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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


Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Coolpix P100
  • No Memory Card included, but 43MB of internal memory [Nikon sent me a SanDisk 2GB SD memory card for the review]
  • Neck Strap
  • Lens Cap with retainer string
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (with end cap)
  • Charging AC Adapter EH-68P (recharges thru the camera's USB port)
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • English and French Manuals: Quick Start Guide; User's Manual
  • CD: Nikon Software Suite (ArcSoft Panorama Maker 5, Nikon Transfer v1.5.3, ViewNX 1.5.2, Capture NX 2 Free Trial)

The Nikon Coolpix P100 is the replacement for the P90 which we reviewed a year ago and found wanting. The Coolpix P100 incorporates a longer zoom, higher resolution LCD, and a new sensor technology that promises pictures with lower noise and the ability to shoot continuously at faster speeds. In this section, we take a look at all the data we collected during this review and see if the P100 is a better camera than the P90 and whether it really stands up to all the marketing claims.

Interestingly, the P100's new sensor has less MP resolution than the one on the P90 (10.3MP versus 12.1MP). That's not bad or good one way or another. We have said for a long time that adding ever increasing megapixels onto tiny image sensors just look good on paper [consumers think they are getting a better camera] but all that does is give worse looking images. And we are not talking about how in theory more megapixels mean more detailed images [true on large sensors]; we are talking about the resulting images that our eyes see, not what the graphs say. Consumers should not compare compact digital cameras (that use tiny image sensors) using megapixels anymore, period.

The P100 is targeted to beginner amateur photographers, so 10.3MP are many more megapixels than most beginners will ever need. So, there, now that you are not worried about the megapixels anymore, let's take a look at the other features.

The P100 has 26x optical zoom (26-678mm equiv.) compared to the 24x optical zoom (26-624mm equiv.) on the P90. When you think about it, this is an incredible amount of zoom power in one relatively (medium) compact digital camera! What I really like is that the zoom starts at an ultra wide-angle of 26mm. It's not just a wide-angle (35mm would be considered wide-angle); it's an ultra wide-angle. That's good, allowing you to capture beautifully wide vistas and include every brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece and grand-parent in your extended family picture.

The 678mm tele coverage is also outstanding. It's not a telescope and does not have the light gathering power of a telescope to see other planets up close, but you'll be able to take very nice pictures of the moon.

If you are getting excited already at the long reach, a note of caution is necessary. It is very difficult to hand hold any super zoom digital camera at the long end of the zoom. You'll find that you can't easily keep the camera steady and all that "camera shake" will easily blur your pictures. That is why you see professional photographers at sports events use a tripod (or a monopod) to stabilize their cameras with a long zoom lens attached. The P100 has a built-in Image Stabilizer (Vibration Reduction, or VR, in Nikon speak) that helps to stabilize the image for you.

However, the Image Stabilizer won't help you too much when taking long tele shots in low light. At 678mm (equiv.), you would need to use a shutter speed of about 1/700 sec. to be able to hand hold a shot without blurring the picture. The I.S. may reduce that shutter speed by 2 stops to 1/250 sec. In a room lighted by 2 lightbulbs on the ceiling, the shutter speed I get at max. 678mm zoom is 1/5 sec. at F5.0 -- about 5 stops too slow for hand holding. The required shutter speed of 1/250 sec. is however achievable in bright sunny conditions.

The Image Stabilizer technology used in the P100 is Sensor-based, i.e. it is the CCD sensor inside the camera that is shifted positionally to compensate for camera movement. The stabilization takes effect only when you press the shutter release button to take the picture. So, at the long telephoto focal lengths, when you look into the screen, you will find that it can be quite difficult to compose and frame your scene properly. Any slight movement on your part is magnified and the subject moves erratically on screen. A tripod or monopod is recommended for long tele shots (you'll need to turn VR off when using a tripod).

The Coolpix P100 is ideal for beginners learning about the different features of a camera. They will find a camera that is simply packed with the latest features such as Full HD 1080p Video with stereo sound recording and zooming during recording; a high speed 240fps video recording for slow motion special effects; all the Smile, Blink and Face detection technology you'd ever want; a very useful Vari-angle LCD that makes it very convenient when shooting low to the ground or high above your head; an ultra wide-angle and a very long 26x optical zoom with image stabilization; and full exposure flexibility with all the manual and semi-automatic shooting modes. All of this technology is nicely housed in a light and professional-looking body.

Serious amateur photographers may object to a few issues: too much purple fringing, noise at the high ISOs, menu-bound settings, the lack of a hot shoe for an external flash attachment, the lack of a Live Histogram, and the absence of RAW file format.

One improvement I would have liked on the P100 is an indicator on the screen when IS is turned OFF. When IS is turned ON, there is a hand symbol that tells you; but when it is turned OFF, there is no indication on screen. The night before, I had put the P100 on a tripod and turned the IS OFF, and forgot to turn it back ON. Result: lots of pictures taken without IS.

Instead of a battery charger that charges the battery outside of the camera (allowing you to keep shooting with a spare battery while the depleted one is recharging), a Charging AC Adapter EH-68P is included. You use the USB cable and connect one end to your camera's USB Connector and the other end to the Adapter. The battery stays in the camera while recharging. This means that once you run out of battery juice, a spare battery will help, but you won't be able to recharge the depleted battery unless you stop using the camera.

The Charging AC Adapter does not allow you to operate the camera while plugged in. If desired, you can purchase the optional Nikon MH-61 Battery Charger [QuickPrice Check] that plugs directly into a wall electrical socket and will recharge a depleted battery in a more reasonable 120 min.

There are lots more features on the P100 I have not covered here, especially interesting are the 240fps High Speed (HS) movie that plays back in slow motion, the 120fps Sports Continuous Mode with pre-caching to help you capture the decisive moment (though at reduced resolution), and the 10fps Continuous Shooting at full resolution. However, the buffer is small and you'll only be able to capture a few shots.

Nikon ViewNX
Nikon ViewNX

Use Nikon Transfer to transfer your pictures from the Coolpix P100 to your PC. Note that it may create new folders, especially for each set of panorama pictures. Use ViewNX to view your pictures. You can rotate, tag, add info and show the focus point(s). To edit your picture, you will need to purchase the optional Capture NX.

The User's Manual is well written and illustrated. It even includes a pretty complete Index that makes finding a particular feature extremely quick and easy. An improvement suggestion here is that generic terms like "image stabilization" should be in the index; instead you need to look up "vibration reduction."

If you are looking for the ultimate camera for a budding beginner photographer who is learning about photography, the Nikon Coolpix P100 is a digital camera that comprises everything in an attractive body. It strikes a good balance between ease of use and richness of features: a point-and-shoot that is easy-to-use for the soccer mom and also packed-full of practical features for the beginner amateur photographers. It's expensive, but you do get a lot of camera for the money and the equivalent DSLR body with a number of interchangeable lenses will cost even more. Put the Nikon P100 in the hands of a beginner amateur photographer and he or she is in camera heaven. I bet many of us wished we had something like the P100 when we first started into photography.

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