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Nikon Coolpix P6000 Review
Date: Nov 11, 2008
Serious and Advanced
Nikon Coolpix P6000 with optional speedlight and wide converter lens
Friday, October 24, 2008 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- Coolpix P6000
- No Memory Card included, but 23MB of internal
memory [Nikon sent me a SanDisk 512MB SD memory
card for the review]
- Neck Strap
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (with end
- AC Adapter EH-66 with Power Cable (Battery Charger is optional)
- Interface Cables: A/V; USB
- Accessory Shoe Cover
- English and French Manuals: Quick
Start Guide; User's Manual
- Software CDs: Nikon Software Suite (ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4, Nikon Transfer v1.1.2, ViewNX, NRW Codec (avail. Jan 2009), Capture NX Free Trial)
The Nikon Coolpix P6000 remains perhaps the most comfortable compact prosumer digital camera to hold and operate. It is compact and light enough to carry in a large trousers or coat pocket and still has a large enough and comfortable handgrip. The Nikon P6000 produces very good image quality at the low ISOs, has full exposure
flexibility, has some features that are not found in other competitors' cameras, and now it has added built-in GPS geotagging functionality. For some advanced photographers, all this is enough to justify choosing the P6000 as their pocket camera.
Vibration Reduction (VR) optical image stabilization is effective to reduce blur due to camera shake at shutter speeds as slow as 1/8 sec. Slower than that and I find it impossible to avoid blurred pictures. On the P5100, VR was accessed on the Mode Dial and required no less than 8 button presses to set. On the P6000, it is now accessed via the MENU button and requires a minimum of 7 button presses to set, depending on what you last set on the SETUP screens.
The Coolpix P6000 is targeted to serious and advanced photographers who appreciate professional features (which the P6000 has in spades) and image quality. Image quality is very good at ISO 64 and usable up to ISO 200 (or even ISO 400 with the images cleaned by noise removal software -- though beware of image detail loss), and is on a par with that on other compact digital cameras. At higher ISOs, images are very noisy, again perhaps usable when printed at small prints and displayed for Web only, but certainly not for professional uses.
The P6000 user interface could use some improvements. As it stands, it's not bad but it does require lots of navigating and button presses to accomplish some of the most common functions. There are 10 control buttons on the back of the camera, but you still have to resort to the MENU to set ISO, WB, etc. (you can assign one of these functions to the FN key). The whole menu system is not really conducive to fast navigation and access.
Performance is also not bad, but it's not as fast as you'd expect a top of the line prosumer digital camera to be. The P6000 has improved its startup time, but we would have preferred a faster autofocus in low light, a faster continuous shooting, and faster shot to shot time. As it is, if you shoot in RAW, you have to wait for the RAW file to write out to memory card (about 7 sec) before the next RAW shot can be taken. There is no RAW continuous shooting.
Deleting a file is also a rather long process of pressing the DEL button, then DOWN to select Yes, then press the OK button to confirm the deletion. That's three button presses of 3 different buttons. Compare this to how deletions work on Nikon DSLRs: you press the same DEL button twice to delete a picture. Much more intuitive and less aggravation.
A framing grid (thin lines) can be displayed on screen, and
this is quickly becoming a norm in many digital
cameras. I find this grid of horizontal and vertical
lines very helpful in framing and composition. On the P5100, when the grid lines are displayed,
only some info displays. On the P6000, the framing grid simply superimposes on any info that is already displayed on screen.
A histogram displays only in Playback (which is OK but lots of
point-and-shoot digital cameras today display
a live histogram). There is no still picture Sepia color mode
available but you can shoot Sepia movies. In-camera color modes do however include Black-and-white
with electronic monochrome filters for Yellow,
Orange, Red and Green. This should be quite useful to those who love
to take B&W pictures.
The GPS functionality is simplicity itself to use. Just turn it on, wait for the signals to sync (the GPS unit needs to receive signals from at least 4 satellites to establish a position) and that's all. For those who are not familiar with GPS devices, they might complain about limited reception indoors or in urban areas, or even the time it sometimes takes to initialize the GPS unit on first turning it on. But it's all as expected and a read up on how GPS works should clear away any misgivings.
