Nikon COOLPIX P530 review - Quality

Quality

Nikon P530 vs Canon SX520 HS vs Sony H400

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the the Nikon COOLPIX P530, Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Sony Cyber-shot H400 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

At 24.5mm equivalent, the wide angle setting on the Sony H400 isn’t quite as wide as the 24mm wide angle of the SX520 HS and P530, but in practice the difference is very small and it’s impossible to zoom the lenses by such a small amount, so all three were left on their widest settings.

For this test the cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. The ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting and all other settings were left on the defaults.

The cameras were set to Aperture priority mode and f4 selected which produced the best results. The COOLPIX P530 closes the aperture in 0.3EV increments from the widest avaiable option (f3 at the widest setting) so I chose f4.2 as the closest to f4.

The image above right was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P530. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and at f4.2 with the sensitivity manually set to the base 100 ISO setting the P530 selected a shutter speed of 1/800. The Canon SX520 HS, also set to f4 and at its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting metered a shutter speed of 1/1250. The Sony H400, metered 1/800 at f4.2 and 80 ISO. As usual the crops are taken from the areas marked in red above.

The first result from the COOLPIX P530 is a little soft, it’s from close to the frame edge though, so probably the COOLPIX P530’s lens will perform better in the middle of the frame. It’s quite hard to see any detail in the church crop because the P530 over-exposed the shot just a little. But although it lacks contrast you can see there’s a comparable level of detail in this crop and the next one of the lighthouse to those from the Canon SX520 HS alongside. So it’s looking like the the two 16 Megapixel sensors are resolving a similar level of detail but, at this wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P530’s lens is outperformed by the SX520 HS.

With a 20.1 Megapixel sensor the crops from the Sony H400 show a smaller area with larger detail than those from the 16 Megapixel COOLPIX P530 and Canon SX520 HS. Overall the results from the H400 are very good. Casting an eye from top to bottom they look consistent, so, at the wide angle setting the lens performs well across the frame to the edges. By comparison, COOLPIX P530 crops are quite soft and lack the consistency of the H400. Even in the centre, though, I don’t think there’s quite the level of detail in the P530 crops as in those from the H400. It’s a small difference which you’d only be able to spot pixel peeping at 100 percent view, but it’s real enough.

Scroll down the page to see how these models compare when zoomed in to 135mm, and 1000mm equivalent focal lengths, or to see how they compare at higher sensitivities check out my Nikon COOLPIX P530 noise results.

Nikon P530
Canon SX520 HS
Sony H400
f4.2, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO
f4.2, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 80 ISO

Nikon P530 vs Canon SX520 HS vs Sony H400 quality at approx 135mm

For my next test I zoomed all three cameras in to an equivalent focal length of around 135mm. This time in each case I set the aperture to the widest available setting, f4.3, f5 and f4.6 respectively on the COOLPIX P530, SX520 HS and H400.

When zoomed in to this focal length the COOLPIX P530 raises its game. The first shot from the frame edge looks nice and crisp with a good level of detail. Moving down to the second crop there’s more good news with lots of detail in the stonework of the church and foreground roof tiles. The final crop from the extreme right edge of the frame is also sharp and both edge crops are distortion and aberration free.

Looking a these crops, there’s much less of a difference between the three models than at the wide angle setting. The Canon SX520 HS results aren’t as impressive as the wide angle ones and the result is the tables are turned. As before, the COOLPIX P530 crops are boadly comparable with those form the SX520 HS in the middle, but now the COOLPIX P530 produces the better results at the edge of the frame. I’d say the Sony H400 just edges it in terms of quality though, with consistently good results right across the frame.

Scroll down for more quality results at longer focal lengths, or to see how they compare at higher sensitivities check out my Nikon COOLPIX P530 noise results.

