Nikon Coolpix P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

April 8, 2013

Nikon P620 and Canon SX50 HS with beach landscape background

In this comparison I will help you decide whether to buy the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS or the Nikon Coolpix P520. Two excellent ultra-zoom digital cameras which uses the latest technology innovation from the two leaders of the digital photography world.


No doubt that super-zoom cameras are the most versatile ones among other zoom cameras due to their long optical zoom.  Whether you buy this camera for a trip or just as an all-purpose camera, super-zoom cameras will serve you very well. They allow you to get closer to your subject without actually getting close physically yourself.  These are great cameras for shooting at the zoo, capturing beautiful images of birds, shoot the big Ben’s clock up close    and much more.

Camera manufacturers utilizing latest technologies in order to improve the performance of those camera, making them perform faster and improve the image quality. It’s true that a camera that has less zoom might perform better than a camera with a much longer zoom, that’s due to the lens complexity. In this case both Canon and Nikon are also lens manufacturers with a lot of knowledge in building high quality lenses. They utilize their expertise in order to improve the optical characteristics of the from model to model.

The P520 and SX50 HS are probably the two most desirable  superzoom cameras on the market, and are also the flagship models for each company. In general, You can’t go wrong choosing either, but it’s worth paying attention to the finer details and make sure that you get the camera that is best for your specific needs.

So let’s begin our comparison with a short introduction to each camera and than we’ll talk about the differences in features and image quality. I hope that reading this article you will have a much better idea which camera you should get, SX50 HS or P520? — Let’s start!



Nikon Coolpix P520

The P520 replaces the Nikon P510 that was announced a year earlier.  It offers the same 41.7x (advertises as 42x, the number is rounded up) NIKOR optical zoom VR  lens as its predecessor, a 24-1000 mm lens. This lens offer great versatility as its offer a wide field of view(ie. for group shoots and landscape shots) as well as very large focal length to get those beautiful close up shot without the need to get physically closer to you subject.  Both the P510 and P520 look quite similar, Nikon did some cosmetic changes but overall the camera looks very similar to its predecessor.

The first noticeable change is the use of a fully-articulated LCD display compare to the tilted one on the P510.  The P520 display is also a 3.2-inch one, which is slightly larger than the P510 one.  This vari-angle display will help you shoot photos from above your head or below your knees, photos that you otherwise might miss with a fixed or tilt-only display.

Nikon P520 vari-angle lcd

Nikon P520 vari-angle Tilt/Swivel 3.2-inch LCD with the Electronic viewfinder on top of its

The Coolpix P520 utilizes a 18.1MP CMOS sensor, which provides plenty of details from the scene and gives you more room for cropping if you like to edit your photos in a photo editing software (ie. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). It’s questionable whether digital cameras with a small sensor should use such high resolution, but will keep that to the image quality section — where you can understand whether or not this had any implications on the image quality. It’s worth mentioning that Nikon always works to improve the low-light performance of its sensors, but whether or not the P520 is a good low-light performer, you’ll know that later on this article.

The camera comes with an Electronic Viewfinder with 201K-dot LCD resolution. With Electronic viewfinders the image that you see is not coming though a mirror that the image is optically projected on, but instead utilizes a small (0.2-inch in the case of the P520) LCD display that projects the image as the sensor sees it. The EVF is of a low resolution, not advanced and impressive as you found on Compact System Cameras  though, which have even 2MP for the internal viewfinder’s LCD.

The Nikon COOLPIX P520 also features a built-in GPS which automatically geo-tag your photos, so you can sort, filter, search and display those photos in by their location. The data is embedded within the file itself so software that utilize this data can read it. It’s not visible on the photo itself, just a data that is embedded in the image file. The P520 is compatible with the WU-1a mobile adapter. This adapter allows you to automatically send your photos to your phone (ie. iPhone, Android phone), tablet (ie. iPad) or any compatible Wi-Fi enabled device. This makes it very easy to share photos by transfering them to your phone and utilize your phone’s Internet connectivity and apps to share those photos with friends and family.

Take a look at this Nikon P520 Wi-Fi demonstration, shows how easy it is to transfer an image from the camera to the phone.

P520 can also capture breathtaking 1080p Full HD videos with stereo sound. Super zoom cameras are best for this use, if only for there very long zoom range which allows you to be much more creative with your videos.  Nikon also utilizes its excellent Vibration Reduction mechanism (VR) in the lens so helps combating camera shake and help get a steadier shot for both images and videos.

