It’s about time! The new Nikon Coolpix P7000 finally gives us Nikon lovers a chance to use a serious, raw-capturing compact camera with our favorite camera manufacturer’s name on it. The Coolpix P7000 has a large sensor, 7X zoom, i-TTL flash and a built-in optical viewfinder. Sound like a winner? Let’s find out.
UPDATE: There is a new version of this camera available now.
Check out the Nikon Coolpix P7100 here.
Introducing the Nikon Coolpix P7000
It’s been a while since Nikon has introduced a new compact camera capable of capturing raw images. The short-lived Coolpix P6000 disappeared over a year ago. Since then, there’s been a hole in the Nikon line. The Nikon Coolpix P7000 fills that gap.
The Coolpix P7000 offers some excellent features: 28-200mm zoom lens, i-TTL compatibility with Nikon Speedlights, large 1/1.7-inch sensor, optical viewfinder, wireless remote capability and hi-def video that allows you to zoom and focus during recording.
On paper, the Coolpix P7000 looks like a wonderful addition to the Nikon line. And the P7000 lives up to its potential – with one caveat (hint: think ISO).
There are a lot of small cameras on the market. I’ve reviewed several of them – but only those that promise to meet my requirements as a travel and stock photographer.
To make the grade, a camera has to feature:
- Raw capture – since I rarely shoot JPEG.
- Excellent image quality good enough for publication.
- Low noise at high ISO settings.
- Small, lightweight body.
- Reasonably priced.
To see all of my compact camera reviews, check my series called, “The Lightweight Photographer.”
Nikon Coolpix P7000 Buyer’s Guide
As of December, 2010, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 sells for about $420. To check current prices – and to read user reviews – click one of these links to visit the Nikon Coolpix P7000 page at Adorama Camera or Amazon.com.
There are a few accessories available for the Coolpix P7000:
|If 28mm isn’t wide enough for you, the Nikon WC-E75A Wide Angle Converter Lens gives you 21mm at the wide end. (To use the WC-E75A, you must also install the Nikon UR-E22 Adapter Ring).|
|The Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Infrared Remote allows you to trigger the P7000 from a distance. It’s the same remote used for the Nikon D70, D40 and several other Nikon camera models.|
|You’ll need an SD card since the camera doesn’t come with one. You’ll want the fastest card available. I suggest a SanDisk Extreme SDHC card rated as Class 10 with 30MB/second transfer speed.|
|As with any digital camera, you’ll also need a spare battery or two. Avoid cheap, unreliable no-name batteries and get the real deal, the Nikon EN-EL14 Rechargeable Battery.|
Any purchase you make after clicking on one of the links on this page helps to support PhotoCitizen.com at no cost to you. Thanks.
Nikon Coolpix P7000 Real World Review
Feature lists are fine, but I want to know how the P7000 will perform in the hands of a pro or serious amateur photographer. For this article, I put the Nikon Coolpix P7000 through its paces as I would on a typical travel photography shoot.
Besides my workhorse Nikon D300 DSLR, I’ve been using what I consider to be the king of compacts: the Olympus PEN E-P1. (The newer E-P2 is the same camera with the addition of an accessory port for an optional electronic viewfinder).
The E-P1/E-P2 sets a high standard that has yet to be beaten by any compact camera I’ve tested, so the Nikon Coolpix P7000 will have a hard time earning a place in my camera bag.
During the course of testing the P7000, Nikon introduced new firmware. I upgraded the firmware to the new version 1.1 and my review is based on the camera with the new firmware. You can read more about the new firmware in my article, “New Firmware for the Nikon Coolpix P7000 Makes Raw Capture Twice As Fast!”
Image Quality, Low-Light Performance and Noise
For me, good image quality is a priority. My images will be used in a variety of sizes for all sorts of different media – from small web images to double-page spreads in books and magazines. That’s why I capture raw images almost exclusively. To get the best final product, I prefer to adjust images myself in post-processing (using Adobe Lightroom) rather than allowing the camera to do it.
