Achieving a high level of optical zoom on DSLRs and full-frame cameras typically requires using a large and heavy lens, like the ones you've probably seen being used at sporting events or for wildlife photography. However, the zoom ranges of such lenses are still lower compared to what can be achieved with point-and-shoot cameras, due to their smaller sensors and larger crop factors.
Nikon's compact Coolpix P900 led the charge for a while, offering an impressive 83x optical zoom. Recently, the company launched its successor, called the P1000, which boasts of a staggering 125x optical zoom. There's also 4K video support this time. All this in a package that can easily fit in most backpacks, makes the Nikon P1000 a very interesting option for those looking for the highest possible zoom range. We've been using P1000 for several days, and it's time to see if it's worth its Rs. 75,990 asking price.
Nikon Coolpix P1000 design and ergonomics
The camera ships in a pretty sizeable box, and for good reason. The Coolpix P1000 is a chunky camera that's roughly the size of an average professional DSLR. In fact, it occupies a similar volume to a Canon 5D Mark III with a 100mm macro lens. It's also quite heavy at 1.4kg and the design of the lens and placement of some of the buttons require you to use it with two hands at all times.
The plastic body feels sturdy and has a subtle texture that allows for a good grip. The hand grip is chunky, with plenty of rubber inserts, giving you the feel of a DSLR. The camera is front-heavy due to the 17-element lens array, so it's not the most ergonomic design. This is something that couldn't be helped, considering the purpose it's trying to achieve. The front of the lens has a ring around it that lets you adjust focus in manual mode, but it can also perform different functions like exposure compensation, ISO or white balance adjustment, depending on what you set it to.
The left side of the lens has a button for a ‘snap-back zoom' feature and zoom lever. ‘Snap-back zoom' is useful, as once you press it, the viewfinder zooms out a little for you to re-frame your shot, and once you release it, it snaps back to that zoom level. The zoom lever lets you make minor adjustments to the zoom level. The shutter button also has a zoom lever, and it can be programmed in an interesting way, which we'll get in to in the next section.
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a pop-up flash as well as a hot shoe for attaching an external flash. The 0.39-inch OLED viewfinder has a resolution of 2.35 million dots and diopter adjustment. We like the fact that the viewfinder protrudes outwards quite a bit, so when you look through it, your nose doesn't touch the display easily, preventing sweat and grime buildup. The controls on the top include a mode dial, command dial, power button, and customisable function (Fn) button.
All the ports are placed on the left of the camera and are covered by rubber flaps. These include a microphone input, Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB, and an accessory terminal. At the back, we have a 3.2-inch display with a 921k dot resolution. It can be fully articulated, which is good, but there's no touch support.
There is a smattering of buttons here, all of which are big and chunky and have good feedback. This includes a button for video recording, an AF/AE lock, one for manually switching between the LCD screen and the EVF, and a multi-selector wheel with a fixed set of shortcuts.
In the box, you get a removable battery that's rated for 250 shots per charge, a Micro-USB cable, a charging adapter, a Micro-HDMI cable, and according to Nikon's website, a 16GB Class 10 SD card.
Nikon Coolpix P1000 specifications and features
To achieve this level of zoom while still keeping the size of the camera relatively portable, Nikon has stuck with a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a 16-megapixel resolution, which is the same one used on the Coolpix P900. The camera has a focal range of 4.3mm to 539mm and an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/8. When you account for the 5.6 crop factor, you get the equivalent of a 24mm to 3,000mm focal length.
The Coolpix P1000 only uses contrast detection autofocus and has an ISO range of 100 to 6,400. It also supports lens stabilisation for stills, and a combination of this plus electronic stabilisation for movies. Other features include support for SDXC cards, RAW (NRW format), video recording at up to 4K at 30fps, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g.
The camera also supports Nikon's SnapBridge software, which lets you connect to Android or iOS devices wirelessly. You can have images automatically transferred to your smartphone as they are taken, which works even if the camera is off, as long as Bluetooth is on. Remote photography is also possible as the app lets you control the focus, zoom, and other parameters right from your phone. All of this works well, just as we've experienced on previous Nikon cameras.
The menu system is very simplistic and easy to master, even for novice users. The settings are spread across four main sections — Stills, Movie, Wireless, and Miscellaneous. One of the settings worth paying attention to is Zoom Memory, which lets you set various levels for the zoom lever on the shutter button. This way, you can jump directly from 24mm to 200mm, 800mm, and so on, making it faster to get to specific zoom levels with just a few taps.
ou can even set the zoom position when the camera starts up, from the default 24mm, up to 135mm. Electronic stabilisation isn't supported at 4K but it is available for other resolutions. The camera can shoot 1080p video at 60fps and even 480p video at 120fps.
Nikon Coolpix P1000 performance and battery life
In our ISO test, we check to see a camera's tolerance to noise as we go up the ISO scale. The Coolpix P1000 doesn't have a very large range and you can manually increase or decrease it only in full stop increments. Noise reduction was kept at the standard level for this test.
Details were maintained well till about ISO 1600, but at ISO 3200, there was noticeable reduction in details in the effort to suppress noise. At the highest ISO setting, the image was hazy and details looked mushy. To be honest, we weren't expecting outstanding performance, given the tiny sensor.
