Nikon Coolpix P500

Nikon Coolpix P500 review

Written by Rick Ellinger

Hands-on user review of the Nikon Coolpix P500 superzoom. It has an incredible 36X zoom range, high-speed burst modes and takes macro shoots as close as 0.4 inches.

When I saw the  announcement for the Nikon Coolpix P500 digital camera, I was immediately interested.  The 12.1 MP camera had several compelling features including a 36X wide angle optical zoom lens (22.5 – 810mm/35mm equiv) and full HD video with auto focus and stereo sound. I recommended the camera to two friends and once I saw theirs, bought one for myself.

Nikon P500 LCD color accuracy and versatility

One of the first things that caught my eye was the accurate color of the three inch LCD monitor, which has a very high resolution of 921,000-dots. I first tested the macro mode on a purple iris in our garden and realized that the iris actually looked purple on the LCD. This has never happened with any camera I owned. Purple always looked blue on other LCD’s no matter what brand, model or size digital camera. It is very beneficial to see what photos will actually look like before taking a shot.

The LCD folds out so that you can view it from below, if holding the P500 above you, or from above, if holding the P500 down low, and all angles in between.  However, it does not swivel from side to side, only up and down.

Nikon P500 viewfinder

The viewfinder is electronic so what you see on the LCD is what you see in the viewfinder: the scene, focus areas and other camera settings.  A handy button located beside the viewfinder toggles between the LCD and the EVF.

Incredible 36X zoom range of the P500

The ability to have a zoom range from super telephoto to extra wide angle without changing lenses or a camera is a very handy feature indeed. I was amazed at the 36x optical zoom range.

The camera has very effective vibration reduction, also known as image stabilization, and is a must when shooting at  810mm hand-held. The sharpness of the photos zoomed in to 810mm are quite good.

Macro mode

And the P500’s macro mode is incredible too. It focuses from as close as a few centimeters to the subject, as the photo below shows.

The shot was taken only a few inches away from the subject.

Zoom control

The zoom control is on the front of the shutter-release button. There is an additional, handy zoom control on the side of the lens for controlling zoom with your left hand rather than with the finger that is used for pressing the shutter button.

Auto, manual and semi-automatic controls

For those who like to escape the automatic mode, the P500 allows for full manual control of aperture and shutter speed via a command dial on top of the camera (Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and full Manual mode).

Continuous shooting options

Speaking of shutter, the shutter speed o the P500 ranges from two seconds to 1/1500. It also has several Continuous Shooting Options. It can shoot up to 8 fps with full size images, and up to 120 fps with smaller (1280×960) images.  When using 120fps, the camera shoots up to 50 frames every time the shutter-release is pressed..

Best Shot Selector Mode

Like many Nikon digital cameras, the P500 has Best Shot Selector mode that takes up to 10 shots per shutter-release button press. The images are stored in the camera’s memory where, according to Nikon, they are evaluated by the camera’s computer. Only the photo with the best detail is saved to the memory card. Very cool. This saves a lot of tie since I always take dozens of shots of the same, non-moving subject, and  later have the tedious task of going through them all to pick the best shot.

Manual focus feature

The P500 has no manual focus ring. Instead, the manual focus feature is electronic via the control buttons on the back of the camera. You can also use the zoom control on the side of the lens barrel for manual focus instead of zoom control. While in manual focus mode, the center portion of the image is enlarged on the LCD or EVF to aid in focusing on details.

Nikon P500 video

The auto focus feature of the P500 makes it very nice for taking photos of moving subject, or if you want to to zoom in or out while filming.  Of course, the noise of the motorized zoom control can be heard in the video when a scene has little background noise. This is common for digital cameras that record video but, for me, it is a minor thing.  I was very pleased with the full size (1920×1080 pixel, 32fps) HD quality and the stereo sound.

Shoot still shots while recording video

I also like the convenience of being able to shoot still shots while in video mode.  I have been in situations where I needed to record video, but could not take any photos. Now I can do both at the same time.

High ISO performance

The P500 allows ISO values from 160 to 3200. Some photos taken at high ISO can be noisy, but I personally consider the noise level acceptable. The camera has a back-lit CMOS sensor that does well in poorly-lit situations.

The Nikon Coolpix P500 is a very light camera and it is not very bulky, especially considering it has a lens that zooms to 810mm. Overall, I am quite pleased with the camera, especially at its suggested retail price of $399.95.  A powerful little camera at a reasonable little price.

About the author

Rick Ellinger

Rick Ellinger was never interested in photography until he experienced the digital realm in 2002, when bought his first digital camera, the 3.2 megapixel Olympus C3020-Z, with some of the money his grandfather had left to him. Rick says, “It was a great little camera and served me well.”

In the fall of 2006, Rick purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50, and the world of digital photography opened up for him. With the FZ50's 10.1 megapixel resolution, and 35-420mm zoom range (35mm equiv.), he was then able to get shots he had been longing to capture.

In 2008, Rick's dad gave him a Nikon D40, which introduced him to the world of digital single lens reflex cameras. He was quickly hooked so in September 2009, he upgraded the D40 by purchasing the Nikon D5000 and a Tamron 70-300mm macro lens.

Rick enjoys taking photos of God's creation - especially critters. By zooming in closely on his subjects, he is able to see fine details that are often missed by the eye.

Through the wonders of digital photography, Rick shares the marvels and beauties of God's wonderful creation with people around the globe via the Internet. He hopes others will enjoy his photos as much as he enjoys shooting them. Rick includes a free eCards feature on his photo website for visitors. They include some of his photos along with encouraging, inspirational greetings.

Rick says, “I pray that my photos of God's creation will bring glory and honor to the God who created it all.”

Rick's wife, Ruby, says that his grandfather would be pleased with the purchase of that first digital camera.