Like past models, the P100 offers a well built feel in your hands. While much larger than a typical point-n-shoot, the P100 is quite compact when you consider it's packing a 26x optical zoom lens. The large hand grip allows for a nice firm hold on the camera, and makes one handed shooting possible. However, due to the telephoto capabilities of the P100, I strongly recommend using both hands to operate this camera. I have large hands, and overall found the camera fit comfortably in my hands while shooting. The tiling LCD on the P100 is a welcomed option, that gives you the ability to frame photos that are next to impossible to accurately frame with a fixed LCD. This includes over the head and waist level shooting. This is also a very nice display with 460k pixels of resolution, which offers a nice clear image with good colors. I will note that the brightness is a bit strong in the default settings, which made me think the camera was overexposing images on a regular basis. However, once I got home to my PC, I could see it was not the camera but rather the LCD not showing an accurate representation of the exposure. Other than the above, I had no real issues using this display both indoors and out, even when shooting in some very harsh sunlight. the EVF also performed will in various lighting, however I found the eye piece to be a bit small.
If you've owned a Coolpix camera in the past, you'll have no problems adjusting to the the P100's menu system. Even new users will find the menu easy to navigate, thanks to it being logically organized. Like mentioned earlier, the P100 offers 25 different exposure options, giving as much or as little control over the exposure process as you'd like. Beginners will find comfort in using Auto, Scene auto selector and the various other 18 Scene mode options, while more experienced users will appreciate the Program, Shutter/Aperture priority, and full Manual modes.
The P100's image quality results were "Ok", however I was expecting a bit better results. Colors and exposure are pleasing, however there is an overall lack of detail in the P100's photos. Whether indoors or out, we saw above average amounts of noise, even at the lowest ISO 160 setting. Look at any of our outdoor photos, and you don't even have to zoom in to 100% to see the luminance noise in open skies, etc. At full screen resolution (about 25% depending on your monitor size) images do look nice. However, zooming in a bit for a tight crop will reveal this unwanted noise.
The 26x optical zoom lens offers an awesome zoom range to work with for framing your photos. It covers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 26 - 678mm, which gives you a nice wide end to work with indoors, for group shots and Landscapes. At the same time, you have the telephoto magnification to zoom in tight on distance subjects. Nikon's 5-way VR technology will help with your long telephoto shots, however a good camera support like a monopod or tripod is highly recommend. Monopods are relatively easy to keep with you, and will greatly increase your chances of capturing nice sharp long telephoto photos. We saw average amounts of both barrel distortion at the wide end and some pincushioning at the telephoto extremes, along with a good amount of CA (purple fringing).
When shooting in lower lighting conditions, the P100 produced similar results. The flash is quite powerful and was able to easily illuminate our M&M man shot from 5+ feet away using the lowest ISO speed available (160). This nice flash and the P100's fast F2.8 lens will help you produce pleasing exposures in lower lighting, and the AF system is able to focus relatively quickly thanks to the AF assist beam.
Like me already mentioned, noise levels were a bit higher than we had hoped for from the P100's new 10-megapixel BSI, CMOS image sensor. You can easily detect traces of luminance noise at the lowest ISO settings, which increases as you raise the sensitivity. At ISO 400, you have reached the maximum setting that will produce quality photos, in my opinion. At ISO 800 you can start to see some heavy noise reduction, which causes even more detail loss along with some weird color shifting. Images from ISO 800 onward start to get a greenish tint to them. I highly recommend you keep the maximum ISO set to 400, which can also be set for the Auto mode as well using the fixed Auto range option.
Video quality from the P100 is pretty good for a consumer digital camera. When shooting outdoors there is very little noise or "grain" in the image, and the exposure and AF systems performed will. You have full use of the 26x optical zoom, which is virtually silent when zooming. The AF system is able to quickly recover focus, however you will see some blurriness as you zoom, depending on the degree of focal change. Sound is Ok, however the stereo microphones are very sensitive and pick up all kinds of background noise. In our sample video, you can hear a loud drone from the water falls in the foreground. Overall, I think users will be pleased with the full 1080p video option on the P100, as long as they do not compare the quality with a modern day HD digital camcorder.
Bottom line - Nikon's Coolpix P100 is a nice super-zoom digicam. I enjoyed using the camera while on a short vacation to our Nation's capitol, which offered robust performance and versatility. The LCD was a extremely useful for shooting over the large crowds, and the telephoto capabilities of the P100 made taking photos across the reflecting pond a breeze. That said, I was disappointed with the P100's overall image quality, which I feel was mostly due to the above average amounts of noise in our photos. With a MSRP of $399.95US, the P100 is placed into a very competitive market. Be sure to weigh in all available options before making your final decision. Some models to consider would be: Canon' PowerShot SX20 IS, the Olympus SP-590 UZ, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FZ35, FujiFilm's Finepix HS10, or the Kodak EasyShare Z981 to name a few.
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