Nikon P100 Review

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.

240 fps

  • Max recording: 10 sec.
  • Resolution: 320 x 240
  • 1/8 speed playback for 80 seconds

120 fps

  • Max recording: 10 seconds
  • Resolution: 640 x 480
  • 1/4 speed playback for 40 seconds

60 fps

  • Max recording: 30 seconds
  • Resolution: 1280 x 720
  • 1/2 speed playback for 60 seconds

15 fps

  • 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.

ISO 160

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

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.

The Nikon P100 is whole lot of fun to shoot with, especially video.  In terms of user-friendliness, it makes a great dual-purpose companion.  That said, the P100 is a good camera, but not quite great.  The features are there, along with performance for the most part.  If you are looking for a feature packed superzoom and don’t expect to go big with your prints, the P100 is more than competent to deliver family album and low-resolution photos for sharing on the web.

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.

The Nikon P100 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Nikon P100 at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

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Comments

  1. ANAND says

    I WANT TO PURCHASE A DIGICAM . WHICH ONE OF THE FOLLOWING IS BEST ? AFTER READING LOT OF REVIEWS IN THE NET I HAVE SELECTED THE FOLLOWING FOUR:
    NIKON P100
    FUJI HS3
    SONY HX1
    PANASONIC DMC FZ38

    THOUGH MY MINS IS WITH FZ38 , MY HEART IS WITH P100. PLZ GIVE ADVICE FOR THE SELECTION

  2. Bob McDowell says

    Read reviews for Canon G11 and Nikon P100 – seems like G11 is superior for photo quality, but P100 might be more versatile. Do you have a recommendation as to overall better camera? Appreciate your candid evaluations.

    • says

      @Bob – I agree. The G11 offers better overall image quality, but it’s not quite as feature-packed in terms of video and, of course, zoom range. Better camera is relative to your needs, but for better overall image quality, I’d go with the G11 (and that would be my pick for a personal camera between these two).

  3. Tom Collins says

    I bought the P100 right before a two week vacation on Grand Cayman. The camera is very versatile, I took HD videos of my daughter and son-in-law on the wave runner with full zoom with tripod and got pretty good results. Stills were very good, and night pictures of light buildings were very good.

    Good shots of the grand-kids in the pool. shutter lag was negligible, resolution, exposure and color were all great.

    I would have needed a whole trunk of gear with DSLR, Lenses and video camera.

    Printed 4×6 images were extremely good. I haven’t had time for any 8×10’s

  4. LORENZO says

    i got a p100 just yesterday, the intention is to use the video functions, also because i do not trust the much 10 mp sensor at high iso, experience with D80 has not been satisfying. The first missing that comes to my eyes is that could be impossible to apply any filter, protector or shade on the front lens, nor even additional macro focusing, [2]and sinchronize directly any external flash unit. If anybody has a clue…

  5. B.E.N. says

    Seems like the IS is there alright,
    but IQ is only so-so…

    Awaiting your slashing of the Fuji HS-10 wide-angle IQ (you’ve already published), since it looks seriously *worse* than this Nikon P100…

    *Sigh* -> Guess I’ll end up with a DSLR after all…

  6. Gary says

    Will you be doing a comparison between the 3 “Megazoom” cameras – The Coolpix P100, Finepix HS10 and the Olympus SP800UZ. I am retiring soon and my colleagues want to give me a camera as a retirement gift. I would like to step up from a point and shoot but don’t want to lug all the extra weight and lenses of a DSLR. The Bridge cameras sound like a wonderful compromise.

  7. Charlie says

    I bought the P100 shortly after it came out totally based on my experience with other Nikon cameras. (I own a D90 DSLR and S60 point and shoot). I was looking for a “bridge” camera between the pocket-sized S60 and my D90 and found it with the P100. I’m very happy with the picture quality (I’m far from a professional, so I don’t see a lot of the things the pros do)and have had a blast capturing my grand daughter running around the yard in both burst mode (which is awesome) and video. In burst mode you don’t have to worry about missing “the shot”. It’s there and you can look at each of the shots individually and pick out the one you want. I think the colors are very natural and pleasing to the eye. I’m not seeing the picture issues that the reviews are coming up with. In my opinion, this is a great “bridge” camera and it give the feel of a DSLR without the weight and carrying of a multitude of lenses. I can use this as a point and shoot if I want and let the camera do everything for me, or I can get creative almost, but not quite as well, as I can with my D90. Obviously, the D90’s pictures in the above 5×7 range are superior to the P100, but that’s also why the D90 is 3x (with lens) the price of the P100. You won’t go wrong with this little powerhouse of a camera. :)

  8. Daniel says

    Hi!

