Coolpix P1000

Coolpix P1000

Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Full Review

By Josh LeBlanc

For a full gallery of SAMPLE IMAGES, be sure to check out:
(aka, our Sample Image Gallery)

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The Good: For just under $1000, you get a camera with an ultra-zoom lens that doesn't exist in the interchangeable world. With Moon and Bird modes, you'll easily be taking close-ups that look like they were shot by a professional. It has a full five-stops of image stabilization that is truly astounding when shooting in photo mode. You won't even need a trip-pod to shoot still images of the moon, it's that good. 

The Bad: The P1000's small 1/2.3" image sensor (the same size found in a few smartphones) limits low-light performance and dynamic range. In fact, it's the same sensor out of the P900, which we didn't love for its image quality, with a much longer lens. The Electronic Viewfinder Lag is almost crippling when you're trying to track a shot with the lens fully extended and the camera's battery life is poor. If you're planning to shoot more than a few hours, you need spare batteries. 
 
The Bottom Line: The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 may not be cheap, but for a camera with this zoom range, it's an absolute bargain. If you don't mind its slowness and a few other quirks, and plan to shoot mostly in brighter conditions, the king of the super-zooms may prove valuable for anyone who doesn't want to take a whole kit on their next trip.

Pick This Up if... You're a birder or a nature photographer and want to be able to quickly punch into extreme close-ups with ease. If you want an all-in-one and never want to have to change a lens again, this could be the camera for you. 

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INTRO

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The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 seems like a camera from a bygone era. It looks and feels like a camcorder from the late 1990s. It's heavy and has a sensor the exact same size that's found in a Canon Elph. And yet, it can do some pretty capable things. It's not going to be a camera for everyone, but you'll be stunned by the range on the zoom lens and the quality of the image stabilization. 

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(The P1000 can help you take epic moon shots like the one I took above)

This is more a tale of a camera that could have been. I tried to shoot with this camera as if it were a regular camera. I wanted to see how it would work in real-world situations and not just specialized police surveillance ones. The experience was maddening at times, as you could tell that if Nikon just put more processing a 1" sensor in the camera, it could have been revolutionary.

But is the Nikon P1000 a disaster or a good camera with a few flaws?  Let's get to it. 


GEAR USED

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Alongside the Nikon COOLPIX P1000, we also had the Nikon DF-M1 Dot Sight and the Nikon ML-L7 Bluetooth remote control on loan from Nikon. 

KEY FEATURES

  • 16MP  1/2.3" CMOS sensor
  • 24-3,000mm lens (35mm equivalent)
    • f/2.8-8
    • 125X zoom
    • 4X digital zoom up to 12,0000mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Contrast-detect AF
    • Face priority 
    • Manual (spot) 
    • Manual (normal) 
    • Manual (wide) 
    • Subject tracking 
    • Target Finding AF
  • Macro Focusing from 1cm away
  • OLED EVF 
    • 2359k - dots
  • 3.2" Vari Angle LCD 
    • 921,000 - dots
  • 4K UHD 30p, 25p
    • 1080P 60p
    • HS 4X
    • timelapse
  • ISO  100-1600 
    • ISO 3200, 6400 (in P,S,A,M or Movie manual mode)
  • HDMI out
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Snapbridge App Connectivity
  • Battery life: 250  shots  

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

  • Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Camera
  • Camera strap
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  • Charging AC adaptor 
  • USB Cable
  • Bayonet lens hood
  • User Manual
  • Warranty

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN

The P1000 has a lot in common with the P900. They look almost the same and use the same sensor. But the P1000 is way bigger, weighing 57% more and clocking in at 1415g (versus the P900 at 516 grams). That's a 3.2-pound camera for those at home not versed in grams. 

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The big star of this camera is its massive zoom lens. It has 17 elements in 12 group, five of which are ED lens elements and one is a super ED lens element. This lens is unlike anything found on any other camera... It's massive. Just check it out what the camera looks like with the lens at its widest and when it's fully zoomed in. 

Nikon COOLPIX unzoom 2.JPGNikon COOLPIX zoom 2.JPG
Nikon COOLPIX un zoom.JPGNikon COOLPIX zoom.JPGThe P1000's buttons are all pretty clicky and responsive. The giant exposure/focus ring on the lens moves with just the right amount of resistance to feel like you're actually doing something, and the back vari-angle screen moves with the right amount of ease and never feels like it's going to flop around. It will stay in whatever position you put it. 

