The P500 offers a wider zoom range than its P100 predecessor. Overall image quality is very good, though photos at the long end of the zoom are disappointingly soft.
The P500 starts out at 22.5mm and tops out at 810mm in 35mm equivalents, giving up 30mm of telephoto coverage to the longest lenses in the class. Here's what that focal range looks like:
And before you're too quick to knock the image quality of the telephoto shot, consider that the Oceanside pier is nearly 4 miles away - that's a lot of atmospheric disturbance to shoot through. In any event, even with stabilization that long lens makes the P500 a good candidate for a tripod or monopod to assist with managing camera shake when shooting telephoto work.
While the Coolpix P100 remains on Nikon USA's website at this writing, expect it to fade from view as existing supplies dry up. The P500 is a virtual twin on the outside - size and weight are very similar, and the $400 MSRP is the same. But the new camera packs some new hardware over and above that bigger lens. Resolution of the backside illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor jumps to 12.1 megapixels from 10.3 and there is a new EXPEED C2 dual image processor, a first for the Coolpix line (and a harbinger of things to come with the pro DSLRs, I think - see if the D4 and D400 don't carry dual processors when they appear later this year). The dual processor is said to "greatly enhance performance, reduces noise and corrects distortion in both movies and still images".
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor gets a big resolution boost to 921,000 dots and there's an additional zoom control (called the side zoom control) located on the lens barrel. Full HD video returns and a new shooting mode button lets you access continuous frame shooting or other specialized capture features like Best Shot Selector without resorting to internal menus. Internal memory jumps to 102 megabytes and the camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media. Nikon includes a camera strap, rechargeable Li-ion battery, AC charging adapter, USB and AV cables, lens cap, printed quick-start manual and CD-ROM software with each camera.
AC charging adapter? Yep, the P500 continues the P100 practice of having to charge the battery in the camera, and you probably already know what I think of that arrangement. Nikon makes an external charger that sells for about $18 retail - surely they can afford to provide one given that $400 MSRP. And while we're on the subject, how about a complete printed user's manual, not a quick-start manual with the complete one relegated to the CD-ROM?
The P500 succeeds the P100 and the P100 proved a nicely capable camera. Let's see how the new kid on the block measures up.
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