The main reason anyone would want to buy this camera is for its zoom capability, which is simply amazing. It can make objects that are literally kilometres away seem like they are right in front of you. The contrast detection autofocus is not bad at a range up to 1000mm, however, it starts getting slower as you approach the maximum zoom level. At 3000mm, the Coolpix P1000 really struggled to focus at times, so much so that we had to zoom out a bit in order lock focus. If you're shooting handheld then make sure you've got a good grip on the camera, as the weight shifts forward as the lens extends outwards.
The Coolpix P1000 is a great tool for capturing distant objects like the moon. In fact, this camera has a Moon shooting mode that automatically enables a three second timer, offers a shortcut to jump to 1000mm zoom, and assigns the command dial to let you select filters to give the sky a different colour tone. When shooting handheld, the camera's vibration reduction works very well in compensating for slight hand movement, even at the maximum zoom level.
There's a Bird shooting mode that disables the shutter sound so you don't scare away any wildlife. The slow autofocus at high zoom levels really limits this camera's potential for serious wildlife photography as we missed a couple of great shots of birds while we waited for the focus to lock. This doesn't give you a lot of confidence when shooting fleeting moments, which is a bit disappointing.
Image quality is decent under good light but is quite mediocre in low light. In landscapes, we noticed decent detail and colours. Dynamic range was also pretty good. Macros shot at the widest focal length had good colours and sharpness but this reduced once we went up the zoom range. The image quality started degrading slightly once we went beyond 1000mm, which was noticeable at a 100 percent crop. Colours were still captured well but objects lacked good definition.
They also appeared flat, since the higher up the zoom range you go, the narrower the aperture gets. In low light, details were mushy, and edges around objects weren't always well defined, even without pushing the ISO to 6,400. You could extract more detail and sharpness if you save your photos in the RAW format, if you have the time and willingness to play around in Adobe Lightroom.
4K videos aren't stabilised, so footage is a little shaky if you move about. If you're staying still and shooting footage at high zoom levels, the lens stabilisation works well. The picture is sharp and clear at zoom levels up to around 1000mm, after which it starts getting a bit soft.
Stabilisation works well at 1080p and 30fps, but the footage has a mild shimmer effect when you move about, which is a side effect of electronic stabilisation. At 3000mm, the Coolpix P1000 exhibits a lot of focus hunting, due to which we were forced to dial down the zoom a bit.
Video quality is decent in low light but gets a bit noisy and soft at high zoom levels. Continuous autofocus isn't very quick as it takes a good number of seconds to lock focus when you change your framing or the focal length. There is a manual video mode but there's no way to change the focus point, like you can for stills, which is a little disappointing. This means you'll have to move your subject or the camera, to get what you want in focus.
The LCD display produces a decently sharp image but the brightness isn't very high at the default level, so we had to max it out when shooting in daylight. The EVF produces good image quality, and the switching between the two is quick, thanks to the eye sensor. The eyepiece uses plastic instead of a soft rubber lining like most high-end cameras, which isn't very comfortable for prolonged use.
There's only one programmable button, which can be set to change the drive mode, metering, ISO, etc. Having a few more customisable buttons or dials would have been nice. The camera has a maximum burst rate of around 8fps but you can also shoot a small video clip at 60fps or 120fps, and extract stills from it.
Battery life is not great, but we managed to get a little more than the rated number of shots per charge on average. We managed to squeeze in a few short 1080p and 4K video clips, but overall battery life could have been a lot better. With the bundled wall charger, it takes around three hours to fully charge the battery.
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 offers the longest zoom you can hope for from a camera that can fit into a backpack, which is a big accomplishment in itself. This comes at a high price of Rs. 75,950 and honestly, at this price we also expect very good image quality, which this camera struggles with.
It does offer excellent lens stabilisation even at full zoom, a fully articulating LCD display, good grip, and decent quality 4K videos. Unfortunately, the autofocus doesn't inspire confidence, which limits the type of photography you can achieve with this camera. Also, low-light and battery performance was a bit weak, and lets not forget that it's a handful to carry around.
If you're simply looking for high zoom, then the older Nikon Coolpix P900 makes a lot of sense. It still has a decently large 83x or 2000mm zoom level, and packs in similar guts as the P1000 (with the omission of 4K video and RAW support), all for a price of just Rs. 32,950.
If you're looking at better image quality, then the Panasonic DMC-FZ2500 is a great option at around Rs. 80,000. It only has a 20x zoom, but it's more feature-packed and the 1-inch sensor should give you better image quality. Lastly, if you want better zoom levels from a 1-inch sensor camera, then Sony's RX10 III and RX10 IV are some of the best you can get, but their prices go beyond Rs. 1,00,000.
Price (MRP): Rs. 75,950
- Impressive zoom range
- Very good lens stabilisation
- Fully articulating display
- RAW and 4K support
- Heavy and bulky
- Average quality JPEGs
- Battery life could be better
- Autofocus can be sluggish
Ratings (out of 5)
- Build/ design: 3.5
- Image quality: 3
- Video quality: 3.5
- Performance: 3
- Value for money: 3.5
- Overall: 3.5