Here’s the bottom line: the P7000 is capable of excellent image quality – as long as you stick to the low end of the camera’s ISO range. Raw images captured at ISO 100 or 200 are beautiful and ready-to-go with minimal post-processing required and ISO 400 images are usable after some careful noise-reduction work.
But at ISO 800, the Coolpix P7000 is disappointing. Images contain so much noise that it’s almost impossible to adequately reduce it in software without seriously blurring details. Photos without a lot of fine detail might be saved, but most will end up in the trashcan. The Coolpix P7000 can shoot at ISO’s up to 6400, but anything above 800 is purely for the record – you’ll rarely be able to extract a publishable image at these high ISO settings.
So, raw images at high ISO’s aren’t the Coolpix P7000’s forte. How about JPEGs processed in-camera? Maybe the P7000 can do a better job removing noise than I can. Nope: even with the P7000’s Noise-Reduction Filter set to Normal (the only other choice is Low), noise is still obvious in an ISO 800 JPEG.
Lens and Focusing
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 has the widest zoom range of any pro-quality compact camera currently on the market. It’s 7X zoom lens covers a full-frame-equivalent range of 28-200mm. Compare that to the 5X range (28-140mm) of its closest competitor, the Canon Powershot G12. With an optional adapter, the P7000 can go as wide as 21mm.
Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 at the wide end to f/5.6 when zoomed all the way to 200mm. Lens design is all about compromise. So, while there are compact cameras with faster lenses (f/2.0 on some), this is a respectable aperture range for a 7X zoom lens. Minimum aperture is f/8 at all zoom settings.
Focusing time is fast enough. I have no way to scientifically measure focusing speed, but I didn’t find myself missing photos due to focusing issues. Startup is quick: it takes only about one second to turn on and focus when the Welcome Screen is disabled.
For photographing moving objects – such as birds in flight – the P7000 offers Subject Tracking. With Subject Tracking activated, focus will lock onto your subject and follow it as it moves around in the camera’s field of view. I used this feature sparingly, but found that it worked well when I needed it.
During manual focusing, the center of the image on the LCD is enlarged to make it easier to check focus. Behind that, you’ll see the rest of the image at normal size. I think I’d rather have the enlarged portion fill the entire LCD, but being able to see the rest of the image while focusing does have compositional advantages.
When I use manual focusing on any camera, I prefer to let the auto-focus do its job first and then fine-tune the focus manually. The Coolpix P7000 makes this easy: while in manual-focus mode, you can temporarily activate auto-focus with three button clicks.
The P7000 lens does not require a lens cap. The lens is automatically protected once it retracts into the body as the camera is turned off.
My biggest complaint about the P7000’s lens – and this is common with compact cameras – is that there are no threads to accept filters. So, there is no way to use my favorite polarizing filter with the P7000.
When it’s time to capture a series of images of fast action with the P7000, you’ll probably want to switch to JPEG for its performance advantage over raw.
For raw images, a maximum of five raw images can be captured in a row. No additional raw images will be captured even if you continue to hold the shutter release button down.
When capturing JPEGs, I was able to capture from 25 to 28 images in a row depending on the scene (JPEG processing speed varies based on the image being captured).
And if the shutter-release is held down, more JPEGs will be captured as the previously captured images are processed, although at a slow and sporadic rate.
The table below shows the capture data I measured, but here’s a summary: in continuous shooting mode, raw images are captured at the rate of 1.5 frames per second, but when you include the time it takes to write the images to the SD card, it works out to less than half a frame per second.
JPEGs are shot at almost the same rate, but since you can shoot many more of them in a row, you’re more likely to capture the action.
|Image Quality||Qty. of
(NOTE: The times listed are based on the new, version 1.1 firmware which doubles raw capture speed and the fastest SD card currently available, the SanDisk Extreme SDHC operating at 30MB/s.)
