Nikon P510 Ultra zoom – Best Travel Camera?

June 5, 2012

Nikon 510 beautiful landscape in background

In this article I want to talk in more details about the Nikon Coolpix P510 ultra zoom digital camera. For those who want to know how the P510 compares to the Canon SX40 HS, I recommend reading my P510 vs SX40 HS comparison article.  I am very enthusiast when it comes to ultra-zoom digital cameras. The fact is that I am a DSLR owner, and currently my highest zoom lens is the Nikkor 70-300 mm that gives me a maximum magnification of 450 mm. Compare it to the 1000 mm of the Nikon P510 and you see why the P510 is such an amazing camera.

The thing is that you can purchase a 1000 mm interchangeable lens for a DSLR camera like the Canon 1200mm f/5.6 L, but this lens is at the size of a six year old child and weight like such. Oh, and I didn’t mention the price, which might get you to $100K or more. The other alternative is to use a 2x telephoto lens adapter that will multiply the magnification factor, but again, those type of telephoto-zoom lenses are large, heavy and expensive. The all idea behind buying the Nikon P510 is to have a relatively very compact ultra-zoom camera that gives you an amazing zoom range of 24mm – 1000mm. Yes, 1000 mm on the telephoto end! – There isn’t any other ultra-zoom digital camera that can reach that far, beating the 840 mm of the Canon SX40 HS and other ultra-zoom digital cameras.

So you see why I am so excited about the Nikon Coolpix P510. I am pretty sure that you want to know how good is this camera. You might have heard that ultra-zoom cameras don’t have such a high image quality, and you better purchase a supper-zoom camera that actually provides less magnification power than the P510. In this article I want to give you a good understanding about the cons and pros of the P510, and help you decide whether you should buy it or not.

We start with some basic specs overview and continue our in-depth discussion afterwards, so bare with me – it will be very interesting!


Nikon P510 Specs Overview

The Nikon P510 was announced at February 1, 2012, and it’s the latest ultra-zoom cameras in the Coolpix lineup. You can find other ultra-zoom cameras like the L810 which offers a more ‘modest’ 26x  zoom 22.5 – 585 mm (equivalent in 35mm format).  The P510 is the most expensive model in the group, but cost less than the Coolpix P7100 which is a premium digital camera, but it’s not a superzoom camera (28 – 200 mm, 7.1x optical zoom).

Nikon P510
Nikon P510 with a Giant Zoom!

The P510 was designed to be the perfect travel camera. It features both a 24mm wide-angle field of view, as well as having an extraordinary magnification power of 1000 mm (41.7× optical zoom). It’s a 16.0MP camera that comes with a tilting 3-inch 921K-dot high-resolution display (inc. reflection coating). It has a built-in flash offers aperture/shutter speed and full manual control for advanced photographers.

The P510 can record Full HD video clips at 30 fps and has a built-in GPS for automatically geotagging your photos. The P510 is equipped with all the bells and whistles that every travel photographer would want in such camera. It’s an amazing camera to take to a trip with your family and friends, a camera that own’t prevent you from getting those amazing shots that you want to bring home and share online. The in-camera GPS is an amazing feature that will help you sort, search and share images on a map. Most social online photo sharing websites support this feature (ie. Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, etc.).

The P510 is not a compact camera that you can fit in your pocket, but is not that big either. Here’ take a look how the P510 compares to the Nikon L26 compact camera (pocketable) and the Nikon D3200 DSLR camera.

Nikon L26, P510 and D3200 cameras
Nikon L26 (compact), P510, and D3200 (DSLR) cameras (for more comparisons visit

The top will give you a good understanding about the physical dimension differences between compact P&S, ultra-zoom and DSLR cameras (size can vary depend on the camera model used).

Nikon P510 size comparison
Nikon P510 size comparison (P510 in the middle, D3200 without lens attached)

So you can see that this P510 is indeed larger than a ultra-compact camera, but not as bulky as an entry-level DSLR camera (the D3200 is the smallest DSLR that Nikon has).