The P520 also support full exposure manual controls (P/A/S/M), allowing you to take full control over the exposure and shoot the image exactly as you intended to. Of course the P520 can also put on full automatic mode for those who just want to point-and-shoot without the need to have any knowledge about exposure and stuff.

The P520 can shoot at amazing 7 frames per second in continuous shooting mode, allow you to grab a beautiful sequence of shots and make sure that you capture the moment as it happens.

The Nikon COOLPIX P520 is an amazing camera, that packs plenty of features that will allow you to capture beautiful photos that will impress your friends and family.



Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

The SX50 HS replaced the SX40 HS which was and still is one of the most popular super zoom cameras on the market. The SX50 HS comes with a 24-1200 mm f/2.4-6.5 50x optical zoom lens — yes, you read it right, 1200 mm focal length. This is the World’s longest zoom lens ever created. The lens is slower (f/3.4-6.5 vs f/2.7-5.8) than than the SX40, and I assume that Canon has done it to keep the lens small due to the increment of the optical zoom. The SX40 HS is an excellent performer and was proven to be one of the best superzooms when it comes to image quality. Canon wants to repeat that history with this new model.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS camera

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS superzoom camera

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS has a 12.1MP sensor, same resolution as its predecessor. This is great, I can tell you that 12MP is more than enough, and the lesser pixels, the better the low-light sensitivity of the sensor and the better the image will get overall. the SX50 HS has a 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS sensor, which is a small sensor. By putting more pixels onto this sensor Canon could hurt the image quality in some degree. One of the reasons people bought the SX40 HS was because of its high image quality, which was very impressive when comparing it to other superzooms on the market.

The SX50 HS comes with Canon’s DIGIC 5 image processor and allows you to shoot photos up to ISO 6400.  At the back you can find a 2.8-inch 461K-dots LCD, which lags behind the competition in terms of size and resolution. I don’t know why Canon hasn’t decided to go with a 3-inch and higher-resolution display, but my guess is that it wanted to keep the camera size small and the price relatively low — but again, I don’t the exact reason.

Canon works to make the SX50 HS an impressive camera when it comes to the lens performance. The SX50 lens will focus much faster than the SX40 HS, as much as 50% (0.38 sec vs 0.19 sec) improvement. The shooting time lag reduced by 44% as well from 0.45 sec. to 0.25 sec. The SX50 HS can shoot at 2.2 fps in P mode and up to 13 fps in High-Speed Burst HQ with a maximum continuous capture of 10 frames.

One of my favorite features is the Intelligent IS (image stabilization) feature — which allows to camera take full control of which image stabilization mechanism to use in order to result in a sharp image. The result is less blurry images in any condition.

Other features onclude Framing Assist Seek and Framing Assist lock to help you  keep track of your subject when using hand-held shooting with very long zoom. Here, take a look at the next video that demonstrates the Zoom Framing Assist capability.

The Sx50 HS also has RAW file format support — those enthusiast photographers among you will love this feature, which lacks on the P520. A RAW file stores the actual data from the sensor without any interpolation (ie. white balance, sharpness, saturation, etc.). This means that you can import your Raw file into a photo editing software and edit your image there and apply any interpolation using the software itself. This gives the photographer much greater control over the final image as well as being able to even extract more details from the image base on a more sophisticated Bayer interpolation algorithms that needs a much stronger computing processing power of home computers compare to the processing power of the camera.

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is an amazing camera that will be at the top of the list of many buyers.


SX50 HS vs P520 – Comparison

So there we have it, two ultra-zoom digital cameras — but the introduction doesn’t tell you about all the key features of the two camera nor it helps you understand the differences. The next spec comparison table will show you  the differences between the P520 and SX50 HS. It’s important that you read it and understand what each camera offers. I also write some side notes in the table to let you better understand what each on of the features means.

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As you can see from the above comparison table, there are a few differences between the two cameras that might lead you to pick one over the other. for example, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS has support for RAW — this is an asked feature by enthusiast photographers who love editing photos using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or other photo editing software. You don’t need to decide on the settings (ie. white balance, saturation, sharpness), in the field, just shoot and edit the image later without the need to know which pre-defined settings to use or whether the camera gets it wrong or not.

The Canon has a longer zoom lens. The differences between 1000 mm and 1200 mm is not big, but it gives that extra reach if you need it. The most important factor at this tele end is image quality. If image is soft at this focal length it won’t matter. For small prints and photos for the web it really doesn’t matter, but if you are more picky about how the image looks at the longest zoom, this should matter to you. The Canon SX50 HS has an amazing zoom and considering the size of the camera it’s really a big achievement – Kodus Canon!

