Nikon P6000 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon Coolpix i Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon Coolpix P6000
Resolution: 13.50 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(28-112mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
ISO: 64-3200
Shutter: 30-1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.7
Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.
(107 x 66 x 42 mm)
Weight: 9.5 oz (270 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $500
Availability: 09/2008
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon P6000 specifications
13.50
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
1/1.7"
size sensor
image of Nikon Coolpix P6000
Front side of Nikon Coolpix P6000 digital camera Back side of Nikon Coolpix P6000 digital camera Top side of Nikon Coolpix P6000 digital camera Left side of Nikon Coolpix P6000 digital camera Right side of Nikon Coolpix P6000 digital camera

Nikon Coolpix P6000 Overview

by Mike Pasini
and Mike Tomkins
Review Date: 05/07/09

The Nikon Coolpix P6000 has a sensor with 13.5 megapixel resolution, coupled to a Nikkor ED-branded 4x wide angle zoom lens that offers a useful 28mm wide-angle. The lens also includes Optical VR image stabilization, helping reduce camera shake when shooting in low light or towards the 112mm telephoto position. The Nikon P6000 includes both an optical viewfinder, and a fairly large 2.7-inch LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution. Optical viewfinders are an increasingly rare option these days, and one that's useful in difficult lighting conditions or when you need to economize on battery life - so it's great to see Nikon include this on the P6000.

Perhaps the Coolpix P6000's most unusual feature is a built-in GPS, capable of geotagging each photo with the coordinates at which it was captured. There's also wired LAN connectivity, allowing the camera to be connected to a network - meaning that images can be uploaded directly to Nikon's "my Picturetown" photo sharing site. Nikon's Face-Priority AF can automatically find up to 12 people's faces within a frame, then optimize focus and exposure accordingly. Focusing can also be performed manually.

In addition to Program, Aperture- / Shutter-priority and Manual exposure modes, the Coolpix P6000 offers a selection of 15 different scene-optimized modes, several movie modes with sound (including a time-lapse mode), and a macro mode that can focus down to just two centimeters. ISO sensitivities ordinarily range from a minimum of ISO 64 to a maximum of ISO 2000. However, this can be extended to ISO 3200 / 6400 at reduced resolutions of three megapixels and below. Usefully, it is also possible to limit the range of ISO sensitivities that the Nikon P6000 can automatically select from to a maximum of ISO 100, 200, 400, 800 or 1600 if noise is a concern.

The Nikon Coolpix P6000 offers a Raw file format, but not the company's well-known .NEF - instead, P6000 Raw images are stored in .NRW "Coolpix RAW". This file format can be opened and the images edited in-camera, and the same is true for Windows PCs using the Windows Imaging Component or Nikon's ViewNX software. Unfortunately, the .NRW format is incompatible with Nikon's Capture NX or Capture NX2, and other third-party applications that support .NEF files. At the current time it seem Mac OS users are rather left out in the dark, with no way to open .NRW files on their platform since ViewNX only supports the format on Windows machines.

Other features of the Nikon P6000 include In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and D-Lighting -- the former automatically detecting and correcting the red eye effect which is common in flash photography, and the latter compensating for excessive back-light or insufficient flash in images. There's also in-camera barrel distortion correction, a built-in flash, and a hot shoe compatible with Nikon's Speedlight flash system. Power from an EN-EL5 rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, and connectivity options include both Hi-Speed USB and SD video output. Images are stored in 48MB of built-in memory or on SDHC/SD cards, but the P6000 does not accept the (usually compatible) MMC card format.

The Nikon Coolpix P6000 began shipping September 2008, priced at about US$500.

 

Nikon P6000 User Report

by Mike Pasini

As Nikon's flagship digicam, the Coolpix P6000 competes with the previously reviewed Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3. Those are the three major premium digicams you can buy today. They don't satisfy every need by a long shot (in fact, they don't compete with long zooms) nor do they compete with jewelry like some ultracompacts I know.

