Nikon P500 review

CHENNAI, 04/05/2011: NIKON COOLPIX P500 camera. Photo: S_S_Kumar   -  THE HINDU

CHENNAI, 04/05/2011: NIKON COOLPIX P500 camera. Photo: S_S_Kumar   -  THE HINDU

Macro Mode shows subject in detail and blurs the background for effect   -  BUSINESS LINE

Pet Portrait mode takes three consecutive shots to capture changes in expression   -  BUSINESS LINE

Portait mode makes good use of ambient light in low light situations, but results appear grainy and soft   -  BUSINESS LINE

Point and shoots have come a long way, developing from basic, compact digicams to feature heavy, professional ones. There is a growing market for photo enthusiasts who want to graduate from their first digicams to something that gives better results. However, there are many people who aren't ready to make the jump to bulky, complicated cameras, and are looking for something in-between. This is where advanced, superzoom digicams like the Nikon Coolpix P500 come in. We step into the sunshine with this beauty to see what we can capture this summer.

Body & Build

The Nikon P500 is available in red and black colour options. The red unit we asked for our review was more like a deep crimson, with a shiny finish that thankfully didn't leave behind unsightly fingerprints. The USP of this camera is definitely its 36x zoom lens, one of the longest in the point and shoot category. The Nikkor lens covers a focal range of 22.5mm to 810mm (35mm equivalent). Magnification ranges from f3.4-5.7, which is about what you get on a standard DSLR 18-55 kit lens. Apart from the regular zoom toggle switch, there's an alternative side zoom control on the lens body itself, which is intuitive for those used to interchangeable lenses.

Controls wise, there is a mode dial, which lets you switch between Scene, Intelligent Auto, P, S, A, M and dedicated controls for Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Backlighting and Smart Portrait.

The camera supports Full HD 1080p recording, with a dedicated button to switch to video mode. The camera comes with a pop-up flash, but no hot-shoe, so you can't attach an external flash. On top is also a set of stereo speakers, handy when you want to preview your home videos.

One of the best parts about this camera is the 3-inch tiltable LCD monitor. Unlike a lot of digicams in the market, there's also an electronic viewfinder. We're used to optical viewfinders in DSLRs, but for those used to point and shoot digicams, this won't be a turn off. An interesting addition is the dioptre adjustment control, which enables you to get your subject in focus when you're not on Autofocus mode.

The P500 has a nice rubberised grip on the front and back, which is great for shaky hands. Apart from the USB connector on the side, there's also a Mini HDMI connector, which is a neat feature. The camera weighs around 500 g, which feels nice and firm in your hands, without weighing you down.

User interface

The advantage with any Nikon camera is its intuitive user interface. It's very similar to the menu on most Nikon DSLRs – easy to navigate with lots of professional functions.

Most digicam users will look for a nice selection of scene modes to choose from, and the P500 doesn't disappoint. Within the scene menu, there is an option to choose Scene auto selector, or pick between the 15 available scene modes. There's an interesting Pet portrait, which on default takes three consecutive shots, but you can change this option on the Continuous shooting mode. There's also a Panorama mode, with an option for Panorama assist, which forms a ghost image on the monitor to enable you to line up your next shot.

The high speed CMOS sensor is used in the continuous shooting mode. The continuous H mode captures images at 8 fps. You can shoot at 1.8 fps which will capture 24 shots. Extreme options include 50 shots at 120 fps and 25 shots at 60 fps. The camera froze a couple of times when we tried the 120 fps mode. There's also a BSS mode, or best shot selector, which takes up to 10 images, and selects the sharpest and most detailed one to save and display. Multi shot 16 takes 16 images of your subject, and arranges them in a single photo, which is a nice effect.

For Macro shots, you can either select the Close-up mode from the available scenes, or if you're shooting in P, S, A, M modes, select the Macro option from the control pad.

Shutter speed varies according to the Continuous shooting mode you choose, and goes from 1/4000 seconds to 8 seconds. Aperture is smallest at f8. ISO ranges from 160 to 3,200. The only feature the camera lacks is the ability to take photos in RAW format, which is something even lower-priced cams are equipped to do.

Results

We tested the Nikon P500 under a variety of conditions. On average, most of our photos turned out with excellent colour reproduction. The camera performed well under low light conditions, but we found a lot of grain when we used ISO higher than 400. We took a couple of shots in a restaurant with dim lighting, and the camera used the ambient light to illuminate the photos, without any resulting blur. However, the images tended to be quite soft around the edges and lacked detail.

Outdoors, or in bright lighting, results were much better. Even in full zoom, we managed to get clear images. However, there was the problem of fringing around the edges. If you're shooting on maximum zoom with your subject in the centre of the frame, such as with nature shots, you won't find it to be too much of a problem.

The night landscape mode worked really well, giving us well balanced shots. We tried the Night Portrait mode on a rooftop restaurant, which gave us soft but well lit images, and managed to get in the city lights in the background. This mode won't work with moving subjects though.

The Macro mode worked really well, giving us good results even when we zoomed in on the subject. There's an onscreen indicator which will tell you when you're too close to your subject. We got some good results with nature shots, with the subject nicely in focus and the background blurred.

Our Verdict

The Nikon P500 has average battery life, which will give you about 220 shots on a full charge. If you're going to do some intense shooting when you're on a holiday or shoot HD videos, we'd recommend carrying a spare battery. For a camera in this class, the P500 delivers excellent results, but isn't really convenient for shooting in manual modes. It's a good learning camera though, so you can start with the presets and then move your way to more manual functions when you're comfortable with it.



Love: mpact build, good photo reproduction

Hate: Poor battery life, fringing at telephoto end



Rs 23,950

Published on May 11, 2011

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