Originally Posted: January 13, 2011
Last Updated: March 18, 2011
The Coolpix P7000 ($499 MSRP) is Nikon's flagship compact camera. It features a larger-than-average 10 Megapixel CCD, a 7.1X (28 - 200 mm) lens with image stabilization, a large and sharp 3-inch LCD, full manual controls, plenty of optional accessories, and HD movie recording.
If you keep up with this category, then you'll instantly recognize what camera they're going after with the P7000. Yes, it's none other than the Canon PowerShot G12. The P7000 is a near-copy of Canon's popular PowerShot, with the most significant differences being the more powerful lens on the P7000 and the rotating LCD on the G12. Since many people will be comparing these two models, I figured that I should put together a little chart for you, so here you go:
As you can see, each camera has its own advantages. The G12 has the rotating LCD, closer macro distance, underwater case support, and slightly better battery life. The P7000 has a more powerful lens, a sharper LCD, wider ISO and shutter speed ranges, and support for an external mic. We'll see how the photo quality matches up later in this article.
And with that, it's time to get started with our review of the Nikon Coolpix P7000!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix P7000 has a bundle which is slightly better than average. Here's what you'll find when you open the box:
- The 10.1 effective Megapixel Coolpix P7000 digital camera
- EN-EL14 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Coolpix Software Suite
- 225 page camera manual (printed)
The Coolpix P7000 has 79 MB of memory built right into it, which is quite a bit for a compact camera. Don't get too excited, though, as that will only hold 16 high quality JPEGs (and just a handful of RAM images), so you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The P7000 can use SD, SDHC, or SDXC cards, and I'd recommend picking up a 2GB or 4GB card. If you'll be taking a lot of HD videos, then a high speed (Class 6 or higher) card is recommended.
The P7000 uses the new EN-EL14 lithium-ion battery, which is also used by the D3100 digital SLR. This battery holds 7.4 Wh of energy, which is quite a bit for a compact camera. Let's see how that translates into battery life:
The Coolpix P7000 is one of a very select group of cameras, all of which have wide-angle lenses, high sensitivity sensors, and manual controls. In this group, the P7000's battery life is just a bit above average.
As with every other camera in the table above, the Coolpix P7000's battery is proprietary. That mean that spares will be expensive, with an extra EN-EL14 setting you back around $28. In addition, should that battery run dry, you can't pick up something "off the shelf" to get you through the rest of the day. That's just how it is with most cameras these days!
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes the charger roughly 90 minutes to fully charge the EN-EL14 battery. This is my favorite type of charger, as it plugs directly into the wall socket -- at least in the U.S.
The P7000's optional wide-angle lens
Photo courtesy of Nikon USA
The Coolpix P7000 has a pretty nice set of accessories for a fixed-lens camera. Here's the full list:
Nothing's really inexpensive, but the P7000 does have a good selection of add-ons available!
Let's move onto software now.
There are three main software products included with the Coolpix P7000. The first you'll probably encounter is Nikon Transfer 2, which is used to copy photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. In addition to copying images to a set location, you can also have it send them to a backup folder or uploaded to Nikon's myPicturetown online service.
Nikon ViewNX 2
Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX 2, which has finally received some real editing tools. The main screen should look familiar -- it's like every other photo browser these days. Here you can e-mail, print, geo-tag, or view a slideshow of your photos. You can also upload them to the aforementioned My Picturetown service.
Editing in ViewNX 2
On the editing screen you can manipulate both JPEG and (finally) RAW images. You can adjust things like sharpness/contrast/brightness/and color, brighten shadows, straighten a crooked photo, remove redeye, or reduce chromatic aberrations. If it's a RAW file you're working with, you can also adjust the exposure and white balance. The only real complaint I have is that it takes forever for RAW adjustments to take effect, and I have a very fast computer. ViewNX 2 also has a movie editor built in. You can put clips into a timeline, remove unwanted footage, add transitions, and then save the results as a new video.
