I’ve owned a couple of digital bridge cameras in the past and I enjoyed the flexibility and portability that this type of camera affords owners. The integrated zoom lenses on a bridge camera makes them an especially good choice for people looking for an all-in-one travel camera solution.
When I read that Nikon had launched a new CoolPix P900 with an equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm I was intrigued to see what this camera could do.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge
The Nikon P900 is a fairly large camera weighing in at 31.7 ounces/899 grams. This is slightly more than a D810 body weighs. The P900 handles well and has a nice feel and balance to it.
It is very apparent when looking at the labelling on the P900 that Nikon is trying to differentiate this product by focusing on the equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm that it provides to owners. This is achieved by the combination of the camera’s optical zoom lens and its small 1/2.33″ sensor.
More reach is available when using the Dynamic and Digital zoom capabilities, with the Dynamic zoom providing 166X and the Digital going to 332X. As is to be expected image quality does suffer when the Dynamic and Digital zoom features are used. Never-the-less for people looking for maximum reach, especially when using a tripod, these features do offer another interesting dimension to the camera.
It’s obvious to me that Nikon sees the potential market for the P900 as being all about its zoom capability. I must admit that when I used this camera it only took a few minutes before I started experimenting with it to see what distant subject I could capture with it. Shooting with the P900 can be summarized in one word… fun!
The P900 only captures jpegs in a 4×3 ratio and there is no ability to capture images in RAW format. Given the small 1/2.33″ sensor the P900 can’t be expected to produce outstanding image quality. Under good lighting conditions the jpegs will be acceptable for social media and smaller sized enlargements, perhaps up to 11″x14″ depending on how discerning an owner is about image quality.
Physics being what they are the small sensor does have limited dynamic range so highlights tend to clip and shadows can lose definition in high contrast situations.
As higher ISOs are used, the images do get noisy and at ISO-800 and above they can look quite grainy. Many users of the P900 will likely not be overly concerned about this as their objective may be more about ‘getting the shot’, and not worrying nearly as much about the actual quality of the image, especially when used in a social media context.
It is important to remember that the actual zoom lens used in the P900 is 4.3 mm to 357 mm. This means that the camera can easily be shot hand-held under good lighting conditions when the lens is fully extended. Since the P900 uses a small 16 MP 1/2.33″ sensor it has a 5.6X crop factor which is what creates the equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm. The zoom is a variable aperture from f/2.8-6.5.
There is no manual zoom capability on the P900, and the power zoom takes over 3 seconds to fully extend. There is a setting in the menu which allows a user to pre-set the starting zoom position when the camera is first turned on. People will find this very handy if they primarily shoot at the longer end of the zoom range.
There is no lens hood on the camera and adding a screw-on type is not recommended by Nikon. As a result you do need to be careful when shooting in bright, sunny conditions as lens flare can be an issue.
The rear LCD panel on the P900 is fully articulated. This comes in very handy when using the ‘macro’ shooting feature or filming video when the camera is in an awkward position. I’m not a ‘selfie’ shooter but I imagine the articulated screen is also useful in this regard as well.
There is a PASM dial on the top of the body, giving users more functionality. Using the PASM settings enables ISO-3200 and ISO-6400 to be used with the camera. When used in ‘Auto’ the ISO range is from 100-1600.
For many people I suspect the Nikon P900 may become the ultimate ‘auto shooter’ camera. They’ll simply set the camera on ‘Auto’, zoom in and out to their heart’s content and have fun capturing a wide range of images quickly and simply.
Even under good lighting conditions the auto-focus performance of the P900 is a tad slow. It is certainly more than acceptable for landscape and other types of static subjects but for faster moving nature subjects like birds-in-flight the P900 simply isn’t up to the task.
The auto-focus system also tends to get confused when the scene is fairly complex with branches and such in the foreground. For example, trying to shoot between branches to capture a perched bird can be a struggle for the P900. Subjects that are out in the open do not pose any issue at all so the P900 likely will have some success as a nature camera photographing static subjects.
Taking the P900 to a controlled venue like a zoo would be a different story and I can see owners having a blast using this camera in that kind of environment.
The camera has an integrated flash which many owners will find useful for family-type images or when indoors shooting at wider angles. The VR on the camera works very well and I found that I could capture images at slower shutter speeds without too much trouble.
The battery is charged while installed in the camera and takes over 3 hours to attain a full charge. Owners may want to buy an additional battery in order to have a spare on hand. The battery is rated for 360 images but I found I could get double that number of images if I didn’t use the rear screen.