The Nikon P520 – Thoughts on Bridge Cameras

The Bridge type camera is the one camera in my “collection” that I didn’t have and I recently got one.  The thinking around acquiring one hit me when a co-worker got a Canon one.  Actually, my wife also has one but at the time, I didn’t give it a second thought.  That was about 5 or so years ago – the Panasonic FZ50.  The FZ50 was about the same size as a DSLR and hers is still used today.

Though it was last years model, my initial research showed it might have some features that might be fun, so I got it. On a clear out no less.  Why the P520 instead of the new P530?  First and foremost – the articulating screen. Second – sensor.  The sensor on the P520 is a 1 2/3” one so it should give me some pretty high quality pics.  Then of course, there’s the 42X zoom 🙂

For those not familiar with these types of units, they sit in the area between travel cameras and DSLR’s.  Their main feature, is the big zoom.  The reports were saying the P520, was a little soft from the resolution stand point, but there were other things – 99 point metering, articulating screen that made this guy worth looking at.  Sooooo.. for $300, I bit the bullet.


In thinking about these class of camera, one thought was, that there must be a market for them as each major brand has a few models here.  With travel cameras where they are, they almost seemed out of place to me but that’s me :-)  I’ve had it for just over a week and here are some initial thoughts:

1.  Test shots and image quality – OK – compared to what the reviews said, this camera takes a high quality photo – even in full auto, it did a pretty nice job.  I was shocked, actually.  Colors were good from what I could determine and image sharpness was actually on par with everything else I owned.  Not as sharp as what my DSLR’s or Compact System cameras could do perhaps, but more than adequate for what I would be doing. 

For me, in my usual photo stuff, I want good image quality and color.  I may do a bit of cropping and I like to keep good resolution.  This is not pro stuff.  I also like being mobile which means small and light.  We had this freak snow storm (pics later in the post), and this provided a bit of an opportunity to see what the P520 could do.  I also did a couple of light box pics.  I like this unit 🙂

2. Handling and “stuff” – there are a couple of little “nigglies”, but what camera doesn’t have those :-)  I found that the power on time was slower – not enough to be annoying, but slower.  Adequate though.  Not a deal breaker.  The articulating screen – this is very different to my D5100 – in order to use the viewfinder, I had to close the LCD panel.  Compared to a DSLR, it showed your image like most cameras on the back.  Not your settings.  Again, not a deal breaker for me as I got it for the articulating screen anyway :-)  The P530 doesn’t have that.  It handles quite well, but I have medium sized hands.  It as some gripping material on the handle part which allows for a good grip.

Once you press the shutter, it takes almost a second before the preview.  This, to me, is annoying as my other units are instantaneous.  Would I have got the unit had I known this?  Yup – not a deal breaker again.  The metering is more versatile than most as it has more settings.  One in particular is the centre wide – now that is different.  The autofocus mechanism is pretty good though it has trouble in lower light.  Zoom is pretty responsive considering its 42x.  Generally speaking – feels well built.  All things considered, though a good buy.

3. Commuting – I decided to commute with it this week and used my Caden triangular sling along with my daypack.  As much as it was inconvenient, though not as much as I thought, the sling allowed me to get the unit out quickly.  I actually took shots with it that I normally wouldn’t because I could get the camera out quickly.

4. Battery Power – OK – the reports are saying this unit is a little shy on battery power at 200 shots.  THAT bothered me as I could see using it at that level.  I ordered spares.  I didn’t want to go the L series with AA’s. So far. anyway, I am anticipating using this actually a lot.  A lot more than my travel cams. 

For battery power, I really haven’t had that much issue with battery power in the “snapshot” space.  The majority of these very rarely exceed 50 shots or so.  Even for my wife’s events, the majority of her stuff is in this space.  Where it becomes more important  are those bigger events.  Generally speaking, I take bigger hardware like the Panasonic GX1 or DSLR’s and there, I do have spare batteries.  Most point and shoots can get roughly 100 flash shots or 200 to 300 daylight photos, so not that big of a deal.  On the P520, I was a little disappointed in seeing that 200 shot limit, but you know – real world will tell the tale –)  I’ve shot roughly 80 shots so far with it during my tests and it’s showing full. 

5.   Bag or Not?  The bridge camera is sort of like a travel camera but slightly larger.  Actually quite a bit larger.  So… a little big for a pocket and depending… a small bag might be in order.  Travel cams will typically fit in a jacket pocket, bit the P520, despite it’s small size wouldn’t.  I guess it would also depend on whether it’s your only camera too :-)  For me, the quest for the ultimate camera bag is the never ending story (no pun intended :-)) If I had only one camera it would be easy – where it gets complicated for me, is that I have 12+ cameras and depending on where I’m going and doing, that I may have a combination of cameras.  The P520, in it’s first week anyway, presented a different problem in that it was just big enough that it wouldn’t fit easily in my daypack.  My other slings were a little large to pack during commuting, so I gave my Caden a try.


This one, when I got it, was more on spec than anything.  It was very different to most slings in that it is triangular and at the same time, had  some semblance of capacity.  It’s shape also made for something a little more accessible to the conventional sling.  I initially got this one for my Panasonic GX1 to carry lenses, battery etc.  Interestingly enough, this one actually works quite well with my daypack.


6.  General Thoughts – When I look at the range of cameras in today’s world, the actual selection that’s out there is pretty amazing.  Also, it can be pretty confusing.  In one sense, I think a lot of thought will need to given once you take that first step :-)  Many will just get that one camera and be done with it.  Most people I know are like that.  I happen to be at the other end of the spectrum.  I’ve enjoyed my purchases to date.  For me, having a lot of cameras has gotten back “into it”. Interestingly, I use pretty well all of my units at one point or another.  We’ll see how the journey continues.  In the meantime, I’m having a blast.  Now…. to find more time…..



About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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