Something else you can use for RAW editing (and more) is Nikon Capture NX2 (priced from $137). This software lets you edit many common RAW properties, and it's unique "U Point" controls take a different approach toward image retouching than what you might be used to. You can select a spot in the image that you want to retouch, select the radius of the area that will be affected, and then adjust things like brightness, contrast, and saturation for that area. You can do the same for things like D-Lighting, noise reduction, and unsharp mask. You can learn more about this software at Nikon's website.
If you own Adobe Photoshop CS5, you can also use its Camera Raw plug-in (version 6.3 or newer) to edit the P7000's RAW images.
So what is RAW, anyway? The RAW image format stores unprocessed data from the camera's sensor. Thanks to this, you can adjust all kinds of image properties without degrading the quality of the image. The downsides of the RAW format are that 1) the file sizes are significantly larger than JPEGs, 2) camera performance is slower, and 3) you must post-process each image on your computer in order to convert it to a standard image format (though the camera does have a built-in RAW editor). A fourth caveat is that Nikon uses a Microsoft-developed format called NRW that may not be supported by some third party RAW editors.
The P7000 borrows a lot from the PowerShot G12, but one thing Nikon did differently was include a full, printed manual in the box. While the manual does have more than its share of "notes" on each page, it's still easier to read than most camera manuals. If you've got a question about the P7000, it'll probably be answered somewhere within the 225 pages of this book. Documentation for the software bundle is installed onto your Mac or PC.
Look and Feel
The Coolpix P7000 is a midsize, fixed-lens camera that (as I mentioned) closely resembles Canon's PowerShot G12. Take a look at these photos to see for yourself:
|The front and back of the Canon PowerShot G12 and Nikon Coolpix P7000
Photos not to scale (but are close) and are courtesy of Canon and Nikon
Sure, there are some differences in places: the G12 has a rotating LCD, while the P7000's flash must be popped up -- just to name two things. But if you covered up the manufacturer names, one could easily pass for the other.
The P7000's all-metal body feels very solid, though it feels like Nikon cheaped out a bit with the plastic dials and buttons on the camera. The P7000 is a prime example of a camera with "button clutter", and while the ISO/WB/quality dial on the top tries to simplify things, I found that it actually slowed me down (the sluggish interface doesn't help matters, either). Despite a rather small grip, the P7000 was easy to hold with one hand. One thing you will have to deal with is nose smudges on the LCD, as the viewfinder doesn't protrude at all from the back of the camera.
Alright, now let's see how the Coolpix P7000 compares to the other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:
The Coolpix P7000 is tied with -- guess who -- the Canon PowerShot G12 as the largest camera in the group. The P7000 is definitely too large to fit in your jeans pocket, but it will go in a jacket pocket, in a small case, or over your shoulder with ease.
Let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?
The first thing to see on the front of the camera is its F2.8-5.6, 7.1X optical zoom Nikkor lens. This lens has a focal range of 6.0 - 42.6 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 200 mm. The lens isn't threaded, though you can attach the lens adapter I mentioned earlier and then screw in a wide-angle conversion lens (filters are iffy). To do that you'll first need to press the button to the lower-right of the lens and remove the ring around the lens.
The P7000 features a 1/1.7", 10.1 effective Megapixel CCD. I'm not sure if this is the same sensor that everyone else (save Panasonic) is using, but it's a good possibility. Since this sensor is larger-than-average and has a lower pixel count that most CCDs, it should offer better photo quality at high sensitivities that your typical compact camera.
