The Nikon P520 offers an impressive 42 times zoom lens.
The Nikon P520 offers an impressive 42 times zoom lens.

For Nikon P520 shooter, size really does matter

WITH its staggering 42 times optical zoom lens, there are few things out of the reach of the Nikon Coolpix P520.

Even a mountain lion on the move in fading light at dusk several hundred metres away is within range for this superb compact.

A trip to Patagonia, Chile, was the ideal opportunity to put one of Nikon's most popular consumer cameras to the test.

It more than delivered in a range of difficult settings - from capturing the stars in the middle of the night above the hotel to the sun rising across snow-capped mountains.

The scenery was spectacular and this camera captured it as well as any I have used.

The focal range of 24mm to 1000mm is hard to fully appreciate until you use it.

It means you can capture the widest lake scene or a complete hotel foyer before zooming in to something that seems miles away, without having to change a lens.

The P520 offers a 18.1 megapixel camera with full 1080 HD video, complete with stereo sound, and slow-motion video of up to 120fps.

Video shoots were particularly rewarding, with surprisingly stable vision from a boat moving past ice formations on a glacial lake.

After zooming in on deep blue ice formations several hundred metres away, you couldn't help but be impressed by the lens's power.

You couldn't help feeling also, that it was a shame that others on the boat, who had spent thousands on their trip, had not spent a bit more to get something beyond a four-times zoom lens compact.

For the enthusiasts, there is a generous range of manual shooting modes, burst shooting at seven frames a second, a built-in GPS, 99-point autofocus system, and support for an optional wifi dongle, which can transfer images to your smart device.

It's not the camera you can slip in your pocket but it's not overly large given its focal power.

The chunky, rubberised hand-grip ensures that it is easy to wield. The grip was more than put to the test as we were shooting waterfall scenes in winds of up to 100kmh.

The camera features Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system to prevent camera shake while the active mode meant we were able to shoot vistas even from a fast-moving van.

One of the innovative parts of the camera is the extra side zoom controls, which is particularly useful when you want to do a more controlled zoom during a video shoot, without the mechanical noise.

The P520 is not a perfect camera with its autofocus speed a little slow to capture fast action and one or two camera "freezes" in the super cold.

But for a camera which can be found online for less than $400, it offers a lot of bang for your buck and is certainly one of the best all-rounders available.

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