Many enthusiast and professional photographers who lean towards Nikon have been waiting for the company to produce a high-end compact camera. Has the Nikon Coolpix P7000 finally given them what they want?
Build and handling
As I mentioned, when compared to the previous P5000 and P6000 models, the Coolpix P7000 looks like a completely new camera. In fact, it is almost unrecognisable as a P-series Coolpix. Instead, there is a much greater resemblance, and one that is hard to shake, to the Canon PowerShot G series.At 360g (including battery and memory card) and measuring 114.2x77x44.8mm, it is larger and heavy than its predecessor, but the differences are minuscule compared to the Canon PowerShot G11.
The P7000 is a chunky compact camera, and while it can squeeze into a trouser pocket I would describe it as more suitable for carrying in a coat. Screw-fitted, black metal panels make up the exterior. It feels tough, but novice photographers may find its look classic and functional rather than slick and sexy.
Having both a viewfinder and an LCD screen affects the P7000’s ergonomics, with the left side of the body being taller than the right. There are all kinds of ridges to accommodate the buttons and the LCD screen slightly protrudes at the back. At first glance one assumes that it is a vari-angle screen, but it is not. There is a large rubber grip on the front of the body and a small rubber thumb pad on the back, so the camera sits nicely in the hand. A minor point is that the bottom right corner digs a little into the inside of my hand at the bottom of the thumb. A more rounded edge would help, without looking out of place on a body like this.
There is a host of buttons and dials on the top, back and front of the camera. A Function (Fn) button by the lens and an AV/TV button on the top can be customised as shortcuts to preferred settings, but the Fn button has limited application. Twin control dials are provided to select the exposure mode and the multi-function mode. I like the multi-function mode dial on the left-hand side, enabling white balance, ISO and image quality selections and an overall short cut to multiple preferred settings. This is operated by turning the dial to the desired function and pressing the button in the middle of the dial to bring up the separate menu on the LCD screen.
I would like to see a dedicated dial for ISO, to make access even quicker.There is a large dedicated dial for exposure compensation right next to the thumb. When shooting, it is easy to forget any changes made on this dial and consequently take several exposures at the incorrect setting. A nifty aspect of this dial is that an orange light indicates and reminds the user if the setting is not at 0EV. There is an autobracketing mode, too, and the number of shots in the sequence ranges from three to five.
The built-in pop-up flash is tiny and, as is standard for a compact camera, only powerful enough for close-range subjects, but there is also a hotshoe adapter that is compatible with any Nikon i-TTL flashgun.I used my Speedlight SB-600 and SB-800 flashguns and they were both compatible, but unlike when used with a DSLR the flashguns do not detect changes in focal range and so cannot adjust accordingly. However, flash compensation suffices. Purely on a size compatibility basis, I would recommend the smaller Speedlight SB-400.
In the P7000, Nikon uses its latest image-processing system, Expeed C2, making it possible to process raw and JPEG files simultaneously. However, possibly the most significant downside to the P7000 is the slow processing time when capturing and viewing images. I timed a delay of five seconds when shooting a raw and Fine JPEG using a Class 10 SDHC card. Similarly, I timed 4.5 seconds for a single raw file and two seconds for a single Fine JPEG.
In continuous shooting mode it is possible to capture six raw images, but there is then a consequent delay of around 30 seconds. This seems to be because the processor fully processes the image before allowing the next one to be taken, whereas other cameras allow shooting to recommence before the processing is complete. I found the wait rather frustrating so I tended to use JPEG capture.Despite the large number of controls and functions, I found that once I had spent time familiarising myself with the camera, all the controls and functions were right where I wanted them, making the camera quick and easy to use. With all the dials ready to hand, manual settings are encouraged and I had great fun experimenting and combining the colour settings, exposure compensation and metering modes.