The Nikon Coolpix P100 is a 10.3 megapixel camera with a massive 26x zoom range, covering an equivalent focal length of 26-678mm. The P100 is packed with features and cool shooting modes that help set it apart from other cameras on shelf. To see whether all these features add up to a camera that’s right for you, read on.
Nikon P100 Key Features
- 10.3MP CMOS Sensor
- 26x Optical Zoom
- Sensor-shift Image Stabilization
- 3-inch Articulating LCD
- 10 fps Max Frame Rate
- ISO 160-3200
- 1080p HD Video Capture
- Hi-Speed Video Capture (up to 240 fps)
Nikon P100 Handling, Ergonomics and Control
As a superzoom camera, the Nikon P100 has a beefier feel to it than your typical point and shoot camera. The rubberized grip is large and has a DSLR-like feel to it. It’s a very easy and comfortable camera to hold. While you can hold the camera with one hand utilizing the large grip, the P100 is definitely a camera you want to put two hands on – especially when zooming way out there. Fortunately, the lens barrel provides a very intuitive grip point for your left hand, which further adds to the DSLR-ish feel.
The P100’s main settings can be found on the mode dial atop the camera. From there, you can quickly access the fully automatic mode and the more advanced P, A, S and M modes, as well as special scene modes.
The articulating 3-inch LCD panel is one of the features on the P100 that’s immediately impressive. It is a relatively high resolution display that is bright and easy to view in most lighting conditions. The screen will tilt down and fold out to tilt up as well, which allows you to makes easy use of high and low viewing angles. In the bright sun light, the screen is rather difficult to see; however, that’s not uncommon among most digital cameras, so I can’t knock it too hard.
An electronic viewfinder can also be found on the P100. A lot of times electronic viewfinders don’t track motion very well, but the P100 seems to be better than most, even if it’s a bit small.
The shutter release button works well at the front of the grip and easily activates autofocus through a half press. Likewise, the zoom rocker switch, which wraps around the shutter release, is intuitive and has a good feel to it. The top of the P100 also features a pop-up flash and a stereo mic for recording audio during video capture.
The controls on the back of the camera are rather typical of what you see on a point and shoot, with quick access buttons for timer, flash, macro focus and exposure compensation. You also get the standard preview and delete buttons for image review. A display button cycles through the various display options in both live view mode and image review mode. Switching between the LCD and electronic viewfinder is possible via a dedicated rear panel button as well. For additional settings (other than the video recording discussed below), you’ll need to dig into the menu using a button on the rear.
One of the most convenient button locations is the one that starts and stops video recording, which is accessible with your right thumb when gripping the P100 in a normal manner. Camera manufacturers have gotten the hint that users want quick access to video recording options without jumping through menus or turning a mode dial and, as a result, many new camera models feature a dedicated video recording button. Nikon goes a step further with the P100 by including a switch next to the record button that allows you to choose between HD video and High Speed video. When you hit the record button, the camera will capture video footage in whichever format you have selected.
Shooting with the Nikon P100
For the most part, taking photos and capturing video with the Nikon P100 is a rather smooth and enjoyable experience. In single focus mode, autofocus acquisition is rather quick for a point and shoot camera, and it is generally accurate. Continuous autofocus can lead to some hunting and sluggish AF in low light, which is rather typical of a point and shoot camera. The P100’s full time AF mode is just not quick enough to keep up with moving kids indoors. For performance reasons, I found myself keeping the P100 in single AF mode most of the time.
The articulating LCD comes in quite handy with the Nikon P100. Since it makes for better photos most of the time to be down on a kid’s level, the P100 is easy on the grown-ups’ back by allowing us to hold the camera at waist level to frame our shots. You also get the added benefit of being a little more ‘under the radar’ by not holding a camera up in front of your face. I found myself shooting quite a bit at waist level by just tilting the display angle where I could see it.
The zoom action on the P100 is pretty quick, which is great when you want to get close for a quick shot; however, it slows down when you’re shooting video so that you don’t get carried away. Unfortunately, the zooming action generates some jiggles along the way when recording video. It’s not too bad, but it’s definitely noticeable. At the long end of the zoom though, the image stabilization seems to really do a number on the video jiggles, making it hard to use the full reach of the zoom for video.
