Nikon Coolpix P7100 Review

Nikon Coolpix P7100 Review

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If you’re dithering between a mirrorless and a DSLR camera for serious, down-to-earth photography, this one from Nikon fits exactly that role.

Sure, the lens is fixed but it is a Nikkor that equates to 28-200mm as a 35 SLR equivalent: a 7.1x enlargement in fact. Very cleverly, Nikon has also installed an optical viewfinder: tiny but useful.

Agreed, the CCD captures only 10.1 megapixels, meaning you can snare a maximum image size of 3648×2736 pixels or as a 31x23cm print. But note: the CCD measures a largish 15mm across the diagonal. Compare the Nikon V1, with a diagonal of 16mm.

One negative: you have to forgo Full HD video with the P7100: max res is only 1280x720p, although I did find the AF and exposure control worked effortlessly while shooting video. A downer is that you can’t shoot stills while recording video: and it interrupts the video run.

Nikon Coolpix P7100 front.jpg

However, Nikon describes the P7100 as “the top model in the COOLPIX series.”

After only five minutes with the new camera, fiddling with the controls and scanning the copious viewfinder menus, I have to agree.

Nikon P7100 top.jpg

Nikon Coolpix P7100 back.jpg

Nikon Coolpix P7100 Features

This one sits in the same territory as Canon’s well-regarded G-series of fixed lens compacts — but IMHO the Nikon does it better.

Luna Park full tele.JPG

With camera in hand, the first thing you notice is the articulated screen that can be lowered 81 degrees from the vertical or upward by 105 degrees. But no sideways swing!

I particularly liked the external controls, especially the smallish knob/button at left: this gives direct control of ISO setting, bracketting, image quality/size/file format, custom picture control and white balance. After many years reviewing cameras that call for endless digging into viewfinder menus to access these features, this method has to be the pick of all the approaches.

Look across to the right of the top deck and you find the mode dial that takes you into auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority plus manual — and another button that gives direct access to exposure compensation, scene modes, effects. There are also three interesting positions on the mode dial that effectively give you three custom user settings.

It’s worth noting that there are four new special effects: zoom exposure, defocus during exposure, cross-processing and creative monochrome.

Grainy.JPG

These are fascinating. Take ‘creative monochrome’: you can vary the degree of graininess or you could even render the image as a solarised one. With ‘cross-processing’ you can simulate the effect of processing a colour negative in chemicals intended for reversal film … or vice versa!

I have to admit that the method of selecting special effects and scene modes left a little to be desired: you begin by rotating the mode dial to either, then you must hit the menu button to make your specific choice. Surely a better way would be to present the choices on screen immediately the mode is selected.

The interesting zoom memory is operable with the use of the Fn1 button, sited on the front surface. Not sure in my own photography how I could use this but possibly a useful feature when you have to match angles; up to three focal lengths can be logged.

There is a panorama mode, along with supplied software (Win and Mac) to stitch the images together: sure, it’s not as elegant as Sony’s approach where the images are stitched within the camera … but at least it’s there.

People in distorting mirror.JPG

Other niceties: a neutral density filter that can apply an exposure cut of three f stops. With this you can enjoy slower shutter speeds and shoot those dreamy, motion blurred images of breaking waves and other movement.

The big plus for many people is RAW capture (Nikon calls it NRW and it has to be converted), giving image files free of compression artefacts present in JPEG capture.

Startup

About a second and a half from startup In could shoot the first shot; follow-ons about a second apart.

Distortion

I was surprised to find there was obvious barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom but negligible pincushion distortion at the tele end.

Nikon Coolpix P7100ISO Tests

Nikon P7100 ISO 100.JPG

Nikon P7100 ISO 800.JPG

Nikon P7100 ISO 1600.JPG

Nikon P7100 ISO 3200.JPG

The image noise only became noticeable at ISO 3200 but, even then, shots of some subjects could still be useful.

Nikon Coolpix P7100 Verdict

Why you’d buy the P7100: multiple external control points; pocketable.

Why you wouldn’t: you want Full HD; the 7.1x zoom range is not enough for you.

Having waded through a mountain of DSLRs, mirrorless models and piles of boring point-and-shooters this one shines out like a beacon on a foggy night.

A black note: the battery must be charged while in the camera, so you can’t go shooting while charging a second battery. Bummer!

