At PMA 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with a number of cameras. One of the most impressive new cameras that I’ve seen has been the new Nikon Coolpix P100. To see what makes this camera special, check out the big hands-on review below.
The P100 is a 10.3MP superzoom camera with a 26x optical zoom lens and optical VR image stabilization. The sensor is a backlit CMOS and uses Nikon’s EXPEED processing, which is found in high-end Nikon DSLRs as well. The camera feels not much smaller than your typical entry-level DSLR. It is very comfortable to hold and has a number of direct access buttons and dials for making quick changes to your settings. The P100 is quite responsive and covers the zoom range from wide to tele relatively quick.
The P100 has an attractive 3-inch LCD with a 460k dot resolution. While it looks great, it’s not quite as beautiful as the 920k dot resolution screens we are seeing on many cameras nowadays.
Additionally, the LCD tilts down and folds out; however, it doesn’t swivel from side to side. It works well and helps with positioning the camera for filming/shooting above or below eye-level. I found the tilting LCD very useful when shooting from the hip, as well as shooting over others’ heads. Big kudos to Nikon on this feature. The P100 also has an electronic viewfinder for those who prefer to put their eye up to the camera, or when it’s needed on bright, sunny days.
Nikon P100 Video Capture
The Nikon P100 can capture 1080p HD video in MPEG format at 30fps, along with stereo audio. The P100 has an HDMI jack for showing off your videos on an HDTV.
Additionally, the P100 has a high speed capture mode, which can record VGA-quality video at 120 fps for up to 40 second clips. It can also step up to 240 fps, but at a further reduced resolution. Below you can see some HD and high speed sample clips from the P100. (Note that I have resized the video for web use).
In addition to the high speed video, the P100 can capture a burst of 6 full resolution still images at a rate of up to 10 fps.
The zoom range, which covers the equivalent of 26-678mm, is really incredible. As noted above, the P100 covers this range quickly. The one quibble that I noticed in my time with the P100 is that you can get a bit of shake during video recording if you zoom the lens too quickly. You can see this effect in one segment of the above video where I quickly zoom out.
Nikon P100 Image Quality
I’ve included several images below, which were shot with the P100 on my first outing, in order to give you an idea of what kinds of images it produces. You can right-click on the images and choose “Save link as…” to download the full resolution versions for your personal inspection.
What I noticed was that image stabilization works very well. Most of the images I shot were in very low light, so I struggled to keep shutter speed up at lower ISO settings. As a result, I shot many images at higher ISO settings in the ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 range. The Nikon P100 handles noise very aggressively, allowing very little to creep in. The result is soft images at higher ISOs; however, this is noticeable when magnifying the images beyond what would be normal viewing. For your run-of-the-mill 4×6 and 5×7 prints, the P100 looks to be a real winner – even at high ISO settings in low light.
There are so many shooting modes in the P100 that it really becomes a do-it-all point and shoot camera. While you can shoot in full auto with good results, you can also tailor the P100 to suit your specific shooting needs by choosing an appropriate mode.
The P100 has an in-camera HDR mode, which merges multiple images of the same scene to extend the dynamic range of your image. This is a becoming a common buzz word used in a lot of point and shoot cameras; however, not all of them use multiple images captured at different exposure levels like the P100. Some use internal processing, which basically boosts shadows and flattens contrast. That’s not the case with the P100 – it’s real HDR-image merging.
Advanced Night Landscape mode uses multiple shots in combination to create a sharp image when there just wouldn’t be enough light for a sharp image from a single shot. As the name implies, this is intended for landscapes and still subjects at night and not for moving subjects. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get some images with this setting; however, I’ve seen this setting work very successfully in Sony cameras, and would expect similar results here. I’ll make sure to look deeper into this and other settings in the full review when I can spend more time with the camera.
Could Be Better…
As you can tell, I’m very impressed with the Nikon P100; however, there are a handful of things that I wish were different. As noted above, I experienced some “shake” in the image when zooming quickly. This isn’t a problem for still images; however, the effect is noticeable in video recording. That said, “fast zooming” and video recording don’t really go together well anyway. So, while it’s annoying, it’s not significant enough to be a deal killer.
I think the P100 could have moved closer to the perfect superzoom with RAW capture and a hotshoe for an external flash. That combination with Nikon’s speedlights would have been killer. I know it’s wishful thinking, but the P100 is such a powerful camera, I would have liked to see even more control in enthusiasts hands. However, the P100 will suit the vast majority of folks looking for an advanced feature superzoom. Geeks like me will always want a camera to do more.
As it stands though, the P100 is a solid camera that will likely sell like hotcakes until its replacement arrives. At $400 retail, it’s not cheap. And while a DSLR may be tempting at that price point, you aren’t going to find a zoom lens to match the range of the P100’s for a DSLR. You certainly won’t find something that can reach as far as the P100 and that you can practically carry with you.
The image quality appears to be more than competent for a point and shoot camera. Even at higher ISOs, the P100 manages to keep the noise down well enough for 4×6 and 5×7 prints. HD and high-speed video are a blast with the P100. I just keep coming up with ideas of ways to shoot in high-speed mode with the P100. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you more in-depth coverage on the P100 soon. Support Photography Bay and check availability of the P100 at trusted retail partner B&H Photo.
A couple of other cameras to consider that stack up against the P100 are the new Fuji HS10 and Olympus SP-800UZ, both of which feature 30x zoom lenses. I’ve had some hands-on time with these cameras and will be reporting my first impressions soon.