Nikon Coolpix P500 review

4 Jul 2011

Verging on greatness, the P500 is let down only by noisy images in anything other than the best light

Price when reviewed: 
314(£314 inc VAT)
5

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.

Nikon Coolpix P500

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.

Nikon Coolpix P500

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £262
Price inc VAT £314
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Image quality 4
Value for Money 4

Basic specifications

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

Weight 494g
Dimensions 116 x 103 x 84mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 220 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
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
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SDHC, SDXC
LCD resolution 921k
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Plastic
Data connector type Proprietary USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? no
Software supplied Nikon ViewNX 2
Accessories supplied USB and AV cables