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Nikon Coolpix P510 review: Nikon Coolpix P510

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.

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
Nikon Coolpix P500
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V
Nikon Coolpix P510
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

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

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