Handling and Size
Nikon Coolpix P7000 is not pocket-sized, but will fit in a large coat or cargo pants pocket. It’s only 1.8-inches thick when turned off and 3.1- by 4.5-inches in height and width. Complete with battery and card, it weighs in at 12.7 ounces. These specs are nearly identical to those of the Canon Powershot G12.
Ergonomically, the P7000 is well laid out. There is plenty of room to hold the camera without inadvertently pushing buttons. There is a large, easy to grab rubberized grip on the front for the fingers of your right hand and a small rubberized pad on the back for your thumb.
All commonly used controls can be easily accessed by the right fingers or thumb. The left hand can comfortably cradle the bottom of the camera and lens.
For maximum stability, rest the comfortable rubber-padded optical viewfinder against your eyelid or eyeglasses – as you would with a DSLR – for three points of contact.
The tripod mount socket on the bottom of the camera is located in such a way that it’s impossible to open the battery compartment door when the P7000 is mounted on a tripod – or even if it’s not on a tripod but still has a quick-release plate attached. So, you’ll have to dismount the camera to change the battery or SD card.
Unlike the Canon G12, the P7000’s rear LCD does not swivel. But, without the swivel mechanism, Nikon is able to offer a better LCD than Canon. It has twice the resolution (921,000 pixels vs. 461,000) and it’s physically larger (3-inches vs. 2.8 inches).
Nikon has a reputation for accurate color and exposure rendering on its LCD monitors and the P7000’s monitor screen does not disappoint.
The LCD brightness can be adjusted via the menu, but I found that at the default setting the screen was easy enough to view even under bright sunlight.
Buttons and Controls
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 has dedicated buttons for most commonly used functions. On the outer ring of the rear control dial – which Nikon calls the Rotary Multi Selector – you’ll find these buttons:
- Focus mode – AF, MF, Macro or Infinity.
- Focus point – Auto, Manual, three different Center focus points (spot, normal or wide) and Subject Tracking. To position the focus point in Manual mode, you’ll have to use the LCD since the optical viewfinder does not display the focus points or any shooting information.
- Flash – Auto, Fill Flash, Red Eye, Manual (Full to 1/64th power), Slow Sync and Rear Curtain Sync.
- Self-timer – 2 or 10-second delay, Smile Timer, Off plus three settings for the optional wireless remote including delay of 2 or 10 seconds and instant. The remote delay gives you time to hide the remote after triggering the timer so it doesn’t appear in your self-portraits.
Other dedicated shooting controls on the P7000 include:
- AE-L/AF-L button – User programmable to lock either auto-exposure or auto-focus or both. Regrettably, there is no lock-and-hold setting so you’ll need to keep the button pressed with your thumb while you make your exposure. Fortunately, the lock button is well located to make this easy.
- Av/Tv – In its default mode, all this button does is to swap the functions of the control dial and the Rotary Multi Selector. So, for example, if you’re shooting in Aperture priority mode, you can change the aperture value by using either dial depending on which you find more convenient. Fortunately, you can program the Av/Tv button to perform other, more useful functions such as:
- Virtual Horizon – toggle display of the camera’s electronic level.
- Histograms – toggle display of a small histogram while shooting.
- Framing Grid – toggle display of a rule-of-thirds composition grid.
- ND Filter – enable/disable the built-in 3-stop neutral-density filter.
- Function (Fn) button – Mounted on the front of the camera, the Fn button can be programmed for instant access to one of several functions while the Fn button is held down:
- NRW/JPEG – if the camera is set to capture Raw images, capture a JPEG instead. Unfortunately, the JPEG captured will be Normal quality, not Fine. So, it’s not very useful.
- ISO – Switch to AUTO ISO. Not advisable since the camera may choose an ISO as high as 800 resulting in a noisy photo.
