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Lifewire / Hayley Prokos
App for photo sharing
Tilting LCD monitor
Battery compartment is extremely difficult to open/close
No manual shooting mode
Lacks a detachable lens
Can’t shoot in raw format
Difficult to connect and reconnect with SnapBridge
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 is a beginner’s camera that takes subpar photos in perfect conditions. While its Wi-Fi capabilities are a plus (when you don’t factor in its glitches), the body and build quality of the camera feel less than professional, making it inferior to other cameras on the market in a slightly higher price range.
We purchased the Nikon COOLPIX B500 so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 is difficult to assess from a value perspective. At just under $230 MSRP, it’s at least a hundred dollars less costly than high-end point-and-shoot digital cameras but still offers connectivity to smart devices and a somewhat fuss-free design.
We think this camera could be good for users looking to take photos quickly and easily and upload them wirelessly. It may work for adolescents, amateurs, and the generally tech-averse, but for most others, the COOLPIX B500 is a hard sell because of its subpar image quality.
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 is larger and more robust than your average point-and-shoot digital camera but not quite as hefty as your typical DSLR. It occupies a hybrid space somewhere between those two form factors.
It’s not as portable as some other digital cameras with Wi-Fi capabilities, being nearly two times larger than average. Rather, it mimics the more professional DSLR in terms of size and the shape of the chassis (though not in terms of the lens, which can’t be detached).
On top of the camera, you’ll find the power button, a dial of shooting modes, the zoom, and a shutter release button. On the lens, Nikon offers another set of zoom controls and a snap-back zoom button that can be used to temporarily widen the visible area in order to frame the subject more easily.
Nikon does a good job of fitting the standard set of options on the rear along with a large, tilting display screen that's billed to offer a clear, vivid picture. In our testing, we found that reflections are minimized (though certainly not absent) on the display, and there's a fair amount of contrast.
Check out our roundup of the best optical zoom cameras.
Nikon may have attempted to make the setup process relatively hassle-free, but alas, it didn’t totally succeed with the COOLPIX B500.
In the box, you’ll find the camera, a lens cap, disposable AA batteries, a USB/HDMI cord, and a strap. You can get to photographing in under a minute provided you already have a memory card. However, one caveat is sometimes the camera needs to be reset if you try to turn it on with the lens cap in place.
Another thing that may slow you down is deciding which of the exposure and scene modes to use while shooting. You may also consider adjusting brightness levels, vividness and focus modes, depending on where you’re shooting.
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 uses a 16 MP low-light CMOS sensor that just didn’t cut it.
In both indoor and outdoor settings, image quality is really underwhelming. Our photos lacked depth and were often blue-ish in color (even when we experimented with the settings) while shooting in Auto mode. Our still shots weren’t clear or crisp, and capturing subjects in motion yielded even worse images.
In both indoor and outdoor settings, image quality is really underwhelming.
Mixed lighting indoors seemed to offset the blue-ish color we were getting with the purely natural light, but having to work so hard with the device to get a decent photo is neither cost-effective nor efficient. Also, the lack of RAW file capabilities limits users’ ability to edit images in programs like Photoshop and creates a real obstacle for those who want to do art photography or print large images.
Anyone with those aspirations will need a more high-end camera that can produce high-quality images and RAW files, and for everyone else, an iPhone 8 Plus or equivalent produces higher quality photos with less fuss. The B500 fails to find a niche that's not already filled by superior products.
Sadly, we were no more impressed with the video than we were the photo quality of the Nikon COOLPIX B500.
The camera shoots decent video at a resolution of 1080p with an aspect ratio of 16:9 but doesn’t have the crisp image or stabilization features of the latest smartphones. In terms of focus, the only option is to use autofocus.
At first, we couldn’t understand why the camera wouldn’t focus when we zoomed, but quickly figured out that we had to change the autofocus settings to allow for adjustment as we moved and zoomed.
While menu functions are fairly intuitive, we did have quite a few issues with the Nikon COOLPIX B500’s photo sharing, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth capabilities.
To set up photo transfer, we picked up our smart device and tapped our way to the App Store. The COOLPIX B500 uses SnapBridge, which sends photos wirelessly to compatible smart devices so users can share them online.
The camera shoots decent video at a resolution of 1080p with an aspect ratio of 16:9 but doesn’t have the crisp image or stabilization features of the latest smartphones.
We paired the smartphone to the camera via Bluetooth, so when we took a photo it automatically transferred to the phone. That all took a few minutes to connect and was convenient and time-efficient until the connection started to glitch. We were often prompted to reconnect, which meant starting over every time we powered on the camera. Other times, photos wouldn’t transfer and we had to reconnect before we were able to shift them to our phone.
SnapBridge also only transfers your still images. It won't move video, which was a real impediment to usability. There are several other point-and-shoot cameras that have adopted media transfer technology, and they’ve arguably done it better. To see some recommendations, check out our list of the best Wi-Fi cameras.
As we mentioned previously, this camera feels like a hybrid. While sometimes paying a premium for something specialized is justified, we feel that Nikon missed the mark in trying to create a unique product with the Nikon COOLPIX B500.
At $227, the COOLPIX B500 falls somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum for point-and-shoot cameras and on the lower end for a DSLR (which makes sense, since the only feature that compares to a DSLR is the shape). If you’re seeking a relatively inexpensive option for travel but prefer the look and feel of a DSLR with the capabilities of a point-and-shoot, you may be satisfied with the COOLPIX B500. However, if you’re in the market for something with high image quality as well as photo sharing, we’d say you’re better off looking at other options, perhaps spending around $100 more on a DSLR with a truly professional feel.
Despite coming in at $399 MSRP, the Canon PowerShot SX740 HS offers significantly more bang for your buck. It’s more portable but has the same 40x optical zoom as the COOLPIX B500. It also has 4K video and seamless wireless connectivity capabilities, unlike the COOLPIX B500. If you have the room in your budget, the PowerShot SX740 is a decidedly better option.
Fine for an average photographer, but there are better values out there.
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 offered so much less than we expected, and those looking for a low-fuss option that's still packed with features should look elsewhere. Its relatively low price point may be attractive to parents shopping for their adolescent children or amateurs who aren’t looking to drop a ton on a starter camera, but for anyone who prioritizes image quality and ease-of-use, the price is too steep.