Nikon Coolpix P500 review: Nikon Coolpix P500

If you like to shoot close-ups, the P500 has a few ways to enter Macro mode. It will automatically switch to it if you're using the Scene Auto Selector mode. You can also select a Close-up mode from the camera's Scene options. And if you're in PSAM, you can switch to macro focus via the control pad. You can focus as close as 0.4 inch from your subject if you extend the lens some (there's an onscreen marker to let you know where to stop zooming), but at the lens' widest position, it focuses 4 inches from a subject.

The high-speed performance of the CMOS sensor gets put to use in burst modes, too. The best one is the Continuous H setting, which lets you shoot at up to 8 frames per second (fps) for five photos. The Continuous L mode drops to approximately 1.8fps, but can capture up to 24 photos. The camera also has 60fps and 120fps burst options for capturing up to 25, 2-megapixel or 50, 1-megapxiel photos, respectively, at a press of the shutter release. Similarly, there's a preshooting cache setting that will start capturing images once you half-press the shutter release. Once you fully press the shutter, it will store the five photos before you press and up to 20 after (2-megapixel resolution). There's a substantial wait while the camera stores all those photos, but if you're trying to capture a specific moment in time, these are your best bet with this camera. At the other end of the speed spectrum is an interval shooting option that will continuously shoot every 30 seconds or 1, 5, or 10 minutes.

Overall shooting performance is excellent. It goes from off to first shot in just over 1 second with a typical shot-to-shot time of 1.4 seconds. Using the flash adds about a second to that time. Shutter lag is low in both bright and dim lighting, at 0.3 and 0.6 second, respectively. Its full-resolution high-speed continuous mode is capable of 10fps, but again only for five shots.

The body design barely changes from its predecessor. The look and feel is still nice and amazingly compact considering the lens. The grip is deep and comfortable with a textured rubber piece on front, the body is well-balanced, and the lens barrel gives you ample space to hold and steady the camera with your left hand. The controls are comfortably placed and responsive.

There's a decent electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a vari-angle LCD for framing up your shots. The LCD pulls out from the body and can be tilted up or down, but it does not swing out horizontally from the body and rotate. Like all LCDs and EVFs, the screen blanks out for a second once you've taken a shot, but it's reasonably fast to recover. To the left of the EVF is a button for switching between the LCD and EVF, as well as a diopter adjustment dial. To its right is a Display button for changing what info is viewed on the displays and a movie record button with a switch for picking what type of video you want to shoot (regular or high speed).

The rest of the controls don't change from the P100 (i.e., a pretty standard digital camera control layout) with two exceptions. There is now a rocker switch on the lens barrel for controlling the lens. It can be used to zoom in and out (handy when shooting movies), snap the lens back a bit in telephoto, should your subject move out of frame, or for manual focus. (Its function is changed in the settings menu; this is a nuisance while testing, but otherwise fine, as I don't imagine changing it often in regular use.) The only other change is a button just behind the shutter release for changing continuous-shooting modes.

The menu systems are sharp and easy to read, helped, no doubt, by the bright, high-resolution LCD. My one gripe is that there are no shortcuts for changing ISO, white balance, autofocus mode or area mode, or metering. Almost everything's done through the Menu button. Even exposure bracketing, which I expected to find under the continuous-shooting modes, is in the main menu system. If you want fast, easy control over those settings, this might be a deal breaker for you.

The battery compartment and card slot are under a door on the bottom. The battery life isn't great for this camera, and using the wall adapter takes nearly 5 hours to fully charge the battery from zero. If a typical day of shooting will include the high-speed burst modes and movie capture and using the 3-inch LCD and the zoom a lot, you'll want a backup battery.

Outputs are under a cover on the body's left side. There's a Mini-HDMI and a Micro-USB/AV port. There's no accessory shoe for an add-on flash, limiting you to the onboard pop-up one. It doesn't automatically rise when needed; it remains off until you push a button on the left side of the camera. It's adequately powerful and there are flash exposure compensation settings available.

Conclusions Like I said about the P100, the Nikon Coolpix P500 is one of those cameras that consumers will either love for all that it can do or hate because one of those things isn't taking superb photos. For those interested mainly in having a very wide, very long lens on a point-and-shoot with room for experimentation and a lot of settings to play with, the P500 is exactly that.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Nikon Coolpix P500
Nikon Coolpix P100
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1
Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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