The Nikon Coolpix P500 is a strange thing. It is aimed at those who are bored with point and shoot, but not quite ready for the dizzying array of buttons and options of a DSLR.
On paper the Nikon Coolpix P500 is a very tempting camera. It features a Nikkor 36X zoom lens, 12.1 megapixel sensor, Full 1080p HD video recording and a large 3-inch angled viewing screen. In this Nikon Coolpix P500 review we’ll see if it performs as well as it claims to do.
When buying a camera the most obvious element you are looking for is great quality pictures. This is an area where the Nikon Coolpix P500 has somewhat of split personality.
Daylight photographs are clear, crisp and naturally coloured, movement isn’t an issue and landscapes and portraits alike come out well.
One of the highlights from a photographic point of view is the lens. This thing is awesome; its massive 36x optical zoom is brilliant and something you would have to shell out a lot of cash for if you were buying separately. With its built in image stabilization, pictures are fairly sharp even when fully zoomed, as you can see below. This is no mean feat if you consider that sometimes you can be standing 15 meters from your target!
Where it is let down is in its low light photography. Interior shots under normal lighting conditions are often blurry, yellowed and peppered with noise. The product page on Nikon’s website claims that the camera can deliver “beautifully detailed night scenes and indoor portraits”, however in this reviewers opinion – that is just not the case. If you do a lot of low light shots, with even a little movement – you are going to struggle to get good performance from the Nikon Coolpix P500.
Overall the photographic performance of this camera is fine however it certainly isn’t the best we have reviewed, which is a shame – as Nikon have a strong track record of good products.
After mediocre photographic performance we didn’t have high hopes for the video elements either. Thankfully we were wrong. The Nikon Coolpix P500 shoots in varying resolutions topping out at 1080p/30 frames per second HD video. Other features include a stereo microphone and image stabilization.
Movies come out smooth and the full-time focus does a great job of keeping everything in focus. Our only niggle would be that, because the lens and microphone are so close together, you do tend to hear any movement of the zoom or lens focus, however this is a problem that you will find on most cameras of this size.
Another fun but not entirely useful video feature is 240 FPS high-speed mode. Basically you record at normal speed and it plays back in super slow-mo. The effect is a bit like the Matrix movie, which makes it cool, but as it only outputs at 320×240, how this could be used in a day-to-day scenario has us boggled!
The Nikon Coolpix P500 is fairly limited in it’s number of connectors, but the one’s it does have are solid. On the left hand side you have a USB 2.0 port for sync and charge functionality as well as an HDMI port for streaming images and video to your HDTV.
This is plenty for most people, but as this is supposed to be a bridge camera – it would have been nice to see some extra ports such as for a GPS adapter or remote trigger.
Build and Layout
Sadly this is where the camera really falls down. There are high points to be sure – the adjustable screen is high quality and you are never concerned that it may snap off when extended, the flash pops up with a satisfying clunk and the lens itself is solid and obviously decently made.
Now, for the lows – the body is made of a very cheap feeling plastic, as are the buttons. There is nothing wrong with the layout of the buttons, they are all in a natural place but they just feel cheap and unresponsive.
For some unknown reason, Nikon have decided to stick a tiny, low quality LCD screen in the viewfinder. The point of a viewfinder over a rear screen is to give you a more accurate representation of what the camera is seeing. This would have traditionally been done by the use of mirrors so adding in a cheap LCD is a totally pointless exercise.
As you can probably read, we weren’t wowed by the Nikon Coolpix P500. It has some fun features – the high-speed video mode being one of them, but it also has some dismal lows.
To be fair to Nikon, they traditionally make awesome cameras. This reviewer uses Nikon’s regularly and even owns one himself, so to see such poor quality from them is a shame.
Our advice is to either spend a little more and get yourself an entry level DSLR, such as the brilliant Nikon D90, or save yourself £100 and get the fantastic Nikon Coolpix S9100.