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The camera isn't weather-sealed and when you're carrying it over concrete there's a fear in your body that if you drop it, the P1000 would explode like the death star, sending plastic shards out across the galaxy. It doesn't feel like it could survive a fall off your coffee table, let alone a real-world situation. Rugged the P1000 is not.

ERGONOMICS

Despite the camera's 3.2 pound weight, it's surprisingly comfortable to hold... as long as you're using two hands. The weight is not balanced, as most of it is found in the long lens which is out past the hand grip. 

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This is not a camera you can easily shoot one-handed. You really feel that weight pulling down on your middle finger, as if the camera's trying to tell you something. The function wheel can be programmed, though it's a pain. The menu buttons in the back are actually a little small. More than once my fat thumbs accidentally pushed down on the pad when trying to select "OK," which changes the focus from regular AF to macro. 

The previously mentioned focus/exposure ring feels good in your left hand while you're holding the camera, and the same goes for the 'snap back' button that's used to quickly pull out of your insane zooms to get your bearings and relocate your target before zooming back in. The T and W buttons on the side of the camera, however, don't feel as comfortable and you have to slide your whole hand back about an inch to use it. The one above the shutter works just fine and ended up using that one mostly. 

MENUS & DISPLAYS

The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 isn't a high-end DSLR or mirrorless in the same category as the company's new Z6 & Z7 cameras. It's a COOLPIX and, as such, gets the same simple menus. There are not a lot of features and it's fairly intuitive. However, as there's no touchscreen you need to use buttons like the Function button sometimes which is way up by the trigger to get access to changing the ISO.

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Again, there's not much here, which keeps it simple. Set your image quality and then use the top wheel to select what mode you want to shoot it. Like most Nikons, the rear display always changes to let you know your current mode selection. It's not necessary, but there's a comforting factor in knowing that the camera is ready to shoot what you are. 

Both the rear screen and the EVF look great. The 3.2 Vari-Angle LCD has
921,000 dots; the OLED EFV boasts 2359k dots. The LCD is hard to see if bright daylight and I tended to prefer using the EVF for most shooting, but we found it laggy to a fault (more on this in a moment). 

The real star of the rear display is its flexibility. It moves with ease and allows to always see what the camera is shooting from any angle. I have no idea why all new cameras don't use Vari-angle displays. 


SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE 

How much time do you have? Everything about P1000 is slow. The contrast focusing system has 49 autofocusing points like P900 and it feels like it came out of camera from ten years ago. It really struggles when zoomed in all the way to 3000mm to do a critical focus. If you're shooting birds, squirrels or anything that moves from a long distance, good luck. 

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Here's an example of the focus struggling. The subject isn't moving. It's a bird sitting on top of a building. The camera was set in BIRD mode and zoomed in all the way to 3,000mm. The camera just kept sliding the lens back and forth not only trying to get focus, but not knowing when it was in fact in focus. I think I took about six out of focus shots before it could take one barely in-focus image.

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The biggest issue by far, however, is the camera's EVF lag. It's almost unusable in certain situations. I think the reason the company makes the optional red dot sight accessory is because it's far to easy to lose your subject every time you press the shutter button.

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The screen goes black and when it comes back your subject is nowhere to be found because you drifted while you were staring at a black screen for nine minutes (<-- sarcasm). 

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The camera can shoot a 7 frame continuous or burst shot, but only for 7 frames. Meaning you hold the trigger get 7 shots and then it processes those images for a minute. You can't let go and take another burst as you have to wait while the memory catches up.

Between its AF system, EVF lag, and burst mode capabilities, the P1000 is clearly a camera for the patient among us.

METERING

The Nikon P1000 features several metering modes, including Metering Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot, Programmed auto exposure with flexible program, aperture-priority, auto exposure, bracketing, and manual. And, to be honest, these systems aren't that accurate, which makes the control ring on the front of the camera, which can be set to focus or exposure compensation, a godsend.

Here's an image I took at night that the camera could not properly meter in its own. Even when spot metering directly on the lit cross it couldn't figure out how to properly expose the image. However, when you use the exposure ring to drop down the images a few stops, it then gives you something serviceable. 

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(Image as the camera metered it)


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(Image after using the manual exposure ring to drop it two stops)

In bright daylight, there were times where it didn't know what to do when confronted with a shadow in a bright area. Generally speaking, the P1000 metering works okay, though I ended up using the control ring far more often then I would've liked.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

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(Click on any image to see a full-res file AND don't miss our Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Sample Image Gallery!)

