Nikon P600 Review -- First Impressions
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 02/06/2014
[Special update - 10/27/14: We've now posted our Best Superzoom 2014 showdown, and if you're interested in the Nikon P600 you'll very much want to take a look, as it performed rather well against the rest of the field.]
If you're a long-zoom camera fan, the 16-megapixel Nikon P600 has your name on it. Offering Nikon's longest-ranging optic to date -- a whopping 60x optical zoom, Nikkor-branded lens -- the P600 targets birders, astronomy fans, and anyone else who likes to bring far-away detail right up close and personal.
The Nikon P600's lens offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from a generous 24mm-equivalent wide-angle to an extremely powerful 1,440mm-equivalent telephoto. Given the reach available, the somewhat dim maximum aperture of f/3.3 to f/6.5 across the zoom range is perfectly understandable. The optical formula of the lens includes 16 elements in 11 groups, with one Super ED and four ED elements amongst their number. The aperture diaphragm has six blades. A contrast-detection autofocus system with face-priority, subject-tracking and target-finding functions is employed, and the closest focusing distance is just 0.2 inches (0.5cm) at the wide-angle position.
If that's not enough telephoto reach, what Nikon calls Dynamic Fine Zoom -- essentially, a more intelligent variation on digital zoom -- will take you out to an effective 2,880mm-equivalent, although fine detail is bound to suffer, and even shooting tripod-mounted will be an experience with this powerful a telephoto. Thankfully, lens-shift type Vibration Reduction is included, which will help fight blur from camera shake. The system is said to be good for a four-stop correction.
Behind the lens sits a 1/2.3-inch, 16.3-megapixel, backside illuminated CMOS image sensor. Together with the unbranded image processor, this allows the Nikon P600 to shoot at a rate of seven frames per second for a full second. Sensitivities range from ISO 100 to 1600 equivalents ordinarily, and can be extended as high as ISO 6400 equivalent in Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, or Manual modes. Switch to the monochrome-only High ISO mode, and you can extend this still further to ISO 12,800 equivalent.
And yes, we did mention Program, Priority, and Manual shooting. Also catering to those of us who like a little control are a choice of matrix, center-weighted or spot metering, +/-2.0EV exposure compensation in 1/3EV steps, exposure bracketing, and seven white balance modes including preset manual. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 15 seconds, although the actual range available depends on aperture and ISO sensitivity. There's no external flash connectivity, sadly, but a built-in popup flash has a range of 24 feet at wide angle or 13 feet at telephoto, using Auto ISO sensitivity.
Beginners and amateurs are welcome too, thanks to a selection of 19 user-friendly Scene modes, and a Scene Auto Selector function that takes the guesswork out of deciding which scene type is appropriate. A couple of more unusual modes on offer take advantage of the zoom reach: Moon mode and Bird Watching mode.
You'll be framing and reviewing your images and movies either on an electronic viewfinder that helps give the P600 an SLR-like aesthetic, or an articulated LCD monitor. The viewfinder is based around a 0.2-inch LCD panel with 201,000 dot resolution, while the main LCD monitor is a 3.0-inch, anti-reflective type with a much higher resolution of 921,000 dots.
And it's side-mounted with a tilt / swivel mechanism that not only allows for shooting over the head and down low to the ground in landscape or portrait orientation, but also for selfie shooting. It can even close with the LCD monitor facing inwards for a little added protection.
As well as stills, the Nikon P600 is a video capture device, capable of recording at up to Full HD (1080p/i; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution with a rate of 60 fields or 30 frames per second. You can also shoot at a reduced rate of 15 or 12.5 frames per second for accelerated playback, or drop the resolution to VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution for frame rates as high as 120fps and slow-motion playback. Videos use H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, and include LPCM stereo audio.
If you want to get your photos off your camera and online as quickly as possible, you'll be pleased to hear that the Nikon P600 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. Simply transfer your images to your smartphone or connected tablet, and getting them onto social networks for friends and family to see is a snap!
The Nikon P600 draws power from an EN-EL23 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, said to yield around 330 shots on a charge. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 High Speed data, NTSC / PAL standard-definition composite video, and Type-D Micro HDMI high-def video. Images and movies are stored on SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards, or on 56MB of built-in storage.
Available from February 2014, the Nikon Coolpix P600 ships in two body colors: black or red. List pricing is set at around US$500.