Review Nikon Coolpix P1000: 125x optical zoom

The new Nikon Coolpix P1000 is an all-in-one compact camera of the highest rank. The big news is the 4.3 to 539 mm lens that lets you zoom in 125 (!) times. On many cameras, a lens of more than 500mm is already unique, and that's entirely the case here. In combination with the small 1/2.3 inch sensor, the zoom range corresponds to that of a 24-3000 mm zoom on a 35 mm. And that last number doesn't have an extra 0. With this camera, you can easily get a full moon full in frame.

Praktijkopname Nikon P1000

MOON AND BIRD SPECIALIST: Nikon Coolpix P1000

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This camera need not fear competition from mobile phones.

Compact cameras with fixed zoom lenses and a small sensor have a hard time. The photographic capabilities of smartphones are improving, and you almost always have such a phone with you. Many people therefore choose not to take a compact camera with them anymore. One category still does well, and those are the compact cameras with a lot, sometimes a whole lot, of zoom range. That is something that smartphones do not yet have. And zoom range - the Coolpix P1000 has that in spades. This is the first camera with a zoom range up to 3000mm (equivalent) and 125x zoom. A look at the specifications or the photos immediately shows why. The lens is huge, at least for compact cameras. The filter size is no less than 77mm. That is something that you expect on a professional bright zoom lens. The camera weighs in total, with lens, no less than 1.4 kg. Those dimensions and weight are not that bad when you look at the capabilities. The lens starts at 24mm (equivalent) at f/2.8, and therefore offers a lot of wide angle for beautiful landscape shots. It then zooms to 3000mm (equivalent) at f/8. On a small 1/2.3 inch sensor (6.17x4.55mm) with 16 megapixels, you really need that brightness to prevent loss of sharpness due to diffraction. After all, you don't have much use for such a huge zoom range if the shots in the extreme range weren't sharp. And that the extreme zoom position of 3000mm is not useless is shown by two unique modes on the selector button on the top of the camera. The P1000 namely has separate icons for photographing the moon and birds.

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If you can see something with the naked eye, then with the Nikon P1000, you can get it full screen in frame.

With its huge zoom range, this also seems to be the ideal holiday camera for anyone who wants to have everything at hand and who also regularly wants to photograph small creatures in the wild. With the Coolpix P1000, you don't have to wait in a shelter for hours until an animal gets closer, but bring everything closer by zooming in. The zoom mode offers two speeds, so you can make good use of the big zoom range. The camera can shoot in both jpeg and RAW. And the latter wasn't possible on its predecessor, the P900. The camera can also shoot a fast series of 7 images in a second and can film in 4K and full-HD. There is also a microphone input, so you can use a directional microphone, for example. The sensor has an ISO range of 100-6400. The screen turns and tilts, and the viewfinder has 2.36 megapixels, which is very good. The camera has a built-in flash, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. And for those for whom 3000mm is not enough, there is also the option of zooming in even more digitally, up to 12,000 mm. Of course, this is at the expense of quality. 

From 24mm (eq) wide angle:

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To 3000mm (eq) telephoto:

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Nikon P1000 Body

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The Nikon P1000 is a hefty camera, both in terms of dimensions and weight. Just how big, you realize when you have it in your hand. The P1000 cannot be compared to a conventional compact camera with a small sensor. Of course, it is not a "normal" compact camera. Thanks to the zoom range, which starts at 24mm, you can use it like that, but the huge lens and the enormous range ensure that you will probably buy it for special applications. And if you have a specific goal in mind for the P1000, then the dimensions and the weight are probably not a problem. To begin with, there is hardly any alternative to this zoom range, and if you want to get close to it, you need different equipment that is even bigger and heavier. 

P1000 PBS A

The camera weighs nearly one and a half kilos, 1415 grams with batteries. That is about 500 grams more than its predecessor, the P900. The dimensions are 146x181x119mm. Of course, the length gets even longer when you zoom out. That is a lot of camera for a 1/2.3rd sensor (6.17x4.55mm). Due to these big dimensions, the camera does have good ergonomics. The grip is hefty and ensures that you can hold the camera nicely. The operation feels like that of an SLR, and whoever is used to Nikon's will quickly feel at home with this P1000. Furthermore, the P1000 has a built-in flash, which of course is especially effective at short distances, and a hot shoe for placing Nikon system flash units. You do not zoom with the ring on the front, but with a zoom button around the shutter release button. For video work, there is a separate zoom button on the left side of the camera that provides a slower and smoother zoom movement. The ring around the lens can be used for manual focusing but can also be programmed for other functions.