- White Balance – Switch to Auto White Balance. Useful if you’ve been shooting with white balance set to Daylight, for example, and your subject runs under a shady tree.
- Picture Control – Switch to Standard picture mode. I can see using this in situations where I’ve been capturing monochrome (black-and-white) images and want to quickly see the scene in color. Of course, picture mode doesn’t affect a raw image capture, but it does affect what you see on the LCD as you’re shooting.
- Active D-Lighting – Turn on D-Lighting which enhances high-contrast images by altering shadows and highlights. Since it only affects JPEGs, it’s useless to the raw shooter.
- Metering – Quickly change to spot metering.
- Shooting Mode dial– this dial is well placed on top of the camera in such a way that it won’t easily rotate as it brushes against your clothing or camera bag. Rotate the dial to switch between 11 different shooting modes including:
- Full Auto – point-and-shoot mode.
- Program auto-exposure
- Aperture Priority auto-exposure
- Shutter Priority auto-exposure
- Manual exposure
- Scene – JPEG only. 18 typical scenes including portrait, sports, and more.
- Low Noise Night Mode – small, low-resolution JPEGs at ISO 12,800.
- User Settings – see Customization below.
- Quick Menu button and dial – this is a unique top-mounted control allowing quick access to six important settings without accessing the full menu. To use it, turn the dial to the function you’d like to control and press the small button in the center of the dial. Adjust your settings by using either the Command Dial or the Rotary Multi Selector dial. Via the Quick Menu dial, you can access Image Quality, ISO, White Balance, Bracketing, Tone Level (shadow/highlight control) and My Menu (see Customization below).
Other camera controls include a button to pop up the flash, the playback button, trashcan, menu, monitor button (to toggle shooting and playback data display or turn the LCD off to conserve power), viewfinder diopter control, zoom switch and, of course, the shutter release button.
Nikon is the leader in camera flash technology. Now they’ve brought Intelligent Through-the-Lens (i-TTL) flash to a compact camera.
What’s i-TTL? Before the exposure is made, a pre-flash is fired which the camera uses to compute the amount of light needed for the scene. This information is communicated to the flash. All of this happens in milliseconds. The exposure is then made and the flash fires. The result is a perfect exposure under most conditions.
Attach a Nikon Speedlight – from the compact SB-400 to the top-of-the-line SB-900 – to the P7000’s hot-shoe it will use i-TTL and auto-zoom too (if the Speedlight supports it). I was happy to find that even my old SB-800 works perfectly with the P7000.
The built-in flash can also be set to Manual to fire at full power or 1/2, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/16th, 1/32nd or 1/64th power.The flash can also be set to full auto, rear-sync, slow-sync, red-eye reduction or fill flash.
Regardless of the mode, the flash will only fire if you manually pop up the flash. I love this feature. Since I mostly use the built-in flash for fill on sunny days, I can leave the flash on all the time (in fill flash mode). I just pop up the flash when I need it and close it when I don’t.
With other cameras that have a built-in flash that doesn’t pop up, such as the Canon Powershot G12, I’d have to press a couple of buttons to choose the correct flash mode. I like Nikon’s approach better because it’s so easy: press the flash button to pop it up and push the flash back down to turn it off. Simple.
The one disappointment was that the Coolpix P7000 does not include any kind of Remote Commander mode. So, the built-in flash cannot be used to wirelessly control off-camera Speedlights. Connect a remote sync cord like my old SC-17 or the newer Nikon SC-28 TTL Remote Cord, though, and you get full wired off-camera i-TTL control
The built-in flash will not fire when the hot shoe is being used.
Even with all the dedicated buttons, there are still times when you’ll need to access the menu. The P7000’s menu is well laid out and easy to use. The only thing it is missing is some kind of informational display to describe each of the available options. Where some cameras display a bit of text to help you figure out what each setting controls, the Coolpix P7000 doesn’t. So while you’re learning, keep the user manual nearby.
