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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P100 Review


Nikon P100 Review

Review Date: Apr 5, 2010

Category: Beginner Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P100


The Nikon Coolpix P100 is a handsomely designed super zoom digital camera that looks very professional in its black body with white letterings and chrome accents. The body is solid plastic, feels very well-built, and light at less than 500g. A deep handgrip has a rubberized coating and provides excellent handling. You won't be able to carry the P100 in your coat pocket, but can either use the shoulder strap to hang it around your neck or, as I do, just hold it in one hand by its comfortable handgrip.

The Coolpix P100 is shaped like a DSLR but isn't one. It does, however, provide many of the features you expect from a DSLR and so allows you to be more creative than with a point-and-shoot digicam.

Its ultra wide-angle 26x optical zoom also means that its lens provides you all the focal length range you'll ever need: from capturing wide vistas to bringing very far away objects real close. Or get as close as 1 cm for super macro shots. On a DSLR, you'll have to purchase a number of interchangeable lenses to cover this same incredible zoom range.

Turn the P100 ON and it is ready to start taking pictures in about 2 sec. (startup time from power on to the image appearing on screen). I was able to fire off 4 shots one after another in 10 sec., giving a shot-to-shot time of about 2.5 sec.

There is no practical shutter lag in good lighting, with autofocus fast and precise at the short focal lengths. At the long focal lengths, there is the usual slight Auto Focus (AF) lag, so prefocusing is recommended there.

The screen briefly blanks out after the picture is taken. When shooting video, the screen briefly blanks out after you press the movie button and it can be a bit disconcerting especially if you are trying to follow someone moving around.

In low-light, AF is a bit longer at about 1-2 sec. even with the help of the AF-assist Illuminator. AF still works quite well though you'll also find that success locking focus can sometimes depend on how contrasty your subject is. For example, when taking the ISO tests, I had a white background and focus locked quickly. When I substituted a black bacground, AF could not lock. I switched to Face-Priority AF and that worked very well. So, if one feature does not work, the P100 provides you another that most probably will.

It takes about 3 sec. to fully write a picture to memory card, though you don't have to wait for the full 3 sec. before taking the next picture.

The Coolpix P100 has about 43MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC memory cards of up to 32GB capacity. (Nikon recommends SanDisk, Toshiba and Panasonic 32GB SDHC cards). At 10.3MP Fine, you'll be able to save about 10 images in internal memory and about 775 images on a 4GB SD Memory Card. Shooting Full HD video 1280x720 @ 30fps, you can record about 23 sec. in internal memory and up to 34 min. worth on a 4GB SD card. Note, however, that a movie clip is max. 29 min. I recommend you use a SD Memory Card of at least 2GB, or higher capacity, depending on how many pictures and videos you usually take in one photo shooting session.

- Colors: black with white letterings and chrome accents.
- Looks: DSLR-type, very handsome design
- Good comfortable handgrip
- Controls are well positioned and spaced, easy to use
- Medium Compact: carry using shoulder/neck strap
- Dimensions: 114.4 x 82.7 x 98.6 mm / 4.5 x 3.3 x 3.9 in
- Weight: 481g / 17 oz. without battery and SD Memory Card
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (about 250 shots/charge)
- Startup with lens extending about 16mm (0.6 in.) and LCD turning on and ready in about 2 sec.
- Shot to shot time 2.5 sec.
- No practical shutter lag in good lighting at the short focal lengths.
- AF is fast and precise in good lighting, can hunt and miss in low light. At long focal lengths, there is the usual slight AF lag but it locks positively.

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery that can take about 250 shots with LCD on on a fresh charge (CIPA standard) and a Charging AC Adapter EH-68P that (uses the USB cable and) will recharge a depleted battery inside the camera in a long 3 hours 30 min. Note that, unfortunately, the camera cannot be operated when the battery is recharging.

Nikon Coolpix P100 Flash Up

The Flash Pop-Up button is on the left side of the flash. The flash is powerful and can reach up to 10 m (32 ft) on ISO Auto. You need to manually pop it up before it can be used -- the type I prefer. When closed, you won't be surprised by the flash suddenly popping up and firing when you don't want it to. Press a small button and it pops up; you can then use the UP ARROW to select 6 options: Auto, Auto Red-eye reduction, Off, Fill Flash, Slow Sync and Slow-Curtain Sync. To turn the flash off, simply close it. There is no hot shoe for the attachment of an external flash. Instead yu'll find the stereo microphone at the top of the pop-up flash.

The camera rests naturally in the palm of your left hand, with the fingers of that hand wrapped securely around the lens barrel which juts out from the body at about 6cm (2.4 in.). The lens barrel is deep enough that you can safely hold the camera without your fingers interfering with the lens extending out. When the camera is turned ON, the lens extends an extra 16 mm (0.6 in.) at Wide-angle and 60 mm (2.4 in.) at full Tele.

The camera comes standard with a lens cap and retaining string (so you don't lose the cap). The lens / lens barrel is not threaded. Because the lens cap has a spring-loaded clip that keeps it securely in place, it won't come out when the lens tries to extend. There is a safety feature where if you leave the lens cap on when you power up the camera, the lens extends, bumps into the lens cap, tries a couple of times, then displays a warning message on the LCD monitor.

Under the lens barrel is a small "leg" to add further stability to the camera when it is placed on a flat surface. It's small details like this that gives you confidence that some careful thought went into the design of the camera.

