There is no 'best' superzoom in the market yet and camera manufacturers are launching new products every couple of months. These range from those loaded with features at a lower price point to those with more than a fair share of features at of course a higher price. We have recently seen the Fujifilm FinePix S3300 and the Kodak  Easyshare max Z990 that fall in the entry level superzoom segment and both of them did quite well.

Nikon, one of the world’s most well known camera manufacturing companies have recently launched the Nikon P500 that belongs to the Professional Series from Nikon’s CoolPix range of cameras. The Nikon CoolPix P500 boasts of a 36x optical zoom and 1080p HD video recording. Read on to know more about this superzoom.

Zoom capabilities on the side as well

Zoom capabilities on the side as well

Features
The Nikon CoolPix P500 is loaded with features. Being a superzoom, the main feature is its 36x optical zoom. The camera features a NIKKOR ED glass lens with its 36x optical zoom and a focal length of 22.5–810mm and a 12.1 megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. This is the same found on the recently reviewed Kodak Easyshare max Z990. The sensor also has dual image processors and Nikon’s EXPEED C2 image processing engine which the company claims helps in shooting detailed images with minimal noise.

Another main feature of this camera is the ability for it to shoot high definition videos in 1080p at 30 fps. This shows the incredible video capabilities of this camera. One can switch between high speed or high definition video capturing modes by merely tapping on the video recording modes. The interface of this camera is similar to those seen on other CoolPix cameras. The options cannot be tweaked much in Auto mode but in other modes like the manual mode, one can easily change ISO sensitivity, aperture settings, white balance, etc.

Deployable flash lights up the area well

Deployable flash lights up the area well

The camera has a vibration reduction feature which allows a user to capture action shots easily. The side zoom control assists in the functioning of this feature. Other features include the ability to use the camera from either high or low angles with the foldable screen and the ability to take macro shots from a distance of 0.4 inches.The Nikon CoolPix P500 supports both SD and SDHC memory cards, making it like most cameras seen in the market these days. What sets it apart is that the camera can be charged by connecting it through the USB cable. This isn't a very common feature found in cameras. The Nikon CoolPix P500 does well on the design and feature front.

Design and Build Quality
The Nikon CoolPix P500 we received in our lab was Red. The other colour this camera is available in is Black. Like most superzooms seen in the market, this camera, too has the ‘bridge’, which makes it look a lot like a DSLR. The most noticeable feature of this camera is the huge lens at the front. The black rubberized handgrip allows one to easily hold the camera to shoot with one hand. This is also possible due to the lightweight of the P500, which is approximately 494g. The electronic viewfinder on this camera is also rubberized. This is a feature that is seen on many cameras with this design. The addition of a rubber strip at the back aids in the gripping of the camera.

Flip out screen makes it easier to capture images at different angles

Flip out screen makes it easier to capture images at different angles

The monitor on this camera is of the vari-angle type, which allows one to tilt the screen in a way that images can be captured from either high or low angles. Though the screen can be tilted out it is not foldable in the way seen on the Canon EOS 600D DSLR camera. The screen on this camera is very good. It's a 3-incher with approximately 921,000-dots. The electronic viewfinder is 0.24-inches and is a TFT LCD type with approximately 230,000 dots.

On the rear, to the right of the screen are the controls found in most cameras which are a four way navigational pad, menu, erase and playback. On the upper right of the camera at the back are the buttons for video recording, switching between the display and the EVF and a scroll for navigating through all the options. Apart from these there is also a scroll for adjusting the clarity of the EVF. We found this very useful while using the EVF.

36x optical zoom capabilities

36x optical zoom capabilities

On the top of the camera is the mode dial for switching between the many camera settings such as manual mode, aperture priority auto mode, etc. The on/off switch has a yellow lighting underneath it to signify it is on. When it is charging or connected to a computer this light turns orange. The shutter release button is fitted next to the wide-angle and telephoto rocker. There is also a button for switching between the different shooting modes that is single shot, continuous shooting etc. Another button we found interesting on this camera was an addition of another wide-angle and telephoto rocker on the lens. This makes shooting easier while using the 3-inch monitor as a display.
The pop-up flash is easily deployable by pressing the button next to it. Though the flash seems sturdy, the spring seems a bit loose. Connectivity options found on this camera include a mini HDMI port and a proprietary USB port. These are covered by a black plastic flap that flushes well with the body of the camera. The battery bay located along the underside of the camera houses the 1100 mAh lithium ion battery.The flap that covers the bay is sturdy and has a locking mechanism so as to not open by accident. The overall build quality of the camera is very good and the design is stylish enough to appeal both genders.

Performance
We ran our series of tests with this camera which include the zoom test, ISO sensitivity test, aperture priority, flash as well as video test.

Zoom test

Zoom test

Zoom Test
We tested the zoom of this camera by shooting images outdoors using auto mode. Having an optical zoom of 36x and an image stabilizing functionality, the pictures shot were crisp and a fair amount of detail was noticed. The image shakes a lot on the screen and one may get the feeling that the picture clicked will be blurred. However, the image stabilizer does the job very well over here.

ISO sensitivity test

ISO sensitivity test

ISO Sensitivity Test
We tested the ISO sensitivity of this camera using different ISO settings and the aperture set at a constant of f/8. This is the smallest aperture available on this camera. At ISO sensitivity of 100 no image noise was noticed and the images looked very crisp. There was not much change in noise levels as the ISO sensitivity was increased. Though really clear, the image was looking a bit noisy at ISO 800. This trend as expected continued as ISO increased. The image started showing a fair amount of noise as well at this ISO setting. ISO 3200 showed the maximum amount of noise and unless the aperture is set along with the shutter speed, this should be avoided.

Aperture priority test

Aperture priority test

Aperture Priority Test
While running the aperture priority test, we set the ISO to a constant sensitivity of 160. The colours looked natural at aperture priority set to f/3.4. The depth of field reduces by a lot at f/8 but pictures look quite detailed.

Flash test

Flash test

Flash Test
During the flash test, images look crisp when the flash is on but colours look vibrant. A lot of detail can be made out as well compared to when the flash is off. The flash is quite powerful and can illuminate an area of 15 feet.
Performance Continued
Indoor images captured shot really well and colours looked natural. There was very minimal grain noticed. Macro images provided a fine amount of detail as well. We tested the 1080p high definition video recording on this camera and the results were really good. There was no lag noticed when switching between bright to dimly lit areas and there were no focusing issues.

Indoor pictures captured well

Indoor pictures captured well

Nikon claims that the 1100 mAh battery bundled with the camera can shoot up to 220 shots with a single charge. The overall performance of this camera was really good and no issues were noticed.

Looks stylish in red

Looks stylish in red

Verdict
The Nikon CoolPix P500 sells at a market operating price of Rs. 23,250. This is a really great camera and does well in design, build quality, features as well as performance. The camera is one of the better superzooms we have tested and with the image stabilization options, zoomed in images look really good. However, the only drawback we had found with this camera was the pricing. That being said, if one has just above Rs. 23,000 to spend then they would certainly enjoy this camera but if not; there are other options like the Fujifilm FinePix S3300 and the Kodak Easyshare max Z990 available at a lower price point but at the cost of lesser features.

Publish date: August 9, 2011 9:53 am| Modified date: December 18, 2013 8:18 pm

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