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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P100


Nikon Coolpix P100 Review

Review Date: Apr 5, 2010

Category: Beginner Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P100


The Nikon P100 is a digital camera targeted to beginner amateur photographers. It has 10.3 effective megapixels resolution on a 1/2.3-in. CCD image sensor. The Nikkor lens is a 26-678mm (35mm format equivalent) F2.8(W)-F5.0(T) 26x ultra wide-angle optical zoom. Image stabilization is Sensor-shift.

We find the overall image quality of the Nikon P100 to be good at ISO 160 and 200 in good lighting. Higher ISO images can be noisy and suffer from detail loss. Low ISO images shot in low-light can also be noisy and, if Noise Reduction (NR) is applied, can also suffer from slight detail loss.

26x Optical Zoom
Ultra Wide-angle 26 mm Tele 678 mm
Ultra Wide-angle 4.6mm
(26mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 120mm
(678mm, 35mm equivalent)

The Nikon P100 has an impressive 26x ultra wide-angle optical zoom lens with Sensor-shift Image Stabilization which helps to reduce camera shake at the long focal lengths. In the pictures above, we show the coverage for 26mm [you can barely see the yellow building across the pond] and 678mm [now you see it!]. We love the 26mm ultra wide-angle coverage as well as the incredible tele reach!


4.6mm, P, Matrix, 1/82.3 sec., F3.2, ISO 160, Macro ON

The Nikon P100 can focus in Macro mode to as close as 1cm (0.4 in.). After you've set the camera to Macro mode (DOWN ARROW), you need to zoom in a bit to enter into the correct macro/super macro zones. For a subject that is not centered, you can conveniently use AF Mode = Area so you can position the AF frame to where you want the focus to lock.

Many cameras that have AF Area mode allow you to select focus point but the camera will continue to meter at the center. The Nikon P100 has Spot AF metering so the camera meters at the focus point you selected on screen.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB Preset WB
AWB Preset WB

As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under artificial lighting (I have two energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs on the ceiling). Fortunately, the P100 allows WB to be set manually. Auto WB works well in sunny conditions.

I did not notice the WB issues that I had with the P90. In fact, the colors under both sunny and cloudy conditions are accurate.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 160
ISO 160
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200  
ISO 3200  

You can set the ISO on the Nikon P100 from 160 to 3200 (used to be ISO 64 to 6400 on the P90). The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 160 and 200 is under control. The smoothening effect of noise reduction starts to be visible at ISO 400, resulting in a slight loss of detail, but the image is very usable up to ISO 800. At ISO 1600 and 3200, the presence of noise is clearly visible at full image size and with increasing loss of image detail. The Coolpix P100 does not offer RAW file format.

Chromatic Aberrations

We found purple friging in some of our high contrast shots, especially when shooting branches against a bright sky. In the above photo, the area delimited by the red square at top left, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows purple fringing.

We found P100's metering to be pretty much spot on. Blown highlights can be a problem in high contrast shots. In high contrast shots, you have to meter for the highlight (e.g. bright sky) to avoid blown highlights.

There are a couple of Scene Modes that may be helpful in avoiding blown highlights: Active D-Lighting and (especially) Backlit Scene HDR.

Active D-Lighting adds light ("brighten shadows") and detail ("increase contrast") where necessary while leaving correctly exposed areas untouched.

Active D-Lighting
No Active D-Lighting Active D-Lighting: Low
None Low
Active D-Lighting: Normal Active D-Lighting: High
Normal High

As you can see, Active D-Lighting has both lightened the shadows and darkened the highlights, the effect being more obvious when set to High.

Backlit Scene HDR (High Dynamic Range) merges different exposures of the same scene taken at a rapid sequence to create an image with a broader range of tonal detail. In fact, it saves 2 images: one taken with Active D-Lighting and then the actual HDR overlay.

Backlit Scene HDR
Backlit Scene HDR Backlit Scene HDR
with Active D-Lighting with HDR Overlay

As you can see, Active D-Lighting image seems to be set to Normal. The HDR overlay image has succeeded in retaining detail in the sky instead of returning a blown sky.

Experienced photographers know how to avoid a blown sky: just meter the sky. Here is a comparison of the two images obtained: the first one is obtained by metering the sky and the second one by HDR overlay.

Metering Sky vs. Backlit Scene HDR
Metering the Sky Backlit Scene HDR
Metering the sky Backlit Scene HDR

The sky is much better in the first picture but, as expected, the shadows has gone black. The second picture tries to give you the best of both worlds, i.e. keep detail in both shadows and highlights.

Of course, more advanced photographers will bracket the exposure (and the P100 has an Auto Bracket function) to take 3 or more pictures that retain detail in the high, mid and low tones and use Photoshop or an HDR software to merge the exposures for a picture where all the tones are correctly exposed. The Backlit Scene HDR attempts to do the same thing in camera with satisfactory (though not perfect) success.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
4.6mm, Manual, Partial, 8 sec., F8.0, ISO 160
Manual WB, Self-Timer, Tripod Used

The Nikon P100 provides a maximum long shutter speed of 8 sec. in ASM modes (only 2 sec. in P mode). Here I'm checking out the presence of noise at long exposure (noise usually increases the longer the shutter is left open). Noise reduction kicks in whenever the shutter speed is slower than 1/4 sec., and doubles the time required to store the shot. The P100 LCD gains up a bit in low-light to help with composition.

Your success in low-light photography depends on how dark the surrounding area is. If it is really dark, matrix metering may overexpose the shot. For the above shot, I had to switch to spot metering to obtain an accurate exposure. Note the presence of noise and detail loss due to the noise reduction.

As experienced photographers know, you will not find a perfect super zoom digital camera. There are always compromises. The Nikon Coolpix P100's image quality may not appeal to advanced photographers looking for DSLR comparable quality. However, for casual shooting, small prints, the occasional large prints, and for Web display, the P100 delivers good images at the low ISOs and in good lighting. For those who do not want to post-process their images, using Optimize Image = Vivid produces nicely sharpened and saturated colors right out of the camera. The abundance of manual features may the P100 ideal for a budding photographer.

The pictures in the Nikon P100 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 3648 x 2736 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version).

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!


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