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|Product:||Nikon Coolpix P7000|
Nikon COOLPIX P7000 Review - A serious compact for the serious photographer. The P7000 boasts many features found on digital SLR cameras, plus a 28-200mm equivalent lens, a 10.1 megapixel sensor and RAW image recording.
ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings
|Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
|Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at the COOLPIX P7000, Nikon's latest advanced compact camera for the serious photographer.|
Nikon's COOLPIX P7000 is a compact digital camera aimed at advanced photographers who want more creative control than a standard point and click compact may offer. It costs around £475, which is only a few pounds less than Nikon's entry-level D3100 digital SLR with an 18-55mm lens. The main benefit of the P7000 lies in its compact size, which many who already own a DSLR may be after for those times where it's not practical to take a decent SLR kit with you. But will it deliver SLR quality results? Gary Wolstenholme aims to find out...
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Features
At the heart of the COOLPIX P7000 lies a 1/1.7inch CCD image sensor, which is larger than you'd typically expect to find in a compact. This should lead to better quality images at higher ISO settings, as larger photo-sites generally means clearer images at these settings. ISO settings up to ISO3200 are available, and even ISO6400 can be enabled via ISO expansion. The 7.1x zoom lens with Vibration Reduction has a range equivalent to a 28-200mm lens on a 35mm camera providing a flexible zoom range.
Being a creative compact, there are the usual manual and semi-automatic exposure modes and metering options, including Matrix, Spot and Centre Weighted. An optical viewfinder is also included for those who prefer this to holding the camera at arm's length for more stability or have trouble seeing the large three inch LCD screen. The screen has a resolution of 921,000 dots, and appears plenty clear enough. An anti-reflective coating has been applied to aid its use in bright sunlight. It is easy to view, even at obtuse viewing angles.
A new Expeed C2 image processor takes care of processing images and promises to offer responsive performance, high image quality and lower power consumption. The new processor should help especially with the high definition video clips. Up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds can be recorded at 720p resolution.
A Nikon compatible standard hotshoe opens more creative possibilities by allowing the use of any compatible Nikon Speedlite. A built in pop-up flash is included for those times where it's not practical or preferable to carry an external flashgun. Those who like to use their flash for fill in daylight will be pleased to know that the flash syncs all the way up to 1/2000sec, allowing you to effectively reduce the ambient light in the image, or simply shoot with flash at very high speeds to freeze action.
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Handling
Although this is a compact camera, it isn't really what I would class as pocket sized, that is unless you have large pockets. At 114 x 77 x 45mm, it is quite a chunky item. Saying that ,SLR users will appreciate it only weighing 360g, which is lighter than most interchangeable lenses. Despite the lightweight, this camera is constructed mostly of metal and has a reassuringly rugged feel.
The chunky size makes it very comfortable to hold. Soft rubber grips on the front and rear also help to give a steady hold of the camera. With this camera being aimed at advanced photographers, many common features have dedicated dials or buttons, which makes taking control yourself a very direct experience. A large exposure compensation dial makes exposure adjustments easy, and two command dials are supplied for skipping through images, or adjusting aperture or shutter speeds. Although it's nice to have these, the circular dial on the rear can be a little fiddly to use. I often ended up changing the flash mode or macro setting rather than the aperture as the whole dial can be depressed in four directions to select other menus.
Anyone who has used a Nikon camera of any type will appreciate the clear and easy to follow system. Sometimes the menus can be sluggish to load, or to show what changes you have made, which I found a little frustrating in use.
The zoom is paced quite well to allow for accurate composition and those who have a favourite zoom setting can set a memory for that. This will allow your favourite zoom setting to be remembered, which could be especially useful for applications such as copy stand work, or copying slides.
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Performance
During use I found the focusing system erratic. Even in good light it can take up to a second to achieve a lock on a subject. At one point while attempting to use the macro feature the camera decided to initialise the lens as it was having trouble achieving focus on anything. I'm sure it must be a problem that could be solved by updated firmware, so it will be interesting to see if Nikon do issue a new firmware release soon.
