Nikon COOLPIX P520 - Quality

Quality

Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality JPEG

 

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P520, the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle and the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to provide the same field of view. Further down the page you can see results at approximately 600mm and the maximum telephoto focal length, 1000mm on the COOLPIX P520 and 1200mm on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and PowerShot SX50 HS.

  Nikon COOLPIX P520 results
1 Nikon P520 Quality JPEG
2 Nikon P520 Noise JPEG
3 Nikon P520 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P520. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f4.2 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. If you’re wondering why f4.2 and not f4, at its 24mm wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P520 has a maximum aperture of f3 and in Aperture priority mode increments in 1/3EV steps. It’s therefore not possible to set f4 and the closest alternative is f4.2. At f4, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 selected an exposure of 1/640 at 100 ISO and the Powershot SX50 HS metered 1/500 at f4 and 80 ISO. The COOLPIX P520 was mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. As usual for this test, the cameras were otherwise left on the default settings.

The detail in the first crop from the COOLPIX P520 is a little indistinct and fuzzy. You can make out medium sized detail quite well, like the people standing outside the chapel and at the bottom of the hill, but the finer detail is obscured and the edges of the chapel and surrounding wall are quite soft. The second crop also looks a little bit soft, you can see the white column of the lighthouse is reasonably cleanly defined, but the chimneys and window frames in the foreground aren’t as crisply defined as they might be and there’s missing detail in the roof tiles where you’d expect to see it.

There’s some distortion in the third crop from the edge of the frame and the detail here is softer than in the first two crops. But in the fourth crop the level of detail is greatly improved; the finer detail is much clearer and the edges are a lot cleaner. Overall this isn’t a bad result from the COOLPIX P520, in the middle of the frame the lens performs well and the sensor is able to record a good level of detail with nice clean edges, but toward the edges the slight softness of the lens combined with visible noise is taking the edge off its performance.

One thing to bear in mind is that, unlike the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and PowerShot SX50 HS, the COOLPIX P520 lacks a RAW mode, so doing your own processing to try and squeeze mode detail from the sensor isn’t an option. Instead, you could try increasing the sharpness and/or contrast, but at the risk of exaggerating the noise.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX P520 the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 crops show a slightly larger area with smaller details as the COOLPIX P520 has a higher resolution 18 Megapixel sensor. But the COOLPIX P520 crops don’t show any more detail than those from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, and in fact the first crop from the COOLPIX P520 looks a little softer, particularly the grassy area in the foreground.The second row of crops looks very similar, but at the edge of the frame the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s lens appears to have a slight advantage over the COOLPIX P520’s which looks a little more distorted and blurred. Remember, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is zoomed in a little from its maximum 20mm wide angle here, whereas both the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS are right up against their wide angle limit. In the fourth crop taken from near the middle of the frame the tables are turned though, and the lens and sensor combination on the COOLPIX P520 produces a slightly sharper result with marginally more detail. It’s a small margin though and generally, there isn’t a great deal of difference between these two models at the wide angle end of the range.

The crops from the 12 Megapixel Canon PowerShot SX50 HS show a larger area with smaller detail than either the 16 Megapixel Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 or the 18 Megapixel COOLPIX P520. They’re also sharper and more detailed. In all of the PowerShot SX50 HS crops edges are more crisply defined and you can make out finer detail, in the chapel stonework of the first crop, The lighthouse and foreground roofs in the second, the less distorted sharper detail of the window, tile and brickwork at the frame edge and pretty much everywhere in the final crop. The SX50 HS’s sensor and lens outperform the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 at this focal length.

Further down the page, I’ve compared results at the mid-range focal length and the maximum telephoto, so read on to see how these three models compare when zoomed in. Alternatively, see how they compare at higher sensitivities in my Nikon COOLPIX P520 Noise results.

Nikon COOLPIX P520
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
f4.2, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 80 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality at 600mm

 
 

For this next test I zoomed all three cameras in to an equivalent focal length of around 600mm. With the exposure mode in Aperture priority, each camera was set to the widest available aperture. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

As before, the area and size of the detail in these crops varies because of the different sensor resolutions with the 18 Megapixel Nikon COOLPIX P520 showing the smallest area with the largest detail, followed by the 16 Megapixel Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, then the 12 Megapixel PowerShot SX50 HS.

The first crop from the COOLPIX P520 shows about the same level of detail as the wide angle crop, but generally, these crops look slightly better and more consistent than those shot at the 24mm focal length. There’s still a degree of distortion in the third crop from the frame edge, though, and the image detail is much softer here.

There’s less difference between the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 crops and those from the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS in the middle of the zoom range. In the first crop, the FZ70 / FZ72 comes off worst, with both the other models producing a more detailed image, but there’s very little to chose between the three of them in the second and third crops (the PowerShot SX50 HS does slightly better in the second crop, but worse in the third). In the final crop all three would be evenly matched, but the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is let down by a clumpiness that covers the crop but is most visible in the top half.

