Nikon Coolpix P7000 £489.99
18th Nov 2010 | 09:30
We put to rest all rumours about the Nikon P7000 camera
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Overview
The revamped Coolpix line of Nikon compact cameras certainly has the look of quality. With the new Nikon P7000's classic black body and a range of manual dials, it seems on the surface perfect for photographers who know what they're doing and want a little more control over and quality from their digital compact camera.
But with Nikon P7000 prices around £450, are you better off getting another DSLR to serve as your backup camera?
With Nikon well in the ascendency in the DSLR market, the company is attempting to make hay while the sun shines. The Canon G-series has long been the choice of anyone looking for a (almost) pocketable compact to accompany their DSLR, but with Nikon DSLRs stealing more and more of the limelight, the 10.1MP, all-metal Nikon P7000 could be just the camera to sway Canon users away.
With fancy features thin on the ground – 720p video is all you get – and enough manual controls to keep the most experienced photographers happy, the P7000 makes a huge first impression. But how is it in use?
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Build quality and handling
The Nikon P7000 looks the business. Clad in dull, gunmetal black and following the G12's approach of scattering the toplate with dials and buttons, it is, like its Canon cousin, an intimidating camera at first, particularly if you're not familiar with terminology such as "BKT", "QUAL" or "WB" might mean.
But if you are, the Nikon P7000 is a snap to set up. The menu system is excellent, as is the 3-inch, 921,000-pixel monitor, but you won't have to poke it into action much.
On the left-hand side a dial allows you to choose from Quality, ISO, white balance and bracketing. Select one and push the button in the centre and the current settings are displayed on the screen for you to change with a spin of the rear-mounted click wheel. You also get a dedicated PASM dial, as well as an exposure compensation dial that allows you to dial in plus or minus three stops.
The back of the camera is similarly busy. The flash is manually-activated, while the four-way direction pad acts as a shortcut to flash settings, the self-timer and has two buttons dedicated to the focus mode. The first allows you choose from normal, macro, infinity and a manual mode.
The latter blows up the centre of the frame - pushing the D-pad up or down moves focus backwards and forwards. It works well, although it's not exactly fast enough for moving subjects. The other focus button allows you to choose your focus zone. You can select it yourself, or have it track a subject, or prioritise faces.
In use the Nikon P7000 works extremely well, give or take a few instances of lag when accessing the menu system. It certainly feels like it'll take the odd knock and thwack.
The only weak spot is the hopeless optical viewfinder, which is incredibly cramped and doesn't impart focus information - only focal length. The LCD monitor is a much more reliable choice.
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Image quality
Image quality is superb – it's that simple. Test shots from the 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 lens were crisp and sharp, and showed none of the chromatic aberration that afflicted Nikon's cheaper S8000 superzoom.
The wide range of available apertures is useful as well - although if you can we'd urge shooting at wider apertures. Comparing images, shots taken at f/2.8 were considerably sharper than those taken at f/8.
The P7000's ISO sensitivity can be pushed as high as 6400, and Nikon's recent strength when it comes to low-light photography shines through. A few years ago you'd have been laughed at for suggesting that compact cameras would eventually produce usable images at ISO 1600, but the Nikon P7000 just about manages it.
Indeed, the images it produced at ISO 3200 were printable as well, although some decent noise-reduction software is going to be desirable. As ever, only the topmost setting produced fatally flawed images. ISO 6400 might be tempting for photographers looking to make the most of ambient light, but you'll have to deal with severe grain and pronounced colour shifts to be able to use it.
It's an enormously capable performer as well. The Coolpix P7000 is ready to shoot in under a second and a half, and offers a decently-specced continuous drive mode, at least for a compact. In 28.1 seconds it shot at a rate of 1.4fps, which is more than reasonable for most purposes.
The only drawback was the processing time afterwards - the camera sat with a "Please wait for the camera to finish recording" message for around another half minute. Shooting in the P7000's RAW mode produced more finger-drumming and reduced the continuous buffer to a measly five shots, but speed was un-impacted.
Nikon Coolpix P7000 ISO Test
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Video mode
The Coolpix P7000's video is as well-specced as you might expect for a top end stills camera, but Nikon has resisted the urge to really push the boat out.
So, for instance, you get 720p, 24fps recording rather than AVCHD recording, or a 1080p mode. It's a clear restriction, and seems rather a shame when the lens and sensor are clearly up to the task of delivering top-notch quality.
As it is, the Nikon P7000's EXPEED C2 processor handles motion well, and the wind-cutting feature works well. Crucially, the image stabilisation is also excellent, which means using the full 200mm length of the lens is a real option.
Usefully, you can even use the optical zoom while recording without the sound of the motor being picked up by the internal microphone. For more serious jobs, a 3.5mm mic-in port is supplied on the left hand edge of the camera.
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Sample photos
1/160sec at f/8, ISO 100 (Click image to view full size)
1/680sec at f/2.8, ISO 100 (Click image to view full size)
1/60sec at f/8, ISO 100 (Click image to view full size)
1/2000sec at f/4, ISO 100 (Click image to view full size)
1/150sec at f/8, ISO 100 (Click image to view full size)
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Verdict
There's a huge amount to love about the P7000. It's small, it's tough, the lens is cracking and it takes great pictures. The video mode might not be too much to write home about but at least it's HD.
The manual dials all over the camera are definite plus points, and for photographers who know what they're doing it's fast to use, making none of the compromises that normally afflict compacts.
There is, however, a huge but. You won't pick up the P7000 for under £450, which is extremely expensive for a compact. For a mere fifty quid more you could get the Nikon D3100, which offers Full HD video recording, a faster burst mode (3fps to the P7000's 1.5fps), and of course, compatibility with Nikon's superb and voluminous range of professional lenses. It's actually only around twenty quid cheaper than the D5000, which remains a superb DSLR despite its age.
If you already have a DSLR and want a backup without investing in another interchangeable lens camera, the P7000 is a great choice. We love its performance and image quality. But by the same stroke, users looking for a backup body should seriously consider getting themselves another DSLR.
It'll relieve you of roughly the same amount of cash, and your backup camera will be compatible with the lenses and accessories you already own. Consider the P7000 if you're absolutely desperate to save space.
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