You'd expect a camera in this class to feature image stabilization, and the P7000 uses what Nikon calls Vibration Reduction. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands that can cause "camera shake", which can blur your photos in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. The camera shifts one of the lens elements to compensate for this motion, allowing for a higher likelihood of a sharp photo. Image stabilization systems can't work miracles, though. They can't freeze a moving subject, nor will they permit handheld, multi-second exposures, but they're way better than nothing at all. Want to see the P7000's IS system in action? Here, have a look at these:
Vibration Reduction off
Vibration Reduction on
Both of the photos you see above were taken at the very slow shutter speed of 1/3 second. You don't need to be a professional camera reviewer to see that the VR system did its job here. You can also use Vibration Reduction in movie mode, as illustrated in this brief video clip.
Directly above the flash is the camera's optical viewfinder. I'll tell you more about that when we get to the back view of the camera.
At the top-right of the above photo is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The flash does take up valuable finger space when it's popped up, but there's still enough room left to keep a firm grip on the camera -- just make sure that you don't press the button on the Quick Menu dial. The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 6.5 m at wide-angle and 0.8 - 3.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO), which is pretty good. If you want more flash power and less of a chance of redeye, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment.
Moving now to the lower-left of the lens, you'll see the camera's customizable Function (Fn) button. By default it does nothing, but it can do a number of different things, though some of the options are a bit puzzling. The functions include:
- Switch between RAW and "normal" JPEG shooting
- Set ISO to Auto
- Set white balance to Auto
- Set Picture control to Standard
- Set Active D-Lighting to Normal
- Set metering to spot
I think this feature would've been better if you actually had a choice of what setting you want, rather than just a fixed option. Of course, there's the Quick Menu dial, though it's really not that "quick" to work with. One more thing the Function button can do is something called "Zoom Memory", which allows you to jump to preset focal lengths, by holding down the Fn button while operating the zoom controller.
Other items on the front of the camera include stereo microphones, a receiver for the remote control, and the AF-assist lamp. In addition to helping the camera focus in low light situations, the AF-assist lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
That'll do it for the front of the Coolpix P7000!
The main event on the back of the P7000 is its 3-inch, 921,000 pixel LCD display. As you might imagine, this screen is super sharp, whether you're composing photos, reviewing those you've taken, or just navigating through the menu system. I found the screen's outdoor visibility to be good, and in low light the image on the display brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject.
Above the LCD is the P7000's optical viewfinder. While I love having a viewfinder on my cameras, the one here was a bit disappointing. It's quite small, and its eyepiece cup doesn't really "seal" against your eye. In addition, since the viewfinder does not protrude from the back of the camera, your nose will leaving lots of smudge marks on the LCD. The coverage of the viewfinder is 80%, so keep that in mind when you're composing your pictures. You can adjust the focus of the viewfinder by using the diopter correction knob located to its left.
That button with the flash symbol and Pacman on it is what you'll press to release the P7000's flash. On the opposite side of things you'll find the camera's too-small command dial. You can use this for adjusting the various settings on the camera, among other things. Continuing to the right, you'll find the AE/AF lock button, which lists photos by date when in playback mode.
Now let's go over the buttons and dials to the immediate right of the LCD. Starting at the top we've got the Display and Playback buttons. The Display button toggles through the information shown on the LCD, or turns it off entirely.
Below those is the combination four-way controller / scroll wheel, which are used for adjusting manual exposure settings, navigating menus, and much more. The four-way controller can also be used for the following:
- Up - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off, fill flash, manual, slow sync, rear curtain sync) - the manual option allows you to select the flash strength, from 1/64 to full
- Down - Focus mode (AF, macro, infinity, manual)
- Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec self-timer, 2 or 10 sec remote control, Smile Timer)
- Right - AF area mode (Face Priority, auto, manual, center [wide, normal, spot], subject tracking)
Some of those items need further explanation before I can continue the tour. I'm going to start at the bottom and work my way up, so let's go over those AF Area modes first. The default setting is Auto, where the camera picks from nine focus points. The manual mode allows you to select one of ninety-nine possible focus points, or you can just go with the center of the frame, with three focus point sizes to choose from. The Face Priority mode will find up to twelve faces in the scene, and will make sure that the closest one is properly focused. The P7000 turned in an average performance with our face detection test scene, locating three or four of the six faces in the photo. Finally, the subject tracking option will let you lock onto an object in the frame, and the camera will follow them as they move around.
