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Nikon Coolpix P510 Digital Compact Camera Review

Our reviewer Daniel Bell was impressed with the Nikon Coolpix P500, this has now been replaced with the P510 and he gives his verdict on the new model.

|  Nikon Coolpix P510 in Compact Cameras
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Nikon Coolpix P510 Front Angled

Nikon released the Coolpix P510 in February 2012 and is the successor to the P500, which scored 4.5 in our review last year. The new model has increased its optical zoom from 36x to 42x and is available in black, red and dark silver for £334.30.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Front

Nikon Coolpix P510 Features

The 42x optical zoom lens is a 35mm equivalent of 24 - 1000mm, making it a superb option for shooting landscapes and close-ups of objects in the distance. To minimise the effect of chromatic aberration there are four ED glass elements within the lens. The sensor is a back-illuminated 16.1 megapixel sensor, with advance lens-shift VR designed to reduce the effect of camera shake.

There are 16 scene modes which automatically adjust the camera settings and for the more advanced photographer there are full manual exposure modes (P/S/A/M). Other modes include auto HDR, easy panorama 360°/180°, 3D shooting, high-speed continuous, manual focus and subject tracking AF.

The P510 has a built-in GPS system, which geotags your images with the latitude and longitude of the location. You can also record your route when not taking pictures. The camera is compatible with Eye-Fi X2 (or later) memory cards meaning your images can easily be shared. To edit your pictures in-camera there is a retouch menu which includes a range of filter effects, selective colour and cross screen.

Full HD (1080p) movie recording with stereo sound: a dedicated video-record button makes it easy to begin filming. Advanced movie features: you can use the optical zoom with autofocus when recording, and film in slow or fast motion using speeds of up to 120 fps (VGA). Movies can be recorded in iFrame format and a built-in HDMI connector lets you connect the camera directly to an HDTV.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Top

Key Features

  • 42x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24–1000mm)
  • Back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Advanced lens-shift VR
  • Full 1080p HD movie recording with stereo sound
  • Tiltable 3.0 inch 921k-dot LCD monitor
  • Built-in Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Auto HDR mode
  • Easy Panorama 360°/180°
  • 3D shooting mode
  • Advanced movie features
  • High-speed continuous shooting
  • Mode dial
  • Manual exposure modes (P/S/A/M) and User mode
  • 16 scene modes
  • Subject Tracking AF
  • Retouch menu
  • EXPEED C2 image processing system
Nikon Coolpix P510 Rear

Nikon Coolpix P510 Handling

Aesthetically, not much has changed from the P500. There is a rubber grip where your right hand holds the camera, making it easy to carry around when not in use as well as being comfortable to use when shooting. The side switch for the optical zoom is useful but easily knocked when shooting portraits so care needs to be taken. The image stabilisation is extremely effective when using the full optical zoom and with a bit of practice you will be taking sharp pictures without a tripod, although if you can take your tripod you'll find it useful if lighting conditions are less than ideal.

The menu system isn't difficult to navigate and the buttons are fine to press, even with large fingers. As well as the typical buttons found on the camera there is a dedicated record button and one to switch from the screen to the viewfinder, which can be adjusted by the diopter adjustment control wheel. The button which was used to switch between the various continuous shooting modes has been changed to a Fn button, which can be set to change a range of shooting options. On the top of the camera there is of course the chunky mode dial.

According to Nikon / CIPA the battery is capable of 240 shots, and improvement of 20 on the P500. During testing the camera just kept going on its initial charge, so it's certain you will get at least the 240 shots, although as recommended for the P500, a spare will likely prove handy when out shooting for a full day.

You can view your images without switching the camera on by pressing and holding the playback button. If you left the lens cap on the P500 the camera used to come up with an error message, the new P510 now starts up with the cap attached to the end of the lens, therefore you just need to remember to remove before shooting.