Nikon P530
Canon SX520 HS
Sony H400
f4.3, 100 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f4.6, 80 ISO
f4.3, 100 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f4.6, 80 ISO
f4.3, 100 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f4.6, 80 ISO
f4.3, 100 ISO
f5, 100 ISO
f4.6, 80 ISO

Nikon P530 vs Canon SX520 HS vs Sony H400 Quality at approx 1000mm

For this final test I zoomed the COOLPIX P530 in to its maximum 1000mm focal length. The PowerShot SX520 HS was also zoomed to it’s maximum – a tad longer than the COOLPIX at 1008m and the Sony H400 was zoomed in to match the same angle of view. As before, I set the maximum available aperture on each camera, f5.9, f6 and f6.2 on the P530, SX520 HS, and H400 respectively

As a quick glance at these crops will reveal, there’s a loss of finer detail which produces an impressionistic result. This affects all three models to a similar degree and is down to atmospheric disturbance. That said, I think the PowerShot SX520 HS produces a slightly cleaner and more detailed result than either the Sony H400 or the Nikon P530 at this focal length. The Sony H400 still has a way to go before reaching its maximum 1550mm equivalent focal length though.

Nikon P530
Canon SX520 HS
Sony H400
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6, 100 ISO
f6.2, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6, 100 ISO
f6.2, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6, 100 ISO
f6.2, 80 ISO
f5.9, 100 ISO
f6, 100 ISO
f6.2, 80 ISO

Nikon P530 vs Sony H400 vs Canon SX520 HS noise

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX P530, Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Sony Cyber-shot H400 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.At 24.5mm equivalent, the wide angle setting on the Sony H400 isn’t quite as wide as the 24mm wide angle of the SX520 HS and P530, but in practice the difference is very small and it’s impossible to zoom the lenses by such a small amount, so all three were left on their widest settings.

The cameras were set to Aperture priority mode and f4 selected which produced the best results. The COOLPIX P530 closes the aperture in 0.3EV increments from the widest available option (f3 at the widest setting) so I chose f4.2 as the closest to f4. For this test the cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. Active D Lighting is off by default on the COOLPIX P520, DRO was disabled on the Sony H400. All other settings were left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Nikon COOLPIX P530. The P530 was set to Aperture Priority mode and at its base 80 ISO sensitivity setting with the aperture set to f4.2 metered a shutter speed of 1/6. Also at 100 ISO the Canon SX520 HS metered 1/4 at f4 and the Sony H400, at its base 80 ISO sensitivity, metered 1/6 at f4.

There are three things to note at the outset here. The first is that the 20.1 Megapixel sensor of the Sony H400 produces a smaller crop area with larger detail than those from the 16 Megapixel COOLPIX P530 and Canon SX520 HS. The second is that the H400’s sensitivity range starts at a lower 80 ISO compared with 100 ISO on the other two models. Lastly, bear in mind that we’re comparing two different types of sensor here, The COOLPIX P530 and PowerShot SX520 HS both have CMOS sensors, where the Sony H400 has a CCD sensor.

While not entirely free of noise, the 100 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P530 looks relatively clean. There’s a slight speckled texture in the wall but the text panel in the memorial plaque is clearly legible. As you progress up the sensitivity scale, where the Nikon and Canon crops become more grainy, the H400 crops become smoother, smearier and less detailed. Eventually, at around 800 ISO the H400’s noise processing can’t keep up and the texture breaks through. I think it would be fair to say that while all three models are comparable at their base ISO settings, The CMOS sensors in the COOLPIX P530 and PowerShot SX520 HS display similar noise levels and quality as you progress up the ISO sensitivity scale. But the more aggressive noise reduction required by the H400’s higher resolution CCD sensor renders images with significantly less detail at the higher sensitivity settings than either the Canon SX520 HS or the COOLPIX P530.

 

Nikon P530
Canon SX520 HS
Sony H400
80 ISO Not available
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80 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
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3200 ISO
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6400 ISO
6400 ISO Not available
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