Menus for most shooting modes consist of three tabs: Playback, Setup, and one tailored to the currently selected mode.
In P, S, A or M mode, the top tab is the Shooting Menu which offers control of important photographic settings such as metering, flash exposure compensation, continuous shooting mode and others. In Scene mode, the top tab is called Scene Menu and allows you to choose one of 18 scenes. In Movie mode, you get the Movie tab with only two controls: Autofocus mode and Wind Noise Reduction. And so on.
The User Settings Mode (U1, U2 and U3) each consist of four menu tabs. The additional User Settings tab offers access to a few additional settings such as Focal Length (where the lens zooms initially to the selected focal length), Save User Settings and others. I’ll cover User Modes in more detail in the Customization section below.
Conveniently, your last menu position is remembered by the camera. Next time you access the menu, you’ll start off at the same place.
To learn more about the menus, download the Nikon Coolpix P7000 manual from Nikon’s website. At the bottom of page 13, there’s a list of the menu tabs and page numbers where you can read about them.
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 offers two useful customization options: My Menu and User Settings.
User Settings are labeled U1, U2 and U3 and they’re accessed via the shooting mode dial. Set them up any way you’d like, but I’d suggest setting U1 for your preferred everyday settings. The other two can save be set up to handle frequent shooting situations. For example, use U2 to save your favorite settings for action photography and U3 for macro.
Initial setup is simple, but it will take some time and thought to determine which settings you want to save. Every setting available in the menus or in the Quick Menu can be saved. Set everything the way you want it and then choose Save User Setting from the menu.
Accessing the stored settings is a simple matter of turning the mode dial to U1, U2 or U3. You aren’t able to name your settings, so you’ll have to remember the purpose of each of the three custom settings positions.
My Menu allows you to access frequently-changed settings via the Quick Menu dial. You can store up to six settings (via the Setup menu) out of 16 available. If you leave the Quick Menu dial set to My Menu, it takes only one push of the Quick Menu button to access them.
You’ll probably want to store settings here which would require a lot of button presses to reach in the regular menu. For example, to format the SD card in the menu, could require as many as 19 button presses. Adding it to My Menu allows me to do it in four.
In the other five My Menu positions, I’ve stored Vibration Reduction, Built-in ND Filter, Flash Exposure Compensation, Continuous and Picture Control.
The Coolpix P7000 uses the shutter release button to start and stop video recording. There is no separate movie record button as on some cameras, so before you can capture video, you’ll need to rotate the shooting mode dial to the Movie position.
The Coolpix P7000 can capture video at three different quality levels: hi-def 720p (1280×720 at 24fps), VGA (640×480) and QVGA. All are stored in the Quicktime movie format (.mov) and can include stereo audio.
According to Nikon, a 4GB SD card can hold approximately 55 minutes of hi-def video. The maximum length of a single movie is 29 minutes at all quality settings.
I only tested the high-definition video and it’s beautiful. There’s plenty of detail and the colors are rich. Sound from the built-in stereo microphones is mostly useless because it captures the sound of the lens zooming (yes, you can zoom during video recording!) and other camera operation noises.
You can set the lens zoom speed to “quiet,” but it doesn’t make much difference. At the quiet setting it takes a lot longer to zoom and the microphones still pick up some zoom sound. If you’re serious about recording audio with your movies, you’ll want to get an external microphone and plug it into the stereo mini-jack on the side of the P7000.
High-definition picture quality is excellent. Images are sharp and colorful. As with most cameras in the P7000’s class, refocusing during video capture is slow: there will be a second of so of blur as the camera refocuses.
Movie duration can be minimally edited in-camera. The in and out points of a video clip can be changed to eliminate unnecessary video at the beginning and end.
The cuts are not very precise as they’re done in one-second intervals, but if you’re uploading to YouTube, you might get away without any other post-processing. If you’re serious about video production, I highly recommend Adobe Premier Pro editing software.