On the rear is a tiltable 3 inch 921k-dot LCD monitor which is ideal for taking pictures at varying angles, particular when shooting objects which are low down. The EVF is really bright although it is a bit frustrating that the camera doesn't recognise your face, you have to press a button instead.

We tested the camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average.

Shutter Response   0.15 seconds
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.5 seconds
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   1.3 seconds
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.7 seconds
Shot to Shot (without flash)   2.1 seconds
Shot to Shot with Flash   2.1 seconds
Continuous H   5 fps
Continuous L   1 fps
Continuous H: 120 fps vga   120 fps
Continuous H: 60 fps 1m   60 fps

Continuous H and L both take 16.1 megapixel images, with the 120 fps and 60 fps recording VGA and 1 megapixel images respectively. The P510 can also shoot at intervals of 30 seconds and 1, 5 and 10 minutes, great for some time lapse photography.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Battery And Memory Card

Nikon Coolpix P510 Performance

The P510 takes images which are well exposed with very pleasing colour reproduction. Detail is good throughout the images, whether shooting wide or with the optical zoom, except in the corners where there is a hint of softening. With a minimum focusing distance of just 1cm the camera takes superb macro pictures.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Lens test images

There isn't any noise at ISO 100, with only a small amount appearing as you go through the ISO range from ISO 200, 400 and then 800. Noise at ISO 1600 is significant enough to cause a loss of sharpness. Noise is very significant at ISO 3200 and Hi1 (ISO 6400) but images produced are certainly good enough for use on the web.

Nikon Coolpix P510 ISO test images

The first two of the following images have been taken using landscape mode, great for emphasising the blues and greens in an image. Portrait mode takes pictures with pleasant skin tones and are free of red-eye.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Scene modes

Below are examples using the camera in shutter and aperture priority modes. You can of course switch to manual mode for even more control over your shots.

Fast Shutter Speed | 1/1000 sec | f/4.4 | 25.8 mm | ISO 400
Fast Shutter Speed | 1/1000 sec | f/4.4 | 25.8 mm | ISO 400
  Large aperture | 1/125 sec | f/3.7 | 10.7 mm | ISO 100
Large aperture | 1/125 sec | f/3.7 | 10.7 mm | ISO 100

When in backlighting mode you can also activate HDR mode, which has three different levels.

HDR Level 1 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
HDR Level 1 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
  HDR Level 2 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
HDR Level 2 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
  HDR Level 3 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
HDR Level 3 | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100

The first image underneath is another example using the shot at its longest length. The second one has been combined using three images taken using exposure bracketing, with exposures of +1, 0 and -1.

Zoom Example | 1/60 sec | f/5.9 | 180.0 mm | ISO 800
Zoom Example | 1/60 sec | f/5.9 | 180.0 mm | ISO 800
  HDR - combined from three images using exposure bracketing
HDR - combined from three images using exposure bracketing

For images with large areas of shadow you can use Active D-Lighting, which also has three different possible settings.

Active D-lighting Low | 1/1600 sec | f/3.3 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
Active D-lighting Low | 1/1600 sec | f/3.3 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
  Active D-lighting Normal | 1/1250 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
Active D-lighting Normal | 1/1250 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
  Active D-lighting High | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
Active D-lighting High | 1/1000 sec | f/3.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100

The P510 takes really good panoramic images, whether 180° or 360°.

360° Panorama | 1/500 sec | f/6.8 | 4.9 mm | ISO 100
360° Panorama | 1/500 sec | f/6.8 | 4.9 mm | ISO 100

180° Panorama | 1/800 sec | f/4.8 | 4.9 mm | ISO 100
180° Panorama | 1/800 sec | f/4.8 | 4.9 mm | ISO 100

There are two different auto white-balance (AWB) settings, normal and warm lighting. The normal setting works fine for the majority of shots, which can be seen in the example pictures when using our studio lighting. The incandescent preset has also worked fine under the incandescent lighting. There are three different fluorescent presets, none of which have coped as well with the fluorescent lights as the AWB setting.

