Nikon Coolpix P7000 Camera Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomics issues may get in the way but in the end, it is the image that comes out of the camera that counts. In this respect, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 does very well. Starting with image noise, the most widely discussed aspect of image quality among digital cameras, this particular model is superb. While we have seen many fixed-lens cameras by now which perform well up to ISO 400, the P7000 is the first camera we have reviewed to produce even less noise at ISO 800 and above than the Fujifilm Finepix F200 EXR
Fujifilm Finepix F200 EXR, the current benchmark ultra-compact.
Images from the P7000 are usable up to ISO 400 with maximum image quality. ISO 800 shows a slight amount of noise along with a slight softening of details. Still, there image quality is good enough for a relatively large print. ISO 1600 is really fantastic for a small camera and even a medium-sized print, like a 9x12", can come out looking good. By ISO 3200, we have to give up on fine details but subjects are recognizable and even small prints are very reasonable.
The dynamic range of this digital camera is on par with most cameras in its class, save for those equipped with Fuji's SuperCCD EXR sensor. As such, the F200 EXR and F300 EXR
Fujifilm Finepix F300 EXR maintain an edge for outdoor photography where sunlight can cause extremely contrasty scenes. The general solution for photography of outdoor scenery is to wait for the right time, around dusk and dawn, when light balances out and produces scenes of much lower contrast.
Metering of the Coolpix P7000 is quite good. Even the few times when it over-exposes, it rarely does so by much. Under-exposure is much more rare, save for scenes of very low contrast. There is a live-histogram which helps judge the metered exposure and it is affected by EC. As we mentioned on the preview review page, it is of little use outside of automatic modes as it does not take set exposure-parameters into consideration.
The 7X zoom lens is quite compact with a good maximum aperture at wide-angle, but it drops down two steps towards the telephoto end. There is definitely a noticeable amount of barrel distortion at the wide-end, something which it can optionally correct in camera. At the telephoto end there is an almost imperceptible amount of pincushion. The lens is quite sharp over most of the image but there is a noticeable amount corner softness. Our unit showed asymmetric softness with once corner being softer than the others. It would be mostly noticeable in large prints where the depth-of-field is covers image corners. It is worth noting that the default settings make images entirely too soft, so adding +1 to sharpness was needed to make the P7000's output competitive.
Color is customizable with 3 modes and 7 levels of saturation. The default level is slightly subdued while adding one step of saturation made things more accurate with just a hint of extra vividness. Of course, getting accurate colors from a digital camera depends on accurate while-balance as well. The P7000 has a better than average automatic white-balance system, good presets and quite accurate custom white-balance. Not much purple fringing was noticed during the review period but this may be attributable to dull weather.
Video quality is very smooth and even in moderately low-light does not get grainy. Motion is smoothly captured as well. The built-in stereo microphone is quite sensitive and picks of noise very clearly, sometimes too clearly. The noise-filter is there to avoid recording a hissing sound when shooting outdoors. There is an input jack for an external stereo microphone but it was not tested.
In terms of speed, the P7000 is OK but will not be winning any awards. Startup and shutdown each take just under 2 seconds, which is good for a camera that must extend and retract its lens. Focusing speed is very variable. Sometimes the camera locks in less than half a second, sometimes it takes 1.5s or more, particularly towards the long end of the zoom. Slightly alarming was the great number of focus misses experienced. When the camera cannot focus 4 times in a row, it showed a message saying 'Cannot focus, Reinitializing lens'. This happened quite a few times just after dusk. Sometimes changing focus modes helped, sometimes it did not. We were in relatively cold weather but above freezing, so within normal operating temperatures. This did not happen indoors. There were a few cases when photographing objects with some sheen that caused the P7000 to incorrectly confirm focus. Really, these focus problems are the only black-spot in terms of performance for the P7000.
After locking focus, the shutter-lag is quite fast. Shot-to-shot speed however is not, taking 3s on average, certainly slower than class-leading competitors. The camera starts responding to button presses immediately but several seemingly simple operations take a noticeable amount of time: The quick-menu takes over 1s to appear; The camera returns to shooting mode in about 1½s. Changing modes also takes about 1s, depending on the mode. These are not long enough delays to be serious except when photographing moving subjects.
Video-recording performs really well. There is barely a delay when staring to record and stopping happens instantly. Sound is recording during the entire video. Both focusing and zooming are possible during video recording. Zooming however becomes very slow by default to avoid making noise which would be picked up by the built-in microphones.
Battery-life is quoted at 350 shots-per-charge which is above average for modern cameras. This seems on par with what the experienced but as usual, it always varies based on usage. Flash and the rear LCD are the biggest factors which can reduce battery-life.
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 is an excellent digital camera with an extensive feature set and a great design to access most commonly used functions. It has very little direct competitors when counting either the reach of its lens or the inclusion of a hot-shoe. It is also the only compact camera to date to feature a digital-level or input jack for video sound. Even without the exclusivity provided by its feature set, the P7000 is highly competitive. As soon as the ISO tests came in, there was little doubt that this camera would miss the highest rating in its class.
Image quality is top-notch with less image noise at high-ISO than all other compact cameras so far. Dynamic range, color, white-balance and exposure are all rather good too. There is a bit more corner softness than usual but images keep a very good amount of details even as sensitivity is raised. Nikon really outdid themselves producing their best fixed-lens camera. Speed is also good in most aspects other than shot-to-shoot speed and focus speed under certain conditions.
There is one important problematic area to consider when thinking about the P7000 and that is focus reliability. For stationary objects, this may be a little frustrating but it just will not cut it for action or other moving subjects. The second area of criticism is the poor accuracy of the LCD and live-histogram. Neither can be used to judge exposure when it is needed the most. The remainder of the interface may not be perfect but it provides more direct controls than most cameras, enabling to work faster when producing creative imagery.
Nikon P7000 Facts
|10 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-6400|
|7.1X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-60s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|1 Axis Digital Level||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|1.3 FPS Drive, 45 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1280x720 @ 24 FPS Video Recording||Hot-Shoe|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Stereo audio input|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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