A feature related to face detection is the Smile Timer. This will find up to three faces in the frame, and when one of them smiles, the camera will take a photo. It'll keep doing this until you tell it to stop, or twelve photos have been taken.
The camera's manual focus feature has the usual bells and whistles, including center-frame enlargement and a distance guide, though the latter isn't terribly useful.
Getting back to the tour now, the last items of note on the back of the camera are the Menu and Delete photo buttons. Just above the Menu button is the P7000's rear IR receiver -- pretty smart idea on Nikon's part to have one here too.
Like dials? Then the P7000 may be the camera for you!
|Adjusting the bracketing mode via the Quick Menu dial||The customizable My Menu, which is one of the choices on the Quick Menu dial|
Starting on the left side, we have the Quick Menu dial. While shortcuts are always nice, the Quick Menu is anything but quick, due to the sluggish user interface on the P7000 (it takes about 1.5 seconds for the Quick Menu to show up). I think that a more traditional shortcut menu (like on the PowerShot G12) would've been a better choice. Anyhow, there are six items on this dial, and when you select one, you then press the button in the center of the dial to open up the shortcut menu. The items found here include:
- Image quality (see chart later in review)
- Image size (same as above)
- ISO sensitivity (Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 100-200, ISO 100-400, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400/Hi 1)
- Minimum shutter speed (Off, 1 - 1/125 sec) - how slow the camera will let the shutter speed go before increasing the ISO
- White balance
- WB (Auto, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent 1/2/3, cloudy, flash, color temp, preset 1/3)
- WB fine-tuning (see below)
- Auto bracketing (Off, Shutter speed bracket, sensitivity bracket, white balance bracket)
- Number of shots (3, 5)
- Increment for Tv/Sv bracket (0.3, 0.7, 1.0)
- Increment for WB bracket (1-3)
- My Menu - quickly access up to six of your favorite camera settings
- Brightness distribution (see below)
The P7000 has several Auto ISO options. The regular Auto mode will boost the sensitivity as high as 800, while the High ISO Auto mode will go a stop further, to 1600. You can also select smaller ranges, such as ISO 100-200 or 100-400.
Fine-tuning white balance
The camera has an impressive set of white balance options. There are the usual presets, plus three slots for custom settings, where you'll use a white or gray card to set the white balance. You can also set the color temperature, with the usual range of 2500K - 10000K available. If you're still not getting accurate color, then you can try fine-tuning the current setting (see screenshot above). Want to really cover your behind? Then you can also use white balance bracketing, which takes three shots in a row, each with a different WB setting. The interval between shots can be 1, 2, or 3, though I have no idea what those are equivalent to.
In addition to white balance, you can bracket for exposure in two different ways on the P7000. There's a traditional shutter speed bracketing mode, or you can have the camera adjust the ISO sensitivity, while keeping the aperture and shutter speed intact.
Brightness distribution view
The brightness distribution feature is unique to the Coolpix P7000. Set the Quick Menu dial to the appropriate position, take a photo, and the camera will display the screen you see above. The screen displays shooting information, a histogram, and a "tone level" bar. When you select a tone level, the areas in a photo with that tone will begin to blink. This is a good way to look for clipped highlights and dark shadows. You can do the same thing in playback mode by pressing the Display button a few times.
Alright, let's get back to the tour, this time looking at the hot shoe at the center of the photo. The P7000 works best when a Nikon Speedlight, as they'll sync up with the camera's i-TTL metering system. If you've got the SB-900 or SU-800 attached, you can also use them to control multiple wireless flashes. Do note that you can't use high speed flash sync or AF-assist with multi-area AF with these Nikon flashes. If you're using a non-Nikon external flash, then you'll probably have to adjust the exposure manually on both the camera and the flash.