It’s a shame that Canon didn’t use a larger and higher-resolution LCD, but I guess that they had a good reason for that. The thing is that shooting with the P520 via the LCD will be a better experience, even for viewing your photos and videos on the camera. This is something that should be improved in future models. Whether it’s a deal breaker, you will decide. If you want my opinion, it shouldn’t pose an issue at all. In most cases you just go outside and shoot and come back and look at the images on a large screen. It’s easier to compose your shots using a larger screen, especially if you love shooting videos. The bigger difference is that some people keep the camera away from their eyes in order to see both the scene with their own eyes and how it projects on the screen. With a larger display it’s easier to do because you get a better view of the projects image on the LCD when you view its a bit far away — due to the larger image size.

The Sx50 HS also has a better battery life, much better than the Nikon’s — which I think it’s a disappointment.  I personally don’t like to carry an extra battery, left alone it adds to the costs. It’s not a deal breaker, and that something that Nikon should improve in future models.

The Nikon P520 has a GPS, which is a great feature to have, especially when you take advantage of it. There are many applications that support the GPS metadata, including Facebook Apps and Google Maps. There are many software and online websites that allows you to sort, filter, search, view and share images based on the location that they were shot. Those also includes travel diary websites that keep track of you trip when you upload photos with embedded geo-location metadata.

I recommend going over the comparison table above, making sure that you understand the differences.

Now it’s time for inspecting the image quality!



Canon SX50 HS vs Nikon P520 – Image Quality

Disclaimer: I usually use dpreview and imaging resource comparometer to compare image quality, but both websites don’t have P520 sample images to compare against — so I went with a visual image quality analysis based on how I view those with my own eyes. Because I use a high quality Eizo monitor it make it easier to inspect the image and find flaws. Furthermore, image quality might vary based on the focal length and aperture used to take the photo.

Canon SX50 HS image quality analysis based on images on dpreview and other sources.

  1. Very sharp images with lots of details
  2. Very nice saturated colors
  3. Low amount of noise at low ISO up to ISO 200 (included)
  4. Image quality degradation starts at ISO 400
  5. Image is very usable even at ISO 1600! – there is noise of course, but for small prints and for the web it will look great
  6. ISO 3200/6400 too noisy in my opinion
  7. Very good control over chromatic aberrations
  8. At 1200mm, image a bit softer, but still goo performance overall

Canon SX50 HS 24mm vs 1200 mm sample images  (images via cameralabs flickr)


Canon PowerShot SX50 HS sample image
1200 mm
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS sample image
Image quality at 1200 mm is very good as you can see, even at 1200 mm!


Nikon P520 sample image analysis:

  1. Natural looking images with vivid colors
  2. Lots of details
  3. Images are on the soft side
  4. Good high ISO performance
  5. Paint like Noise pattern

Both cameras did an excellent job in Macro, but I personally favored the SX50 HS image quality, by quite a lot I have to see.  The Canon Sx50 HS image quality is really impressive. At 100% scale non of them will look perfect, you can easily find flaws when looking at 100% scale, especially when analyzing a camera with a small sensor.  But overall in terms of exposure, sharpness, colors reproduction and noise, I found the Canon sX50 HS to be a better camera of the two. For a super-zoom camera, the SX50 HS really impresses. Above ISO 800 both cameras deliver noisy images, and I recommend shooting below ISO 800 for the best image quality.
Video Samples

SX50 HS zoom test sample video

P520 zoom test sample video

You can see how useful the image stabilization is and how close you can get to a subject using the longest zoom in each camera. You can see that the zoom is just amazing, and how useful it is for travelers.




There we have it — two excellent superzoom cameras, each one with its cons and pros.  I was personally more impressed with the Canon SX50 HS’ image quality, but that doesn’t make the P520 less of a camera. I know that one of the biggest selling points for the Canon is its image quality. It was like that with the P510 and the SX40 HS and it continues to the next generation of superzooms. I think that this article provided some useful information for you in order to understand most of the differences between the two cameras, emphasizing of what’s should be important for the casual shooter who search to buy a new superzoom camera. I leave the decision to you, and I hope that after understanding the differences between the two, it will make it easier for you to make a decision.

I personally don’t take advantage of the GPS, don’t mind having a smaller LCD and I love the extra zoom of the SX50 HS, the RAW option, as well as its very good image quality. For me it’s more than enough, and If I had to chosoe I would probably went with the SX50 HS. Of course every person has its own specific needs, and you should understand what matter for you most and based your decision on that.

I hope that you find this comparison interesting and useful. If you did, please share it with your friends. Thanks guys and see you on the next article.

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