Nikon Coolpix P7000 Review
How Does it Compare?
I'm not one to use car analogies in camera reviews, but I can't help but feel that one is appropriate here. Imagine if Porsche designed a beautiful sports car, equipping it with cutting-edge features -- and then put a lawn mower engine in it. That's the Coolpix P7000, in a nutshell. It has a ton of features, very good photo quality, manual controls, and plenty of optional extras. Unfortunately, the camera's user interface is so slow that using the P7000 is an exercise in frustration, rather than a pleasure. Seeing how it's almost an exact copy of Canon's PowerShot G12, a comparison between the two is natural. While the Coolpix P7000 has some features that best those of the G12, the Canon would be my choice, as it's much more responsive, easier to use, and offers a handy rotating LCD. The Coolpix P7000 is worth your consideration, but I highly recommend trying one out in person first!
The Coolpix P7000 is a good-sized camera that is almost a carbon copy of the Canon PowerShot G11 and G12. The body is made mostly of metal, and feels solid for the most part, save for the plasticky dials on the top of the camera. While I like the exposure compensation dial, the "Quick Menu" dial is anything but quick. Instead of having a Function menu (like the G12) or a direct button, you have to turn the dial to the desired position, wait 2 seconds for the menu to load, use the scroll wheel to select an option, and then wait another two seconds for the live view to reappear. That's unacceptable on a flagship Nikon camera. You'll encounter similar delays when entering and exiting the regular menus and playback mode, too. I even had the camera lock up a few times on me! Getting back to the design of the camera, the Coolpix P7000 features a 7.1X, 28 - 200 mm lens, with a reliable optical image stabilization system. The camera supports a wide-angle conversion lens that reduces the focal range to just 21 mm. The P7000 also has a neutral density filter that you can activate to let less light hit the sensor. On the back of the camera is a large and very sharp 3-inch LCD display (though it's fixed, not rotating). There's also an optical viewfinder, but it's quite small and, since it doesn't protrude much from the camera body, will result in lots of noise smudges on the LCD. Other items of note on the camera body include a hot shoe for an external flash, an input for an external microphone, and a mini HDMI port.
The P7000 has a very impressive feature set, covering nearly every base. On the point-and-shoot side, you've got a regular Auto mode, a Scene Auto Selector, plus plenty of other scene modes to choose from yourself. Manual controls includes those for exposure (including a bulb mode), white balance (including fine-tuning), bracketing (for exposure, ISO, and white balance), distortion reduction, and Picture Controls. The camera has a customizable My Menu (though it's only the slow Quick Menu dial), three spots that can hold your favorite camera settings, and two customizable buttons. One of those buttons, the Function (Fn) button isn't terribly useful, though, as it only switches you back to the default setting for the selected option. Two features that I think everyone will like include the electronic level (no more crooked horizons) and Active D-Lighting (brightens the shadows of your photos). The P7000 also has the ability to record videos at 720p (24 frames/second) with stereo sound, with full use of both the optical zoom and image stabilizer.
Performance is definitely the Achilles heel of the Coolpix P7000. I've already told you about the sluggish user interface, so here's more unpleasant news. The camera starts up quickly enough (if you've turned off the welcome screen), taking about 1.3 seconds to prepare for shooting. The autofocus system could be flaky at times, sometimes deciding not to lock focus at all, while working perfectly the next time you press the button. While I didn't notice this often out in the real world, it definitely was an annoyance in the studio. In terms of AF speed, the P7000 is about average, taking around 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle and 0.6 - 1.0 seconds at full telephoto to lock focus. Low light focusing generally took at least one second. Shutter lag was not an issue. My CP7000 running the new v1.1 firmware took about 2 seconds to save a JPEG, and 4 seconds to save a RAW image. You can expect delays of about fifteen seconds after you take a burst of photos, which is pretty slow. The camera's burst mode is just okay, with the ability to take 5 RAW or 45 JPEGs at speeds of up to 1.8 frames/second. Battery life is above average for an enthusiast camera.
Photo quality was very good, especially in the lower half of the ISO range, and way better than typical Nikon compacts. The only real problems I had were related to exposure. It wasn't terribly consistent, sometimes overexposed, other times under -- good thing they put the exposure compensation dial on the camera! I also found shadow detail to be a bit lacking, but setting the Active D-Lighting to "low" takes care of that problem. And, like most cameras, the P7000 will clip highlights at times, though it's not too bad. Aside from that, the news is good. Color is pleasing, and subjects have a smooth, yet detailed appearance. Noise levels are low until you hit ISO 1600 (though photos will soften as you get closer to that sensitivity), and after that you'll get the best results of the camera by shooting RAW. Redeye was not a problem, and purple fringing was minimal.
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 is a feature-packed camera that produces good quality photos and HD videos. The problem is that you spend too much time waiting, and not enough time taking pictures. In photography, timing is everything, and having to wait for menus to appear can cost you a shot. I would be more forgiving if the P7000 was a $199 camera, but it costs 2.5 times more than that. It's definitely worth looking at, considering all it has to offer, but you should absolutely, positively try one out to see if you can deal with its sluggishness. If Nikon can put a bigger engine into the next iteration of their flagship Coolpix, then Canon has a lot to worry about. For now, though, I think the PowerShot G12 still has the upper hand.
- Very good photo quality, with lower-than-average noise levels through ISO 1600
- Generally solid body with lots of dials and buttons (some more customizable than others)
- 7.1X, 28 - 200 mm zoom lens with image stabilization
- Large and very sharp 3-inch LCD display (though it doesn't rotate)
- Optical viewfinder (a rarity these days)
- Tons of manual controls
- Auto Scene Selector for the point-and-shoot crowd
- Hot shoe for external flash
- Customizable buttons, dials, and menus
- Built-in neutral density filter and electronic level
- Active D-Lighting brightens shadows, restores some highlight detail
- Records 720p24 video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom
- Redeye not a problem
- Stereo microphone input, HDMI output
- Optional wide-angle conversion lens, wireless remote
What I didn't care for:
- Very sluggish interface means long waits when entering/exiting menus or playback mode
- Quick Menu dial hardly a time-saver
- AF system can be unreliable at times
- Exposure can be hit-or-miss; some highlight clipping; shadow detail lacking with Active D-Lighting off
- Long write times in continuous shooting mode
- Optical viewfinder is small; flush design means lots of nose smudges on the LCD
- Function (Fn) button not terribly useful
- Can't access memory card when camera is on tripod; some plasticky parts on top of camera
The most obvious competitor to the Coolpix P7000 (if you haven't figured it out already) is the Canon PowerShot G12. Some other cameras worth considering include the Olympus XZ-1, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, Ricoh CX4, and Samsung TL500.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Coolpix P7000 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our gallery to see how the P7000's photo quality looks!