Nikon P100 Hands-On Review

by on February 23, 2010

in Nikon

Nikon P100

At PMA 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with a number of cameras.  One of the most impressive new cameras that I’ve seen has been the new Nikon Coolpix P100.  To see what makes this camera special, check out the big hands-on review below.

The P100 is a 10.3MP superzoom camera with a 26x optical zoom lens and optical VR image stabilization.  The sensor is a backlit CMOS and uses Nikon’s EXPEED processing, which is found in high-end Nikon DSLRs as well.  The camera feels not much smaller than your typical entry-level DSLR.  It is very comfortable to hold and has a number of direct access buttons and dials for making quick changes to your settings.  The P100 is quite responsive and covers the zoom range from wide to tele relatively quick.

Nikon P100

The P100 has an attractive 3-inch LCD with a 460k dot resolution.  While it looks great, it’s not quite as beautiful as the 920k dot resolution screens we are seeing on many cameras nowadays.

Additionally, the LCD tilts down and folds out; however, it doesn’t swivel from side to side.  It works well and helps with positioning the camera for filming/shooting above or below eye-level.  I found the tilting LCD very useful when shooting from the hip, as well as shooting over others’ heads.  Big kudos to Nikon on this feature. The P100 also has an electronic viewfinder for those who prefer to put their eye up to the camera, or when it’s needed on bright, sunny days.

Nikon P100 Video Capture

Nikon P100

The Nikon P100 can capture 1080p HD video in MPEG format at 30fps, along with stereo audio.  The P100 has an HDMI jack for showing off your videos on an HDTV.

Additionally, the P100 has a high speed capture mode, which can record VGA-quality video at 120 fps for up to 40 second clips.  It can also step up to 240 fps, but at a further reduced resolution.  Below you can see some HD and high speed sample clips from the P100. (Note that I have resized the video for web use).

In addition to the high speed video, the P100 can capture a burst of 6 full resolution still images at a rate of up to 10 fps.

The zoom range, which covers the equivalent of 26-678mm, is really incredible.  As noted above, the P100 covers this range quickly.  The one quibble that I noticed in my time with the P100 is that you can get a bit of shake during video recording if you zoom the lens too quickly.  You can see this effect in one segment of the above video where I quickly zoom out.

Nikon P100 Image Quality

I’ve included several images below, which were shot with the P100 on my first outing, in order to give you an idea of what kinds of images it produces.  You can right-click on the images and choose “Save link as…” to download the full resolution versions for your personal inspection.

Nikon P100 at ISO 160
Nikon P100 – ISO 160, f/5 at 1/4s – 335mm

Nikon P100 at ISO 200
Nikon P100 – ISO 200, f/5 at 1/5s – 335mm

Nikon P100 at ISO 400
Nikon P100 – ISO 400, f/5 at 1/10s – 335mm

Nikon P100 at ISO 800
Nikon P100 – ISO 800, f/5 at 1/20s – 335mm

Nikon P100 at ISO 1600
Nikon P100 – ISO 1600, f/5 at 1/40s – 335mm

Nikon P100 at ISO 3200
Nikon P100 – ISO 3200, f/5 at 1/100s – 335mm

What I noticed was that image stabilization works very well.  Most of the images I shot were in very low light, so I struggled to keep shutter speed up at lower ISO settings.  As a result, I shot many images at higher ISO settings in the ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 range.  The Nikon P100 handles noise very aggressively, allowing very little to creep in.  The result is soft images at higher ISOs; however, this is noticeable when magnifying the images beyond what would be normal viewing.  For your run-of-the-mill 4×6 and 5×7 prints, the P100 looks to be a real winner – even at high ISO settings in low light.

Other Features

Nikon P100

There are so many shooting modes in the P100 that it really becomes a do-it-all point and shoot camera.  While you can shoot in full auto with good results, you can also tailor the P100 to suit your specific shooting needs by choosing an appropriate mode.

The P100 has an in-camera HDR mode, which merges multiple images of the same scene to extend the dynamic range of your image.  This is a becoming a common buzz word used in a lot of point and shoot cameras; however, not all of them use multiple images captured at different exposure levels like the P100.  Some use internal processing, which basically boosts shadows and flattens contrast.  That’s not the case with the P100 – it’s real HDR-image merging.