Nikon COOLPIX P520
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
f5.4, 80 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.4, 80 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.4, 80 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO
f5.4, 80 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 80 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality at maximum zoom

 
 

For this final test I zoomed all three cameras in to their maximum focal length – 1000mm on the COOLPIX P520, and 1200m on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and PowerShot SX50 HS. Again, the exposure was left in Aperture priority mode and set to the widest available aperture – f5.9 on the COOLPIX P520 and Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and f6.5 on the SX50 HS. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

These crops appear in order from left to right across the frame, so the first and last are from the frame edges with the middle two closer to the centre. Once again, this is a better performance from the COOLPIX P520 than at its wide angle setting, so, as far as the lens is concerned at least, you’ll get the best results when its zoomed in.

Though it turns in a very good result from the first crop, the crops from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 are all slightly marred by a clumpy pixellation which was much less apparent at the wider focal lengths. But despite the minor quality differences between the COOLPIX P520 and the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 at each of the three zoom settings, on balance It appears there’s little to chose between them in terms of quality. It’s much easier to spot the gap between these two and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS which outclasses them both, managing to achieve consistently good results with sharp edges and a high level of detail right across the zoom range.

Nikon COOLPIX P520
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
f5.9, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6.5, 80 ISO
f5.9, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6.5, 80 ISO
f5.9, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6.5, 80 ISO
f5.9, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6.5, 80 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX P520 results : Quality / Noise

Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Noise JPEG

 
  Nikon COOLPIX P520 results
1 Nikon P520 Quality JPEG
2 Nikon P520 Noise JPEG
3 Nikon P520 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P520, the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS were set to their 24mm equivalent maximum wide angle and the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to provide the same field of view.

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO sensitivity set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P520 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings. The COOLPIX P520 JPEG file measured 6.23MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangle.

The aperture on the COOLPIX P520 was set to f4.2, previously determined to produce the best results, and at its base 80 ISO sensitivity setting it metered an exposure of 0.6s. If you’re wondering why f4.2 and not f4, at its 24mm wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P520 has a maximum aperture of f3 and in Aperture priority mode increments in 1/3EV steps. It’s therefore not possible to set f4 and the closest alternative is f4.2. Also set to f4 the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 selected 1/2s at 100 ISO and, at f4 and 80 ISO, the Powershot SX50 HS metered 0.8s.

The base 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P520 looks visibly noisy. You can see the noise texture in the flat colour background wall and it’s obscuring the finer detail in the text panel. But the 80 ISO crop is a little better than the 100 ISO one, where there is a slight, but visible increase in the the texture. That said, you’d have to be pixel-peeing at 100% view to spot it.

At 200 ISO the noise processing changes up a gear with the result that the graininess doesn’t increase, instead there’s an overall slight softening of the detail, which is probably preferable. Then at 400 ISO there’s still the softness, but the texture is punching through it. Despite that, there’s still a good level of detail in the 400 ISO crop and I’d have no qualms about using it for everyday low-light situations.

At 800 ISO things are becoming very mottled-looking and the noise has now reached a level where it’s beyond the capabilities of the processing and visible at smaller magnifications. 1600 ISO is more noise than image, and this is the watershed for the COOLPIX P520 and the point at which you have to think twice before committing to a shot that you’re really only going to be happy with at smaller sizes.

Given that 1600 ISO provides a borderline level of quality, you might be surprised that COOLPIX carries on up the sensitivity scale all the way to 6400 ISO and even offers a 12800 ISO High ISO monochrome effect, shown last in the table below. But while these higher sensitivity settings may look dreadful in the 100 percent crops below, and even look a bit grotty at smaller screen sizes, they’re certainly worth having for capturing shots that would otherwise never see the light of day.

So how does the base 100 ISO crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 compare with the 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P520? It looks to me like the COOLPIX P520 has lover levels of noise at 80 ISO. That, plus the larger detail produces a better result than the 100 ISO crop from the FZ70 / FZ72. At 100 ISO the noise levels are similar and in fact there’s not much to choose between these two all the way up the sensitivity range. The COOLPIX P520 has the advantage of a 6400 ISO and even a mono 12800 ISO setting which is useful for very low light shooting, just don’t expect too much in terms of detail.

Compared with the PowerShot SX50 HS there’s less noise in the SX50 HS’s 80 ISO crop, and 100 ISO crop also looks cleaner. In fact in the 100 to 400 ISO range the PowerShot SX50 HS produces visibly less noisy images with clearer detail. Beyond that it maintains an advantage but, as with the COOLPIX P520, the noise makes these settings unsuitable for full-sized reproduction.

Now head over to my COOLPIX P520 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Nikon COOLPIX P520
 
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72
 
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

80 ISO

80 ISO Not available
80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400
6400 ISO Not available
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
12800 ISO Not available
Handheld Night Shot 400 ISO
Handheld NightScene 1600 ISO

Nikon COOLPIX P520 results : Quality / Noise

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