Macro. Shot at 1/91 second and f/4.4 at ISO 64.

Ranking them against each other is resistible. If you must know, only the LX3 tempted me but, in the end, the odd optics left me short (60mm telephoto for a long-zoom kind of guy doesn't fly). The G10 was just too heavy (I'd rather take my Rebel) to be taken seriously even though its images were startling.

And then there's the Nikon P6000. It's the third time Nikon has charged up the hill with a flagship camera; and while the P5000 was too slow on the trigger for anything but still lifes, and the P5100 was improved but still flawed, the Nikon P6000 seems to find new ways to disappoint.

I must be getting spoiled, though, because after returning to the bunker, plugging in the Nikon P6000 to charge (you heard that right) and transferring the images (it wasn't easy), I actually very much enjoyed working with what I'd shot.

Look and Feel. While the Nikon P6000 is quite similar to the winning form factor of its two predecessors, there are some noteworthy changes.

Front. The compact P6000 has a built-in lens hood and comfortable grip.

The front panel has a slightly different molded grip with a rougher texture where you most need it. Right next to it is an infrared receiver. The Nikon P6000 still has the knurled ring around the lens to protect the threads for accessory lenses as well as the optical viewfinder (which still has no dioptric adjustment). But the flash is gone, moved into a popup housing that really doesn't popup all that far from the top of the Nikon P6000. Still, the further from the lens, the better.

On top, the Nikon P6000's Command Dial has gotten smaller, unfortunately. I loved the Command Dial on the P5100. It seemed lifted from a dSLR. But this one seems stolen from a kid's toy. It works, it just isn't pleasant to use.

The Power button has been moved to the outside. No need to stand and applaud. Only Panasonic seems to get this right. It should be a switch, easy to find and use. There is a small green LED on the Nikon P6000's Power button that blinks alternately with the AF LED near the optical viewfinder on the back panel when the camera is charging.

The Shutter button and Zoom ring combination -- my preferred arrangement by a mile -- seem a little cheaper versions of the P5100's like the Command Dial, but they work as you'd expect. The Nikon P6000's Zoom ring's tab is a bit larger and easier to find.

The Nikon P6000's Mode Dial has moved a bit to the left to accommodate the hot shoe, which has moved from the corner on the P5100 (where any flash would unbalance the camera) to the center. I suspect Nikon wasn't worried about balance, though. They were probably trying to clear as much space on top for the GPS radio to read the skies. The GPS radio is tucked into the corner of the left side all by itself.

Back. The Nikon P6000 has more buttons, but the layout is good.

On the back panel, things are different. There are still five buttons along the left of the LCD, which is now 2.7 inches rather than 2.5 inches. But they do different things. There are also three more buttons than on the back of the P5100, suggesting five wasn't enough. I like the trend toward more physical controls, but it didn't play out well for me on the Nikon P6000. I was confused about which button did what in a way I never was with the P5100.

The Nikon P6000's LCD, by the way, may be bigger, but it immediately struck me as more coarse. It's the same number of pixels (230,000), so yes, the per-inch resolution is technically a bit lower. Reading the menus was not as clean as I remember. The 'e' was nearly a splotch rather than a letter. Maybe the D300 has spoiled me, but I remember the P5100's menus rather fondly.

That thumb pad is still there, fortunately, and the Nikon P6000's Multi Selector, too, with the same functions.

Top. Not quite as nice as the P5100's controls. Note the hot shoe has moved to the center.

Design-wise, I very much like both the Nikon P6000 and LX3 for their size and controls. The Canon G10 was the loser here, by quite a lot, simply for its size.

In contrast, I just put an old wrist strap on the Nikon P6000 and slipped it into an L.L. Bean jacket balanced on the other side by my wallet filled with official documents.

Interface. OK, back to the buttons. All eight of them.

