Nikon Coolpix P530 Review

4.0
May 27, 2014 | Jack Baker |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The big question here is whether the P530’s drop in sensor resolution has given image quality a boost. Well fortunately it seems to have done the trick, as for what’s still a small 1/2.3-inch sensor, it does produce some very nice shots. Fine detail is well retained and images can look impressively sharp. Even landscape scenes where grasses and foliage are often prone to appearing smeared and painterly when captured on similarly small sensors come out looking crisp and realistic.

Nikon’s ability to produce stellar optics is again proven with the 42x lens on the P530. Despite the huge focal length range there’s virtually no visible barrel or pincushion distortion and sharpness is excellent across the entire frame. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast areas) is also very well controlled and rarely visible. The camera’s Vibration Reduction system works a treat too, stabilising shots taken at the extreme telephoto end of the zoom range which would otherwise be impossible to hold steady.

The P530’s exposure metering produces bright, balanced exposures with vibrant, punchy colour reproduction. Some highlight detail can blow out as a result of the fairly average dynamic range, and although activating Nikon’s Active D-Lighting feature claws back some highlight and shadow detail, it’s no miracle cure. If you want to really increase dynamic range, you’re better off switching to the camera’s Backlighting scene mode, whereby two shots of differing exposures are captured and combined into one image with much-improved shadow and highlight definition.

The P530 also impresses in low light and at higher sensor sensitivities. Sure, grain is visible even at low ISO settings if you pixel-peep, but this is inevitable with any small-sensor camera so it shouldn’t be cause for concern. What’s more important is how well the P530 controls this noise. Only at ISO 800 does grain start to become more pronounced, but it’s by no means distracting. Even ISO 1600 shots bear up to close scrutiny and it’s only at ISO 3200 where image noise really takes a turn for the worst. Even so, we’ve seen far worse at this sensitivity setting from other cameras with similarly-sized sensors. However, the maximum ISO 6400 is best left as a last resort, such is the high level of grain and visible colour speckling. All in all an impressive performance though.

Some may lament the absence of raw capture in a bridge camera such as this, however the P530’s decent image quality is in a large part down to clever JPEG image processing. Strip this away to shoot raw files and the results won’t look nearly as appealing as they do from a larger-sensor camera like a DSLR. You’d have to put in some serious post-production work to restore them to the JPEG quality automatically outputted by the P530.

Noise

The Nikon Coolpix P530 has seven sensitivity settings at full resolution. Auto mode uses a range between ISO 100 and ISO 1600, or you can switch to Program mode to reveal ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 settings. Select the High ISO Monochrome effect and you’ll be shooting at ISO 12800, though the results are intentionally grainy as a result.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 

Focal Range

The P530’s 42x zoom lens achieves a maximum wide-angle focal length equivalent to 24mm, and is capable of a telephoto reach of 1000mm (in 35mm-camera terms).

24mm

1000mm

Sharpening

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 P530 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)

   

File Quality

Every image size option on the P530 is accompanied by two quality settings: Normal and Fine. Going for the latter will roughly double the file size of each saved image from approximately 3MB to 6MB.

Fine (6.42Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (3.91Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

Given the range of the zoom lens, the Nikon Coolpix P530 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)

Macro

The P530’s lens will focus as close as 1cm. This image is taken from around 5cm, as shooting any closer will usually mean the camera casts a shadow over your subject.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

Flash

The camera’s flash has a range of up to 8.0 meters and includes four settings: Standard, Red-eye reduction, Slow sync and Rear-curtain sync. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m, the flash provides even coverage with the lens zoomed in, though some vignetting is visible in the wide-angle shot.

Whether the flash is set to Standard or Red-eye reduction, the camera successfully avoids any trace of red-eye.

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)
   

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

Lens shift Vibration Reduction successfully avoids blurring from camera shake and is essential when zoomed up close. Try shooting handheld with VR disabled and you’ll end up with blurry mess.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/15th sec / 300mm

Backlighting

This setting automatically captures two exposures of a high-contrast scene to record shadow and highlight detail separately. The results are then merged into a single HDR image with three possible intensity levels. This shot was snapped using the second level.

HDR Off

HDR On

Special Effects

The P530 offers nine colour effects, all of which are previewed live. Your options are: Soft, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, Painting, High key, Low key, Selective colour, High ISO Monochrome & Cross process.

Soft

Nostalgic Sepia
   

High-contrast Monochrome

Painting

   

High Key

Low Key

   

Selective Colour

High ISO Monochrome

   

Cross Process

 

 

Easy Panorama

Pan the P530 left or right and it’ll automatically stitch together a 180 or 360-degree panorama. The system is in dire need of an update however, as the considerably downsized output files are severely lacking in detail. Not being able to stop panning at will also means capturing a panorama narrower than 180-degrees is impossible.

Easy Panorama - 180°

Entry Tags

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