Nikon Coolpix P520 ultra zoom review

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LCD has a 3.2″ diagonal and 921,000 dots. Image quality is very good with good viewing angles and sharp image. LCD is articulated what is very useful in real life use since it allows framing shots from unusual angles.

Electronic viewfinder is quite small and with low resolution (cca 200,000 dots). Image quality is average at the best, but it is useful when there’s too much light to use LCD or to stabilize the camera. Sony HX300 has EVF of similar quality, but the one found on Canon SX50 is even worse.

There is one odd thing about it though: the only way to use EVF is to close LCD (LCD faced to camera). P520 has no manual control over LCD/EVF usage or face proximity sensor. Therefore if you want to use EVF, LCD must be closed but then you can’t check photos on LCD until you open it… but when its open you must close it to activate EVF once more. Nikon, what were you thinking?


Main menu is visually similar to the one found in other better Coolpix cameras (like P330, A, etc.) It offers a nice set of controls, from which I would like to point out bracketing (+- 0.3, 0.7 or 1EV), Auto ISO which can be limited to 80-400 or 80-800 and gas an option to select lower shutter speed, zoom memory and zoom startup position (24, 28, 35, 50, 85, 105 or 135mm) and 7 focus point layouts (wide and narrow center point, user selectable point, face priority etc.)


Nikon P520 uses 18 megapixel back illuminated CMOS sensor. Image quality is very good for this type of camera. Low ISO shots are mostly clean from noise and digital artifacts created by noise reduction, but it is not perfect. Canon SX50 can achieve higher IQ thanks to its RAW file format, but Sony HX300 is a bit worse in my opinion (more NR artifacts). As the light goes down and ISO up things start to get really ugly at ISO 800 and above. At default image setting colors are a bit to dull for my liking but this can be tweaked using picture style or saturation.


The lens used on Nikon P520 has 42x optical zoom. It is a bit smaller than the one on Sony HX300 and Canon SX50 (both have 50x) but there is no significant difference in real life use between those three cameras. In 35mm terms, it covers 24-1000mm.

Optical stabilization is built in and works very effectively. Optically speaking, the lens is excellent. It is sharp almost from corner to corner on all zoom settings (look at the letters in far right upper corner on street clock image at the end of the review). There are some traces of chromatic aberrations and corner light fall-off but it can all be fixed in post process very easily.

Focus speed is decent in good light but gets slower in darker conditions.


Included Li-Ion battery is good enough for around 200 shots. This is an average for this type of camera, but I wish it could hold up to 300 shots like most mirrorless cameras.

The battery is charged via USB cable from PC or using included power transformer.


Videos can be recorded up to 1920×1080 at 30 fps. There is an 60i/50i option but this interlaced option is best avoided if you care about the video quality. Stereo microphone is built in.

There are also several lower video resolution and slow-motion videos. You can record at 480 vertical resolution and 4x slower video, 720 with 2x slower or 1080 with 0,5x.

Video quality is excellent with nice detail in recordings. Still, since it is only 30p it cannot match to the one from Sony HX300 which is superb. Also, auto focus had some problems on maximum zoom; P520 went out of focus a few times during my review time and couldn’t acquire focus until zoomed back to wide angle.


Nikon Coolpix P520 is as good as both Sony HX300 and Canon SX50 and in some details better. It offers more manual controls than both and has probably the best build quality. Image quality is very good but it still has some problems with noise reduction, especially at medium and higher ISO settings. The lens is superb and clearly delivers more than the sensor can accept. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with either of those three cameras.


  • Design and rubberized grip shape
  • Good image quality
  • Excellent LCD with tilt-option
  • Many settings
  • Twin control dials and customizable buttons


  • AF inaccuracy in video mode
  • GPS drains battery life
  • No manual control over LCD/EVF switch

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