Advanced Night Landscape mode uses multiple shots in combination to create a sharp image when there just wouldn’t be enough light for a sharp image from a single shot.  As the name implies, this is intended for landscapes and still subjects at night and not for moving subjects.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get some images with this setting; however, I’ve seen this setting work very successfully in Sony cameras, and would expect similar results here.  I’ll make sure to look deeper into this and other settings in the full review when I can spend more time with the camera.

Could Be Better…

As you can tell, I’m very impressed with the Nikon P100; however, there are a handful of things that I wish were different.  As noted above, I experienced some “shake” in the image when zooming quickly.  This isn’t a problem for still images; however, the effect is noticeable in video recording.  That said, “fast zooming” and video recording don’t really go together well anyway.  So, while it’s annoying, it’s not significant enough to be a deal killer.

I think the P100 could have moved closer to the perfect superzoom with RAW capture and a hotshoe for an external flash.  That combination with Nikon’s speedlights would have been killer.  I know it’s wishful thinking, but the P100 is such a powerful camera, I would have liked to see even more control in enthusiasts hands. However, the P100 will suit the vast majority of folks looking for an advanced feature superzoom.  Geeks like me will always want a camera to do more.

Conclusion

Nikon P100

As it stands though, the P100 is a solid camera that will likely sell like hotcakes until its replacement arrives. At $400 retail, it’s not cheap.  And while a DSLR may be tempting at that price point, you aren’t going to find a zoom lens to match the range of the P100′s for a DSLR.  You certainly won’t find something that can reach as far as the P100 and that you can practically carry with you.

The image quality appears to be more than competent for a point and shoot camera.  Even at higher ISOs, the P100 manages to keep the noise down well enough for 4×6 and 5×7 prints.  HD and high-speed video are a blast with the P100.  I just keep coming up with ideas of ways to shoot in high-speed mode with the P100.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you more in-depth coverage on the P100 soon.  Support Photography Bay and check availability of the P100 at trusted retail partner B&H Photo.

A couple of other cameras to consider that stack up against the P100 are the new Fuji HS10 and Olympus SP-800UZ, both of which feature 30x zoom lenses.  I’ve had some hands-on time with these cameras and will be reporting my first impressions soon.

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{ 20 comments }

1 pritam February 25, 2010 at 7:21 am

hi can you suggest which is a better buy HS 10 or P100 ?

2 B.Landini March 14, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Good overall review. Would like to shoot basketball in low-light high school gyms—- do you think the P100 is a good choice?

3 ted April 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

B.Landini
:no.you neeed an slr with decent high iso(yje new canon rebel or equiv pentax/nikon) and a long prime/zoom lens

4 B.LANDINI April 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm

TED:

Thanks for your input —– I’ll start looking at the rebel.

5 CreativeCam April 22, 2010 at 5:08 am

Hi Folks,
I just bought the P100 last week and I’m very happy with it. I just finished uploading some sample pictures on my website. Some video samples will follow next week. You can see the pictures here: http://www.creativecam.nl/media/nikon-coolpix-p100-sample-images

Greetz!

6 B. Joseph April 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm

This is the best camera I have had. Before I bought it I read some negative reviews about it.But when I tried it , I quickly realised that was the best one out there for its price. The qualities of the picture are excellent. It’s my best toy and I enjoy taking pictures more now. It’s easy to use.

7 Babs April 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Hey Any got a comparison of P100 with Canon SX20IS? Would love to see how the image quality is compared.

8 Girish April 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Wonderful review…..

9 norman cusuman May 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

In ur test how will the pictures look when printing 8×10?? That is what I print most of the time. I’m talking about Nikon P100.

10 norman cusuman May 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

To B.Landini. To shoot basketball try to get close and use a 50mm.lens.That is what I do and get great shots without blur.

11 Lisa W. May 20, 2010 at 12:15 pm

How does the Nikon P100 do with shooting sports? Mostly outdoor, and soccer?

12 Sharad J August 2, 2010 at 5:34 am

Bought the Nikon Coolpix P100 in June10. It was a great buy. Pictures are amazingly clear. Low light pictures are great. The best feature for me was the Sports Continuous mode… got some amazing pictures of a dolphin jump through a ring with 10-15 pics to select from.

Unless need a highly professional camera…this one is highly recommended

13 shrayan September 10, 2010 at 2:21 am

its just awsome cam my dad gifted me on my birthday !!its amazing !iam adicted to this cam n even more closer 2 nature!