Let's start with the five on the left side of the Nikon P6000's LCD. They are: Fn for Function, My for MyMenu, MF for Manual Focus (yes, you can manually focus the P6000), Playback, and Menu. Nothing really illogical about that. But compare that lineup to the P5100: Fn, Display, Playback, Menu, Trash.

So where are Display and Trash? Trash is under the Nikon P6000's Multi Selector, an uninhabited position on the P5100. And Display is next to the optical viewfinder (as if it were an EVF).

Popup Flash. Extravagant, perhaps.

And what's the last button do? It pops up the flash, of course. You can't have a popup flash without a button to pop it up (there's apparently some sort of patent involved [Kodak, perhaps?] with a flash smart enough to pop up by itself). There is a funny little Pacman face next to the flash icon on the button, perhaps to distinguish the button's opening function from the same flash icon on the Multi Selector, which cycles through the Flash modes. If it had been me staying late to work on the icons, I'd just have turned the flash icon upside down, so it was pointing up, on the popup button. No Pacman needed.

The Fn and MF buttons work with the Command Dial. Hold the button in to activate the function and twirl the Command Dial to change the setting.

Manual Focus. Set it in Focus mode first then use the button and Command Dial to manually focus.

The Nikon P6000's Manual focus button is a bit of an odd duck. Press it, and you are reminded, if you are silly enough to forget, that you must set the Focus mode on the Multi Selector to Manual Focus before the button does anything but remind you to do that. It should be smart enough to switch over itself, but no. Once you do switch to Manual Focus mode, holding in the MF button displays an enlarged center section of your image and twisting the Command Dial changes focus. There's a depth scale on the right side of the screen so you know which direction you're going. Not quite as intuitive as a dSLR lens, of course, but better than nothing.

The Nikon P6000's My button brings up a list of functions you can customize, a tremendous feature that should be stolen by every other camera manufacturer until it's an industry standard. No need to wade through the Nikon P6000's menu system to find some obscure but dear command. Just stick it on your MyMenu screen.

But Nikon's menu system is not really obscure. It's the best in the business for my money. Canon has fortunately evolved a bit but most camera manufacturers give about as much thought to their menu systems as cellphone designers give to theirs. They just don't worry about how usable it is. Nikon does.

And with two user settings on the Nikon P6000's Mode dial, Nikon makes room for you not only to customize a menu of your own, but to save two configurations for recall. That's very much appreciated out here in the real world.

So, in short, not much damage has been done to the interface I liked so much on the Nikon P6000's predecessors despite adding some very useful functions.

Scene Modes. Easy to find.

Modes. Like its predecessors and competitors, the Nikon P6000 is a PASM camera. Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes are right there on the Command Dial. And there are those two User configurations we mentioned, too (U1 and U2).

Don't worry, there's also a green Auto mode to restrict the Nikon P6000's operation for people who don't want to know how or why.

The Nikon P6000 has 16 Scene modes, too (if you count Voice Recording as a Scene). Those include the familiar Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Backlight, Panorama Assist, and Voice Recording.

There's also the familiar Movie mode. The Nikon P6000's menu system isn't very clear about your options so here they are:

  • TV movie 640 with a star (the default) is high quality measuring 640x480 at 30 frames per second.
  • TV movie 640 is 640x480 at 15 fps.
  • Small size 320 is 320x240 at 15 fps.
  • Time-lapse movie with a star is interval shooting where you set the time between still shots taken at 640x480 that are assembled into a 30 fps movie when the sequence is done.
  • Sepia movie 320 takes an antiqued brown-filtered movie 320x240 at 15 fps.
  • B&W movie 320 takes a black-and-white movie at 320x240 and 15 fps.
Click to view movie. AVI player required.

Standard Definition Movie. A 7.5MB file lasting 7.4 seconds. With digital zoom and sound. (Click to download AVI file.)

You can see two things about Movie mode on the Nikon P6000: all the 320x240 size movies are shot at only 15 fps and there's no HD (16:9 at 720p) option.