SCREEN AND VIEWFINDEr

P1000 BK LCD 4The Nikon P1000 has an electronic viewfinder and a screen that tilts and turns but that is not touch-sensitive. So you can't use it to control the focus point or to operate the menus. The screen has the same resolution as that of the P900, with 920,000 pixels. It is a fraction larger than that on the P900. The viewfinder has clearly become much better. It now has a resolution of 2.36 megapixels. That makes judging the images much easier. 

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MENU AND OPERATION

The Nikon P1000 is a nice camera to operate. The operation feels like that of an SLR, and whoever is used to Nikon's will quickly feel at home with this P1000. The camera has no lack of controls, with two dials and a separate button for selecting the shooting mode. There is also a wide selection of programmable buttons. The camera has a separate on/off button on the top cover because the switch that is around the shutter release button and which is often used for that is used on the P1000 to zoom in and out. In addition, the P1000 has a separate button on the left with which you can zoom slower and evenly, and that's nice if you want to zoom while filming. The menus are typical Nikon, and those who have worked with a Nikon before will quickly be familiar with them.

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UNIQUE RANGE

The great appeal of the Nikon P1000 is, of course, the enormous zoom range. And then we are not just talking about the fact that the P1000 can zoom up to 3000mm (eq), but that the zoom range also starts at 24mm (eq). So you don't just have a lot of telephoto, but also a nice wide-angle range. You only see how big that range is when you actually take pictures with it. At 3000mm, you can get distant details in the picture that you can only see with difficulty with the naked eye and that are almost invisible on the wide-angle shots.

In this image, for example, taken at 24mm (eq), find a mermaid-shaped wind vane:

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And yet that wind vane is there, shot by hand and not completely sharp, but that it appears at all at 3000mm (eq) is amazing:

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IMAGE QUALITY

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The image quality of the P1000 is excellent, as long as you take into account two limiting factors. The first factor is the dimensions of the sensor. It is a typical compact camera sensor where noise increases rapidly when you go to higher ISO values. With ISO 400, you can already see a loss of detail compared to the lowest ISO value, and at 1600, that becomes even clearer. The images are not unusable, but you see that you no longer get all the details that the lens can render. A second factor, that no sensor or lens design can do anything about, is the air quality. With short focal lengths, you are rarely bothered by it, unless you photograph in heavy smog. But at 3000mm (eq), you are shooting subjects that are far away from you, and there is a lot of air in between. If that air contains a lot of moisture or dust, you will see a huge deterioration of the image quality. The contrast in the shots is therefore quickly reduced. That is not the fault of the camera, but something you will always encounter with extreme telephoto shots. So choose the lowest possible ISO values and clear days for the best results. The lens is very good over most of the range, and that's quite good, given the enormous zoom range.

DynamiC RANGE

The dynamic range of the Nikon P1000 is what you might expect from a small sensor. It is obviously not as big as that of system cameras with a larger sensor or even the compact cameras with a 1" sensor. In backlighting, that means that skies will quickly bleach out and that you can't recover bright areas. Thanks to the ability to shoot in RAW, you do have more leeway than with the P900, with which you could only shoot in jpeg. But RAW offers little extra space for under or overexposure. The dynamic range decreases further as you increase the sensitivity of the sensor. For shots with high contrast, try to avoid the higher ISO values as much as possible.

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NOISE

The Nikon P1000 has a modern BSI sensor, but with a typical compact camera size of 1/2.3rd inch. At the lowest ISO values, the images are beautifully detailed and sharp. At pixel level, you do see a difference from system cameras with a larger sensor, but if you view the shots just on full screen on a monitor or you print them at a normal size, then the images look good. As soon as you increase the sensitivity of the sensor, the noise increases rapidly. It is already visible at 400 ISO, and you should really avoid going higher than 1600. Unfortunately, those higher ISO values are probably often needed when you zoom in a lot, because the brightness of the lens then quickly decreases. In the jpegs, you don't see that much of the noise, because the camera eliminates that through the noise reduction. However, this visibly comes at the expense of the details. For subjects with lots of flat areas, you won't have that much trouble, but for shots of birds, for example, it is disadvantageous. You can, if you work in RAW, choose to leave a bit more of the noise, in order to keep a little more detail in the image.

