Nikon’s Coolpix P7100 aims to build on the progress made by its predecessor, the P7000. We find out whether this new model truly stakes its claim as the ultimate compact camera
Build and handling
The Coolpix P7100 falls into the category of a high-end compact camera. However, measuring 116x77x48mm and weighing 395g, it is both larger and heavier than some compact system cameras (CSCs).
When compared to the recently launched Pentax Q CSC, the P7100 is virtually 50% larger. Granted, the 28-200mm zoom lens does collapse back into the body – unlike the interchangeable lenses of a CSC – but this is a camera for a comfortable fit in a jacket pocket rather than a trouser pocket.
That said, I rather like the size of the camera. It offers something of substance to hold on to, helped no end by the curved rubberised grip. Photographers will appreciate the dials that cram the body of the P7100. On the top are three dials: the shooting mode dial; quick menu access dial for key shooting settings; and exposure compensation. This is a compact camera that is geared for the knowledgeable photographer. A handy feature is the orange light that remains illuminated so long as the exposure compensation is not set to 0, which is a useful reminder to prevent leaving the controls on the wrong settings.
I like the more obvious changes made to the P7100. Not only are there dials on the top, but there is also one on the rear and now one on the front of the body next to where the tips of the fingers naturally rest. This new control dial is primarily used to make adjustments to aperture settings.
The P7000’s major shortcoming was its very slow file write times, at around 4secs for a NRW raw+JPEG fine file and 2.5secs for a JPEG fine file. Of course, write times depend on the speed of the card, but when using a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC card I found the write times of the P7100 to be 2secs for a raw+JPEG fine capture and 1.4secs for a JPEG fine. This represents a significant improvement over the P7000. During write time, the P7100 blacks out so there is no option to set up the next frame while the buffer clears, which means a little patience is still required between shots.
A hotshoe port provides compatibility with any of Nikon’s Speedlight flashguns and accessories which, given the limited guide number (GN) of 7m @ ISO 100 output of the built-in flash, will come in handy. Of all Nikon’s flashguns, the compact SB-400 best complements the size of the P7100.
The P7100’s zoom lens offers a widest aperture of f/2.8 at 28mm. At this focal length, significant barrel distortion is present. However, the distortion control found in the menu goes a long way to rectifying this, and should be activated for any images that include straight lines, such as buildings.
Another major update is that the 3in screen can be tilted, which is useful for low and high angles. In short, any discerning photographer will find the P7100 a pleasure to handle.