Sunday, 15 July 2012

Nikon P510 - First Trial

I succumbed to a Nikon P510 for one reason - the 1000 mm, 35 mm equivalent. lens. For wildlife photography, mainly video that I take using a Sony HDR-XR550, the longest lens I can manage is 600 mm equivalent and that is with the 1.7x extender. But with the need for speed it is usually impossible to set up a tripod in time to get a shot of a bird that may only be there for a few seconds, so the video is shaky even with vibration reduction, and the subject is tiny even with that length of lens. That's where a still is useful to drop in the video (with the appropriate sound effect of a camera shutter). However, the still capabilities of the Sony are limited (it seems to focus on anything but what you want it to focus on in still mode although it manages more than capably to get it right in video) and 600 mm is still the maximum.  Hence the Nikon P510 (which also has high-definition video). I know it does not do raw, I know its small sensor will be noisy if the gain (ASA setting) is increased very much. But that 1000 mm lens for £304 from Amazon could not be resisted.

I tried the camera immediately I had opened a box and fitted a memory card (the battery came ready charged). I stood outside and photographed the birds on the feeder and on the lawn, tried a few close-ups of flowers (another useful source of cut-aways for travel videos) and downloaded the results into Aperture on my Mac, did the quick fix adjustment and cropped to 16:9 format to simulate what I would get if they were added to a video.

Here are three of the shots:

Bullfinch with sunflower seed. 1/125, f5.9, 180mm (1000 mm equiv), 400 ASA. Hand-held. Cropped to 2547x1431 pixels

Chaffinch. 1/250, f5.9, 180mm (1000 mm equiv), 800 ASA. Hand-held. Cropped to 3022x1698 pixels

Feral pigeons. 1/250, f4.9, 98mm (545 mm equiv), 160 ASA. Hand-held. Cropped to 3768x2118 pixels

Pretty impressive - and just what I needed.

I cannot stress how important it is to have something that is light on long journeys in the tropics, and this certainly fills the bill. Of course, it will not replace by Nikon D700 and it is not meant to but so far it looks ideal for the job I wanted it for.

There was only one problem — my wife did not believe it could have been so cheap and so the Amazon invoice was dangled under her nose. The value is actually amazing. Based on retail price index, the price is the same as I paid in 1956 for a Braun Paxina 29 still camera. That was a 6x6 120 roll-film camera with a not very good f2.9 lens and an eight-speed shutter. That was it — no rangefinder, no meter, just three controls to operate (aperture, speed and focus) plus not forgetting to wind on. Based on the rise in wages compared to prices since then, I would only just been out of the box camera price range. I can forgive the plasticky feel of the P510 at its price.

I have now downloaded the manual and will report further.