    I’m from spain…

    I’m looking for a camera and the P100 is now on 370€ but my mother has just buy the D3000 and she told me that her camera is more better than the P100.

    I’m very amateur… and the D3000 is now at 490€.

    Can I buy the P100 without problems? Or may I do what my mother say and buy the D3000?

    Thks for all.

  9. Kent says

    @ Daniel, the D3000, which I have, does NOT have video functions, tho it does have an after action retouch feature for creating “stop frame” animations. For making HD movies, however, you truly need the P100.

    I am also looking for a bridge camera, I am comparing the P100 with the Lumix FZ35, and I absolutely cannot decide which one to go with. I also looked at the Fuji HS10, its video quality is lackluster, the P100 blows it away.

    Can anyone give any advice in choosing either the P100 or the FZ35, please ?

    Thanks in advance.

  10. Raúl daSilva says

    Great review. However I am now back to searching for a superzoom camera
    with good resolution. Perhaps that’s an unreal quest since I don’t want to get into this for thousands of dollars. It’s less than a hobby but something that I would like to do…

    I’m more interested in image quality than features.

  11. Jacqueline says

    I bought a P 100 and realized the screen had a few dead pixels. I returned that one and got a replacement thinking it was an issue with just that one. I have since tried 2 others and each had the same issue. Is this a common factor or am I just getting defective products?

  12. Stefan says

    Dears I need your help.

    Can you please tell me for how long you can record video with P100 in HD?

    I did not find any specification about this topic nor any comments.

    many thanks

  13. Amoun Boutros says

    I am planning to get a new camera and I am comparing the Nikon P100 and Sony HX1
    so can some body recommend to me what is better of the last choices or if there is another choice please let me know.
    Amoun Boutros MD,FRCS

  14. Mike says

    heyy friends,
    I’m an amateur photography hobbyist lukin 4 a superzoom to take on a tour.
    It seems I’m the 3rd person to ask tis qn in tis discussion. I can’t decide between a Panny FZ38 and P100.
    P100 – better Zoom, Feature set
    FZ38 – better image quality, RAW
    which one lets us tweak the settings easily- like aperture, shutterspeed, exposure,etc?
    Should I go for FZ45/100 ?
    please help…
    Mike

  15. doug sinnott says

    The Fuji HS10 is currently as good as you’ll get in the superzoom category,unless you move up to the weight,expense, and bulk of a DSLR,with equivalent lenses.
    I have owned Canon and Nikon DSLRs,and sold them, as the weight just put me off,and carrying a big bag around on holiday is not much fun.
    I had a couple of Panasonic FZ cameras,good cameras,but always felt a bit small in my big hands,but had good lenses and picture quality.
    I’ve still got a Panasonic FZ35,a cracking little “take anywhere” pocket camera,which is a great camera,when you can’t be bothered with a small shoulder bag.
    I’ve had a couple of Fuji’s,the S602Z,7000Z,and then the S9600,all great in their way,and all produced bright,colourful A4s,(even the 3MP S602z!).
    The HS10 images are equally good,and the lens is great,and it’s a well made,solid camera,with a really useful folding LCD.
    Unless you regularly make massive prints,or regularly attend fast moving sport games,there is not a lot to be gained buy buying a DSLR,and various expensive lenses,and I speak from long experience.
    I would also ignore the usual reviewers comments regarding “noise” in pictures as well,as in the average A4 print,(not on their 22″ computer screens)you won’t see any anyway,and I’ve produced plenty,most with varying degrees of cropping,from various “compact” cameras.
    In fact,looking through a large selection of my prints,all of varying subjects,it hard to make out which camera was used in taking them,the DSLR prints certainly didn’t leap out at you because they were so much better.