Moving to the right, you'll see the P7000's mode dial, which has the following options on it:
The Coolpix P7000 has a nice collection of both automatic as well as manual controls. If you want a total point-and-shoot experience, just set the mode dial to the Auto position.
Scene mode menu
Another choice for automatic shooting is the Scene Auto Selector feature, which is the first choice in the Scene mode menu. The camera will select one of six possible scene modes for you, and if it can't find one, it'll use a generic auto mode. If you want to manually select a scene mode, there are tons to choose from. One interesting one is the Panorama Assist mode, which helps you line up photos side-by-side, for later stitching on your Mac or PC.
Another scene mode -- which has its own spot on the mode dial -- is the low noise night scene mode. This will lower the resolution to 3 Megapixel and use an ISO range of 400 - 12800, in order to take a sharp photo in low light. While the photos may be blur-free, they're very soft and loaded with noise (see example).
In terms of manual controls, you've got the usual suspects -- aperture, shutter speed, or both. You can also save your favorite camera settings to three spots on the mode dial. One thing you won't find on the P7000 is a bulb mode.
Next to the mode dial is the power button, which has the shutter release button / zoom controller combination above it. I found the zoom controller to be too small, and quite plasticky for a $500 camera. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.5 seconds (a slower option, used in movie mode, is also available for stills). I counted twenty steps in the Coolpix P7000's 7.1X zoom range.
To the right of the power button is the dedicated exposure compensation dial -- always a handy thing to have. As you can see, the range is -3EV to +3EV, in 1/3EV increments. Above that is the Av/Tv button, which you'll need to press when you want to switch between adjusting the aperture and shutter speed when in "M" mode. The function of this button can be redefined to do something else, and I'll tell you exactly what later in the review.
The only thing to see on this side of the camera is the external microphone input, which is located under a plastic cover. The lens is at the wide-angle position here.
You'll find more I/O ports on the other side of the camera. Under a plastic door of average quality are the mini-HDMI and USB + A/V out ports. There's also a little port down at the bottom of the photo through which you'll feed the power cable for the optional AC adapter.
The lens is at full telephoto here.
Our tour concludes with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the speaker, a metal tripod mount (hidden from view here), and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over the battery/memory compartment feels slightly flimsy, and you won't be able to access the contents of said compartment while using a tripod.
The included EL-EL14 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Nikon Coolpix P7000
If you've got the "welcome screen" turned off, then the Coolpix P7000 will be ready to start taking photos in about 1.3 seconds. If you have it turned on, expect a 3.5 second wait.
Autofocus speeds were about average, though the AF system was unreliable at times. As noted elsewhere, on some occasions the camera will give up trying to focus entirely, for no apparent reason. Try again and the camera locks focus perfectly. This issue was most noticeable when I was taking the studio test scene below. As far as speeds go, you'll wait for between 0.3 - 0.5 seconds for the camera to lock focus while at the wide end of the lens. Expect to wait for twice as long when you're at or near the telephoto end of things. On more challenging subjects, focus times often exceeded one second. And speaking of one second, that (or a bit longer) is how long you'll wait while the camera focuses in low light situations.
I noticed that the camera's metering system is rather slow to adjust. If you move from a dark to bright subject, several seconds pass before the image changes on the LCD to reflect the new scene.
I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
One big problem on the P7000 with the original firmware were slow shot-to-shot times. My camera uses the newer v1.1 firmware, and these are the numbers I can report: for JPEGs, you can take another photo in about two seconds, while RAW+JPEG combos lock up the camera for around four seconds. Not as fast as the PowerShot G12, but an improvement over the P7000's original firmware. Adding the flash into the mix did not significantly increase these times.
After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to review and/or delete the shot you just took.
Now, let's take a look at the numerous image size and quality options available on the Coolpix P7000:
If that isn't overkill, then I don't know what is!
