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DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix P6000
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: January 17, 2009
Last Updated: March 9, 2009
The Coolpix P6000 ($499) is the flagship camera in Nikon's compact digital camera lineup. It features a 13.5 Megapixel CCD, a 4X wide-angle zoom lens, image stabilization, 2.7" LCD display, full manual controls, a hot shoe, and RAW format support. In addition to all that, the P6000 also has two very unique features: a built-in GPS receiver and an Ethernet port. Yes, you read that right, an Ethernet port, which is used to transfer photos to Nikon's My Picturetown service. Don't worry, the P6000 has a USB port, too!
The P6000 certainly offers a lot of bang for the buck, and it's the only camera that supports geotagging straight out of the box. How does it perform? You'll have to find out by reading our review, which starts right now!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix P6000 has an average bundle. Here's what you'll find inside its box:
Like most cameras these days, the Coolpix P6000 has built-in memory, instead of having a memory card included in the box. The P6000 has 48MB of built-in memory, which is pretty good these days. Even so, that holds just 2 RAW or 7 high quality JPEGs, so you'll want to buy a large memory card right away. The P6000 supports SD and SDHC flash memory, and I'd suggest a 2GB or even 4GB card to start with. It's definitely worth spending a little extra to get a high speed card.
The Coolpix P6000 uses the familiar EN-EL5 lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This battery holds 4.1 Wh of energy, which isn't a whole lot for a higher-end camera. Here's how that translates into battery life:
The closest competitors to the Coolpix P6000 are the Canon PowerShot G10 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. The other cameras on the list don't have the hot shoe offered by those cameras, but they still offer high resolution CCDs and manual controls. In the group as a whole, the Coolpix P6000's battery life numbers are about 20% below average. Please also note that these numbers are derived with the GPS turned off. Using the GPS will dramatically reduce the P6000's battery life.
I should point out two things about the proprietary batteries used by the Coolpix P6000 and all the other cameras in the table above. For one, they're expensive -- an extra EN-EL5 will set you back at least $22. Second, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day when your rechargeable dies.
The battery is charged internally, via the included AC adapter. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery. Do note that when you first plug in the camera, the My Picturetown upload screen will come up -- you'll have to cancel it to turn off the camera and start charging. You can get around this by turning off the Picture Bank feature in the setup menu. If you want to charge the battery outside of the camera, then you'll need to pick up the external charger listed below.
The Coolpix P6000 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with.
There are a host of accessories available for the P6000, and I've compiled them into this table for you:
A pretty good selection, if I do say so myself. If I had one wish, it would be for a telephoto conversion lens, since the P6000 is pretty weak in that department.
There are several software products included with the Coolpix P6000. The first 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 whether you want a backup), and you're done. You can also upload photos directly to Nikon's My Picturetown online photo sharing service using this software.
Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX, which you can use for organizing and sharing photos. Here you can the usual thumbnail view, and you can assign photos to various categories, or give them "star" ratings. ViewNX lets you see the focus point used on a photo, listen to voice memos, and convert RAW images to JPEGs.
If you took a photo with the GPS on, then you click the Geo Tag button to see a map showing that location (you can manually assign one, too). Naturally, you can upload your pictures to My Picturetown from ViewNX, as well.
For some bizarre reason, Nikon decided to use a totally different RAW format on the Coolpix P6000, known as NRW. Why they switched from NEF is beyond me -- it was supported in almost every image editing application. To view NRW files on your computer, you'll need to be running the latest version of Mac OS X 10.5 or Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1. Nikon's own ViewNX software can view these RAW images, but it cannot edit them. Their premier RAW editing application, Capture NX 2, doesn't even support this format. Huh?
If you want to edit NRW files, you'll need to use something like Adobe Photoshop. Grab the latest version of the Camera Raw plug-in for CS3 or CS4 and you're ready to go. Other, third party RAW conversion software may work, as well. Let's hope that this is a one-time deal -- NRW has pretty much been universally panned on the Internet.
Oh, and what's the big deal about RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed data straight from the camera's sensor. This allows you to (at least in theory) adjust things like exposure, sharpness, and white balance, without reducing the quality of the image. The downsides include large file sizes, slower camera performance, and the need to process images on your computer in order to convert them to a standard format (though you can do this on the P6000 itself).
ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4
Also included with the camera is ArcSoft's Panorama Maker software. You can use this to stitch together several photos into a single panoramic image. Using the P6000's panorama assist mode will help ensure that everything's lined up properly.
Nikon includes a lengthy, detailed manual with the Coolpix P6000. It's not as user friendly as I would've liked, but it should answer any question that you may have about the camera. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your PC.
Look and Feel
The Coolpix P6000 is a compact (but not tiny) camera, made mostly of metal. It's well put together, with even the door over the battery/memory card compartment feeling sturdy. The camera has a rubberized grip, giving it a secure feel in your hands. The important controls are easy to reach, though the power button could be a little bit larger, in my opinion. Something else that bothered me is the location of the pop-up flash. Once it's up, there's nowhere to rest the fingers on your left hand. This also makes it pretty easy to accidentally shut it when you're taking a photo.
Now, here's how the P6000 compares to similar cameras in terms of size and weight: