Nikon Coolpix P520 Review

April 29, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 18 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix P520's image quality is very good for a compact camera with a small image sensor. The Nikon Coolpix P520's dealt well with noise, which becomes obvious at ISO 800 along with some colour loss. The noise, colour desaturation and loss of detail gets progressively worse as you go from ISO 800 to ISO 3200 and finally the unusable 6400 setting. The Nikon Coolpix P520 handled chromatic aberrations excellently with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The 18 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and either require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you should increase the in-camera sharpening level.

The Nikon Coolpix P520's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds, which is fairly good news for night photography enthusiasts. Macro performance is excellent, allowing you to focus as close as 1cm away from the subject. Vibration reduction is a compulsory feature on a camera like this and one that that works very well when hand-holding the P520 in low-light conditions or using the telephoto end of the amazing zoom range. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The backlighting feature increases detail in both the shadows and highlights, although at the expense of some additional noise and loss of fine detail, while the Picture Controls, Special Effects during shooting and Filter Effects during playback offer a lot of creative control over your images.


The Nikon Coolpix P520 has 8 sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 6400 at full resolution.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso6400.jpg

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix P520's 42x zoom lens provides an astonishing focal range of 24-1000mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Here are two 100% crops - the right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images from the Nikon Coolpix P520 are slightly soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can alternatively change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

At full resolution, there are two JPEG quality settings availableon the Nikon Coolpix P520 - Fine and Normal.

Fine (6.42Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (3.91Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

Given the range of the zoom lens, the Nikon Coolpix P520 shows remarkably little purple fringing, with limited effects in areas of high contrast as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Nikon Coolpix P520 allows you to get as close as 1cm to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash card.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix P520 are Auto, Auto with Red-eye reduction, Fill Flash, Manual (Full, 1/2, 1/4 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64), Slow Sync, Rear-curtain Sync and Flash Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m. Some vignetting and barrel distortion is apparent at the 24mm wide-angle setting, irrespective of whether you use the flash or not.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (1000mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (1000mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Fill Flash or the Auto with Red-eye reduction options caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The Nikon Coolpix P520's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds in the Manual mode, which is fairly good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 8 seconds at ISO 80.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Vibration Reduction

The Nikon Coolpix P520 has a vibration reduction mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the lens set to the same focal length and ISO speed. The first shot was taken with vibration reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. As you can see, with vibration reduction turned on, the images are definitely sharper than with vibration reduction turned off. Here is a 100% crop of the images to show the results.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/10th sec / 24mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg
1/4th sec / 1000mm antishake2.jpg antishake2a.jpg

Active D-Lighting

D-lighting is Nikon's dynamic range optimisation tool that attempts to squeeze the full dynamic range of the sensor into JPEGs. The available settings are Off, Low, Medium, and High. The following examples demonstrate the differences between the various settings.


dlighting_01.jpg dlighting_02.jpg



dlighting_03.jpg dlighting_04.jpg


The Nikon Coolpix P520's Backlighting mode captures three consecutive shots at varying exposures and combines them into a single photo with a broader range of tones. Three different HDR settings are available for selection.


backlighting_01.jpg backlighting_02.jpg



backlighting_03.jpg backlighting_04.jpg

Picture Controls

The Nikon Coolpix P520 has four different Picture Controls, which can be individually tweaked (sharpening, contrast and saturation) to suit your taste.


picture_controls_01.jpg picture_controls_02.jpg



picture_controls_03.jpg picture_controls_04.jpg

Special Effects

You can apply nine different special effects as you shoot with the Nikon Coolpix P520, with a live preview on the LCD screen showing exactly what the final image will look like.


Nostalgic Sepia
special_effects_01.jpg special_effects_02.jpg

High-contrast Monochrome

High Key

special_effects_03.jpg special_effects_04.jpg

Low Key

Selective Color

special_effects_05.jpg special_effects_06.jpg

High ISO Monochrome


special_effects_07.jpg special_effects_08.jpg

Cross Process



Filter Effects

You can apply seven different filter effects in-camera to photos that you have already taken with the Nikon Coolpix P520.


Selective Color
filter_effects_01.jpg filter_effects_02.jpg

Cross Screen


filter_effects_03.jpg filter_effects_04.jpg

Miniature Effect

filter_effects_05.jpg filter_effects_06.jpg



Easy Panorama

The Nikon Coolpix P520's Easy Panorama mode allows you to take vertical or horizontal panorama photos simply by moving the camera in the direction of the on-screen guides. Multiple shots are then combined into a single panorama photo. The angle of view can be selected from 180° (normal) and 360° (wide).

Easy Panorama - 180°
Easy Panorama - 360°