The Nikon P6000's Mode Dial also includes a GPS option (more about this later, I promise). And it also includes a Picture Bank option (more about that later, too). Neither of these were on the P5100.

Raw Capture. This is the first Nikon P-series with Raw capture. Much has been made of that and even more of its small one-shot buffer. You shoot Raw with the Nikon P6000 and you wait until the buffer is cleared before the P6000 pays any attention to you.

Raw. You can download the NRW Raw capture from the Gallery. Note the highly saturated blues in the JPEG, though.

You don't wait forever, but it is a few seconds. I was shooting a lily and knew I had to fiddle with the exposure because it was an overcast day and the lily was deep in a very old olive tree. I had forgotten I'd left the Nikon P6000 in Raw+Fine mode, though, and wondered what the delay was. That was a bit annoying. But once I remembered what I was doing, I was glad. It's the kind of shot where you aren't going to go back to reshoot, so you want to have as much latitude as possible on your computer. The next day, working with the image in Lightroom, I was very glad to have the Nikon P6000's Raw data to work with and got just the detail in the shadows and texture of the white lily I'd hoped to come home with.

A lot was made of the new NRW Raw format Nikon introduced with the P6000, especially when it was first announced. This review has been so long delayed that frankly everything I use has caught up with it, so I wasn't inconvenienced like I was with the LX3's Raw format (which, at the time, only Silkpix and dcraw understood). Proprietary Raw formats are a pain when they're new, because too often the company's own software is the only one available; by the time I got the P6000, however, that problem was solved.

Nothing can quite cure the naming convention, though. For some reason, the P6000 does not follow Nikon's dSLR convention of using the same root name for Raw+JPEG combination shots. The NRW file takes the first available number and the JPEG takes the next, not the same, number. On its digital SLRs (and most cameras that can save a JPEG of a Raw capture) the same number is used, with only the extension differing. So it's no problem telling which Raw file goes with which JPEG. I consequently renamed my Raw captures to match the JPEG in the Gallery.

I should point out that even though the Nikon P6000 has a 13.5-megapixel sensor, which exceeds the number of pixels on some notable Nikon digital SLRs, that sensor is a good deal smaller at 1/1.7 inches than a digital SLR sensor. So noise control isn't nearly as good. The megapixels do deliver detail, but not when the signals confuse each other.

The Nikon P6000 does have a Noise Reduction option to automatically reduce noise at shutter speeds as slow as 1/4 second and slower. You can force the feature on or leave it at the default Auto.

Aspect Ratios. Composition is one of the delights of taking photographs. One of my delights, anyway. And what really makes me smile is a choice of aspect ratios.

Aspect Ratios. A few unusual (and fun) choices.

Under Image Size on the LCD Menu, the Nikon P6000 made my grin into a big toothy smile so bright I could see my way home at night by its light.

The 13-megapixel highest resolution is the standard 4:3 ratio, and there are lower resolution variants of it (8, 5, 3, 2, and 1-megapixel, PC (1024x768), and TV (640x480)). Then comes the fun stuff: 3:2 (4224x2816), which is the old 35mm standby; 16:9 (4224x2816), which is what your HDTV does at significantly lower resolution; and 1:1 (3168x3168), which is square (like a Holga, you know). You don't get these options in Raw mode, of course, but that needn't stop you from cropping a Raw later.

Lens. So what about the glass on the Nikon P6000? The P5100 had an f/2.7 3.51x zoom ranging from a rather narrow wide angle at 35mm to 123mm at the telephoto end. The Nikon P6000 is no faster, but is wider at 28mm; although it's a shorter 112mm at telephoto. Even at that short a telephoto reach, though, it's only f/5.9.

On a camera with manual controls for the aperture, it's nice to know how small it gets, too. The best I could do was f/7.2 at wide angle and f/7.7 at telephoto in both Program and Manual modes.

