Nikon Coolpix P510 review: Nikon Coolpix P510

If you want to do more than just point and shoot, Nikon includes Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-speed-priority, and Manual modes on the P510. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 8 seconds to 1/4,000 of a second. Apertures at the wide end go from f3.0 to f8.3 with a total of 10 stops. The telephoto end has just four stops: f5.9, f6.6, f7.4, and f8.3. Beyond aperture and shutter speed, Nikon includes manual adjustments for noise reduction, sharpening, contrast, and saturation, color filters and toning for monochrome photos, and things like exposure bracketing and flash exposure compensation. And if you come up with a set you like, you can store them in the Custom mode for easy recall.

The P510, in general, is a fast-shooting camera. From off to first shot is barely more than a second, and shot-to-shot times both with and without flash are about 1.7 seconds. If you need to shoot faster, the camera's high-speed burst will capture at 6.5 frames per second at full resolution for up to five frames. Other continuous-shooting options include a low-speed full-resolution burst capable of 1fps for up to 30 frames and 120fps and 60fps bursts that capture up to 60 shots at VGA and 1-megapixel resolution, respectively.

Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is 0.4 second in good lighting and 0.7 second in dimmer conditions. However, once you start extending the lens, the camera takes longer to focus. Once you get out to the 1,000mm position, it can be very slow to focus. On occasion, when in the burst mode, it would capture before it could focus. This isn't unusual, just something to be aware of if you're going to shoot fast-moving subjects at the telephoto end of the lens.

P510 body design
Though it's large and comfortable to use, it doesn't make steadying the 42x zoom lens any easier.

The body design has barely changed from the P500. The camera is amazingly compact considering the lens. And the lens is really the bulk of the weight, which makes the rest of the body feel lightweight and cheaply constructed. However, the right-hand grip is deep and comfortable with a textured rubber piece on front and the large 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 small, but 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 are a diopter adjustment dial and a button for switching between the LCD and EVF. To its right are a Display button for changing what information is viewed on the displays and a movie record button.

P510 controls
The P510's controls are spaced and laid out well.

The rest of the controls haven't changed from the P500 (it's a pretty standard digital camera control layout). There is 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. The only other change is a programmable function button just behind the shutter release; its default is for changing continuous-shooting modes, but can be set for ISO, white balance, metering, AF area mode, color mode, or image size.

The battery compartment and card slot are under a door on the bottom. The battery life is decent for this camera, but using the wall adapter takes more than 4 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 right side; you get 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, remaining 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.

Lastly, the P510 has built-in GPS. It's strictly there for geotagging photos, so no fancy maps or anything like that. But it was relatively fast to lock onto a signal, even in the middle of New York surrounded by tall buildings. Nikon wisely gave it its own tab in the menu interface, making it easy to turn it on and off.

Conclusion
I'm still not sure there's a good reason to have a 42x zoom lens on a compact camera. But, regardless, the Nikon Coopix P510 is overall a very good full-size megazoom even if you never use the full zoom range. And, actually, it's probably better if you don't.

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-FZ150
1.9 
1 
0.8 
0.3 
Nikon Coolpix P500
1.1 
1.4 
0.6 
0.3 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V
2 
1.5 
0.6 
0.3 
Nikon Coolpix P510
1.1 
1.6 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
1.6 
2.5 
0.6 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb. 15, 2012
  • Digital camera type Full body
  • Optical Zoom 42 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"
About The Author

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.