The Coolpix P7000 allows to you take a RAW (NRW) image, either alone or with a JPEG of the size and quality of your choosing.
The Coolpix P7000 has the standard Nikon menu system. It's fairly attractive and easy-to-navigate, though opening and closing it takes longer than it should (the whole interface on the camera is this way, unfortunately). The menu is divided into several tabs, for still shooting, playback, and setup. Keeping mind that you might not see all of these in every shooting mode, here's the full list:
Looks like I've got some explaining to do before we can move on to the photo tests!
Editing a Picture Control
Let's start with Picture Controls, a feature that was once exclusive to Nikon's digital SLRs. The camera has six preset Controls (standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome), and you can customize them to your heart's content. There are two custom Picture Controls in which you can also store your settings, though Nikon strangely put them into a separate menu item. The following properties can be adjusted in a Picture Control:
- Quick adjust - lets you adjust the items below by ±2 step at one time
- Sharpening (Auto, 0 to 6)
- Contrast (Auto, -3 to +3) - not available when Active D-Lighting is on
- Saturation (Auto, -3 to +3)
- Filter effects (Off, yellow, orange, red, green) - only for monochrome preset
- Toning (Black & white, sepia, cyanotype) - only for monochrome; each of these can be fine-tuned
Something I don't like about the Picture Controls -- and Nikon is hardly the only company guilty of this -- is that when you view each preset, all of their values look the same, which is the opposite of how things are in reality.
Now it's time to talk about the myriad of continuous shooting options available on the camera. Let's start with the regular continuous shooting mode. Here you can take up to 45 JPEGs in a row at 1.4 frames/second. If you're shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG, you'll get five shots at a faster 1.8 fps. Do note that you'll experience about a fifteen second wait while the camera saves the images to the memory card before you can start taking more photos.
Other continuous modes on the camera include:
- BSS [Best Shot Selector] - the camera takes up to ten photos in a row, saving only the sharpest one; a classic Coolpix feature
- Continuous flash - camera takes three photos in a row with the flash, at 1.3 frames/sec
- Multi-shot 16 - camera takes sixteen photos in a row at 30 fps, and compiles them into a 5 Megapixel collage
- Interval timer shooting - AKA time-lapse mode; the camera will take photos at a set interval (30 sec, 1, 5, or 10 mins); AC adapter strongly recommended
The Coolpix P7000 has the same Active D-Lighting feature as most of Nikon's other compact and D-SLR cameras. This feature's aim is simple: to preserve highlight and shadow detail. It's off by default, and you have three levels to choose from (low, normal, high). Do note that processing time will increase when using this feature. Want to see it in action? Look below:
|Active D-Lighting off
View Full Size Image
|Active D-Lighting low
View Full Size Image
|Active D-Lighting normal
View Full Size Image
There's a very noticeable increase in shadow detail when you move from the "off" to "low" position. While it may not seem like there's much of a difference between the low and normal settings, you do get some highlight detail back with the latter. The high setting further increases the shadow and highlight recovery. If I owned the P7000, I'd probably keep Active D-Lighting pegged to "low" in most situations.
Buried deep within the setup menu is the P7000's electronic level feature. If you have trouble taking photos with level horizons like I do, then you'll like this feature. When the line on the screen levels off and turn green, you know you're set!
I want to quickly mention the camera's digital zoom feature. You don't want to use the regular digital zoom -- rather, it's the "crop" option you should be interested in. This gives you extra zoom power without a loss in image quality. The catch is that you have to lower the resolution to 5 Megapixel or less in order to take advantage of this feature. It looks like if you drop down to 3 Megapixel (perfectly acceptable for 4 x 6 inch prints), you'll get a total zoom power of 10X -- not bad!
The last feature I want to mention is the P7000's built-in neutral density filter. This cuts down on the amount of light that comes through the lens (by three stops), which allows you to use slower shutter speeds or larger apertures than you could otherwise. You can have the ND filter turn on automatically when the subject is too bright (in Program and low noise night modes only) or do it manually.