Well done Nikon!

Nikon Coolpix P7100 Specifications

  • Image Sensor: 10.1 million effective pixels.
  • Lens: Nikkor f2.8-5.6/6-42.6mm (28-200mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
  • Effective Sensor Size: 15mm CCD.
  • Metering: Matrix centre-weighted and spot.
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
  • Shutter Speed: 60-1/4000 second.
  • Continuous Shooting: 1.2 fps.
  • Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards plus 94MB internal memory.
  • Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 3648×2736 to 640×480.
  • Movies: 1280x720p 24fps, 960×540 30fps, 640×480 30fps.
  • Viewfinder: 7.5cm LCD screen (921,000 pixels).
  • File Formats: NRW (RAW), JPEG, MPEG4.
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
  • Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
  • Dimensions: 116.3×76.9×48 WHDmm.
  • Weight: 395 g (battery and card).
  • Price: AUD599.
Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon Coolpix P7100
Author Rating
3

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Kim Teo March 11, 2012 07:45 am

    "I have to admit that the method of selecting special effects and scene modes left a little to be desired: you begin by rotating the mode dial to either, then you must hit the menu button to make your specific choice. Surely a better way would be to present the choices on screen immediately the mode is selected.
    "

    Fn1 + Front Control Dial allows direct selection of special effects!

    Kim Teo

  • Randal February 24, 2012 02:09 pm

    Well done. I found out about this camera today. Hating the G12 (due to the worst viewfinder on earth, hardly exempary speed and a ho-hum zoom), I have kept hoping one of the manufacturers would get smart and feed this market (larger sensor, built-on zoom, real viewfinder, moving screen). Yay for Nikon. And your review is quite useful.

    Not wanting a return to SLR (I owned a Nikon FE and a spare 30 years ago while working as a newspaper photographer) because of the dreadful lenses, I have settled on a Canon SX10 IS, which is actually rather terrific (better than the SX20) but suffers in low light. It is in fact worthless for night shots. Still, I love it and truly lament how they ruined the line by killing AA batteries and going with CMOS.

    So this one (7100) will serve as my daypack camera for random shots while the SX10 will remain my guy for daytime stuff that is planned. Oh, and the 7100 (still not purchased) will probably become the nighttime tool.

  • Steven Shepard January 24, 2012 03:22 am

    Does anyone know if the P7100 can be charged through the USB port? Thank you!

  • techfan January 13, 2012 10:00 am

    Great review, thanks. How does the P7100 behave in aperture priority mode when zoom is used? On the P7000 the aperture would change when the zoom was changed even if the the aperure was set at 5.6, does the P7100 do this?

  • Randy Moe December 13, 2011 01:40 pm

    I have the P7000 and love it. It is funny, but I buy Nikon 7 series.

    N70
    D70
    D700
    D7000
    P7000

  • Esmael December 10, 2011 12:58 pm

    I have a P7100 and I don't have problems with charging. You can always bring a spare battery. Great review mate! This camera will be my buddy for a good couple of years :)

  • Paul December 10, 2011 05:30 am

    P.S. I have the charger that came with the camera, bought a spare battery and so like others above, don't understand the comment about being unable to charge a spare battery?

  • Paul December 10, 2011 05:28 am

    Bought one just after they were launched and love it. I feel lucky because there were only 'previews' online then, not actual reviews! I have all the DSLR kit and get fed up with humping my D700 + the f2.8 glass around with me. This camera is fun and versitile!

  • Jim December 9, 2011 01:19 pm

    Love my P7000, never a problem, very versatile and handy to have at the ready all the time.

  • Frank December 9, 2011 09:33 am

    Can this camera do "Voice Memo" ?

  • Eva December 7, 2011 10:05 am

    The P7000 has an external charger. That's really weird that this newer model doesn't. But I totally agree with the assessment. I love my P7000.

  • Peter Allan December 7, 2011 08:44 am

    The Nikon P7100's battery is charged outside of the camera in a supplied charger, at least here in the UK it is.

    Since buying it I have hardly used my D300s as it is so practical.

    Peter

  • linda walker December 7, 2011 05:58 am

    I agree with your review. This camera is wonderful one. The pictures are just great. I do not understand what you mean about the battery. I have a charger that came with it and two batteries so I always have one ready.