and getting progressively worse as you go up the range. The P510's overall image quality is pleasing enough in good light, but simply not as good as its rivals as you move up the ISO range.

Despite retaining similar flaws that also afflicted the P510's predecessor - namely the so-so image quality, lack of RAW mode, slightly sluggish auto-focusing and some handling issues, this new ultra-zoom is still well worth a look if want the all-in-one convenience of a superzoom that can shoot everything from wide-angle landscapes to close-ups of birds and other small subjects. That 1000mm telephoto setting may sound a little ridiculous on paper, but in reality it is actually a usable setting in good lighting conditions. The Nikon Coolpix P510 may not produce the best photos at higher ISO speeds or focus quickly enough for fast-moving subjects, but it's a lot more portable and convenient than an SLR with a bag full of lenses and also doubles up as an effective video camera thanks to its excellent movie mode, making it worthy of our Highly Recommended award.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4