Initially released in the spring of 2015, Nikon’s P900 was their flagship model in the COOLPIX lineup at the time. And a camera they marketed as their most impressive camera of the series. Unlike other models, it provides a brand new 83x optical zoom lens, allowing it to take the crown of their longest lens to date. And, on paper, it places the camera into an entirely new category compared to rivals. Nikon aims this megazoom bridge camera at beginning photographers looking for an upgrade over point & shoots or smartphones. And it’s also a camera designed as a stepping stone to bridge the gap to an entry-level DSLR.
Yet, considering the competition is fierce in this segment of the market, is zoom alone enough to make this camera worthwhile over rivals? And can this camera really take on the acclaim of Panasonic’s popular FZ1000? In today’s post, we assess its strengths and weaknesses and answer whether this camera is your next purchase.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon Coolpix P900?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Image Performance
- Video Capabilities
- Low Light Capabilities
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is this a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Nikon Coolpix P900?
It features a 1/2.3-inch 16MP Backside-Illuminated CMOS sensor. The camera also has a built-in 83x optical zoom NIKKOR ED lens, which delivers a 35mm equivalent of 24-2000mm. And it has a variable aperture from f/2.8-6.5. Nikon’s even equipped the camera with a 4x digital zoom, increasing the zoom to 8,000mm, though at the cost of image quality. This lens also includes Vibration Reduction (VR), Nikon’s stabilization system that keeps shots steady to reduce blur and camera shake. Plus, it offers a 1 cm macro mode, which allows you to shoot stunning macro and close-up shots, a nice touch.
The result of the lengthy configuration is image quality that matches today’s smartphone, though not a bad thing. In good light, its JPEG image quality remains excellent for this class of camera. Images are accurately exposed, reasonably detailed, and the colors are accurate and vibrant. And taken as a whole, the image quality throughout the camera’s range mostly matches Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs. However, images do show moiré in high contrast areas, typical for cameras in this class with smaller sensors.
The camera also offers continuous shooting speeds of 7 frames per second and provides a 7 shot buffer.
It shoots 1080p full HD video up to 60 frames per second in the MOV format using MPEG-4 codec. Overall, the video quality is good, though not excellent. Videos are relatively sharp towards the center of the frame and provide the same accurate color rendering as stills. But, they do lose sharpness towards the edges, which makes them more suitable for casual use, rather than professional.
The camera also offers hybrid image stabilization during video recording. This system melds the camera’s optical VR system with electronic stabilization, increasing stability. And it works reasonably well.
The camera uses a contrast-detect AF system with subject tracking and face priority. And, in good light, the focus is generally fast and accurate. While it’s not the fastest system around, it’s more than sufficient for most applications.
For those who prefer manually focusing, the camera also obtains focus peaking to ensure critical manual focusing.
The camera uses the EN-EL23 battery, and the battery life is good for this class. Nikon rates the camera to deliver 360 shots per charge and 80 minutes of video recording.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3.0-inch vari-angle TFT LCD with a resolution of 921K dots and an anti-reflective coating. A fully articulating screen is a rare feature in this class of camera. But, it’s one that adds enormous versatility to both high or low angle shooting. And it’s also the ideal choice for selfies and self-composed videos. The screen itself is good for this class of camera as well. It’s reasonably sharp, with accurate color rendering, and bright enough for use outdoors.
It also has an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 921K dots and 100% coverage over the imaging area. And the viewfinder has a built-in proximity sensor to disengage the rear screen, preventing glare and reflections.
It uses standard Nikon COOLPIX menus, which are clear, well-organized, and easy to navigate. Nikon has made them very beginner-friendly. And newcomers will find then quickly mastered.
It offers a user-defined shooting mode, U, on the mode dial, which allows you to recall a preset shooting setup.
It provides a dedicated function button (FN), which you can customize to the variety of functions it offers.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Weighing in at 899g, the camera is rather hefty considering its lens. However, it’s only slightly heavier than an entry-level DSLR in this segment—for example, Canon’s T5i or Nikon’s D3100, with a kit lens. But, the benefit here is that it’s added size affords the camera superior ergonomics. And in this case, that comes in the form of a deep and pronounced grip. It’s size also creates more room for physical buttons and controls. And while the layout is quite simple and many settings are in the menus instead, the layout remains excellent. The button placement is logical and well-executed. It’s also similar to most Nikon DSLRs, which makes the process of upgrading quite seamless.
Advanced shooters will also be pleased with the camera’s quick access to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO controls with the combination of its command and control dials. Overall, the camera handles almost identically to an entry-level DSLR but offers the advantage of a versatile fixed lens. So, previous DSLR owners will find this camera immediately comfortable.