Another issue possibly related to firmware I found during use is that if Dlighting is enabled, the camera will show the image on screen grossly over exposed when it is focused, even though the image itself will be fine once taken. Without Dlighting enabled, the camera does a decent job of simulating the exposure on screen.
In even lighting conditions, Nikon's Matrix metering system is accurate and reliable. In higher contrast situations it can be fooled easily, sometimes exposing too bright, and other times too dark. This is especially noticeable when recording video as the exposure can change wildly as you pan across areas of differing lighting.
Colours strike a pleasant balance between being accurate and vibrant, leading to very pleasant, colourful images.
Nikon's Active Dlighting system aims to increase the dynamic range in high contrast images, and can be a very useful tool. Four levels of correction are available from off up to high, but unfortunately there isn't an automatic option as is included on many other Nikon cameras. As can be seen in the images below, it does a decent job of compressing the range of tones to fit within what can be captured in a jpeg image by brightening shadows and holding back highlights.
|Active Dlighting Off||Active Dlighting Low|
|Active Dlighting Normal||Active Dlighting High|
The combination of a high quality 7.1x zoom lens and excellent image processing from the Expeed C2 chip allows the 10.1 megapixel sensor to produce images with excellent levels of sharpness and detail.
|JPEG sharpness test image.||The same image processed from RAW using Nikon View NX2.|
RAW image capture is also available, with the camera creating NRW RAW files, which can be processed in Nikon ViewNX2. This should allow photographers extra creative scope even though in the images above it is the RAW file is virtually indistinguishable in terms of detail when compared the the fine JPEG image.
ISO and noise performance
By keeping the pixel count to a moderate level, Nikon have produced a camera that is more than capable of holding its own when the light levels drop.
Image quality is excellent at the base sensitivity. Images show no significant signs of noise and are bright, colourful and contrasty at this setting. The same can be said for images taken at ISO200 too. Increasing the sensitivity further results in a little noise becoming visible and a slight softening of the image, probably due to noise reduction. Saying that the quality is still good enough for printing to a decent size.
At ISO800 the level of noise present increases to noticeable levels, although compared to many compacts the quality is still good. The softening effect of noise reduction is more prevalent than at lower settings, and is especially noticeable in areas of fine detail, such as the brickwork in the outdoor ISO samples. By ISO1600, the image quality still holds up well, but with a little more noise visible in the shadows.
ISO3200 produces images with reduced colour saturation due to heavy colour noise reduction kicking in. Still images taken at this setting will be plenty good enough for sharing on the web, or for postcard size prints. Things get a bit ugly at the expanded ISO6400 setting, with noise destroying all but the coarsest details. Still, images taken at this setting will probably suffice for sharing at low resolutions on the web.
|Nikon COOLPIX P7000 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Nikon COOLPIX P7000 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
Auto white-balance on the P7000 does a decent job of correcting unwanted colour casts in range of lighting conditions. Under tungsten and fluorescent lighting this setting leaves only a slight colour cast behind. Using the correct white-balance preset for the conditions normally results in even more accurate colours. However the fluorescent preset adds much more magenta to the image than was needed for shooting under the warm white fluorescents in our studio. Three different fluorescent presets are available, each offering correction for different types of tube. None of these really corrected the cast present satisfactorily in this instance.
Although the video function records in 720p high definition, rather than the full 1080p that is increasingly becoming the standard, the quality of the footage is good, with very little noise visible in poor lighting conditions. Motion is rendered smoothly, with very few artefacts visible.
