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Nikon Coolpix P2 Digital Camera Review

Nikon Coolpix P2 Digital Camera Review - Packing 15 scene assist modes, wireless connectivity, a 3.5x zoom lens and a raft of other features into a pocket-size metal body, the Nikon Coolpix P2 promises alot. Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether this camera delivers on these promises.

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Nikon Coolpix P2 in Compact Cameras

Packing 15 scene assist modes, wireless connectivity, a 3.5x zoom lens and a raft of other features into a pocket-size metal body, the Nikon Coolpix P2 promises alot. Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether this camera delivers on these promises.

Ever since digital cameras became affordable, the Nikon Coolpix range has gained a reputation for ease of use, being packed with innovative features and, most of all, for delivering quality images. The Nikon Coolpix P2 continues the tradition for innovation by being one of the first compacts to include Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing wireless transmission of your images to either your computer or a Wi-Fi enabled printer.

  • 5.1 megapixels
  • 3.5x zoom lens
  • 2.5inch LCD Screen
  • 15 scene-assist modes
  • In camera automatic red-eye reduction
  • Continuous shooting at approximately 2.5fps (30fps in Ultra high speed mode)
  • VGA movie recording
  • Wi-Fi connectivity to allow direct printing or transfer to a computer wirelessly
Nikon Coolpix P2
  • Aperture-priority mode
  • Nikon Picture Project 1.6 Software
  • Includes, battery, charger, USB and video cables
  • RRP £279.99

Build and Handling
The camera feels reassuringly solid because of its metal construction. There is a relatively large grip on the left side , this really helps to get a secure grip of the camera and of the controls. Most functions are in reach of your thumb, making it possible to use it with one hand if necessary.
Nikon Coolpix P2

Battery Life

On average I managed to get between 200-250 shots off a fully charged battery without using the built-in flash, about average for a camera of this size. The absence of an optical viewfinder means that the screen cannot be turned off to save the battery, unless, of course, you'd like to shoot blind.

Menu and controls
This feature packed Coolpix P2 has a myriad of different settings that can be controlled through the different menus. The following is a breakdown of menus and settings that can be controlled within them.
Auto mode
The auto mode is exactly what it says on the tin. The main menu is disabled, leaving the camera to take control of all exposure and image settings for you.

Scene-assist modes
The Coolpix P2 has a comprehensive list of scene-assist modes. These are pre-programmed to adjust image and exposure setting to get the best results in specific
Nikon Coolpix P2
situations. The 15 available settings cover almost every picture taking situation that you may encounter. These include portrait, party/indoor, panorama assist, night landscape, beach/snow, sunset, dusk or dawn, fireworks, backlight, close-up, museum, copy and sports.

Scene program modes like these are not a new feature, many compact digital cameras have a selection of presets like the portrait or sports mode. The menu does contain some fairly innovative and quite unique modes which prove to be very useful for certain specific tasks. An example of this is the museum mode. This is set up to take a series of shots continuously, then the camera analyses the shots taken and picks out the sharpest one. It's great for improving results when taking pictures in low light without the flash.

Aperture-priority and program modes
The camera also comes equipped with an aperture-priority and program mode allowing greater creative manual control over the camera. In the aperture-priority mode, you can set the aperture and the camera will match it with the appropriate shutter speed to give the correct exposure, this can be used to give blurred backgrounds by opening the aperture or force a long exposure by closing it down.

In program the camera controls both the aperture and shutter speed allowing you to control whether the camera under or over exposes the scene via exposure compensation. A histogram readout is provided on screen to help you to judge the exposure better.
Nikon Coolpix P2
The on-screen histogram which can be used to judge how much exposure compensation to apply.

There are also plenty of menu options to choose from. Also in these modes you have the ability to change the settings for white balance, metering, continuous shooting, best shot selector, auto bracketing, flash exposure compensation, contrast, sharpening, colour saturation, sensitivity, image size, compression, ISO sensitivity, auto mode, fixed aperture mode, noise reduction and a menu for setting your own preset selection of settings.

Just as with the scene modes, Nikon have added more than you would normally expect to find on a compact camera like this. A good example of this is the flash exposure compensation mode. This is a setting normally only found on high-end cameras, in fact it is a setting not present on some digital SLRs.