    Keep the ISO settings 400 and below,as much as possible,and you’ll have no problems,making big prints,(if you want to, that is)
    Of course I know ALL the superzooms are a bit slower to use than a DSLR,with a longer shutter lag,but,you can work around this,with various multi-frame settings,and my HS10 can take far better macro photos than any of my DSLRs could(without having to buy an expensive macro lens!),and the 724mm end of the lens is superb for nature photos!
    And the advantage of not having to change lenses,and having everything in one fairly compact camera,is a boon to the walkers and travellers amongst us!

  16. doug sinnott says

    As regards RAW files,I think,in my experience,they’re not really worth the hassle regarding the time you have to spend editing them on the computer,as I find that modern,low compression,”fine” jpegs,are usually of excellent quality,and you would be hard put to tell the difference if you compare them side to side.
    Cetainly your non-photographic friends couldn’t tell them apart!
    Also,some of questions asked in the “comments” section seem to be by people who:
    (1) Can’t spell properly,(i.e “Mike”)
    (2)Don’t seem to understand even the basics,

  17. vinay dwivedi says

    i bought a p 100 three days back but was not satisfied by its image quality, how is the new canon sx 30 is in comparison? or the panny fz 38. which is the best superzoom camera these days in terms of still image quality ?

  18. doug sinnott says

    After having use of a Panasonic FZ45 for the last week or so,I have had to revise my opinions!
    The Panasonic,(at the 10.5 MP setting)has just short of a 30X zoom,like my HS10,but it is quicker to use,focussing is spot on,and is over 100grams lighter.
    Pictures are consistently sharp,and you can take continuous flash pictures,(although only at 3MP)at 1.5 fps,which is very useful at parties,or taking pictures of pets,or children.
    It also has HD movie mode,and a multitude of functions,and custom functions,and is an ideal travel companion,even more so than my HS10,being lighter,and having a much longer battery life
    And even at 3MP,the pictures can be printed up to A4,if required
    The 3″ rear screen,however,is fixed,but can be viewed at odd angles,however,and is nice and sharp.
    The FZ100 is very similar,but has a CMOS sensor,a fully flexible rear screen,and full HS movie mode,if thats important to you.
    It is considerably more expensive,however,has shorter battery life)and also has the same small EVF as the FZ45(and the HS10!),but the picture quality is very similar to the FZ45,so it’s whether you think the extra expense of the FZ100 is worth it.
    The Leica lenses on the Panasonics are superb,and any of their cameras(and I have had a few!)all produce first class results,are consistently well made and reliable.

    So in conclusion,I would rate the latest Panasonics as amongst the very best of current Superzooms,ahead of the Canon SX30(which I have also had use of) and Fuji HS10,if only because of the faster image capture,and flash operation,Leica lenses,and being less bulky.

  19. says

    any news of an upgrade for the P100 in the near future?
    It has been out for a while now, and everyone and his brother knows it has a soft lens. One would expect Nikon to come out with more megs and sharper lens soon, yes?
    JJ

  20. Alexis says

    Does anybody know when Nikon is going to bring out a new P100 (P110?)
    I’m considering buying the P100 or another superzoom camera. As I heard the P100’s image quality isn’t “that” great, maybe I should wait for Nikon to bring out the next model. (It has been announced in march 2010, a year after the P90, so maybe in March 2011?)

  21. jary says

    hi,

    I bought the P100 and it works fine. But if I’m not bringing the manual with me I don’t know how to change the ISO, the shooting,etc.. And now after I missed up with if I press the shutter it takes a long time see the pictures lolz. Does anybody here are professional with P100. Need some help guys.

    thanks

  22. tt says

    can we edit the picture that captured by nikon coolpix p100?..because this camera don’t have RAW format.

  23. Devendra says

    Please suggest me a camera which has excellent image quality and which can shoot in low light.
    It should have a zoom of at least 24x and 10 Mp.

    1.Canon power-shot Sx30 IS
    2.Panasonic Fz40
    3.Nikon coolpix P100
    4. Fuji film finepix HS10