Most camera giants in the market are at close competition with each other in their bridge segment compact super-zooms. In a bid to outdo high powered mobile phone cameras, traditional camera manufacturers are flooding the market with products that have incremental and competing features. With the consumer spoilt for choice, I think we are compelled to go back to the basics of optics, handling and day-to-day usability for a critical assessment before zeroing on in anyone model.
CoolPix P530 is Nikon’s newest offering in the compact superzoom segment. As the name suggests, this camera acts as a bridge between a compact point-and-shoot and an interchangable lens DSLR.
When I got the opportunity to review this model, I decided to give it a spin at Delhi’s own archaeological park in good light conditions.
The Nikon Coolpix P530 is a lower priced 16MP alternative to its predecessor , the P520, with the significant improvement of an external microphone socket for recording higher quality audio for movies. Apart from this one improvement, it has only been about compromises in features, specifications and image quality, as far as its notable predecessor is concerned.
The P530 is a solid, chunky camera– something that aids stable handheld shooting at long focal lengths. While many argue that weight is a problem, for practical use, it gives the feel of using an entry-level DSLR, not to mention the fact that it provides the much-needed stability at longer focal lengths.
Furthermore, the exterior of the camera, with its rubberised body and protruded grip makes it very secure in hand.
Having been a Nikon user for almost three years now, I felt at home with the main menu system. The mode dial on the top of the camera made it very easy for me to switch between the different exposure options- Manual, Semi-Automatic and Auto. Like most compact super-zoom cameras, this too has a Scene-Auto selector mode. There is also a dedicated movie record button on the back of the camera.
P530’s 42X zoom is its biggest selling point. And I could very easily access it through a lever around its shutter release. Zooming in and out with this lever seemed pretty smooth.
The biggest issue that I have with this model, as far as the design is concerened, is that the camera’s LCD screen does not have an eye-sensor. It was extremely distracting to press a dedicated button on top of the screen, every time I had to
switch from electronic viewfinder display to LCD or vice versa. The top of the camera also has a function(Fn) button to help us quickly access the white balance, metering or ISO.
The best part of P530’s design is its scrolling dial. This dial also acts as a navigational tool. While the left and the top take you to timer and flash functions, the right and the down button take you directly to the exposure compensation or focusing modes.
As mentioned earlier, the solid structure of the camera helped me shoot handheld at long focal lengths. But that said, the biggest drawback of this camera is its slow auto-focus speed and shutter lag. High-end mobile cameras can easily compete with this camera as far as its auto-focus speed is concerned.
This camera seemed to capture the details well in low sensitivity and in good light conditions. Photographs taken at Delhi’s Mehrauli Archaeological Park managed to capture some very intricate architectural details.
Compared to its predecessor P520, this camera has 16 MP resolution. As a result, when I zoomed in 100% on an image taken in full zoom, it looked smooth. Unless you want to print at sizes larger than 24″ on the long side, print quality should be quite acceptable.
ISO ranges from 8-3200 and noise is well controlled. To test the camera’s low light sensitivity, I shot some photographs at my friend’s wedding at 3200 ISO.
While it took as many as 30 seconds to accurately lock focus, one could say that the images produced were quite sharp, especially with its lens being equipped with Nikon’s VR (Vibration Reduction) technology.
The camera’s merit is probably in the fact that it allows full manual control. So, if you are a semi-pro photographer, you can experiment with exposures for much better images. The camera does not support RAW format, so you might not have much freedom to play around with your images, as far as post-processing is concerned.
The camera’s 24-1000mm range in 35mm equivalent, gave me the freedom to choose a wide variety of subjects, which makes it quite good for everyday shooting.
Macro focusing is the other good part of this camera. I really liked how sharp the images were when I took the camera close to my subject and activated macro-focusing. The fully charged battery gave me close to 300 shots taken on the manual mode without flash.
Unlike Nikon P520, this camera does not have wi-fi connectivity. Nikon has also removed its GPS functionality in this camera.
But now that Nikon has stalled the production of P520, I think P530 can be a decent alternative for enthusiastic and amateur photographers.
The Coolpix P530, priced at Rs 19,950 is a viable choice for amateurs and enthusiasts who are serious about photography, but are hesitant to foray into the overwhelming body / lens options in DSLR markets. Being a notch below mirror-less cameras in price, it won’t burn a hole in your pocket either.
While the focusing speed is a valid complaint for anyone looking at fast moment-based photography, for most situations and everyday subjects, the P530 doesn’t compromise on its image quality and ability to deliver.
The full range of manual exposure control is an asset for anyone wishing to understand serious photographic basics without dropping a fat price for a semi-professional DSLR. All in all, the Nikon Coolpix P530, with its superzoom lens, and low light performance, is a good bet for enthusiasts who are looking to experiment without feeling limited by optical or technical capabilities of their gear.
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