Alright, that does it for menus -- let's do photo quality now.
The Coolpix P7000 did a decent job with our macro test subject. The figurine has a smooth (almost soft) appearance, though plenty of detail is still captured. There's a bit of a color cast here, most noticeable on the "cloak" that is orange rather than red. There's a tiny bit of noise to be found here (mostly noticeable on Mickey's head), but it's not enough to concern me.
Nikon cameras are somewhat unique in that they have a "sweet spot" in the focal range that offers the closest focusing distance. On the P7000, that spot is roughly between the 1X and 2X positions. You'll know you're there because the "macro flower" and zoom gauge on the LCD will both turn green. Once there you'll have a minimum focus distance of 2 cm. Nikon does not publish the minimum distances beyond that point.
The night shot turned out great. The brought in enough light, as you'd expect given its manual controls. The buildings are nice and sharp from one end of the frame to the other. Highlight clipping isn't too bad, and purple fringing levels are low. While there's some noise visible here, it's very mild.
Now let's use that same night scene to see how the P7000 performed at high sensitivities. If you're comparing the P7000 to the PowerShot G12, click here to open up that review so you can compare these photos side-by-side, though do note that the G12's photos are much darker (I'm going to try to reshoot those). Here we go!
ISO 6400 (Hi 1)
The night scene starts to soften up as soon as you leave ISO 100, no doubt due to increased noise reduction. That trend continues at ISO 400, though all three of these sensitivities are still usable for large prints. The ISO 800 photo has a fair amount of detail loss, but I don't see why you can't make a small or midsize print at that setting. Things start to really go downhill at ISO 1600, so I'd avoid using this setting (and those above it) unless you're shooting RAW.
While I don't think the ISO 6400 photo can be saved, I think the ISO 1600 and 3200 images can be improved upon with some simple post-processing. I've converted them using Adobe Camera Raw and then applied some of my own noise reduction and sharpening. Here are the results:
The ISO 1600 photo is definitely a lot nicer when taken in RAW -- just look at how the vertical bars on the building on the right come back. The post-processed image is still noisy, but certainly better than the JPEG, at least in my opinion. The processed ISO 3200 photo is better than the JPEG, but I would still probably avoid using this one in low light, unless you're really desperate.
We'll take a look at the P7000's high ISO performance in normal lighting in a moment.
The P7000 uses its flash to reduce the risk of redeye in your people pictures, and look -- it worked great. If some redeye does slip by, you'll have to get rid of it on your computer, as there's no removal tool in playback mode.
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the Coolpix P7000's 28 - 200 mm zoom lens. You can see the effect of barrel distortion by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. One cool feature on the camera is that you can turn on distortion correction, which reduces this phenomenon, like so:
That's a whole lot better if you ask me! The distortion test charts did not show any vignetting, and corner blurring was minimal.
Now it's time for our studio test scene. Since the lighting is always the same, you can compare these photos with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Those of you comparing the P7000 and PowerShot G12 need only scroll down a bit to see how the two stack up. For now, let's see how the Coolpix P7000 performs in terms of noise from ISO 100 to 6400:
ISO 6400 (Hi 1)
The first three crops, covering ISO 100 through 400, are pretty clean, though each photo gets progressively softer. At ISO 800 there's a drop in color saturation, and a bit more noise -- but still, better than your typical compact camera. Details start disappearing at ISO 1600, but it's still usable for most print sizes. ISO 3200 has quite a bit of noise, but may be able to be rehabilitated (see below). I'd pass on ISO 6400 entirely.
It's time for another RAW vs. JPEG comparison, once again using the ISO 1600 and 3200 test images:
There's a pretty obvious improvement for the ISO 1600 photo, in terms of both color and detail. The converted ISO 3200 photo also looks better than the original JPEG, though it's still on the noisy side, which limits what you can do with it.