The Nikon P6000 has an optically stabilized lens with two ED glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration. Nikon claims the image stabilization (Vibration Reduction) contributes to faster framing on the monitor and smoother action in Movie mode. That's generally true, but I did notice that Movie mode was remarkably smooth.

The Nikon P6000 shares its predecessor's ability to accept converter lenses with the optional Adapter Ring UR-E21. Nikon only lists the availability of its Wide-angle Converter WC-E76 but on previous models I've used both the older wide angle converter and the telephoto converter without a problem. I didn't have the adapter (or the time to get one) to try them on the Nikon P6000, however.

There's also a menu command for distortion control that can be activated without a converter lens.

Picture Control. You can control how the Expeed image processing system (which is more than a chip, apparently) renders your JPEG. Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Custom 1, and Custom 2 are the options. And within them you can fiddle with things like image sharpening, contrast, and saturation.

Picture Control. Editing the Standard JPEG rendering.

That's all laudable and I really can't complain about having that control available. It's a lot like what you get with Canon's Picture Styles. And it gives you control over the camera's JPEG rendering. It's your camera, after all.

The problem is that out in the field, with the Nikon P6000, you can't evaluate the changes you're making. The 16-bit color LCD just isn't going to give you enough information to make intelligent decisions. That's why I rely on a live histogram rather than how things look on the LCD to evaluate exposure. Unfortunately, there is no live histogram on the Nikon P6000).

Instead of trying to fine-tune a Picture Control, I avoid the whole issue when fine tuning would be nice by shooting Raw. Then I can fine-tune on my computer, where I can see the difference.

GPS. One of the other major features of the Nikon P6000 is a built-in GPS radio, which, while it doesn't work perfectly, has its advantages.

GPS. Turn it on and stare at this screen for, well, a long time. The target populates with satellite locations if any are found. Indoors it was impossible to link to them, though, so no screen shot of success.

GPS encoding, in short, is simply tagging your images with location data derived from the free Global Positions System satellite system. There are 24 satellites around the globe, and they can nail your longitude and latitude down to a few feet. They have trouble with altitude, though.

With GPS data in the EXIF header of your image, you can use an application or service to map your images when you get back to your computer. Actually see, that is, where they were taken on a map. That isn't the same thing as the view they record, of course (unless you are looking down). But it's a nice way to see where you and your Nikon P6000 went on vacation. Nikon ViewNX (a free application included with the Nikon P6000) is one application that can map your GPS-encoded images using Google Maps.

You can examine GPS data for the Twin Peaks shots and the Miraloma Market shot in our Nikon P6000 Gallery, but here's the gist of what the Nikon P6000 captures.

In the main EXIF header section:

Geomapped. Use the Geotag menu command to find your image on Google Maps in ViewNX.

  • GPSVersionID: 2.2.0.0
  • GPSLatitudeRef: North
  • GPSLongitudeRef: West
  • GPSAltitudeRef: Above Sea Level
  • GPSTimeStamp: 17:07:27.74
  • GPSSatellites: 06
  • GPSImgDirectionRef: Unknown ()
  • GPSImgDirection: inf
  • GPSMapDatum: WGS-84 - GPSDateStamp: 2009:04:10

and in the Composite section:

  • GPSAltitude: inf m Above Sea Level
  • GPSDateTime: 2009:04:10 17:07:27.74
  • GPSLatitude: 37 deg 45' 16.58" N
  • GPSLongitude: 122 deg 26' 46.46" W
  • GPSPosition: 37 deg 45' 16.58" N, 122 deg 26' 46.46" W

When I started down in the city, the Nikon P6000 picked up six satellites. Note that the altitude tag returns no usable data, nor does the direction tag (the radio can't tell in which direction you're pointed).

Zoom Range. 28mm to 112mm to 4x digital zoom. Digital zoom was very slow and stepped.

There has been some concern about privacy when encoding GPS data in images. You are indeed revealing the location from which you shot. If it was a private residence and you were shooting individuals or their rare Oceanic art collection, some mischievous son of a pirate might find that overly exciting. Keep that in mind.