If all you're going to do is post your image to Instagram, the images on this camera are great. That tiny little 1/2.3 sensor produces decent enough images... until you pixel peep and zoom in a bit. But when zoomed in and you're shooting a subject with a crushed background, the images look like they were shot on smaller COOLPIX or Canon Elph camera. 

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It makes no sense that Nikon spent all this time completely re-designing the outside and giving the P1000 a better lens than the P900 to give it the same tiny cellphone sensor. If there was any camera that was screaming for a 1" or larger sensor, with faster processing, it's this camera. (Perhaps we'll see a P1100?)

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You can shoot images in RAW + JPEG to quickly edit and post images on your phone, but the biggest disappointment here is that, when using the camera's MOON or BIRD mode, it's JPEG-only. 

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How can you put a 3000mm lens on this camera and take stunning moon shots and not be able to have the editing control and information of a RAW image? 

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STABILIZATION

The one thing this camera nails -- well, outside of its awesome lens -- is image stabilization. The five stops of image stabilization are insane when shooting stills. If you're just shooting stills, you don't even need a trip-pod, even when zoomed all the way out to 3000mm. That's how good the image stabilization on this camera is. In fact, that daytime moon shot was taken WITHOUT a tripod. 

ISO PERFORMANCE

The P1000 has an ISO range of 100 - 6,400, but only in P, S, A, M, or Movie manual mode. If you're shooting on full auto you're only going to get up to 1,600 ISO, which makes sense when you look at the grain on anything shot at 6,400.

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For more a deep dive into ISO 100 - ISO 6,400, don't miss our Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Sample Image Gallery!

This is not a camera that you're going to use a lot at night. It's serviceable at ISO 800, but this is a camera that needs light. 

VIDEO QUALITY

(video shot by Nikon)

The Nikon P1000 can shoot 4K Ultra HD video at up to 30fps. The above example, shot by Nikon, shows clear, crisp 4K imagery at a full, 3,000mm with solid contrast too. Detailing is so fine you can even see the atmospheric blemishes around the moon's edges.

However, please note you'll need one heck of a tripod at ultra-zoom focal lengths. I tried to take a moon video on my tripod and the gentlest breeze was too much for the image stabilization at 3,000mm. 

The camera has a mic in and HDMI out (mini). The image stabilization is nice, but only helpful below about 1,000mm. You'll need a gimbal or MOVI if you want to use this as a video camera without the shakes. It's definitely capable, again though, because of that small sensor, the video looks like video from an older camera despite its 4K capabilities.

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

The Nikon SnapBridge app works seamlessly with this camera, allowing you to instantly pull low-rez or full-sized JPEG images directly to your phone. This makes it easy to text, email, or post to social media. If you're just shooting JPEGs you could easily then just edit the photos on your laptop, tablet, or phone without ever having to download images off the flash card. 

However, unlike other Nikon camera / SnapBridge combos, you can't use the app to control the P1000 remotely. So you can't use your phone as a second monitor or remote trigger, which is why they sell the optional Bluetooth remote. You need it to prevent any camera-shake when shooting time-lapses or super-telephoto shots.

PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Insane zooming capability
  • MOON and BIRD mode 
  • 5-stop Image Stabilization
  • 4K UHD Video capabilities 
  • Easily Share Images to Phone
  • Good Color Reproduction
Cons
  • Small sensor
  • Slow image processing
  • EVF lag
  • Battery life
  • Limited ISO performance
  • Slow AF
  • Heavy 
BOTTOM LINE
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The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is a beast of a camera with a woodland sprite for a heart. It can take stunning images if you have patience and don't mind the crazy EVF lag. This is an all-in-one camera for someone who wants to take any kind of shot at any moment. There's nothing wrong with that. 

I'm actually in love with the idea of the P1000 more than I am the actual P1000. If Nikon paid as much attention to the sensor and speed of the image processor and EVF as they did to the camera's amazing lens, this would be the camera to beat. That's not hyperbole either, this camera could've been something great. It looks cool and has a lot of desirable features that people will want... then you drive one and find out it's sluggish and slow. 

It's not all bad, of course. It has merit. It's not uncomfortable to carry around all day and I really loved the freedom of having a zoom lens that can go to 3000mm. As far as framing goes, you should be able to get any image you want. Which is amazing. It's almost like being able to play with an image in Photoshop and just punch in and take what you want. If you want to use it all day on shoots or for video make sure you by seven more batteries because the P1000 is a thirsty beast. 

If you have $1000 dollars to spend and don't mind the limitations of the camera's sensor and speed, it's a really fun camera. Better yet, it's a really fun SECOND camera for lightening your bag during travels OR for when you need the ultimate 125x zoom range.

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