Nikon Coolpix P500 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: June 21, 2011

Last Updated: July 26, 2011

The Nikon Coolpix P500 ($399) is a fully loaded super zoom camera with a whopping 36X, 22.5 - 810 mm optical zoom lens (the largest available at the moment), an articulating LCD, manual controls, fast continuous shooting, and Full HD movie recording. It uses a 12.1 Megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor (though it's no larger than what's found on any other compact camera) and is powered by dual Expeed C2 image processors.

The mega zoom field seems a bit less crowded that it was in previous years, though the Coolpix P500 still has some tough competition, especially from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V.

Is the Coolpix P500 the ultimate super zoom camera? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix P500 has an average bundle for a compact camera. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel Coolpix P500 digital camera
  • EN-EL5 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC-to-USB adapter
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Nikon ViewNX 2 and User Manual
  • 28 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

The Coolpix P500 has a whopping 102MB of memory built into it, which holds 17 JPEGs at the highest image quality setting. Even with a healthy amount of memory, you'll still want to pick up a larger memory card right away, The P500 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd suggest a 2GB to start with. If you'll be taking a lot of movies, I'd opt for something more like 4GB or 8GB. It's a good idea to get a Class 6 or 10 rated card for best performance. Do note that the P500 is not compatible with UHS-I cards, which are a fairly new type of SDHC/SDXC media.

The P500 uses the classic EN-EL5 battery, which has been used on Nikon cameras for years. This battery contains 4.1 Wh of energy, which a bit lower than I would've liked to have seen on a camera of this size. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS 370 shots NB-7L
Fuji FinePix HS20EXR * 400 shots 4 x Unknown NiMH AA
Kodak EasyShare Max Z990 * 500 shots 4 x alkaline AA
Nikon Coolpix P500 * 220 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-800UZ 200 shots LI-50B
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V * 410 shots NP-FH50

* Full HD video recording

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The Coolpix P500 has the second worst battery life in the group, coming in almost 40% below average. Thus, you'll probably want to pick up a spare battery when you buy the camera. Also, I've heard stories about poor battery performance that is somehow related to having the "Charge by Computer" option set to auto. I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary with my P500, though.

I should mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries that are used by four of the six cameras in the above list. These batteries tend to be pricey (though an extra EN-EL5 is only around $20), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries in an emergency, as you could with a camera that uses AAs.

The Coolpix P500's battery is charged internally, over a USB cable. You can use an included AC-to-USB adapter to charge, or just plug the camera right into your computer. And then you can go take a day trip to the mountains, as it takes nearly five hours to fully charge the EN-EL5! If you don't want to wait that long, might I suggest the MH-61 external charger, which does the same thing in a fraction of the time (about two hours), and it costs under $20.

Nikon includes a lens cap with a retaining strap with the Coolpix P500, as you'd expect on a super zoom camera.

The Coolpix P500 is very light on accessories. In fact, the only one is the external battery charger (priced from $19) than I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier.

Nikon Transfer

Nikon includes their ViewNX 2 software with the Coolpix P500. The first part of this software that you'll probably encounter is Nikon Transfer 2, which is used to copy photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. In addition to copying images to a set location, you can also have it send them to a backup volume or folder, as well.

Nikon ViewNX 2

Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX 2, which has recently received some actual editing tools (previous versions had none). The main screen should look familiar -- it's like every other photo browser these days. Here you can e-mail, print, geo-tag, or view a slideshow of your photos. You can also upload them to Nikon's My Picturetown service.

Editing in ViewNX 2

Above you can see the image editing screen. You can adjust things like sharpness/contrast/brightness/and color, brighten shadows, straighten a crooked photo, remove redeye, or reduce chromatic aberrations. ViewNX 2 also has a movie editor built in. You can put clips into a timeline, remove unwanted footage, add transitions, and then save the results as a new video.

ArcSoft PanoramaMaker 5 Pro

Also included is ArcSoft's PanoramaMaker 5 Pro. While the Coolpix P500 can create panoramas right on the camera, you can also shoot them manually, and use this software to stitch them together. It does a really nice job, and you can even order giant prints of the photo right from the software.

The manual for the Coolpix P500 is split into two parts. First, there's a 28 page "Quick Start Guide" in the box, which is enough to get you up and running, but not much further. For more details, you'll have to load up the full manual, which can be found in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is better than average -- it's too bad that you have to get out a CD to read it, though. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.