The GPS radio built into the camera had a very hard time linking to the satellites when I tried it in average San Francisco buildings; back in Georgia, however, the Nikon P6000 picked up three to six satellites in an ordinary wood and sheetrock home with composite roofing -- your results will vary. Back in SFO, under cloudy skies I had trouble; and even when I wasn't having trouble, it took a very long time for the camera to link. You do have to give it five minutes when you first enable just about any GPS. Some people claim it can take up to 15 minutes, but the Nikon P6000 usually managed pretty quickly.

And if you suspect that's going to be a big power drain, you're right. It's important to remember to turn off the GPS radio when you're done using it, because even if the Nikon P6000 is off, the radio will come on every 90 minutes to refresh its position data, which will drain the battery more quickly.

Unfortunately, charging that second battery is not convenient because the P6000 kit does not include a battery charger. Instead it includes a brick adapter that plugs into the camera. That's convenient in one way, because you don't have to take the battery out to charge it, but you do have to bring along a power brick with two cords dangling off of it. If you are using the Nikon P6000 in a studio, of course, it's fine, just plug it in and keep shooting.

I did eventually climb a hill and link to more satellites. But on the Nikon P6000 your location information is only updated at specific intervals. Your position data is updated every five seconds, but not if you're zooming or pressing the shutter; the Nikon P6000 will wait another five seconds if there's no activity to record another bit of position data.

ISO 6400. Color, detail -- and noise.

When I got back to the bunker and mapped the two images I had just taken, they were located nowhere near where I had been. The first was easily 3/8 mile off. Tests at the lab were better, but still by no means spot-on, reporting the shot's position off by 50 feet in one direction, and 25 in another direction. This wasn't really the excellent performance we were expecting, but it wasn't terrible, either; and both times our position was covered with clouds, or in among buildings or tall trees, which effectively reduced the camera's exposure to satellites that were closer to the horizon.

To be fair, I biked up to Twin Peaks for my customary zoom range shots and turned on GPS. It linked to the satellites in a couple of minutes and recorded accurate positions for all my shots. Understand there isn't much up there to interfere. It represents ideal conditions; except perhaps the large television antennas up on the Sutro Tower, which may or may not interfere.

Ethernet. Nikon is working very hard to get you to use its online sharing service my Picturetown, which I will hereafter refer to simply as Picturetown. And it's certainly admirable that they've made the service available. Maybe it's not Flickr or even Kodak Gallery, but it's an easy way to share an image without clogging up someone's email.

Picture Bank. Once you've plugged an Ethernet cable into the P6000, you can select images to upload to Nikon's image sharing service.

The trouble is that the company forces you to use this feature by disabling its WiFi and now Ethernet connections for any other transfer. When you plug the P6000 into your Ethernet router to transfer files, they will only go to Picturetown (after suitable setup). You cannot route them to your computer.

Some folks have been crying that Ethernet is a silly idea anyway; the camera ought to have WiFi. Well, that's not a problem. Just buy an Eye-Fi SD card and you can wirelessly transfer to your computer or dozens of online services (including Picturetown). You can even record video on the P6000 with the Eye-Fi. Current Eye-Fi firmware won't transfer the video but you can always use Nikon Transfer to do that.

Picture Bank on the Mode dial is intended to facilitate transfer to Picturetown by letting you select which images to transfer. It also lets you set up your Network profile, identify the sender's email address, turn the feature off, set a password (only four digits for some reason) and set the camera key information. To use the service, you actually have to visit Picturetown and set up and account.

If you don't disable the feature, when you plug in the adapter to charge the battery, the default operation is to transfer to Picturetown, not charge the battery.

Bottom. Proprietary Lithium-ion battery above an Eye-Fi SD card. Metal tripod socket, speaker. Note the Ethernet port above the battery.

