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Nikon Coolpix P520 Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Nikon Coolpix P520, it has a 42x optical zoom lens and 18 megapixel sensor.

| Nikon Coolpix P520 in Compact Cameras
BUY NOW NIKON Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: Nikon Coolpix P520

The Nikon Coolpix P520 was announced in January 2013 and is a bridge camera with a 42x optical zoom lens, 18 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and a 3.2 inch vari-angle LCD screen. It is the update to the P510 and is available in silver, red and black for around £330.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: Nikon Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 Features

The Nikon Coolpix P520 has an 18 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor which allows more light in. The 42x optical zoom lens is a 35mm equivalent of 24-1000mm, ideal for landscapes and zooming in close to your subject. To help take the sharpest pictures possible, there is advanced lens-shift VR (vibration reduction), with enables slower shutters speeds of up to four stops, and Active Mode which delivers clear shots even when you're moving.

There is a 99 point autofocus system and promises fast and accurate AF. You can also use subject tracking AF which allows you to take sharp shots of moving subjects.

When shooting there is auto mode which adjusts the camera settings automatically for the detected scene. You can also select from 19 scene modes or use the manual exposure modes (P/S/A/M). Other shooting modes include auto HDR, Easy Panorama 360°/180° and the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1cm for shooting macros. In continuous shooting mode you can record at 7 fps for 7 frames or 30 full resolution shots at 1 fps. When you finished shooting you can edit your photos in the retouch menu, adding effects such as selective colour and cross screen.

The P520 has built-in GPS to geotag your images as well as retrace your route. You can purchase the Nikon WU-1a Wi-Fi dongle to allow you to transfer your images to a mobile device.

Videos are recorded in 1080p/60i full HD with stereo sound, you can also use the optical zoom when recording. You can also shoot in slow and fast motion, up to 120 fps. There is a built-in HDMI connector for connection to a HDTV.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: Nikon Coolpix P520

Key Features



  • 18 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor
  • 42x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24-1000mm)
  • Advanced lens-shift VR (vibration reduction)
  • Vari-angle 3.2 inch 921k dot LCD monitor
  • 0.2 inch 201k dot electronic viewfinder
  • Built-in GPS
  • Full 1080p HD movie recording with stereo sound
  • ISO 100 - 12800
  • 1cm minimum focusing distance
  • Auto HDR mode
  • Easy Panorama 360°/180°
  • 7 fps continuous shooting
  • Available in silver, red and black

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: Nikon Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 Handling

The P520 looks and feels very similar to a DSLR, with a substantial grip which is rubberised, as is the patch on the back for your right hand thumb. There are two ways to control the zoom, there is the usual zoom rocker on the top, but there is also one on the side of the lens barrel. On top of the camera, you'll also find a mode dial, on / off switch and fn button. The latter can be customised to change the ISO, metering, white balance and much more. The flash is activated by a button also on the top.

On the rear of the camera, but towards the top is a display button, movie record and dial for adjusting shutter speeds and aperture. Other buttons include playback, menu, delete and there is also a rotating dial for cycling through the menu options. This can also be pressed to give access to the flash, self-timer, exposure compensation and focus mode.

The screen is impressive, it's 3.2 inch in size and has a 921k dot resolution. It rotates to make it easy to shoot with the camera in higher or lower positions. The electronic viewfinder is useful for when shooting with the zoom at a long length as it reduces camera shake, but it's quite small and has a low resolution.

The menu system is easy enough to navigate, it looks very similar to the menus used on Nikon's DSLRs. One frustration that has been improved upon since the P510 is that when you switch the camera on with the lens cap attached, no error message appears. You just need to pop it off and start shooting.

Battery life is rated at 240 shots according to CIPA test results, this will be OK for a day of shooting, but if you use the GPS quite a lot, you might appreciate having a spare to hand. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.


Shutter Response   0.35 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.75 secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   1.55 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   2.3 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   2.8 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   2.8 secs
Continuous Shooting H   5.0 fps
Continuous Shooting L   1.0 fps
Continuous Shooting H: 120 fps   120 fps
Continuous Shooting H: 60 fps   60.7 fps

Both the continuous H and L modes record at full 18 megapixel resolution, with the 60 fps restricted to 2 megapixels and the 120 fps mode limited to VGA size.
Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: Nikon Coolpix P520

Nikon Coolpix P520 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Images are well exposed with good colour reproduction. Portraits have decent skin tones and are free of red-eye when using the flash.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Images have a good amount of detail at both ends of the lens, but are a little soft. Purple fringing and chromatic aberration does become a bit of a problem at the longest end. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 1cm which allows for impressive macro shots.