Wireless Connectivity
One of the major new features of this camera is its wireless transfer mode. This allows you to transfer pictures to a Wi-Fi enabled printer or simply transfer your images to your computer without any cables. I could see this being brilliant for someone who travels alot, may already have a laptop with a wireless facility and may need to transfer images to their computer on the go.
To set up a wireless connection on your computer you first need to create a wireless profile with the Nikon Picture Project Software. Once the profile is set up you do not need to connect the camera by USB cable again, you can just select the profile in the wireless menu and transfer your images.

Data transfer from the camera to a computer is fairly swift, I transferred a full 128MB card of photos in just under five minutes. The main problem I encountered was getting the camera to connect to the computer in the first place. Sometimes it would connect with no problems, other times it would not connect at all. I tried this on a couple of computers and the ease with which I could connect did vary drastically.

Zoom lens
The Nikon Coolpix P2 comes equipped with a Nikkor 3.5x zoom lens which gives an equivalent angle-of-view of approximately 37-130mm. Zoom operation is quick and precise making composing photos quickly very easy indeed.

Macro mode
The Coolpix range has built up a fantastic reputation for its macro capabilities. This camera easily continues this tradition producing incredibly detailed sharp images.

Nikon Coolpix P2 Nikon Coolpix P2
Left - This image was taken using the macro mode and the best shot selector.

Above - A 100% crop of the image on the left which shows the detail captured.

Image quality
There are three different image quality levels on this camera Fine, Normal and Basic. All images in this review were taken on Fine so that I could truly see what the camera is capable of producing.

The auto white balance setting performs very well on this camera, correcting colour casts enough to leave a pleasing effect. Colour saturation is fairly muted on the normal setting, moving this to 'enhanced' gives images a little more punch, moving the saturation to the maximum setting gives great colour for landscapes.

Images from the Nikon Coolpix P2 are generally very sharp and detailed and the matrix metering system copes very well under most circumstances, tending to expose for shadow detail in very high contrast situations.

Nikon Coolpix P2
The matrix meter has coped well in this situation keeping plenty of detail in the highlights and shadows.
Nikon Coolpix P2
An example of how the auto white balance doesn't over correct the colour balance. Just enough of the warm tone of the light has been left behind in this image.
Nikon Coolpix P2
In low light the camera autofocuses quickly and produces respectable results even at the highest ISO setting.
Nikon Coolpix P2
By using the Best Shot Selector, the ISO can be reduced leading to longer exposure times.
Nikon Coolpix P2 Many different effects can be achieved by playing with the settings in the program or aperture-priority modes.
This shot on the left was taken in aperture-priority stopped down to f/7.6 on ISO64 to give a long enough exposure of 1/8sec to slightly blur the water. I also used the Best Shot Selector to improve my chances of getting a sharp shot. The saturation was set to maximum to bring out the colour of the leaves and the lichen in the background.

The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the green square is.
Nikon Coolpix P2
Nikon Coolpix P2
Nikon Coolpix P2
Nikon Coolpix P2
Nikon Coolpix P2

For a compact digital camera, these results are quite respectable. The camera produces very clean images at ISO64 and although the images are quite noisy at ISO400, the noise is not overpowering and would look reasonable in small to medium size prints.

There is no doubt that this is a quality, feature packed digital camera. The image quality and vast array of menus and features create plenty of opportunities for create photography, whether you are an advanced photographer or not. The camera is also built well, with a very well thought out design, making control of the cameras huge set of features a doddle.

The wireless facility could be a really useful feature for a person on the go. The fact I couldn't connect consistantly would worry me if I wanted to rely on using this feature.

In summary the positive points of the Nikon Coolpix P2 are:
Nikon Coolpix P2Good build quality
Nikon Coolpix P2Excellent image quality
Nikon Coolpix P2Well thought out design
Nikon Coolpix P2Bags of features

The negative points:
Nikon Coolpix P2Wi-Fi connectivity was inconsistant
Nikon Coolpix P2Images at ISO400 are noisy

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Coolpix P2

Autumn Carpet. (Or “Fall past My Window”)Looe Panorama.Lily in the rainLukeButterfly in a boxBotanical Gardens.Robo ManA stairway to ?Potting ShedChicago Street SceneLeeds CastleLove-in-idlenessGrass Trees

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