14 SMiller September 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I received the Nikon P100 for my birthday in mid March. It is the first Nikon camera I have ever owned. In the 5 months I have owned the P100, it has been in Nikon service for 2 OF THOSE MONTHS. Each time Nikon had my camera for repairs, they replaced a whole list of parts and both times I received the camera back in far worse condition. The more they work on it and replace parts the worse it gets. And for some reason they keep sending it back to me with more and more problems and issues. Unbelievable. After spending another 2 hours on the phone with Nikon Tech Support, I was told the camera had to be sent back again. So, for the THIRD TIME, I sent the camera to them. I was told they would let me know if they decide to replace it or try to fix it again. Seriously. My response to this statement was that if they COULD fix it then they WOULD have. It wasn’t fair to ask me to wait while they tried to fix it for the THIRD TIME. They need to just replace it with a new camera. In the meantime, I was asked to send a few of the pictures for Nikon to analyze. The response I received from a Nikon supervisor said that the pictures I sent were bad because of the settings used and the composition. For the glare problem, he instructed me NOT to face toward the sun when taking pictures. He also suggested a setting to use for indoor low light conditions and asked me to try that and let him know how it works. How insulting! Wow. Nikon is blaming me for all the picture and camera problems and not taking any responsibility for the fact that in the 8 weeks they have had my camera for repairs they were never able to fix it – and, in fact, made it worse and still sent it back to me like there was no problem. And I can’t very well try a different setting on a camera that I do not have – and this Nikon supervisor knew that the camera had been sent back. When is Nikon going to take responsibility for their product and stand behind it? They need to accept the fact that I just happened to get the one bad apple in the bunch. I’ve already gone 8 weeks (and counting) without the use of my camera. They’ve already had 2 chances to fix it and they haven’t. They need to replace it with a new camera before the last shred of respect – and confidence – I have for Nikon is gone. This isn’t exactly how I thought my first experience with a Nikon camera would turn out. Not a fan of the camera, Nikon, tech support, or their service department now.

15 Hawja1 October 1, 2010 at 3:01 am

nice review!
i’ve read a lot of negative reviews about the P100, especially about the picture quality..maybe because they compare it to a DSLR camera..c’mon!you can’t compare a point and shoot cam to that..if you’re a professional photographer i say you get a DSLR, P100 is a travel camera with a very respected zoom range and i love to have this camera, it fits my lifestyle..i’m a photography hobbyist, a frisbee player and will be gig profiler..i’m getting the P100 as well.

16 Ian Douglas October 1, 2010 at 7:07 am

I have just listed my Nikon P100 on Ebay, as I have had it three months, and taken some great shots, but I have the problem when I look at an image through the viewfinder, it looks great with good colour, but then when I press the shutter half way, the camera wants to flood the image in extra light, and won’t take the photo that was in the viewfinder before I touched the shutter. I have tried all sorts of setting adjustments and had a professional photographer have a look at it without success as to why the camera changes the image with too much lighting. I have decided to replace it with the new Canon SX30IS which has a 35x zoom and steady video results even whilst zooming and moving around a subject. I have plenty of good photos from the Nikon, but it is too frustrating to use. The facility that takes four photos whenever your take one was also annoying.

17 prem October 21, 2010 at 3:35 am

bought 15 days back. I am facing some issue with the flash. When flash is used in evening or night(with some light around), the picture becomes dark as if the flash light is too sharp. In dim lights pictures without flash looks better than those clicked with flash on. any clue how to handle this.

18 krishna vardhan November 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm

i have got the p100 a week ago from my father as a gift and i found it most intresting with its high zoom and the tilting screen this is a very useful camera for those people who have photography as a hobby

19 dr surf November 14, 2010 at 1:17 am

“The image quality appears to be more than competent for a point and shoot camera. Even at higher ISOs, the P100 manages to keep the noise down well enough for 4×6 and 5×7 prints.”
This is hardly a ringing endorsement; in fact if this is truly the best one can say about the P100′s IQ, this is an awful camera. $00 to take 5×7 pictures??? At this price, we should be able to take pictures large enough to hang on the wall. 16×12 at least. There is at least one superzoom that will do this: Fuji S100. And Canon SX10is also does a great job. For that matter, many pocket P&S cameras do, too. Less zoom but far better pictures.

20 SAM TRITON January 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi… I bought Nikon P100 digital camera nice to handling, HD 1080p video is very supper. Continues photo shooting 10/seconds, optical zoom is very supper one,Then smile shutter.

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