Despite an eye-popping 42x zoom, the Nikon Coolpix P510 pales in comparison with Canon's flagship extreme-zoom camera in reviews. The 50x Canon PowerShot SX50 HS (Est. $370) out-zooms the Nikon, but that's not all. The Canon can also shoot RAW files and has a hot shoe -- both features missing on the Nikon. The Nikon's flimsier feel, short battery life and struggling autofocus also weigh on it in reviews. It does deliver generally pleasant photos and videos and a huge zoom at a reasonable price, but reviewers prefer the Canon.
Looks like a DSLR. Like the Canon SX50, the Nikon P510 is no lightweight: It's about the same size and weight as a compact digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. It looks like a DSLR, reviews say, with DSLR-style manual controls. Experts and owners like that. "It's a camera and it says it's a camera, from bulging lens barrel to the firm grip," say editors at Imaging-Resource.com.
"The Nikon P510 handles exceptionally well. The camera's size, weight, and grip felt great. ... The controls are right where you expect them to be, and they function smoothly. Even when you need to dip into the menu system it's a pleasant experience, which is saying something."
Casual photographers can rely on auto mode. A pullout/tilt LCD screen comes in handy to compose odd-angle or tripod shots. There's an electronic viewfinder, too, although editors at DPReview.com find it small and "pokey."
Autofocus struggles to keep up. Although the Nikon P510's photos look surprisingly good for such an enormous zoom, some drawbacks become apparent in reviews. "Overall, we're very pleased with the P510's image quality," say editors at DPReview.com. They get "nice, detailed pictures" in good light (up to ISO 400), but "sub-par" ones in dim light (above ISO 800). That's a common failing of ultra-zooms, but the Canon SX50 handles low light better in tests.
Speed is generally OK for its class, except for one thing: autofocus. As Imaging-Resource.com describes it: "Achieving focus can be an adventure." DPReview.com notes "occasional focus hunting" at long zooms, saying it "isn't up to action photography." Autofocus draws complaints from owners at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, too. Several say they wound up with blurry photos or missed shots.
Autofocus causes problems with the HD video, too. "The focusing really struggles to keep up during movement," says Daniel Bell at EPhotoZine.com. You can use the tantalizingly powerful zoom while recording, but you'll hear it on your audio -- so loudly that several Amazon.com owners returned their P510s because of it.
Battery life is rated at 240 shots per charge, "much lower than average for its class," Imaging-Resource.com points out. The battery charges in-camera, which some owners find inconvenient.
Plastic body feels cheap to some, sturdy to others. DPReview.com rates the Nikon P510 just slightly above average for build quality, faulting its "slightly plasticky construction."
Owner opinions are split. "Cheapie body structure," writes one owner at BestBuy.com, and several at Amazon.com agree. "It feels like it is made from very cheap material, scratches easily," one says.
But for every owner who calls the Nikon "cheap," "plastic" or "flimsy," another calls it "solid," "quality" or "sturdy." "The camera itself feels sturdy and solid unlike some online reviews that said the construction was weak," one Amazon.com customer writes.
Extras like GPS and 3D, but no RAW support or hot shoe. Unlike the Canon SX50, the Nikon P510 lacks two enthusiast must-haves: It can't shoot RAW files, and there's no hot shoe (although it does have a pop-up flash, like the Canon).
Its versatile 42x zoom is certainly a point in its favor, though. "A focal range of 24-1000mm covers pretty much any shooting situation we can think of," say editors at DPReview.com. Digital zoom can double that reach, but it degrades image quality.
The P510 has a few features the Canon lacks: 3D shooting, GPS and in-camera panorama. As is usual, a 3D TV or monitor is required to see 3D shots.
The Nikon's GPS feature geotags your images with longitude and latitude data. It can also record your route even if you don't shoot any photos, but you can't map it until you get back to your computer, Imaging-Resource.com points out.
Panorama lets you sweep the camera across the scene (you can choose 180 or 360 degrees) to create an automatic panoramic shot; it works well in tests.
Review Credibility: Excellent A "portable, affordable super-zoom," the Nikon Coolpix P510 wins a Silver Award at the end of this thorough test. Disappointing photos in dim light drag down its score, as does its "slightly plasticky construction," reviewers say.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510 Review, Theano Nikitas and Barnaby Britton, July 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Outstanding tests at this website turn up three ultra-zoom winners. The Nikon Coolpix P510 is one; the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS (since replaced by the SX50, not tested here) is another. Testers say that although it's not perfect, the Nikon P510 forces few compromises in exchange for its extreme 42x zoom.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510, Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer, July 30, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Although it's not perfect, the Nikon P510 earns a Highly Recommended rating here. Daniel Bell says it "has a DSLR feel, is feature packed and takes great pictures." This full test judges its design, features, handling, performance, photo quality and video quality, with plenty of sample photos and a video.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510 Digital Compact Camera Review, Daniel Bell, March 21, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Editors here test 44 ultra-zoom cameras, including the Nikon P510. They rate each camera's photo quality, video quality, ease of use and more, and then they rank the cameras from best to worst. Reviews here are unbiased, but they're also pretty bare-bones.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Fair Owners award the Nikon P510 high scores here. With more than 300 reviews posted, only a handful give it 3 stars or less. Still, some complaints do repeatedly crop up, even in positive reviews: struggling autofocus, poor battery life and zoom noise on videos.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510 16.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2013
Review Credibility: Fair The Nikon P510 gets glowing reviews here from more than 100 owners. None gives it fewer than 3 out of 5 stars. Still, some of the same complaints pop up as on other sites: balky autofocus and short battery life.
Review: Nikon Coolpix P510 16.1 Megapixel Digital Camera -- Black, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of February 2013