I had the opportunity, a few months ago, to work with prototypes of the newly-announced Coolpix P7000 on an assignment in the Southwest US. It was for Nikon’s ad agency in Japan. The P7000 is a fully-featured compact that would be the perfect backup/stealth/walkaround camera for a travel photographer.
This is not a review. So, if you are looking for MTF charts, camera-to-camera comparisons, and all the stuff a full-blown review offers, stop reading now, please.
It is, as the headline clearly states, my impressions of the machine. On these gigs, I’m handed a camera or a lens and I have a limited time to make as interesting a set of pictures as I can, not do side-by-side comparisons. So, tech heads, please forgive me in advance:-).
When I got the call, my client said “bring along your DSLR too, in case we see something special and you want to shoot it on your main camera.” I thought it was a very generous offer, but based on my previous experience with a variety of compacts, I declined. I knew that, in the heat of a great photo opportunity, I’d probably forget to use the compact altogether (Oy! Can say “blown assignment?”).
So, in order to save me from myself, I went out without a “net,” and after a day or so of getting used to using the LCD screen (although there is an excellent, if not 100% accurate, optical viewfinder), I didn’t miss the D90 nearly as much as I thought I would.
In fact, I’m using one of the pictures from this assignment in the oversize calendar that I do as a promotional piece for clients every year. I’ve done the calendar for years and never used anything but DSLR pictures. But I got my early copies last week from the printer, and the P7000 frame is indistinguishable from the DSLR frames. Not bad!
To read more about the camera and see a few JPEGs, hit the jump.
The camera is a bit larger than the P6000 and similar in size to a G10 or G11. It’s got a lot of dedicated knobs and buttons so you don’t get lost in menu-land. Plus, it has the same larger-sized sensor as the Coolpix P6000, but has only 10 megapixels on that sensor. I’m glad that Nikon has backed away from the megapixel war because that amount of pixels on this size sensor makes higher ISOs actually useable (for the first time, in my experience with a compact).
I’d have no problem using the Coolpix P7000 at ISOs up to 800, and even 1600 in a pinch. This, as Paris Hilton would say, is huge. One thing you want from a walkaround belt camera is the ability to grab useable shots in low light interiors. Now we’ve got it.
The focusing of the 28-200mm (35mm equivalents) zoom is fast and sure and you get 60mm more of Nikkor-quality reach on the longer end than the competition. It also features a very neat zoom memory function: with the touch of a button, the lens moves from 28, to 35, to 50, to 85, and so on. So you prime lens lovers can feel like you’re switching lens (in real time) as you move from favorite focal length to favorite focal length without stopping in between. Kind of an “express” zoom, if you will.
And while it is still not as fast a shutter release as a DSLR, it is faster focus and release than I’ve previously experienced on a compact, I was able to shoot slow shutter speed pan shots of rafters in white water….not getting as many frames off as I might with an SLR, but getting enough viable frames that I didn’t feel like tossing the camera itself in the rapids (destruction of the camera was a common urge for me whenever I got stuck trying to shoot action with a compact in the past!).
Other things I liked: The ergonomic handgrip made grasping the camera a breeze. This is important when you’re using the auxiliary 21mm (equivalent) wide angle lens. The lens makes the camera a bit larger, but is optically very good and gives you just that extra few degrees of coverage that can make all the difference.
Although it wasn’t installed yet in the firmware of the early prototypes we had on the job, the 720P HD video option is gonna be a big plus (and get this, the Coolpix P7000 even has a mic jack). This could be the stealth video camera of choice in the near future.
One thing that has me mystified: The NRW raw format. It’s a kind of a NEF, but it isn’t? But at least Adobe is starting to support this format. But why not just call it a NEF and call it a day?
But minor quibbles aside, this is a camera that can produce serious results. So if you’re looking for a compact travel camera or something compact to back up your DSLR on your next trip, check out the P7000. This will be the camera to use when you need great results, but you don’t want to look like a “pro.”