Nikon Coolpix P520 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low at ISO 80, 100 and 200, but there is a slight loss in detail at ISO 400. This loss in detail becomes a little worse at ISO 800 and again so at ISO 1600, with images becoming a little soft at this setting. Again, there is a noise increase at ISO 3200, but image quality is still fairly decent. When shooting in P/S/A/M mode you can use the Hi1 setting, which is an equivalent of ISO 6400, but image quality is poor, so it's best avoided unless you are shooting pictures to share on the web.

Nikon Coolpix P520 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Under our incandescent lights, the auto white balance (AWB) produces a decent image with a very slight colour cast, with the incandescent preset performing a little better. Under the fluorescent lights the AWB does an excellent job, with all three fluorescent presets producing images with a colour cast.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Review: 180 Panorama | 1/640 sec | f/3.1 | 4.9 mm | ISO 80
180 Panorama | 1/640 sec | f/3.1 | 4.9 mm | ISO 80

Panorama mode - Panoramas have a decent amount of detail and are well stitched together.

Nikon Coolpix P520 Digital filters

Digital Filters - The P520 has a number of special effects, with examples of each above.

Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD. You can also use the optical zoom during recording, an example of which can be seen on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page. You'll also find videos shots at 4x, 2x and 0.5x to create super slow and fast motion videos.

Value For Money

The Nikon Coolpix P520 is available for around £330. You can get cameras with 50x optical zoom, such as the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS at £350, Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 at £300 and Sony Cybershot HX300 at £400. The Fujifilm FinePix S8500 at £250 has 46x optical zoom and the FinePix HS50 has 42x and is available for £407. The Olympus SP-820UZ is available for £189 and has 40x optical zoom.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.


Nikon Coolpix P520 Verdict

The Nikon Coolpix P520 is a decent update to the P510, but we're a little surprised to see that the optical zoom hasn't been extended to 50x to compete with those cameras with more zoom from Canon, Fuji and Sony. The sensor has been increased to 18 megapixels and the screen is bigger at 3.2 inch. Other than that, not much as changed, you're still getting a featured packed, DSLR style camera, without the bulk. If you're wanting to shoot fast moving objects far into the distance you may struggle as the focus is a little sluggish at the longer lengths. But other than that, the P520 will take some excellent pictures that you'll be extremely proud of. The Nikon Coolpix P520 comes highly recommended by ePHOTOzine.

  Nikon Coolpix P520 Review:
  The Nikon Coolpix P520 packs plenty of useful features and takes good pictures and videos.  



Nikon Coolpix P520 Pros

42x optical zoom lens
Vari-angle LCD monitor
Full 1080p HD movie recording with stereo sound
Built-in GPS
1cm minimum focusing distance
Auto HDR mode
Easy Panorama 360°/180°
7 fps continuous shooting
Plenty of rubberised grip
Decent image quality and colour reproduction
Two year warranty

Nikon Coolpix P520 Cons

EVF is quite small and has a low resolution
Battery life expectancy is a little low
Slowish focusing and shutter response
Purple fringing and chromatic aberration in images when shooting at long lengths



Nikon Coolpix P520 Specifications

Max Aperturef/3 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent24mm - 1000mm
Optical Zoom42x
Image Sensor
Pixels18Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4896
Pixels (H)3672
Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
Sensor Size1/2.3
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.6mm
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 P520

bird on a wirebeautiful bluefuture applesa small universe ...choose the most beautiful miss daisypheasant and doeAbove the FrostlineRose of SharonSweet little wildflowerlittle drop of water Snowy TranquilitySmall Town Main StreetFlowing Clouds

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11 Sep 2013 2:03PM
Why no sensor size in mm?

Seems to me, if this little camera had a 17mmx13mm sensor (or even bigger) it would be a giant killer.
So what if the price went up? It's pretty low now.
20 Sep 2013 6:04AM
Yes it's a nice idea, but a lens capable of 1000mm (equivalent) focal length (like the P520), but with a 17x13mm sensor, would have to have a 500mm maximum focal length. This would be big and very expensive, with a large amount of precision, specialist glass, making a camera with such a (fixed) lens an unrealistic proposition. One of the longest lenses for the micro 4/3 format (which, of course, uses 17x13mm sensors) is the Panasonic 100-300mm model. A 42x zoom factor for such a lens is also unrealistic.

The problem with an APS-C sensor would be even greater, requiring a 666mm maximum focal length lens to give the reach of the P520. The actual focal length range of the P520's lens is 4.3-180mm (the 1/2.33in. sensor giving a focal length multiplication factor of around 5.5), by the way.

It's one of the fundamental truths of the mega-zoom market that you can't have this sort of telephoto reach in an 'all-in-one' camera with a large sensor.
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
20 Sep 2013 9:30AM

Quote:Why no sensor size in mm?

We've added this to the specifications, thanks.

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