Unfortunately, the camera's slightly erratic metering can sometimes lead to vastly over or underexposed sections of video in high contrast situations, which may pose problems for some. Clips of up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds can be captured, which should be plenty of time for most purposes.
|This clip, recorded at 720p and 24 frames per second shows that the quality is decent, even though the lighting conditions were less than ideal.|
Buffer read/write times
When shooting fine quality JPEG images, the average delay from shot to shot is around 3.9 seconds, using a Lexar Class 10 SDHC card, which some users may find a little frustrating. This seems mainly down to to the autofocus system's refusal to lock onto a subject quickly, rather than any bottlenecks in the camera's processing. When shooting RAW images, the shot to shot delay increases to 6.03 seconds as the camera takes time to write the larger file size before readying itself to shoot again.
In continuous shooting mode, the P7000 managed to take a burst of 26 shots in 25.69 seconds, which equates roughly to 1.01 frames per second. Although the frame rate isn't blisteringly fast, it should do for occasionally capturing the odd bit of action here and there.
In terms of optical performance, the 7.1x zoom fitted to the P7000 delivers excellent results. It is very sharp from edge to edge showing only minor signs of distortion at either end of the zoom range. It is also quite resistant to flare, even when shooting directly into the sun and levels of chromatic aberrations are kept below acceptable levels.
In terms of mechanical performance, things could be better. The lens often misfocused during testing and would sometimes simply refuse to lock onto anything. This was especially noticeable when using the macro mode.
|DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.
Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Nikon COOLPIX P7000.
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Verdict
If a camera could be judged on image quality alone, the COOLPIX P7000 Nikon would be a sure-fire winner. Images are generally detailed, contrasty and colourful. The performance at high ISO settings is pretty decent for a camera of this type too.
Unfortunately the P7000 proved to be a mixed bag during testing, with the main issue being with the camera's autofocus, which is erratic at best. Other niggles such as the issues I had using the large control dial, the metering's occasional hiccup in high contrast situations and with the camera's inability to properly simulate exposures on the screen with Dlighting enabled are all a little frustrating, but can be lived with in my opinion.
If you can cope with the odd handling niggle to be rewarded with a compact that produces excellent quality images, than the P7000 may well be worth a good look. Otherwise it may be worth waiting to see if Nikon produce a firmware update to address some of the issues I experienced during testing.
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Pros
Excellent detail at low ISOs
Good performance for a compact at high ISOs
Useful zoom range
Good lens quality
Great build quality
Good control layout
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Cons
Autofocus can be hit and miss
Metering struggles in high contrast scenarios
Control dial on the rear can be fiddly
Issue with how live view displays images when using Dlighting
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Nikon COOLPIX P7000: Specification
|What comes in the box||Video cable, EN-EL14 battery, Charger, Software, USB Cable, Neck Strap|
|Lens Details||7.1x zoom lens 6-42.6mm f/2.8-5.6 (equivalent to 28-200mm on a 35mm camera)|
|Max. Image size||3648 x 2736|
|LCD monitor size||3inch|
|Focusing system||TTL Contrast Detection|
|Focusing modes||Single, Continuous and Face Detection|
|File types||JPEG, RAW (NRW)|
|ISO sensitivity||ISO100-3200 plus ISO6400 via expansion|
|Metering system||Matrix, Centre Weighted and Spot metering via image sensor.|
|White-balance||AWB, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash, Kelvin, Custom Preset x 3|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 3EV|
|Shutter speed range||½ second – 1/2000sec|
|Continuous shooting||1 fps|
|Anti-shake mode||In lens Vibration Reduction|
|Movie mode||HD 720p: 1,280 x 720/24 fps, VGA: 640 x 480/30 fps, QVGA: 320 x 240/30 fps|
|Monitor||7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 921k-dot, wide-viewing-angle TFT LCD monitor (VGA), air gapless, anti-reflection coating, brightness adjustment|
|Media type||SD, SDHC|
|Interface||USB, Pictbridge, HDMI|
|Power||Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL14|
|Size (wxdxl)||Approx. 114.2 x 77.0 x 44.8 mm|
|Weight (with battery)||310g|
The Nikon COOLPIX P7000 costs £475 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Nikon COOLPIX P7000