High speed video is one very cool feature on the Nikon P100. It will capture a maximum frame rate of 240 fps for a 10 seconds, which results in a playback time of 80 seconds. I had a lot of fun with the slow motion effect produced by these high frame rate videos.
The P100’s high speed modes also offer 120 fps, 60 fps and 15 fps. Instead of a slow motion effect, the 15 fps capture mode provides normal video at twice the speed since it is played back at 30 fps. The high speed video frame rates are captured at a varying resolutions, as shown below.
- Max recording: 10 sec.
- Resolution: 320 x 240
- 1/8 speed playback for 80 seconds
- Max recording: 10 seconds
- Resolution: 640 x 480
- 1/4 speed playback for 40 seconds
- Max recording: 30 seconds
- Resolution: 1280 x 720
- 1/2 speed playback for 60 seconds
- Max recording: 120 seconds
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- 2x speed playback for 60 seconds
The high speed frame rate for still images is another impressive feature on the P100. It will capture a continuous burst of full resolution images at up to 10 frames per second, which is more that a lot of point and shoot cameras can say for themselves. This feature works well when you are trying to capture a single moment of action and you don’t want to miss the climax event of the fast paced action. The P100 isn’t going to track in full time AF while it is shooting, so you have to position yourself to try to lock the action at a given distance so that the subject is coming at you or moving away from you. Still yet, it works quite well on the P100 and can come in handy in lots of situations.
I was also very impressed with the image stabilization system in the P100. I was more than surprised at some of the shutter speeds that I used at long focal lengths. Kudos to Nikon for making the stabilization so effective. You’ll see a small flavor of this in the sample images below.
Nikon P100 Image Quality
I could keep on going and going about all the bell, whistles and cool features in the P100’s arsenal, but I’ll save some space for image quality issues and address one the biggest reasons we buy cameras. The unfortunate part of the P100 assessment is that the image quality isn’t as good as I had anticipated. When I previously looked the P100 at the time it was announced, I had high hopes for its image quality based on the the preliminary results and the fact that it had a backlit illuminated CMOS sensor.
The more time that I’ve spent with the P100, however, the less that I’ve been satisfied with the images that it has produced – even at lower ISO settings. While the images aren’t flat out bad, they aren’t great either. And, frankly, for a camera in the price range of the P100 I’ve just come to expect more. (At the time of this review, you can pick up a Nikon D3000 DSLR for just a little more than the P100.)
Below you will find a sample of images captured across the ISO range from the Nikon P100. I’ve included close ups, cropped at 100%, as well as the complete images themselves to give you a flavor of what web-sized images at higher ISOs will look like.
As you can see from these photos, they look pretty good at these sizes on the web thanks to Nikon’s aggressive noise reduction. They’ll also be fine for 4×6 or 5×7 prints for the most part. Certainly, they’ll be good enough for most family albums. However, if you like to enlarge prints from time to time beyond the typical album or small frame sizes, you may find the P100 failing to live up to acceptable standards.
Below are a handful of additional images taken at various settings with the P100.
ISO 160 – f/5 – 1/20s
26mm equiv. – ISO 160 – f/8 – 1/500s
678mm equiv. (zoomed on above scene) – ISO 1/160 – f/7.1 – 1/500s
ISO 160 – f/4 – 1/600s
481mm equiv. (impressive image stabilization) – ISO 1600 – f/5 – 1/23s
Below is a short 1080p sample from the P100.
If you want to download the .mp4 1080p video file, you can get it here (just right click and choose “Save link as…”).
Nikon P100 Accessories
Nikon EN-EL5 Battery – The Nikon P100 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the Nikon P100, which worked just fine. No need to go all out on fast memory cards with the P100. Cheap cards from reputable brands will work just fine. The P100 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.
Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the P100. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.
Nikon P100 Conclusions
The Nikon P100 holds the unfortunate position of being the first superzoom camera that I’ve reviewed out of the latest crop of several other similar cameras. As a result, it will continually be referred to in future reviews of cameras like the Olympus SP-800UZ, Fuji HS10 and other not-so-long superzoom cameras.
If you can keep it around ISO 400 or less (and that’s possible thanks to the ability to set a max ISO in the camera so it won’t shoot above ISO 400), then you can likely do a little better with image quality. The not-quite-there image quality of this camera holds it back from being awesome.
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