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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P6000


   

Nikon Coolpix P6000 Review

Review Date: Nov 11, 2008

Category: Serious and Advanced Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P6000 

IMAGE QUALITY

The Nikon Coolpix P6000 is a digital camera targeted to serious and advanced photographers. It has 13.5 megapixel resolution on a 1/1.7-in. CCD image sensor, and a 6-24mm (28-112mm, 35 mm equivalent) 4x wide-angle optical Zoom-Nikkor lens, with a maximum aperture of F2.7(W)-F5.9(T), and minimum aperture of F7.2.

We find the overall image quality of the Nikon P6000 to be very good at ISO 64 and 100. Images at higher ISOs suffer from noise and loss of image detail.

4x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 28mm Telephoto 112mm
Wide-angle 6mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 24mm
(112mm, 35mm equivalent)

The Nikon P6000 has a 4x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 28mm, and then 112mm. It takes about 1.5 sec. to zoom from wide-angle to telephoto (I counted 14 steps). [The new Maple Leafs skyrises really mess up the previously beautiful skyline.]

Besides Auto and easy-to-use Scene Modes, the Nikon P6000 also has full exposure flexibility: Programmed Auto, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and full Manual modes.

Program Shift (just rotate the Command Dial) works in conjunction with Programmed Auto mode and allows you to shift the aperture/shutter speed combinations in tandem while still keeping the correct exposure.

At the wide-angle end, you can select an aperture from f/2.7 to f/7.2; at max telephoto, an aperture from f/5.9 to f/7.7. Unlike some digital cameras that have only electronic apertures, the Nikon P6000 has a real 6-blade iris diaphragm, providing 10 steps of 1/3EV.

You can select a shutter speed from 8 s to 1/2000 s. At shutter speeds slower than 1/4 s, the shutter speed indicator on screen turns red to indicate the presence of noise and recommend using Noise Reduction (or NR will automatically kick in if it is set to ON). If an over- or under-exposure will result, the shutter speed indicator flashes when you press the shutter-release button halfway.

In Manual shooting mode, an Exposure Display indicates over- or under-exposure. Press multi selector to right (marked Exp. Comp.) to toggle between setting the shutter speed and aperture. Shutter speeds slower than 1/4 s display red on screen. Shutter speed of 1/2000 s is available only at max. wide-angle.

Advanced photographers will welcome the following features: histogram (in Playback only), exposure compensation (with Auto Bracketing selectable in the Menu), manual White Balance, manual AF Area mode and corresponding Spot AF area metering.

Macro
Macro
Macro
6mm, Programmed Auto, Partial
1 sec., F2.7, ISO 64, Manual WB

Macro can be as close as 4 cm (1.6 in.). The AF indicator dot and AF frame turn green to indicate successful focus; a blinking red AF indicator dot and blinking AF frame indicate focus has not successfully locked.

In extreme low-light, the AF Illuminator automatically (if you've set it on in the Menu) kicks in to help achieve focus. The AF Illuminator is situated close enough to the lens such that it is able to light up a subject even at close macro range. AF is generally fast and works very well even in low-light, but finds extreme low-light challenging even with the use of the AF Illuminator.

Best Shot Selector (Shooting Menu - Continuous - BSS) works by taking 10 shots in a row (as long as you keep your finger pressed on the shutter release button) and then discarding all except the one that comes out the sharpest. Very cool feature to use when the camera indicates a slow shutter speed. However, because continuous shooting is only 0.8fps, there is a slight lag between each of the BSS shot which makes it difficult to keep the picture framed accurately when hand held (which is when you would use BSS anyway); a faster continuous shooting would bring out the full potential of BSS.

The Nikon P6000 provides four AF modes: Face priority will locate a face and focus on it. Auto selects the subject with the most contrast out of 11 AF areas; Manual (AF area) allows you to select from 99 AF areas; and Center-focus area.

Manual AF Area Mode Off-Center Focusing

Manual AF area helps tremendously for off-center subjects, especially in macro photography. Once you set this option in the menu, it stays out of the way until you call for it. Nikon has probably implemented the most intuitive way to use manual AF area: anytime you wish to invoke manual AF area mode, simply press the OK button and use the arrow keys to move the AF area around the screen to one of 99 possible positions. When you're done, press OK to set it at its new position. Some cameras make you go thru hoops to do what the Nikon P6000 does so elegantly.

