|Nikon Coolpix P100|
The Nikon Coolpix P100 is one of the 5 Coolpix models released by Nikon in February 2010. The letter ‘P’ in its name denotes it as a member of the ‘Performance series’. It toes the High Definition video line that is sought after by one and all, and offers 5 different anti-blur settings. And to top it all, it offers a focal range that will make you wonder where all this is leading to. Read all about it in this issue of Smart Photography.
DESIGN and BUILD QUALITY
The Nikon P100 is a multi-mode bridge camera with an outer shell made from engineering plastic. Though adequately strong, the sharp contours makes the camera look ‘boxy’. The hand grip is large, making the camera feel comfortable to hold. The 3-section lens protrudes approximately 16mm when set to its widest focal length and extends about 60mm when set to its longest focal length. It uses a tiltable LCD screen which makes it very functional in low-angle photgraphy.
The Nikon Coolpix P100 is a 10.3 MP bridge camera boasting a 26x Nikkor ED glass optical zoom lens equivalent to 26-678mm in the 35mm format. The lens is constructed with 14 elements in 11 groups. The camera uses a new backside illumination CMOS sensor optimized with Nikon’s EXPEED image processing concept to ensure quick response and natural-looking images.
The P100 appears to be aimed at sports and wildlife photography. It offers stunning 10fps continuous shooting at full resolution; and if you are willing to settle for low-resolution images (1.1 megapixel), –take a deep breadth – you can shoot at a mind-boggling 120 frames per second! The P100’s 460,000-dot Vari-angle, 5-position LCD monitor has anti-glare coatings which allow you to easily view the images even in bright light. The screen can be tilted up to 82 degrees downwards and 90 degrees upwards.
Shooting at night is always a problem. The P100, when set to Advanced Night Landscape mode, combines a number of shots to create a single clear image. Not only that, in high-contrast lighting situations, the P100, if set to Backlit Scene HDR, can provide images with tonal values not otherwise possible to capture.
What about video? Yes, it offers Full HD (1080p at 30fps) movie with stereo sound and HDMI output. You can create slow-motion effects by recording movies at 240fps at 320x240 pixels or fast-motion effects by recording movies at 15fps at Full HD.
Nikon seems to have taken vibration reduction to heart in the P100. And rightly so! (Don’t forget that the lens is 26-678mm equivalent and hence needs all the help it can get to reduce hand shake). Five VR systems are included: Optical VR Image Stabilization (using sensor shift), High ISO, Best Shot Selector (BSS. Takes 10 shots at one press of the shutter button and saves the sharpest image), Hybrid VR Image Stabilization (combines sensor shift method and electronic stabilization), and Motion Detection (the camera automatically detects movement and compensates by increasing the ISO as well as the shutter speed).
The Mode Dial on the P100 offers various shooting modes: Auto mode, for simple point-and-shoot operation; Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual mode for the advanced worker; User Setting mode (marked ‘U’), Subject Tracking mode, where the focus area tracks the subject; Smart Portrait, where the camera takes a picture when it notices a smiling face; Scene, wherein the camera automatically selects the optimum scene mode for easy shooting; and Sport Continuous mode, where the camera shoots at high speed to capture action (but only at 2MP or 1MP resolution). Four focusing modes are on offer to suit the subject and composition: Autofocus, Macro Focus, Infinity Focus, and Manual Focus. Likewise, 4 exposure modes are available. Exposure compensation up to +/- 2 EV can be set.
The user can opt for one of the 3 JPEG image qualities: Fine, Normal or Basic, and the images can be optimized using the Optimize Image setting in the shooting menu. Contrast, Sharpness and color Saturation can also be user set. White Balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash, or Custom (Nikon calls it Preset Manual or PRE).
ISO sensitivity on the Nikon Coolpix P100 can be set to Auto (ISO 160-800), High ISO sensitivity auto (ISO is automatically set within a range of 160-1600), Fixed range auto (you can set the range –ISO 160-200, or ISO 160-400 –in which the P100 will automatically adjust the ISO to suit the lighting, or manually set the ISO to 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600 or 3200.
The camera allows 4 metering methods: Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot (area shown in a circle in the center of the frame), and Spot AF area (the selected AF area is metered). Shooting modes can be set to Single (S), Continuous H, Continuous L, BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16 (with each release of the shutter button, the camera takes 16 pictures at about 30fps and arranges them in a single picture, and Interval Timer shooting. 3-shot auto bracketing in 0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 EV is possible.
A few more worth noting features are: Noise Reduction (NR, which when enabled, applies NR to images shot at shutter speeds of 1/4sec or slower); Active D-Lighting, which balances detail in highlight and shadows in contrasty lighting; Distortion Control, which corrects peripheral lens distortion; and Face Priority AF (camera automatically detects and focuses on a face).
The P100 uses SD/SDHC card to store images and has a 43MB internal memory. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (EN-EL5). The camera weighs approximately 481g with battery and memory card.
The Nikon P100 is easy to use and has a fantastic hand-grip. There is ample space for the left hand to support the camera. The tiltable LCD screen is very useful for low-level photography or for shooting over the head with hands held high up. Even then, we wish it had a screen that could also be rotated on its side. The Electronic Viewfinder is good but we prefer an optical VF. Movie recording was easy and convenient.
White Balance performance of the P100 was very good – as good as the WB performance of some mid-to-high-end D-SLRs. In terms of digital noise, the P100 performed to our satisfaction. The native image size was 9.12 x 12.16 inches at 300 ppi. At 16.7 percent enlargement, as well as 25 percent enlargement, there was no discernible noise all the way up to ISO 3200, though from ISO 800 onwards, images seemed to appear slightly ‘soft’. At 50 percent enlargement, pixel peepers may be able to see noise even at lower ISO sensitivities, though it was not at all objectionable. With the lens wide open at the 26mm equivalent setting, there was a bit of corner darkening (only at the lower corners). The P100 autofocused well in good light but in less than adequate light, and especially at the longest telephoto end, it sometimes focused reluctantly. Nikon’s Matrix metering provided good exposures most of the time, but we did notice highlight burnouts in crisp light.
We were impressed with the High Definition video performance of the P100. As is the case with most cameras having such an extended focal range, with the P100 too, pictures shot at the longer end of the zoom range (beyond 400mm equivalent) were not as crisp as we expected. Corner sharpness too suffered. The VR function did help, but here too, we expected Nikon to do better. In strong against-the-light shots, flare was evident and there was a good amount of chromatic aberration.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Nikon Coolpix P100 is available at an MRP of Rs.24,950, with a free 4GB SD card. We feel this price is justified.
Design and Build Quality 16.5/20
Key Features 17/20
Value for Money 16.5/20
+ Amazing focal range
+ Very good White Balance performance
+ Tiltable LCD screen
- No RAW mode
- No accessory shoe
- Image quality not that great
The compact Nikon P100 can make a good traveling companion as it can be used for most occasions. Those who are critical of image sharpness should probably stay within 400mm equivalent setting.