There are a few reasons why they don’t make ultra-zoom cameras in a more compact body, but this mainly related to optical physical restrictions when working on a certain size of sensors. I personally don’t want a mobile phone sensor on a camera like this, because image quality will suffer greatly. So because a relatively larger sensor is used (6.17 x 4.55 mm), a larger glass should be used too in order to project the light onto the whole area of the sensor.

The great thing about ultra-zoom travel digital cameras is that you can carry it on your shoulder with a strap or just use a small camera bag to carry it around.

P510 dimensions: 120 x 83 x 102 mm (4.72 x 3.27 x 4.02″)

P510 weight: 555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz)

For more size comparison of digital cameras visit compact camera page.

The Nikon Coolpix P510 is an amazing camera. The backside-illuminated sensor enhances image quality and gives that ultra-zoom travel digital camera the kick it needs to become even better. The P510 can also capture images at 5 fps whether you are shooting sports or any fast moving subject.

BTW the P510 is the World’s First 42x optical zoom digital camera!


What is 42x Optical Zoom Means?

I’ve get  quite a lot of emails from people asking me what does a 42x zoom actually mean.  To keep things easy to understand, with the P510 the optical zoom equals to the longest focal length (highest magnification) 1000 mm, divided by the shortest focal length 24 mm. So that gives us 1000 / 24 = 41.6, and rounded up equals 42, or 42x optical zoom.

It means that you might find a 10x zoom camera that might have a shortest reach when compared to another 10x zoom camera. Let me explain with an example.

Camera 1 – 20-200 mm (optical zoom equals to 10; 200 / 20 = 10x)
Camera 2 – 30 – 300 mm (optical zoom equals to 10; 300 / 30 = 10x)

Camera 2 offers a greater zoom magnification of 300mm compared to 200 mm on Camera 1. The longer the focal length mm value, the higher the magnification is when measured in 35mm terms.

When I say 35mm terms I mean the actual angle of view of the image projected onto the camera’s sensor. If you read the P510 specs on Nikon’s website, you can see that the P510 lens equals to 4.3 – 180 mm. However, because the sensor on the P510 is 5.5 times smaller then full frame sensor, the magnification factor is 5.5 times higher.

It’s not necessary to understand all that to buy a camera, but just a bit more in-depth info for those who wanted to know. OK, let’s continue..


What 42x Zoom Looks Like?

It’s hard to visualize the zoom difference between, for example, 1000 mm and 840 mm. The Canon SX40 HS has 840 mm (35mm equiv. ) maximum magnification compare to the 1000 mm of the P510. However, it’s hard to visualize the difference in your mind, you have to see it in order to comprehend it.

I think that the following videos will give you a good understanding what 42x optical zoom means when shooting with the P510. You can understand how close you can get to your subject without moving an inch yourself.

Nikon p510 42x zoom manual focus mixed objects


P510 Nikon zoom capability test


Nikon P510 zoom test at Shimla, India



You can see that you can stand far far away from your subject and get very very close to it at 1000 mm.  Great for birds photography, shooting the moon, candid street shots, Safari and general travel shooting. You can shoot some pictures that even professional photographers can’t take, just because you have such a huge zoom lens in your digital camera!

The P510 also features a 24mm wide-angle so you can enjoy shooting landscape and group shots very easily and get home with beautiful photos to share with friends and family. That makes that Nikon Coolpix P510 an even greater travel digital camera. You just don’t need more than that. I also want to add that the the lens is a Nikkor lens, made of the fine optics and Nikon’s highest quality standards.


Lens Image Stabilization Opinion

One of the most important thing having in a ultra-zoom camera is an effective image stabilization mechanism. An Image stabilization mechanism is designed to reduce the shakiness and minimize image blur when you shoot in long zoom ranges. It happens when you shoot hand-held and without a tripod. The more you zoom in, every shakiness of your hands, even the slight breath will cause a movement of the lens. This movement can cause your images to become blur and it also make it harder to compose the image.

Following the shutter speed rule of thumb, when shooting at 1000 mm (maximum zoom, 42x), you should shoot at 1/1000 sec shutter speed. Of course not always it’s advised, wanted or possible to shoot at very high shutter speeds.   Bumping up the ISO can help you achieve faster shutter speeds, but that will results in a noisier image.