Now I want to show you how the Coolpix P7000 and PowerShot G12 handled our test scene, side-by-side. Remember that this is only comparing JPEG quality (you can download the RAW conversions from the G12 review and compare them to the photos above). Let's begin with ISO 800 and work our way up:
Nikon Coolpix P7000
Canon PowerShot G12
Nikon Coolpix P7000
Canon PowerShot G12
Right off the bat, you'll notice that the ISO 800 photo taken with the PowerShot G12 has a bit more detail than the Coolpix P7000, not to mention more saturated color (which drops off at that point on the P7000). Both cameras lose detail at ISO 1600, with the G12 again retaining a bit more. The Canon starts to pull away at ISO 3200, with the P7000's photo looking pretty muddy.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the photos produced by the Nikon Coolpix P7000. The only real issues I had were the somewhat inconsistent metering (and a tendency to clip highlights), and an overall lack of shadow detail. The good news is that both of these issues are easily remedied: use the handy exposure compensation dial on the top of the camera for the former (or bracket) and the Active D-Lighting feature for the latter. Colors were nice and vibrant, and images are a pleasing smooth appearance to them. The Coolpix P7000 does a good job at keeping noise under control until you reach ISO 1600, at which point you might want to start thinking about switching over to the RAW format. Purple fringing levels were low.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look our photo gallery -- perhaps printing a few of the pictures if you can -- and then you can decide for yourself if the P7000's photo quality meets your expectations!
The Coolpix P7000 is capable of recording videos at 1280 x 720 (24 frames/second) with stereo sound -- the same as the PowerShot G12. You can keep recording 720p24 video until the time limit reaches 29 minutes, which is more than what the G12 is capable of in a single clip. If you want lower resolutions, you can choose from 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, both of which record at 30 frames/second.
Nikon allows you to use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie, and the lens moves slowly and quietly when you do so. The image stabilizer is available, as well. The camera can focus continuously while recording, though the sound from the AF motor may be picked up by the microphone. Speaking of which. unlike the PowerShot G12, the Coolpix P7000 supports an external microphone, for higher quality sound than those tiny pinhole mics can produce.
Recording videos on the P7000 is a fully automatic affair, with even the ISO sensitivity locked up. There is, however, a wind cut filter that you may find useful when filming outdoors.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the efficient H.264 codec.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the 720p setting. It's a bit choppy, which is due to the 24 fps frame rate.
The Coolpix P7000 has a nice playback mode. Basic features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and playback zoom. One thing I was hoping you could with the playback zoom feature is move from photo-to-photo, while keeping the zoom and position intact, but you can't.
In addition to viewing photos one-at-a-time or as thumbnails, you can also navigate through your collection using the calendar you see above. One weird thing is that you the camera lets you select any date -- even those without any photos -- which slows the whole process down.
Brightening a photo with D-Lighting
The camera has a ton of editing options, which include:
- Quick retouch - uses D-Lighting (see below) and also boosts contrast and saturation
- D-Lighting - brightens dark areas of a photo; select from low, normal, or high
- Redeye correction
- Rotate image
- Small picture - downsize an image
- Trim (crop) - zoom into a photo and you'll be given this option
- Black border - put a frame around your photo
- Skin softening
- Straighten image
- Miniature effect - blurs a photo while keeping the center sharp, giving the impression that everything's smaller than in reality
- NRW (RAW) processing - see below
- Edit movie - trim unwanted footage off of the beginning or end of a clip; you can also grab a frame from a movie and save it as a still image
RAW processing in playback mode
One nice option on the P7000 lets you edit and convert RAW images right on the camera. You can change the image size and quality, white balance, exposure compensation, Picture Control, distortion control, and D-Lighting setting. The result is saved as a JPEG.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but press the Display button and you'll see a lot more. Not only do you get a histogram, but you can also select different tones and the areas in the photo with that tone with flash.
The camera moves between photos without delay.
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!