Storage. Although there's about 48MB of internal memory available, storage is primarily on SD/SDHC cards. Nikon has tested and approved SanDisk, Toshiba, and Panasonic cards up to 8GB.

This, however, is a 13.5-megapixel camera. Internal memory will only hold seven Fine quality high resolution images, while a 1GB SD card will hold 140.

Battery. The Nikon P6000 uses an EN-EL5 Lithium-ion battery that, as mentioned above, must be recharged in the camera using the included AC adapter (unless you buy the optional MH-61 battery charger).

Nikon estimates battery life at 260 shots using CIPA standards, which include quite a few flash shots.

Performance. Startup is not unreasonably slow, taking about three seconds to deploy the lens, autofocus, and capture a photograph. It seemed spry enough that I didn't have to keep the camera on between shooting opportunities.

Autofocus performance was 0.58 second at wide-angle, and 0.74 second at telephoto, an improvement over the P5100's 0.68 and 0.75 second respectively. Prefocus lag was just 0.058 second, improving on the P5100's 0.066. I really didn't feel penalized by the P6000's autofocus performance, a first for a P-series camera.

Cycle times were sluggish however, at 2.44 seconds per JPEG in single shot mode while continuous mode cycle time was 1.19 seconds (only 0.84 frames per second). Single shot cycle time when shooting Raw more than doubled to 5.38 seconds and continuous mode is not even supported for Raw files.

Flash recycling took about 7 seconds after full-discharge, which is about average.

Image Quality. I had the sense, looking over the gallery shots, that while most of the images were rendered with Nikon's usual natural palette (which exhibits restraint in saturation unusual in digicams), they were a little punchier than the P5100. And, in fact, I like the reds and blues better on the P5100 than the P6000.

Active D-Lighting. Normal does the job.

That is to say, I don't like what the P6000 is doing with reds and blues. Take a look at the fire alarm and the blue skies to see what I mean. Both are unnatural.

On the hydrant shot I didn't use Active D-Lighting to see just what the camera was doing. Highlights are blown and there is an odd glow where they meet the dark background at the top of the hydrant on the left side. It is, however, a very sharp image with excellent detail.

Now let's take a look at the lab shots.

The Still Life ISO 100 image reflects the kind of detail you can expect from a 13.5-megapixel sensor, albeit with a little too much noise suppression, especially in low-contrast areas. The markings on the proportional scale are clearly discernible, if a little soft around the edges. Very fine detail takes on the air of a painting, rather than a photograph, even at this low ISO setting, and printed images show this characteristic at larger sizes, making 16x20 and 13x19-inch images look slightly unnatural. 11x14-inch images look better, however.

The Multi Target shot demonstrates how Nikon's ED glass elements control chromatic aberration, at least at a 63mm 35mm equivalent focal length. There is very little. Corners are very sharp as well. And the lines of resolution, both horizontal and vertical, are distinct to the limits of the test patterns. Impressive. So as long as detail is distinct to begin with, the Nikon P6000 will render it reasonably well, but as contrast is reduced, detail even at low ISOs is lost.

Appraisal. While the Nikon P6000 does seem a bit more cheaply built than the P5100, its performance has improved. The marquee features like GPS and Ethernet are no reason to take it seriously, though. To appreciate the Nikon P6000, you have to shoot with it. Image quality is mixed, however, requiring that you shoot Raw to get the most detail, especially in low-contrast areas. The good news is that it's an option on the Nikon P6000, though we still don't recommend shooting above ISO 400 for decent quality 8x10-inch prints.