Shot at 1600 ISO in jpeg:

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Bokeh AND macro

Cameras with small sensors and low brightness are not soon associated with bokeh. But if you can zoom in as with the P1000, then you do get a beautiful, soft background blur in your photos. At every aperture. This enormous zoom range also offers the possibility of getting small subjects large in frame. The camera has a super macro mode, but even without that, you can make very nice close-up shots with a fantastic background blur. And you don't even have to get really close to your subject.

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Video

The Nikon P1000 can also film in both 4K and Full HD. In 4K, that's possible up to 30 frames per second. In Full HD, 1920x1080 pixels, up to 60 frames per second. In both modes, you get the complete picture and VR, the image stabilization, works. The camera has a separate button to start video directly from any menu. You of course then get a fully automatic mode. However, the camera also offers the option of controlling the video completely manually. The image quality in 4K is less that of system cameras, but - and we cannot emphasize this enough - you can shoot images with the P1000 that are not possible with system cameras because you simply do not have the range. Keep in mind that the autofocus at longer focal lengths becomes somewhat slow and that you should avoid higher ISO values as much as possible for the best result.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

The Nikon P1000 naturally has image stabilization. Otherwise, a camera with such a range cannot be used for photographing by hand. The 3000mm setting is of course what the equivalent would be on a 35mm camera. In reality, the P1000 zooms to "only" 539mm. Even so, it is also difficult to shoot by hand with a 500 mm lens without image stabilization. The P1000 fortunately has VR, Vibration Reduction, and that does exemplary work. Nikon claims a profit of 5 stops and that does not seem exaggerated in practice. The fact that you can make fully zoomed-in sharp pictures at any shutter speed is already completely unique. Of course, you do well to support the camera at the longer focal lengths with a tripod or a monopod with something like a gimbal for the best results, but thanks to the VR you can use the entire range of the lens by hand.

A shot at the longest zoom position, by hand and without optimal light, but with VR:

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autofocus

The autofocus of the Nikon P1000 is precise, and, as long as you have enough light, it is also reasonably fast. The largest aperture of the P1000 lens extends to f/8 at the longest zoom positions. With that brightness, even the best SLRs have a hard time, and the same is true for the P1000. When the brightness then decreases at the end of the day or the contrast is low, the speed drops, and the camera needs to search a little more. Usually that works, but it does make photographing moving subjects more difficult.

Nikon Dot Sight

Nikon red dot sight 2
What is really difficult on a camera like the P1000 is getting a good picture of small subjects at great distances. To find a bird of less than 10 centimeters through your viewfinder at a distance of ten or twenty meters is very difficult. A good solution for that is the Nikon DF-M1 Dot Sight. You attach the Dot Sight to the hotshoe of the camera. When you open it up, you get a very wide image with a red or green (your choice) dot. There are two switches on the Dot Sight to move the dot left and right and up and down. You use this to calibrate the Dot Sight so that the dot indicates the center of your viewfinder image. The exact location depends on how you look through the Dot Sight and the distance at which your subject is located. Once calibrated, you can easily follow your subject through the Dot Sight. 

Nikon red dot sight

Tracking or finding small birds at great distances becomes easier with a Dot Sight.

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Nikon Coolpix P1000 4K mOON VIDEO RECORDINGs

 On YouTube, there is already a video from MyNikonlife with 4K video recordings of the moon made with the Nikon Coolpix P1000:

ConclusiON: REVIEW Nikon Coolpix P1000

PROS

  • Huge, really huge range
  • Good ergonomics
  • Shoots in both jpeg and RAW
  • 4K video
  • Effective image stabilization
  • Good lens and good sharpness with sufficient light

CONS

  • Quite hefty for a "compact" camera
  • Autofocus becomes slow in low light
  • Image quality decreases at the longest zoom position
  • Image quality, due to small sensor, not comparable with system cameras

Nikon P1000 delivers shots that are impossible to get with a smartphone.

You will not find the enormous range anywhere else. If you are looking for a camera for photographing small things at some distance, or big things at a great distance, like the moon, then that works very well with the P1000. The flip side is that the P1000 is a hefty camera and that there is only a small sensor in it. The image quality decreases quickly if you raise the ISO values , and you never get the hair-fine sharpness that you can achieve with system cameras. As long as you don't expect that, but just want to make usable pictures of subjects that you can hardly get in the picture with other equipment, then the P1000 might be exactly the camera you're looking for. The zoom range offers many possibilities, not only for photographing birds or the full moon, but also for landscape photography, macro work and even sports.

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Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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