Nikon Coolpix P100 Top View
Mouseover image for close-up of controls

The top of the camera has the Shutter Release Button with the Zoom Lever around the collar, the Power ON/OFF button, and the Mode Dial with AUTO, PASM modes, User Setting, Subject Tracking, Smart Portrait, Scene Auto Selector, Scene Modes, and Sport Continuous. You can also see the stereo microphone at the top of the pop-up flash.

It takes a quick 2 sec. to zoom all the way from wide-angle to 26x telephoto. If you use a soft touch to the zoom lever, you can slow down the zooming time to about 4 sec. I counted about 27 intermediate steps; that's not bad for most people but for those who demand precise composition on screen, that's not a lot for such a long zoom and it can be challenging to stop exactly right where you want to.

The Mode Dial clicks solidly in place and you'll have to use your thumb and index finger to rotate it; you'll find that using just your thumb is a bit difficult. That's not really a problem and it may even be better, ensuring that the setting on the Mode Dial is not inadvertently changed.

Nikon P100 Vari-angle LCD
Mouseover image for a close-up of Multi Selector

The P100 has a beautiful large 3.0-in. LCD with a high 460k-dot resolution. It is a Vari-angle design, which means that it can be conveniently pulled out and tilted 82° downward and 90° upward for easy viewing when taking pictures with the camera held above your head or low to the ground. I personally prefer this design to the one where the LCD swivels at all angles. Why? Because I rarely use all those extra angles and find it more natural to keep the line of sight straight from the LCD through the lens.

The electronic viewfinder is 230k-dot and there is a Diopter Adjustment control on the left side which is easy to rotate and set. You press the Monitor button (on the left of the viewfinder) to switch between the viewfinder and LCD display. Press the Display button (to the right of the viewfinder) repeatedly to display a Framing Grid for easier composition. There is no Live Histogram, but you can view a Histogram in Playback.

New is the Movie Record Button (with the red dot) which makes movie recording a one-step process. Interestingly, you can also set the self-timer to fire after 2 or 10 sec. This allows you to press the Movie Record Button and to get behind the camera before recording starts! Sweet. No more recording yourself turning on (use the self-timer) and off (record for the max. 29 min. per clip) the camera.

The Movie button has two options: HD or HS. HD is of course the Full HD movie 1920×1080 pixels at 30fps with stereo sound. HS is for High Speed movie at 240fps and played back at slow motion. You'll need to set it in the Menu [Movie - HS movie options - 240fps and check the Open with HS footage box].

There is a Command Dial that allows fast and convenient changing of shutter speed and aperture in the different shooting modes. With Program Shift ("flexible Program"), just rotate the Command Dial to select different aperture and shutter speed combinations without affecting the exposure.

Press and hold the Playback button for about 3 sec. [a bit too long in my opinion] and you can go directly into Playback without having to turn on the camera (and without having to extend the lens, remove the lens cap and waste precious battery). To turn the display off, do not press the Playback button again or the camera will turn on; instead press the Power button.

There is a Cable Connector on the left side of the camera (viewed from the back) with a hinged rubber cover that opens and conveniently rotates totally out of the way. No need to fight the rubber cover. Nice.

Press the DOWN ARROW on the Multi-Selector to invoke Macro. In fact, you get a choice of AF, Macro, Infinity and MF. Macro requires that you zoom in a little to enter the macro (10 cm / 4.0 in.) or super macro (1 cm / 0.4 in.) zone. Infinity theoretically allows you to shoot distant scenes through foreground objects such as glass windows. The infinity feature did not work properly on the P90 but seems to have neen fixed on the P100.

In MF mode, the central portion (or the whole) of the screen is enlarged and you use the UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW to focus.

The Macro, Infinity and MF setting stays selected even when you turn the camera off and on again.

The Sensor-shift image stabilization is selected from the Menu (Menu - Set up - Vibration reduction - ON/OFF). Image stabilization is mechanical for stills and electronic for video.

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the Flash Open button)
- The pop-up flash is manually opened and will not automatically pop up when needed. Advanced photographers will welcome this implementation; beginners must remember to lift up the flash if they want to use it.
- EVF/LCD button toggles between the EVF and LCD monitor.
- Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Control on the left side of the EVF. The viewfinder itself juts out so it's easier to view (without squashing your nose too much against the LCD). The Diopter Adjustment Control works well.
- DISPLAY button. Press repeatedly to cycle thru No Info, Info, Info + Framing Grid.
- Movie button: HD or HS.

Multi-selector. UP ARROW (Flash), RIGHT ARROW (Exposure Compensation), DOWN ARROW (Macro), LEFT ARROW (Self-timer).

OK button in the middle to select a choice.

- DELETE button deletes one image at a time. If you are in Shooting mode, press DELETE button to immediately go into Playback with last picture selected for deletion.
- MENU button calls up Menu/Setup.
- Exposure compensation is accessed with the RIGHT ARROW
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (13 steps in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)
- Auto Bracket is selected in the Menu (Shooting Menu - Auto bracketing - select from +/- 0.3, +/- 0.7, +/- 1.0).
- 1/2000 – 2 sec. (P, A)
1/2000 – 8 sec. (S, M)
1/8000 – 1 sec. (Sport Continuous)
4s (Fireworks show scene mode)

At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount thread is metal and more or less smack in the middle of the body though not inline with the lens. There is a nice Battery/Memory Card door and the battery has a latch to keep it from accidentally falling. You won't be able to change battery or card when the camera is on a tripod.

The Nikon Coolpix P100 is handsomely designed and solidly built for comfortable handling. There are lots of practical features (such as Area AF, Apot AF, HS Movie, etc.) under the hood for the beginner photographer to discover and learn. The tilting LCD is a real bonus.

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