 

Nikon P6000 Basic Features

  • 13.5 megapixel 1/1.7-inch sensor
  • 4x zoom (28-112mm eq.) with optical image stabilization
  • Optical viewfinder and 2.7-inch, 230K LCD
  • PASM exposure modes
  • ISO range from 64 to 6400
  • Max Aperture: 2.7 at wide angle, 7.7 at telephoto
  • Shutter speeds from 30s to 1/2000s
  • Support for SDHC/SD memory cards with 48M internal storage
  • Hi-Speed USB
  • Custom Lithium-ion battery

 

Nikon P6000 Special Features

  • Raw mode using NRW format
  • Built-in GPS capability
  • my Picturetown access through built-in Ethernet
  • In-Camera Red-Eye Fix
  • Face Priority Autofocus
  • Active D-Lighting
  • Optional Distortion Control
  • Time-lapse Movie mode
  • Dedicated flash hot shoe
  • Support for converter lenses

 

In the Box

The P6000 ships with the following items in the box:

  • P6000 camera
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5
  • AC Adapter EH-66
  • USB Cable UC-E6
  • Audio Video Cable EG-CP14
  • Strap AN-CP18
  • Software Suite CD-ROM

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card. These days, 2-4GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Small camera case for outdoor and in-bag protection
  • Wide-angle Converter WC-E76 with Adapter Ring UR-E21
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-400, SB-600 or SB-900

 

Nikon P6000 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Great body design: compact, attractive, sturdy magnesium
  • Customizable user settings, menu and JPEG rendering
  • Active D-Lighting is useful
  • iTTL flash hot shoe
  • Built-in GPS receiver
  • Ethernet connection
  • Very good Macro mode
  • Wide-angle zoom with optical Vibration Reduction
  • 2.7-inch LCD with an optical viewfinder, too
  • Distortion control can be applied to the zoom or a wide-angle converter
  • Very low chromatic aberration
  • Raw captures
  • Performed well under low light
  • Improved autofocus performance
  • Full manual control
  • Time-lapse Movie mode
  • Accessory lenses available
  • No live histogram
  • No Raw buffer to speak of
  • Yet another proprietary Raw format
  • Ethernet only for transfer to Picturetown
  • GPS radio should be more sensitive
  • Slow Continuous shooting mode
  • Some corner softening at wide-angle
  • Inaccurate optical viewfinder
  • Reds and blues are quite oversaturated
  • Auto white balance renders incandescent lighting reddish
  • Outdoor shadow detail suffers from strong noise suppression
  • What detail survives noise processing does suffer from luminance noise
  • Sharpening halos appear in some detail
  • No HD movies
  • Optical zoom not supported during movies
  • Orientation tags not set for Portrait mode images (everything's landscape to the P6000)
  • Printed results are not representative of a 13.5-megapixel sensor; RAW images do better up to ISO 200

 

There's much to like about the Nikon Coolpix P6000, but there were also many disappointments. That a new feature like GPS isn't all you might hope for isn't a surprise, but a 13.5-megapixel sensor should really turn out better JPEGs than the Nikon P6000 manages. The good news is that the Raw files are better if processed properly, and look good with Nikon ViewNX, a free download. The bad news is that the default settings output oversaturated images.

The Nikon P6000's lens quality is quite good, and the camera's low light capability is also admirable, so it's a decent night camera, provided you bring along the tripod and stick to low ISO settings. Unfortunately, the Nikon P6000 didn't stand out from the two other major enthusiast cameras when it came to overall printed performance; both actually outperformed the P6000, with the Panasonic LX3 easily producing 16x20-inch prints from its 10-megapixel JPEGs and the Canon G10 outputting good quality 20x30-inch prints straight from the camera.

Ultimately, the Nikon P6000 has a lot of interesting features, and some good Nikon optical quality, but the small sensor packing all those pixels just doesn't handle enlargement well without overprocessing the images to remove noise at the expense of detail. GPS isn't as accurate as we'd like, and the unusual ethernet port linking only to Nikon Picturetown seems oddly limiting, especially when you consider that you only get 2GB of free space and the average card is over 4GB these days. It's not that the Nikon P6000 is a bad camera at all, indeed it's improved over the P5100 in many ways, it just doesn't come together as the complete package we'd like to see for a Dave's Pick.

 

Nikon P6000

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