Nikon Coolpix P100 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: May 18, 2010

Last Updated: May 27, 2010

The Nikon Coolpix P100 ($399) is a super zoom digital camera that offers a monster lens, sensor-shift image stabilization, an articulating LCD, plenty of manual controls, and a Full HD (1080p) movie mode. It's the follow-up to the Coolpix P90, and I've summarized the differences between the two models in this table:

  Coolpix P90 Coolpix P100
Resolution 12.1 Megapixel 10.3 Megapixel
Sensor type CCD Back-illuminated CMOS
Lens focal range 26 - 624 mm (24X) 26 - 678 (26X)
LCD size / resolution 3.0" / 230,000 px 3.0" / 460,000 px
Burst rate (full resolution) 1.4 frames/sec 10 frames/second
ISO range 64 - 6400 160 - 3200
Max movie resolution (frame rate) 640 x 480 (30 fps) 1920 x 1080 (30 fps)
Movie sound recording Mono Stereo
High speed movie mode No Yes
Movie codec used OpenDML (AVI) H.264
Dedicated movie recording button No Yes
Onboard memory 47MB 43MB
HDMI output No Yes
Battery life 200 shots 250 shots
USB battery charging No Yes
Dimensions 4.5 x 3.3 x 3.9 in. 4.5 x 3.3 x 3.9 in.
Weight (empty) 460 g 449 g *

* Approximate

It's not often when you see a new camera having fewer Megapixels than its predecessor, but that's exactly what Nikon has done here. The P100 has over two million fewer pixels compared to the P90, due to its Sony-designed back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which can be found on cameras from virtually every manufacturer this year. The ISO range is a lot narrower, as well, though you wouldn't want to use anything above ISO 3200 on the Coolpix P90 anyway.

The P100 has a number of other features that take advantage of its CMOS sensor, as well. They include super fast continuous shooting (up to 120 fps at 1.1 Megapixel), high speed movie recording (up to 240 fps at 320 x 240), and HDR and "advanced night landscape" modes which combine several photos into one (to reduce blur).

Perhaps the most notable feature on the Coolpix P100 is its 1080p movie mode. That means you can record up to 29 minutes worth of 1920 x 1080 video (at 30 fps) with stereo sound, use of the optical zoom, and continuous autofocus. Unfortunately, like on the P90 before it, the P100 cannot use the sensor-shift image stabilization system in movie mode (electronic only).

Is the Coolpix P100 the ultimate super zoom camera? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix P100 has an average bundle for a super zoom camera. Here's what you'll find when you open up the box:

  • The 10.3 effective Megapixel Coolpix P100 digital camera
  • EN-EL5 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Charging AC adapter
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Nikon Software Suite
  • 24 page Quick Start Guide + 202 page full manual (both printed)

Like most cameras these days, the Coolpix P100 has memory built right into it -- 43MB to be exact. That holds just eight photos at the highest quality setting, which isn't much. That means that you'll want to buy a large SD or SDHC card right away. I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card if you'll be taking mostly stills, and an 8GB or 16GB for heavy movie usage. Speaking of which, if you'll be taking a lot of HD movies, then you'll want to ensure that your memory card is rated at Class 6 or higher.

The P100 uses the EN-EL5 lithium-ion battery, which has been around for ages. This battery packs 4.1 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is about average. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS 600 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Casio Exilim EX-FH25 * 500 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Fuji FinePix S2550HD 500 shots 4 x unknown AA
Kodak EasyShare Z981 475 shots 4 x 2100 mAh NiMH
Nikon Coolpix P100 * 250 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-800 Ultra Zoom 200 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 470 shots CGR-S006
Pentax X90 255 shots D-LI106
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 * 390 shots NP-FH50

* Uses back-illuminated CMOS sensor

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Nikon's compact cameras have never been great when it comes to battery life and, as you can see, it comes in second-to-last among this group of super zooms. In other words, you're going to want to buy a spare battery.

Speaking of which, I should mention a few things about the proprietary batteries used by the Coolpix P100 and several other cameras in the table above. First, they're pricey, with a spare EN-EL5 setting you back at least $28. In addition, should your lithium-ion battery, you can't pick something up at your corner store to get you through the rest of the day. If you want a camera with cheaper rechargeable batteries and emergency options, then you'll want to consider one of the four models above that use AAs.

When it's time to charge the battery, you can just pop it into... hey wait, where does the battery go? The Coolpix P100 doesn't use a traditional external battery charger. Rather, you charge the battery while it's inside the camera using this AC adapter and a USB cable. You can also connect the camera right into the computer over USB and charge the battery. Either way, it takes about 3.5 hours to fully charge the battery, which is on the slow side. If you want to have a traditional battery charger, Nikon would be happy to sell you one (see below).

As you'd expect, the P100 comes with a large lens cap and a retaining strap, to replace that monster 26X zoom lens.

There aren't many accessories available for the Coolpix P100. In fact, there are just two: the MH-61 external battery charger (priced from $20), and the EH-62A AC adapter (from $29).

Nikon Transfer

Now let's talk about the software for Mac and Windows that comes with the Coolpix P100. The first part is Nikon Transfer, which you'll use to transfer photos from the camera to your Mac or PC. You select which photos are to be transferred, where they're going, and you're done. You can even have it transfer the photos to a second location for backup purposes. Photos can also be uploaded to Nikon's myPicturetown service using this program.

Nikon ViewNX

Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX, which you can use for organizing and sharing photos. Here you can see the usual thumbnail screen, where you can assign photos to various categories, e-mail or print them, give them "star" ratings, or just view a slideshow. Editing tools tools include adjustments for exposure, sharpness, contrast, D-Lighting, and color. It's no Photoshop, but it gets the job done for basic tasks.

Nikon includes both a Quick Start guide and a full printed user manual in the box with the Coolpix P100. While it won't win any awards, the manual is definitely more user friendly that most. There are lengthy, easy-to-read descriptions of most features, though you will find a lot of "notes" on each page. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your Mac or PC.