Nikon Coolpix P510 White-balance test images

There are two methods to add an extra touch of creativity, with picture control or special effects, with examples of each below. Images can be edited in playback with quick retouch, d-lighting, skin softening and filter effects (selective colour, cross screen, fisheye, miniature and painting). Selective colour is hit and miss, it only works well on strong colours.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Digital filters

Video Mode

Here is a test video shot at full 1080p HD. You can use the optical zoom during recording but the focusing really struggles to keep up during movement.

Value For Money

The Nikon Coolpix P510 is currently priced at £334.90. Other cameras with similar levels of optical zoom are the Olympus SP-810UZ (36x) at £189.00 and Canon PowerShot SX40 HS (35x) at £359.00. With slightly less zoom are the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR (30x) at £234.95, Sony DSC-HX100V (30x) at £339.00 and Fujifilm FinePix S4500 (30x) at £199.00.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Verdict

The differences between the P510 and its predecessor are very subtle, but Nikon have boosted the lens to 42x optical zoom and upgraded to a 16.1 megapixel sensor. It is a feature packed camera, which delivers impressive results. This is a fantastic option if you are looking for a DSLR style camera, as it has many of the features and appearance, without you requiring to carry around a bag full of lenses, although if you are a current P500 user, it's unlikely you get value for money by upgrading.

The Nikon Coolpix P510 has a DSLR feel, is featured packed and takes great pictures.

Nikon Coolpix P510 Pros

42x optical zoom
Tilting screen
Manual control modes (P/S/A/M)
Full HD movies
5fps at full 16.1Mp
Excellent panoramas at both 360° and 180°
Superb macro pictures

Nikon Coolpix P510 Cons

Battery life is quite short
Difficult to shoot moving subjects using lots of optical zoom
Struggle to focus when using zoom in videos
Not a lot different from the P500


Nikon Coolpix P510 Specifications

Max Aperturef/3 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent24mm - 1000mm
Optical Zoom42x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor Size1/2.3
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,000
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest4sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting120fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS120
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeEN-EL5
Battery Life (CIPA rating)240shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsCamera Strap, Lens Cap LC-CP24 (with cord), Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 (with terminal cover), Charging AC Adapter EH-69P, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16, ViewNX 2 Installer CD, Reference Manual CD

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Coolpix P510

last chanceThe Front RangeSummer SunHeavy Cloud CoverSpring's ColorsGrand ViewPower of WaterGlass of SunriseMorning CrossingFlying FormationMorning GatheringPen y Garreg Dam in the AutumnMilford SoundRiverbed CurvesCreekside

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22 Mar 2012 11:18AM
Had a good look at it at Focus & it is very impressive! If a tad on the small size?
Brilliant as a travel camera.

But why oh why don't Nikon build in a filter thread on the front of the lens to take a lens hood? Or a UV to protect front element?

Will still buy one though!
26 Mar 2012 8:19PM
My new Nikon Coolpix 510 arrived this morning, and having a fully charged battery already at hand (previously purchased along with charger), I immediately started testing, from full sunlight, through shadow, to early evening, to dusk. So far, amazing results.

This camera cannot be classed as a "toy" in any way, even though I purchased it as such, having been a DSLR user for several years. I had tried out a Coolpix 500 last year, and was mostly satisfied with the results. The Coolpix 510 is in another class. It IS a significant upgrade from the 500, certainly judging by my results so far.

Ease of use, size, weight, and printed results all add up to an easy FIVE stars. I will add to this review when I have experienced the video capabilities. Smile
Brisig 10 United Kingdom
27 Mar 2012 5:19PM
I am seriously tempted by this camera. I used to have a Pentax ME for years with all the stuff to lug around. Since digital I have had Kodak, Samsung, Nikon and now on my second Canon, all of which were/are great. I now want to delve a little further and with 350 to spend I have some serious contenders, but can only go by the reviews. Nikon or Canon..... or maybe Panasonic or Fuji?? Help please.
27 Mar 2012 8:59PM

Quote:I am seriously tempted by this camera. I used to have a Pentax ME for years with all the stuff to lug around. Since digital I have had Kodak, Samsung, Nikon and now on my second Canon, all of which were/are great. I now want to delve a little further and with 350 to spend I have some serious contenders, but can only go by the reviews. Nikon or Canon..... or maybe Panasonic or Fuji?? Help please.

