Nikon Coolpix P500 review

The lens sacrifices sharpness for zoom range, but this capable camera packs a huge number of fun features.

Our Rating 
4/5
Price when reviewed 
350
inc VAT

Specifications

1/2.3in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 36.0x zoom (22.5-810mm equivalent), 494g

Last week we reviewed Nikon's mid-price ultra-zoom camera, the Coolpix L120, and were impressed at what Nikon had achieved with a limited budget. This week it's the turn of the upmarket P500.

It may be almost twice as expensive but it's not short of tempting features. There's the same 3in, 921,000-pixel screen but here it articulates up and down, which makes a huge difference when using a tripod or shooting video. There's an electronic viewfinder too, although its picture looks decidedly blocky compared to the screen. Videos are captured at the 1080p Full HD resolution, and there are options to record slow-motion clips at lower resolutions.

Nikon Coolpix P500 LCD

Despite its high price, the P500 is not such a tempting prospect for more technical photography enthusiasts, with no RAW capture and no accessory shoe for an external flash. Manual exposure modes are included, though, and a command dial makes light work of dialling in settings. There are two zoom rockers – one encircling the shutter button as normal and another on the side of the lens. The latter seems fairly superfluous, though, especially as the former one is a two-speed control, zooming faster when it's pushed harder. We'd have preferred to see dedicated buttons for ISO speed and white balance, which currently require a trip to the menu. However, unlike the L120, there's a good range of options for controlling the autofocus point, including spot focus that can be positioned anywhere in the frame.

Nikon Coolpix P500 top

Most of these features are inherited from the Coolpix P100. Sadly, the P500 also inherits a few foibles. There's no orientation sensor, so portrait-shaped photos must be rotated manually on the camera or PC after capture. Battery life is poor at just 220 shots. We prefer a Li-ion battery to the L120's use of AA batteries, but not if it compromises battery life this much. We're not big fans of the P500's in-camera charging, either, as this makes it impossible to use one battery while charging another.

Nikon Coolpix P500 front

The lens is much more ambitious than either the P100's or the L120's, with a massive 36x zoom range – the biggest we've ever seen. Meanwhile, Nikon has managed to banish the barrel distortion that blighted the P100's wide-angle shots. We suspect digital correction is at play, but if that's true, it's done seamlessly, with the same picture appearing in photos, videos and live previews.

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