The build quality is also excellent for this class. And the camera feels well made and durable.
The camera offers dedicated zoom levers for quick access to zoom control. One surrounds the shutter and the other by the lens.
It has a built-in pop-up flash.
It has built-in time-lapse.
It supports USB charging via the Micro USB port, without the need for proprietary cords.
It has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for easy sharing of images to a connected smartphone or tablet. Once connected, you can remotely control the camera as well. And it also offers built-in GPS to geotag the exact location of each picture automatically.
It has built-in HDR, which combines multiple exposures in-camera into a single high dynamic range image.
The camera cannot shoot images in the RAW format. Instead, you can only shoot JPEG images, which limits the amount of post-processing flexibility available. With that, you’ll need to be careful with exposures, and keep them within a 1/2 stop of the correct exposure. If they’re too far under or over-exposed, you’ll lose detail, and it won’t be recoverable.
While image quality on this camera is respectable at regular viewing sizes, viewing images at 100% crop is a different story. Its fine details are below average and worsen towards the sides of the image or the telephoto end. Thus, image quality is best for use with smaller devices, and for sharing online. And this camera isn’t particularly ideal for large format work.
Due to age, it doesn’t shoot 4K video or super slow-motion video at 1080p.
As this is an entry-level camera, it doesn’t provide advanced video-centric features such as 10-bit recording, log profiles, zebras, or waveforms.
Low Light Capabilities
Low light performance is below average. The camera features a native ISO range from 100 to 6,400, which is further expandable to the Hi 1 setting, the equivalent to 12,800. And even combined with its backside illuminated sensor, which increases the sensor’s light sensitivity, images become noisy following ISO 400. This is mostly the result of the camera’s rather slow lens. At f/2.8, only at the wide end, it’s not particularly fast. With that, whenever you’re shooting in low light scenes, a tripod is recommended.
Compared to the rear LCD, the viewing experience on the electronic viewfinder is a slight downgrade. The viewfinder has a bit of lag when first turning on. And its images have noticeably less detail with muted colors. And compared to rivals, it also offers less resolution. So, the overall viewing experience is just okay. But these aren’t a deal-breaker. And it remains useful enough when shooting outdoors in bright conditions.
The rear LCD isn’t a touchscreen. So you’ll have to use physical buttons to operate this camera.
The camera uses a Micro HDMI port, instead of the Mini size. And this size tends to damage easily, as it isn’t the most sturdy connection. Typically, Mini ports are better for this reason.
Like most cameras in this class, both the battery and SD card are in the same compartment underneath the camera. And this positioning makes quickly changing either tedious when using a tripod.
The lens lacks a manual focusing ring on the lens barrel. So, if you want to manual focus with this camera, you’ll have to use the rear control dial or zoom rocker. And both of these methods are far less intuitive, cumbersome, and quite tedious.
It lacks a headphone input.
It lacks a microphone input.
It lacks weather sealing.
It lacks dual card slots, though not expected for this class.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It’s an excellent beginner’s camera and a substantial upgrade over a smartphone in its versatility. While the image quality is about the same as today’s smartphones, it’s 2000mm lens offers flexibility unmatched by any phone. And it’s also a capable alternative for those who can’t afford an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, but want more flexibility than a traditional point & shoot.
Is this a good camera for you?
So long as you’re okay with shooting JPEG only, then this camera is sufficient. But, without RAW support, it’s not well-suited towards printing and heavy post-processing. And without RAW support, this camera isn’t ideal for more advanced shooters looking for maximum flexibility.
In all, Nikon’s P900 is an excellent choice for someone looking for an affordable megazoom camera. And the reality is that it offers, arguably, the greatest zoom lens in this class. Given its focal length, it allows photographers to shoot virtually any medium imaginable, in a single camera. And, compared to rivals, this becomes its ultimate key selling feature. Sure, it lacks RAW support. However, the image quality on a whole remains a step above a smartphone. And compared to a phone, it’s lens provides far greater versatility. While you are paying a bit of a premium for this camera, it’s worth it considering a lens with its focal length is well over double its price. And if you want a 2000mm megazoom camera, this is essentially the only game in town and as cheap as it’ll get. Considering the features offered, it’s a relevant contender today. And with its modest weight and impressive zoom range, it’s an excellent traveling companion.
Nikon’s P900 is an extraordinarily versatile bridge camera that delivers the longest zoom range in its class. With its easy-to-master interface and simple feature set, it’s quite a compelling option for beginners or seasoned shooters looking for versatility.