Competition in the bridge camera market at the moment is pretty fierce. It's one of the only growing segments in the compact camera market, as users look for something much more advanced than their phone, especially in regards to zoom functionality.
It's a bit of an oxymoron that bridge cameras are lumped into the compact genre when, in actuality, many of them are roughly the same size as entry-level DSLRs. Where the difference lies, however, is in the size of the sensor.
The Nikon P520 houses an 18 million pixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. This is the same size as those found in many "normal" compact cameras. However, where this camera, and other cameras of its type, trumps the larger sensored DSLR is the zoom flexibility.
What is a bridge camera?
Housing a 42x optical zoom, the Nikon Coolpix P520 boasts a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-1000mm. That's an incredibly versatile range that could see you shooting everything from sweeping vistas to the deer standing on a hill that you can barely see with the naked eye.
This is a camera aimed at those looking to get a little more from their photography, and as such, it is also capable of full manual control, along with semi-automatic modes (such as aperture and shutter priority). Unfortunately, however, it cannot shoot in raw format.
Along with an articulating 3.2-inch, 921k dot, rear LCD screen, there's also a 201k dot equivalent electronic viewfinder, which is something that may be appreciated by those stepping up from a compact camera or smartphone camera.
A feature that may be of interest to travelling photographers is the inbuilt GPS, which can log the details of a shot's location. This is helpful for plotting on a map when you get back, or remembering the name of the remote village you holidayed in.
The Nikon Coolpix P520 doesn't have Wi-Fi built in, but it is compatible with Nikon's Wu-1a wireless adaptor if you want to add the functionality.
There's a range of creative options available also, including Effects mode and Easy Panorama. Auto HDR mode combines two shots taken at different exposures to create an image with wide dynamic range and rich colour gradation.
Another example of the camera's flexibility is macro focusing, which is available from as close as 1cm for frame-filling shots. A 99-point autofocus system is included, along with subject tracking AF. Furthermore, high speed continuous shooting of up to 10 images at 7fps at full resolution is available, or alternatively, 30 full resolution shots at 1fps.
The Nikon P520 goes head to head with cameras including the Fuji HS50 EXR, which also features a 42x optical zoom. The Fuji, however, boasts a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end of the lens, compared with the Nikon P520's f/3.0 offering.
Although it doesn't quite have the reach of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS (which features a 50x optical zoom lens), the two cameras occupy roughly the same price bracket.