On the whole, the performance of the Nikon P520 is good, but it’s not without some irritations. One small but finicky problem is the omission of an eye sensor underneath the viewfinder. This means that when you bring the camera to your eye you have to press a button to power the viewfinder up, and then once again press this button to go back to the LCD screen.
The built-in GPS also proved temperamental. It pinpoints most shots well enough, but there are times when it places photos captured in a broad area at virtually the same location, which defeats its purpose entirely.
It's far from all bad news for the Coolpix P520 though, as it excels in other areas. The AF system is prompt throughout the zoom range, and while there is some slowdown in low light conditions the camera still performs admirably well.
Then there's the LCD screen. It’s large, bright and shows an impressive level of contrast, even in brighter conditions. The level of detail is such that it makes viewing fine detail much easier, and even though the viewing angle might not be as good as some other model's LCD screen the fact that you can rotate it around its hinge makes this much less of an issue.
There are always concerns about optical issues when you place such a large optical zoom in to what is ostensibly a compact body, but the good news is that the combination of the quality of the lens and the Nikon P520's processing means these concerns are largely abated. Some chromatic aberrations are noticeable throughout the focal range – although not more than you would expect for such an optic – and despite there being some distortion at the wide end of the focal range this soon disappears as you zoom in.
View more Nikon P520 sample photos
The Nikon P520's metering system is sound, although it does display a slight tendency to overexpose rather than underexpose that can lead to colours appearing washed out. This isn't a major issue, however, and on the whole the white balance system produces true to life colours that can be boosted using the camera's picture settings if desired.
ISO performance is another area that is respectable, although there is an issue regarding noise reduction. Even at the lowest ISO settings the noise reduction gets to work on the images and leaves them with a slight texture. As you continue up the settings this noise reduction – while succeeding at keeping the images relatively noise free – has even more of an effect, creating issues with exposure, sharpness and colour.
There's no debating that the P520 is a capable compact. Photos look good, it has an excellent LCD screen and the image stabilisation systems do a fine job of preventing camera shake. It’s also keenly priced, but this comes at the mercy of the fit and finish, and irritating lack of a viewfinder eye sensor.
If these issues aren't of concern to you, the P520 is a capable and good value camera, but it doesn’t shine in any particular department.