In other words, when first turning it on, the GPS device needs a clear view of the sky to receive signals from up to 4 satellites to establish your position. All GPS devices work like this. Depending on how unobstructed the view of the sky is, this initialization may take a few seconds or even a few minutes. [My work desk is right by the window in the suburbs and position fix was within a few seconds.] Also, do not be on the move while the GPS device is trying to establish a fix on your position or you'll be a constantly moving target. However, once the fix is established, you can move/drive and the device should track your new position. Second, as mentioned, you need clear unobstructed sky view (clouds do not matter) for the signals to clearly reach you. So, yes, you should expect to have difficulty getting a position fix indoors and in dense urban areas. In these situations, you can tell the device to use the last position fix for an approximate location.
If you absolutely need to geotag your pictures or just fancy being able to remember where you took a picture (say, you travel a lot), then the built-in GPS functionality of the P6000 is a great addition.
Use Nikon Transfer to transfer your pictures from the P6000 to your PC. 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.
As mentioned previously, the new NRW (RAW) file format allows RAW to be processed in-camera as well as in post-processing using Adobe Camera Raw 5, Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Aperture 2. Note that, as of this writing, Nikon's own Capture NX software does not process NRW (RAW) file format yet.
The P6000 comes with an AC Adapter instead of a battery charger. This is probably to allow you to have unlimited power while transferring your pictures from camera to my Picturetown directly over the Internet without risking a power loss partway during the transfer. If you travel a lot and need an extra battery to use in the field, it is advisable to purchase a spare battery and the optional battery charger MH-61.
The User's Manual is complete, very well written and illustrated. It even includes a pretty complete Index that makes finding a particular feature extremely quick and easy.
The P6000 has many good things going for it: a large set of practical features with a few of them not found in other cameras; very good image quality at the low ISOs; availability of built-in GPS for those who absolutely need it; availability of an optional Remote Controller; and a wonderful wide-angle focal length.
It is missing some features that some advanced users may find important: quite a bit of CA in high contrast shots, lack of Live Histogram, no multi-shot RAW buffer, performance not quite matching the competition, menu-bound interface despite so many buttons.
The P6000 does not have any serious flaws per se that would prevent you from taking superb pictures with it. It does, however, have the limitations we mentioned above.
What I like:
- First off, the compact size and superb handling sets it apart from its competitors. It feels right from the moment you pick it up. And the fact that you can carry it in your pocket (large) is a definite plus for those who would otherwise leave their camera at home.
- The 28mm wide-angle is great for wide landscape shots as well as large group shots. An optional Wide-Angle Converter brings that to an 22mm (equiv.).
- The six-blade iris diaphragm means you get real aperture control.
- Manual AF area allows you to specify where you want the camera to focus on and Spot AF metering makes sure that spot is exposed correctly.
- Vibration Reduction (VR) optical image stabilization works well within limits.
- Built-in GPS for those who absolutely must have geotagging capability.
- Availability of optional remote controller.
- Customization: My Menu allows you to choose your six most important parameters. Plus you can customize the Fn key also.
- Improved performance. Performance is good but I guess I was simply expecting more from Nikon's top prosumer compact digital camera regarding Continuous Shooting speed (JPEG as well as RAW), AF lock, and shutter lag. Let's put it this way: there are faster, much faster, cameras out there and they do not even claim to be "pro" level.
- Redesign how MF works. Manual Focus simply does not work. Using the Command Dial means the camera jerks with every rotation. Also, the magnification is not high enough and/or the LCD screen resolution is not high enough to tell when the subject is in focus. Contrast this with other MF implementations we've seen where pressing the MF button gets the camera to autofocus as close as possible, and then hand the focus over to the photographer to manually coax it into precise focus.
- A higher resolution LCD that will allow MF to work properly.
- Better low-light AF. Low contrast subjects risk never getting a focus lock. Since MF does not help in these cases, we're left to improvise to get a focus lock.
- More "direct" settings of the most common functions. Though there are so many control buttons, somehow the P6000 remains frustratingly menu bound for the most important exposure settings.
Truth is, we may all have been spoiled by the D300, D700 and D3 regarding performance and image quality, and I guess I was subconsciously expecting the P6000 to walk in the footsteps of these superstars. That said, I still I thouroughly enjoyed using the P6000. I know I will more often than not leave a larger camera at home, so the P6000's compact size is a definite plus.
The Nikon Coolpix P6000 strikes a
good balance between ease of use and richness
of features: it is point-and-shoot easy to use
and also packed-full of practical features advanced
photographers like to have in their digital cameras. I find the P6000 to be a great walk-around full-featured camera that is capable of producing superb results. And now, with built-in GPS functionality, you'll even remember where you took each picture.