As you can notice in the picture above right, the 4 angle brackets denote the extent of the selectable area and so these (11 across x 9 down =) 99 AF areas unfortunately do not go all the way to the very edges of the screen.

Metering Modes

There are four metering modes: Matrix (Multi-Pattern), Center-weighted, Spot and Spot AF area. The latter is interesting because it will meter at the spot where you have moved the AF frame. Makes sense.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Preset WB
AWB Preset WB

As the above two pictures show, the auto white balance (AWB) indoors under artificial energy-saving fluorescent light is not quite accurate and here gives a slight pinkish color cast. The Nikon P6000 allows WB to be set manually via the Menu: Preset WB allows us to correct the colors to real white. AWB works well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 64
ISO 64
 
ISO 100 ISO 200  
ISO 100 ISO 200
 
ISO 400 ISO 800  
ISO 400 ISO 800
 
ISO 1600 ISO 2000  
ISO 1600 ISO 2000
 
ISO 3200 ISO 6400  
ISO 3200 ISO 6400

You can set the ISO on the Nikon P6000 from 64 to 2000, plus ISO 3200 and 6400 at reduced 3M (2048x1536) resolution. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 64 and 100 are under control. Note that though noise is not visible at ISO 200, image detail is already lost. From ISO 400 and up, the presence of noise (and lost of image detail) quickly becomes apparent and eventually takes the form of colored splotches.

The P6000 conveniently allows you to select 3 Auto ISO ranges: Auto (64-100), Auto (64-200) and Auto (64-400), depending on your preferences for limiting noise in your pictures.

Chromatic Aberrations
CA
7.5mm, P, Multi-Pattern
1/124.5 sec., F3.8, ISO 64

CA is present in high contrast shots. In the shot above, the area delimited by the red square at middle, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
6mm, Manual, Pattern, 8 sec., F3.6, ISO 64
Manual WB, Macro, Self-timer 2 sec., Tripod Used

The Nikon P6000's slowest shutter speed goes down to 8 sec. in P, A, S and M modes. This allows night photography, though we would have preferred longer shutter speeds. Generally, with CCD image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds.

I take a low-light indoors shot. Light is from two regular household energy-saving fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling. To obtain a long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under my desk in the shadows. Some experimenting and I manually set an exposure of 8 sec. at f/3.6.

Note that in this extreme low-light situation, I was unable to obtain focus lock using any of the AF area modes on Bamm-Bamm's face. Auto, Manual and Center AF were unable to lock focus anywhere. Only Face-Priority locked focus, and then only on Bamm-Bamm's right arm. Manual Focus was not helpful because the magnified image was not big enough to judge sharpness.

Noise reduction automatically kicks in at this long shutter speed and works quite well here giving dark blacks.

D-Lighting
D-Lighting

Another feature of the Nikon digital cameras, D-Lighting, allows you to "rescue" images that come out too dark. You can set the camera to Active D-Lighting or apply D-Lighting after you have taken the picture (a copy of the picture is made).

D-Lighting

Above is an example of D-Lighting coming to the rescue. This is not without price: depending on your subject matter, rescued images can exhibit more noise.

Playback Histogram

You can view a histogram in Playback mode only. It is surprising that so many lesser models from competitors can display a Live Histogram -- and Nikon cannot provide this feature in its top of the line consumer digital camera yet.

VR OFF
VR Off
6mm, Programmed Auto, Pattern
1/8.7 sec., F2.7, ISO 400, Handheld, VR OFF

VR ON
VR On
6mm, Programmed Auto, Pattern
1/8.5sec., F2.7, ISO 400, Handheld, VR ON

VR (Vibration Reduction) is Nikon's image stabilization, the true kind, where a lens element shifts to counteract tiny camera movements that can cause blurred images. When tuned on, VR allows you to handhold the camera at slower shutter speeds than you would normally be able to without suffering from camera shake and resultant blurred images. As the two above handheld images show, the VR technology in the P6000 is quite effective at shutter speeds as slow as @ 1/8 sec. [How slow can you go? It depends on how stable your hands are, plus the added advantage of VR.] You access VR in SETUP.

The Nikon Coolpix P6000 delivers very good image quality at low ISOs. It has many practical features that allow you to face any challenging photographic situations with confidence.

The pictures in the Nikon Coolpix P6000 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 4224x3168 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 or sharpened in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name (though the original sized image is, of course, not adjusted).

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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