That’s where image stabilization comes to help you out. The Nikon P510’s lens has lens-shift VR (Vibration Reduction) mechanism. This is Nikon’s well-regarded image stabilization system that is used in its high quality interchangeable lenses.

This VR offers up to 4 stops of compensation. That means that you can shoot at 4 stops lower than 1/1000 sec, which is 1/60s (The agreed standards for shutter speeds are: 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30 ,etc.) and get sharp images without the blurring that are the result of camera shake. That will also help you when shooting photos indoors and in low-light, and not only when using the maximum zoom.

Again, let me show you a video that demonstrates the effectiveness of the the VR. The next video shows how effective is the VR on the 70-300mm lens. You can expect relatively same results on your P510.

Image stabilization is a must on ultra-zoom cameras, and all super-zoom and ultra-zoom cameras offers some kind of image stabilization. Those who say “Dual image stabilization”, that means that have high ISO that you can use to further increase shutter speed, but that doesn’t mean that they have dual mechanical image stabilization mechanism, so don’t fall into that.

Image stabilization on the P510 is very effective in combating image blur.


In-Camera GPS – Is it Important?

There is a great demand for in-camera GPS receivers. A GPS receiver is an electronic part that gets location data from satellites and can automatically embed that data in the meta data of the image. The metadata is a part of the image file and doesn’t do anything to the image itself. The metadata also contains Copyright information, the date the photo was taken, ISO, Aperture and shutter information and so on.

The location data alone doesn’t do anything special. It’s just when you import your image to online photo sharing websites or use a specific software, then you can take use of that information. The software or website that you are using to store/share your photos should be able to read that data and use it in its application. Not all photo sharing website and photo browsing software utilize that data, but many of them do.

For example, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook can read that location data and show your images on a Map, allowing you to easily share, compare, sort, order and find photos by pointing out the location of the image. For example, you can draw a circle on the map and let the application find all the photos taken within that area.

That certainly adds another dimensions of managing your photos, especially if your photo collection becomes very large. This also makes this camera an even better travel camera. If you travel abroad or take a few months trip, you can use Travel Blog services that support this feature. The possibilities are endless and it really gives a new dimension of sharing your photos online.

So Yes, the P510 has a built-in GPS receiver that will automatically geotag you photos for you.


Full HD Travel Videos at your Fingertips

The Nikon Coolpix P510 can capture 1080p Full HD  and 720p HD videos at 30 fps and with stereo sound. Full HD videos will look great on your HDTV display if you have a HDTV display at home.  The video image quality of the P510 is good, also when shooting in low-light.

Without talking too much, let’s take a look as some P510 sample videos that will give you a good visual understanding how good the video quality really is.

Some Macro video scenes


I found the P510 video quality to be very good, colors are well saturated but natural, lens produce sharp and detailed video and the overall image quality was very satisfying. I just didn’t expect a small sensor to perform that good. There other cameras that win in this category, but that a compromise I am ready to make to get a camera with such huge caliber.

Let’s not forget that we also have a tilting large 3-inch LCD display, so shooting videos will be even more fun. Many digital cameras comes with a fixed display, which is nice for stills, but not versatile enough for video shooting.



The Nikon P510 is an amazing ultra zoom travel camera that have everything that you need, including 5 fps burst, full HD videos, giant 42x optical zoom, in-camera GPS, tilting 3-inch 920K-dots LCD, auto panorama mode (create seamless 180º or 360º panoramic image), 20 pre-programmed scene modes, can shoot 3D images, etc.

As for right now there isn’t any ultra-zoom camera that will give you such a huge zoom range. If you are planning to go to a vacation/trip/holiday and search for the perfect travel camera, the Nikon Coolpix P510 is that camera. Yes, it’s not the size of an ultra-compact camera, but that’s your mobile phone can replace. If you want versatility and come with amazing photos and videos at the end of your trip, you must do yourself a favor and get the P510.

Positive comments and P510 owner’s opinions keep coming in and it seems that Nikon just gave birth to the best ultrazoom travel camera we have right now.  Highly Recommended!

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