Review: Nikon Coolpix P7000

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Short Version: It’s no secret that I love photography. I’m also very attached to my DSLR. I rarely leave the house without it and consider it to be an important part of my life. That being said, I’ve found something that makes me leave my DSLR at home. I’ve finally found a camera that’s small enough to slip into a pocket but still has the features and qualities that make it capable of taking a picture equal in quality to a DSLR.

Features:

  • 10 MP Sensor
  • ISO 100-3200
  • 720p HD Video Recording w/ microphone jack
  • MSRP: $499.95

Pros:

  • 7x optical zoom
  • DSLR level image quality
  • Light weight

Cons:

  • Optical viewfinder is kind of pointless
  • Shooting in RAW takes a long time between shots
  • Fn custom control button isn’t all that functional

Product Page

Review: I love my DSLR. It’s a great camera that takes wonderful pictures but feels like a boat anchor hanging off my shoulder after a long day of shooting. As a result, I started looking for a smaller camera that would meet my extremely high expectations of picture quality, but be small enough that I can carry it around in my pocket, or at least be small enough not to make me feel weighed down after a day of shooting.

I love my D300. I think it’s a great camera, but when I first started looking into a smaller camera, I started with Canon. In fact, to be honest, Nikon didn’t really compete well with Canon in the P&S arena. These made many Nikon shooters (like myself) unhappy, since brand loyalty does have a significant impact. Nikon knew this, and while they tried a couple of times to come up with competing products, they failed. The P7000 has succeeded where these other products failed, and the Canon finally has some competition.

Shooting with the P7000 is a dream. Because there isn’t any actual physical shutter, there’s minimal lag, dependent upon your shutter speed. The P7000 only has a 10 megapixel sensor, but it shoots in either jpg, or a special version of RAW, specific to the P7000, called NRW. Taking pictures using the NRW mode significantly increases the shutter speed, but it also gives you greater control over the images. The P7000 isn’t a sports camera, the high speed shutter isn’t really super high speed, but it would be sufficient for shooting a kid’s basketball game or cockfight. It’s really easy to use the P7000, the LCD screen is clear and clean, and provides a very good view of what your camera will actually see when it shoots. There is an optical viewfinder as well, but to be honest I find myself never using it. The LCD viewfinder gives a better idea of what your images will look like (the white balance being an excellent example of this), really making it a better choice to frame your pictures. This is particularly true when shooting video, as it makes it easier to keep the camera stable.

The P7000 has excellent white balance options. You can either select auto, or one of the presets (daylight, incandescent, one of three different fluorescent options, cloudy, flash, or you can manually choose a Kelvin setting. You can also choose from one of three pre-set options as well. In addition to the white balance, you can also change the ISO from the same control knob. The P7000 covers an ISO range from 100-3200, and the lens has a optical zoom range from 28-200mm equivalent.

The P7000 also has some interesting built-in editing features. Obviously it’s not the equivalent of something like Photoshop, but you can add things like a black border, skin softening, straightening, and even more interestingly a “miniature effect” – which is the equivalent of a tilt-shift lens, allowing you to make a full size scene look like a miniature display. It’s easy to use the edit features, and the camera will create a copy of your original image before making changes, which is ideal if you want to change things in your computer later.

All is not perfect, though. The firmware needs improvement because the camera has issues. There have been a few times when I’ve tried to use functions and the camera will freeze. Luckily, it’s easy to shut the power off and power it back on, which would clear the freeze, but it’s inconvenient. I’ve also had problems with the artificial horizon, as well as other issues that can be addressed by an improved firmware. I have no doubt that Nikon will release an improved firmware, I’m just hoping that it’s sooner rather then later.

Conclusion: Despite the problems I’ve ran into with it, the P7000 is a good camera. I’ve been using it since October (the recent Multi-Tool gift guide was shot with it exclusively). I have no reservations recommending the P7000 to any level of user, and while it does need some help from a firmware upgrade, the potential is there for it to be a truly great camera. Truth be told, I like this camera so much I bought one for my own personal use.

Update: There’s been a firmware release for the P7000 from Nikon. The new version (1.1) updating some of the issues that I had with the camera, as well as issues I hadn’t experienced. Here’s a list of the bugs fixed by firmware 1.1:

  • Image recording time at image quality settings that include NRW (RAW) has been reduced.
  • Lens control has been optimized to reduce the frequency with which the “Initializing lens. Cannot focus.” message is displayed.
  • An issue that, in some rare cases, prevented zoom operation has been resolved.
  • An issue that caused the monitor display to exhibit a loss of detail in highlights (blown highlights) when the shutter-release button was pressed halfway with Active D-Lighting enabled has been resolved.

Nice to see that Nikon is working on the issues in their latest Coolpix. I’ve installed the new release, and it works extremely well. It even appears to have beaten the “lockup” problem I ran into.

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