I’ve written about the Nikon Coolpix P7000 over the last week or so. I’ve had several days to shoot with it and wanted to share some additional thoughts and final conclusions.
I haven’t done extensive testing in low-light, but the P7000, like all the other cameras in its class is reliable up to ISO 400 and in some cases 800. Above that, you may need to use noise reduction to get good results. I don’t think this is a negative fact given the other cameras I’ve tested in this class are in the same boat. But in terms of replacing a DSLR with the P7000, this is one place where the DSLR will win out. The sensor size in cameras of this class is just too small to produce great quality images at high ISOs when compared to DSLRs.
The optical viewfinder on the P7000 (like all the other viewfinders on cameras in this class) is too small for me, but it does have one cool feature. It allows you to see the effect of the zoom right in the viewfinders. Some optical viewfinders don’t show you the zoom in real time. You can’t see any exposure or other data in the viewfinder so in very direct sunlight you may have to guess at your exposure. This problem can only be solved on these cameras with the addition of electronic viewfinders which unfortunately, add size and cost to the camera.
The exposure compensation dial on the top of the Coolpix P7000 is one of my favorite features on this camera. I am an exposure compensation value manipulator of the first order. I am very impressed with the location and function of this dial. It lights up with a small warning light when you have engaged exposure compensation. A nice feature to remind you to roll the dial back to zero when you’re done. Then the light goes out.
I’ve noticed that the camera meter tends to suggest exposures that are consistently about 1/2 stop overexposed. I don’t know if this is a general camera trait or if my particular camera’s meter needs to be calibrated. My camera was delivered the day these units started shipping at retail so it might just be that I still have the pre-production firmware.
I’ve also noticed that shooting in manual mode on a bright, sunny day is nearly impossible because the exposure meter displays on the rear LCD and in bright sunlight, the reflections are too severe to see the results of the meter.
The camera’s ability to focus in low light is somewhat limited. Again, this is a common trait in this class of cameras. In good light, the autofocus is reliable and accurate. I found that when the camera’s autofocus is properly engaged, the images are nice and sharp. In fact, my percentage of AF keepers is remarkably high with the P7000 compared with other compacts I’ve used or tested.
The P7000 also has one neat feature I haven’t seen on any other similarly-situated camera. When in auto-bracketing mode, you can set a fixed shutter speed and aperture and the auto-bracket function will adjust only the ISO. I’ve been using this feature while shooting for HDR. You press the shutter once and get between three and five exposures. Your choice. Not quite in-camera HDR since there’s no onboard processing, but it gets you pretty darn close.
Random stuff: I tested and found the camera to be very capable at macro focusing – to just 0.8 inches. I got about 300 shots out of my first battery charge. (Nikon claims 350 – your mileage may vary.) I like the built-in horizon indicator and use it to level the camera. Nikon did not include the geo-tagging feature on the Coolpix 7000 that many Coolpix 6000 users enjoyed. For me it’s no big deal because I haven’t found geo-tagging to be that useful. But if you are expecting the 7000 to have it because the 6000 did, be forewarned – it’s not there.
Overall, I very much like the P7000. I’ve spent more time shooting with it than the Panasonic LX5 or the Canon G12. As a G11 owner, I am a bit disappointed that Canon didn’t to more with the G12 to improve it. The LX5 is a great camera too. But I have decided to buy my own Nikon P7000 for the following reasons.
1. The pop-up fill flash works better than on any camera I’ve tested and offers professional control. It also acts as a remote commander.
2. The auto-bracket feature described above.
3. The exposure compensation dial described above.
4. Relatively low noise, sharp photos from day one.
5. Incredible effective focal length of 28-200mm.
Is the P7000 perfect? Nope. I wish it recorded RAW files faster. I don’t know how it will get along with Aperture, LR and Photoshop. Hopefully well. The lack of an articulating LCD screen is also a problem. But despite these flaws, the Nikon P7000 is the compact I find myself reaching for, despite the fact that I have a bevy of other choices available to me.
I really think the Panasonic LX5, the Canon G12 and the Nikon P7000 are in a dead heat. Which one you buy will simply depend on your personal preferences. You will pick the LX5 for the best low-light performance. You will pick the G12 for the articulating screen. You might pick the P7000 for the ergonomics and longer focal length in the zoom range. The good news is that if you buy (or bought) any of these cameras, you simply can’t go wrong. If you really learn all of their capabilities, they can function at DSLR-like levels. They are all around the same price and all make great photos – assuming the photographer knows how to coax those great photos from the camera.
As for the Nikon P7000, the fact that I am buying one says it all. Highly recommended.
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