I have had my Fuji HS10 for about a year and can tell you without a shadow of doubt or hyperbole that it is an excellent camera - takes beautiful pictures from super-macro of an ant on a flower right up to a tractor 1/2 a mile away on the fells where I live. It's one big problem is it's autofocus - it is in my opinion and experience very poor. If you ask it to focus on anything moving it fails disamlly as it does at anything you may want to pick out of your frame.

John B
Having seen many 'reviews' of the Nikon P510 I finally found some useful info and user-pictures on Amazon. Well I've decided to buy the P510 - from what I've seen I think it goes one better than the Fuji HS10.
29 Jul 2012 1:09AM
I totally love this camera...It takes amazing photos...
29 Jul 2012 1:00PM
As an addition to my original post on March 26, I have just returned from 'Sailabration' in Baltimore, USA. Many opportunities to photograph all kinds of ships, from large schooners, tall ships and grey (navy) ships from many nations. The chance to use everything from wide-angle to full zoom proved invaluable. Virtually every shot was a keeper, unlike the results I was getting from my DSLR, and all without a bag-full of lenses and the additional weight of the camera itself. I cropped many shots to about 25% and the detail is excellent, due to the 16Mp sensor. I even got a hand-held shot of the moon at 1000mm, clearly showing craters in excellent definition, indicating the effectiveness of the image stabilisation.

I also took well over an hour of full-HD movies, and I am very pleased with the results, including using continuous focus and zoom, using the lens-mounted zoom control. Didn't bother with sound much with the moving ships, so the pick-up of zoom movement was not too annoying.

Overall, excellent results from a relatively light, very capable camera at a good price point. I would (and have) recommended the Nikon Coolpix P510 to anyone looking for a great travel camera.
29 Jul 2012 10:42PM
I like photographing birds and I already own a Sony DSC-HX100v. I love the Sony, which has a max equiv 810 (i.e. 16.2x) max tele. The Nikon P510 features 1000 (20x) and is a few dollars off, on sale for $400 here. Very tempting, but, no, I don't "need" it.

I downloaded the Nikon instruction manual, and although the two competitors are quite parallel, they really present their attributes differently; even surprisingly so. A couple of details where the Nikon causes me hesitation:

the battery looks frail; I wonder if i can use cheapy Amazon batteries, as I can with the Sony

the photo sample of the Greylag Goose (above, in review) is dreadfully soft, and hopefully that's not the way the camera takes pictures; even 1000mm pictures. I'm right, am I not, in thinking there is a simple adjustment to take pictures with a default much sharper than that? (I mention this because indeed some internet sources suggest the Nikon's pictures are not quite up to snuff.)

Of course my friends think I'm crazy to even think about a second bridge camera, and of course that's true. No, I can't "really" afford it. But it sure is tempting.
11 Oct 2012 8:47PM
I have this camera and i love it. My old camera was a fuji bridge camera with a 10 times zoom so 42 times is just fabulous. I mainly focus on wildlife and have been pleased with all the shots i have. I was on a budget and think i definately got value for money.
libr8r 9 United States
7 Apr 2013 8:41PM
I really love my P510. I know that many of the reviews are coming from folks who have had DSLR or 35mm cameras and are commenting on this "bridge camera" therefore making unfair comparisons. I'm sharing from a "point and shoot" perspective. The P510 is an excellent camera. I've take and will continue to take fab pics with it. If you don't need it don't buy it but if you want it I say, buy it!

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