This is a very solid camera with traditional styling, a small zooming optical viewfinder and some mechanical dials. The Coolpix P7000 boasts a larger three-inch LCD and a stabilized 28-200mm lens; it's excellent in all respects, thanks to two ED and four aspherical elements. Granted, the LCD is not articulated, but it does provide a beautifully crisp display thanks to its ultra-high 921,000-dot resolution. The optical viewfinder (with diopter correction) is small and provides only 80% scene coverage, so there's some framing inaccuracy. But it can save on battery power and it's very useful when glare obliterates the LCD display.
The top and back of the P7000 are covered with analog controls, including two input dials for DSLR-style operation and a quick menu dial for access to six functions. The test sample was slow to activate some features after they were selected, sometimes taking a full second to respond; perhaps this will be resolved with a firmware update. The menu is not quite as intuitive as Canon's PowerShot G12, but should still seem quite intuitive for those with DSLR experience. Except for initial setup, there's rarely a need to access the multi-option menu.
In movie mode, the user can pre-set white balance and picture style as well as single and full-time AF. Exposure control is automatic and changes as necessary. The lens' optical zoom feature can be used while shooting a clip, a definite benefit. As with other cameras, full-time AF is not very fast in movie mode; and the motor's humming is recorded on the audio track. That can be prevented with an optional external mic. Video quality is very good when viewed on an HDTV.
The Coolpix P7000 is loaded with features and overrides, including a wealth of modes, a histogram, four picture styles and two custom styles. Levels adjustments for sharpness, contrast and saturation are available in every one of the style modes. Useful high-tech amenities include Active D-Lighting for increased shadow detail in high-contrast lighting, a built-in neutral density filter, and Best Shot Selector mode. The latter will capture as many as 10 JPEGs in a burst, and then discard all but the sharpest photo.
Like other cameras in its class, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 has a macro mode. But unlike competing cameras, the Nikon's lens can extend to a full 200mm (equivalent), very useful in some types of photography. Photo by Peter Burian
The multi-point AF system includes a full-time mode for quick focus acquisition, and tracking AF for subjects approaching the camera at moderate speed; it's most effective in the 28mm to 100mm zoom range. Manual focus is available and it's acceptably convenient. While viewing a JPEG in playback mode, you can modify many aspects with the retouching options. Some provide technical improvement while others make special effects easy to achieve.
Speed and Quality
Press the On button and the P7000 will take the first shot in about 2.5 seconds. Autofocus is quick outdoors taking roughly 0.5 seconds outdoors. In dark locations, AF slows only a bit with nearby subjects but sometimes struggles with distant subjects at long telephoto focal lengths. Drive speed is only 1.5 fps, but the camera can record numerous JPEGs in a single burst. Processing time is quite fast, except when shooting RAW (instead of JPEG) photos; although RAW processing is now quite acceptable thanks to a firmware update (v1.1). Use a fast Class 10 SDHC memory card and the Nikon camera can record a single RAW photo in two seconds or five RAW photos in nine seconds.
As shown by this picture, taken in Vivid Picture Style with a polarizing filter attached, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 produces vibrant colours, high sharpness and snappy contrast. Photo by Peter Burian
In the standard picture style, the P7000 provides high sharpness, snappy contrast and vibrant colours, with especially bold reds and blues; skin tones are pinkish with slight over-saturation. White balance is neutral, quite accurate in outdoor photography. Entirely different effects are possible, with other picture styles and/or the overrides. The Matrix metering system sometimes underexposed light-toned scenes, but that was easy to prevent with 2/3 exposure compensation. In very harsh lighting, Active D-lighting (dynamic-range expansion) provided more detail in highlight and shadow areas.
My low-ISO JPEGs are very clean with high resolution and plenty of fine detail; they made very good 13x19-inch prints. Even ISO 400 shots provided good 11x15-inch prints. At ISO 800, some graininess is apparent; but the JPEGs are fine for making decent 8x10-inch prints. There's some loss of sharpness by ISO 1600, but colour is well maintained and my 5x7-inch prints are very good in all aspects.
The P7000 is very versatile and produces beautiful JPEGs; for the best results, take care to avoid underexposure. Granted, it's not the fastest in its class, but it does feature the longest lens; that was a definite asset when I was shooting parades and other events. The 28-200mm zoom provides high sharpness across the entire frame. It retracts into the body when not in use, making this rugged, hefty camera acceptably portable. The P7000 is quite affordable for a prosumer camera with a wide-range zoom lens, and offers maximum value for the money.
Nikon Coolpix P7000
Longest zoom lens in its class
Very rugged construction
AF in movie mode could be faster
Slow burst rate and RAW processing
Sluggish response to controls
NUTS & BOLTS
Sensor: 10MP CCD (3,648 x 2,736 pixels); four aspect ratios including 16:9
Capture modes: JPEG, RAW; Motion JPEG to 720p
Lens: Nikkor 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 (135 equivalent) ED AL with VR stabilizer; digital zoom available
LCD/viewfinder: 3" 921,000-dot screen; zooming optical finder
Feature set: 26 modes including P, A, S, M, Best Shot Selector and Panorama Assist; many overrides; 1.3fps drive; versatile 9-point AF (99-point in auto selection) with face-detect AF and tracking AF; manual focus; ISO 100-6400; built-in flash; flash hot shoe; stereo mic and mic jack
High-tech amenities: Active D-Lighting; lens-distortion-reduction function; skin softening in capture and playback mode; many image-enhancing options in playback mode; electronic level display; HDMI output
Power: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery for 350 shots
Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Size: 114 x 77 x 44 mm (w/h/d)
Weight: 360g (with battery)