Other Useful Features
- In-Camera Editing – trim movie length, capture single frames from movies, adjust JPEGs and process raw photos in-camera.
- Bracketing – bracket exposure, ISO or white balance (JPEG only). Capture 3 or 5 images in a row at .3, .7 or 1 stop apart.
- Built-in ND Filter – three stops of neutral density allow shooting in bright light at wide apertures.
- Voice Memo – record up to 20 seconds of audio (saved as a .wav file) after capturing an image.
- Interval timer – automatically captures images at intervals of 30-seconds (up to 600 images), 1-, 5-, or 10-minutes (up to 10 images).
- Distortion control – automatically corrects lens distortion but crops the image slightly.
- Wireless Infrared Remote – use the optional Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote to trigger the P7000 from up to 16-feet away. The P7000 has infrared receivers built in to the front and back of the camera.
- Optical viewfinder – no shooting data is displayed in the viewfinder, but it does have a diopter adjustment to match your vision.
- Auto ISO – each of the three available Auto ISO modes has a different high-ISO limit. Auto uses ISO’s from 100 to 800. A200 uses 100 to 200 and A400 uses 100 to 400. Stick with A400 for best results.
Nikon Coolpix P7000: Key Specifications
- Sensor: 1/1.7 inch CCD with 10.1 effective megapixels
- Lens: 7.1x zoom. 6.0-42.6mm (equivalent to 28-200mm in 35mm film format).
- Lens Aperture: Maximum: f/2.8 to f/5.6. Minimum: f/8.
- Vibration Reduction: lens-shift VR.
- Autofocus: contrast detection.
- Macro Focus Distance: 3.2 inches.
- Optical Viewfinder Coverage: approx. 80% of image area.
- LCD Monitor Resolution: 921,000 dots
- LCD Monitor Coverage: 100% in playback mode and approx. 97% in shooting mode.
- Storage Media: 79MB internal memory or SD, SDHC, SDXC memory card.
- Maximum Image Size: 3648 x 2736 pixels (10MP)
- Still Image Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (only)
- HD Movies: MPEG-4 AVC H.264 format, 720P @ 24fps (16:9) with AAC stereo sound.
- ISO Range: 100-3200 plus Hi1 (ISO 6400) and Night Mode (ISO 12,800)
- Metering: 256-segment matrix, center-weighted, spot, flexible spot (99 focus areas)
- Shutter: mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter.
- Shutter Speed: 60 seconds to 1/4000 (no bulb mode)
- Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed: 1.3 frames per second.
- I/O Terminals: A/V output, USB, HDMI, External Microphone (stereo mini jack)
- Battery Life: approx. 350 shots or 2 hours and 45 minutes of HD video.
- Dimensions (approx.): 3.1”H x 4.5”W x 1.8” D.
- Weight (approx.): 12.7 ounces including battery and card.
For all the specs, visit Nikon’s website.
The Nikon Coolpix P7000 is a compact camera designed for photographers. It captures beautiful, nearly DSLR-quality images at ISO settings of 400 and below. With its multitude of dedicated buttons and customization options, camera setup is a breeze. And no other serious compact offers a zoom range of 28-200mm.
As a first camera, the Coolpix P7000 offers the ease of Auto and Scene modes for beginners with room to grow. For seasoned photographers, the P7000 makes an excellent second camera that can be used to back up a DSLR or as a primary camera when traveling light. With its i-TTL flash compatibility, the P7000 should be the first choice for any Nikon DSLR owner looking for a compact.
I already own the king-of-compacts Olympus PEN E-P1. That camera performs better than the Nikon at high ISO’s and has amazing picture quality. But without spending a fortune on new lenses, it doesn’t have the zoom range of the P7000. And it has no viewfinder, no built-in flash, and no TTL flash compatibility with my Nikon Speedlight. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll keep both cameras.