Nikon P6000 Review
Nikon Coolpix P6000 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color accuracy, though strong oversaturation in bright reds and blues.
Saturation. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 oversaturates strong reds and blues quite a bit, a little more than is common among consumer digital cameras. Greens are about the only colors that are just about spot on, as yellows and oranges are also pushed slightly. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the Nikon Coolpix P6000's Caucasian skin tones have a slight pink cast, while darker skin tones are pushed toward yellow slightly. However, performance here is still pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 showed only small overall color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, though cyan was strongly pushed toward blue. Hue is "what color" the color is.
The Nikon Coolpix P6000 lets you adjust the image Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpness in seven steps each. As can be seen below, the Saturation adjustment was pretty effective.
|Saturation Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with the default as well as the two "extreme" saturation settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.
|See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Best color with Manual white balance, good default exposure as well.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was reddish in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting produced a stronger yellow cast. Manual mode produced the most accurate overall color, though it too appeared just a little cool overall. (White values measured out to be just slightly blue.) The Nikon Coolpix P6000's default exposure was just about right, requiring no positive exposure compensation. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Generally good color and exposure outdoors, though high contrast and slight overexposure on the house shot.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix P6000 handled harsh lighting fairly well, producing slightly high contrast with reasonably good midtones. Shadow detail falls apart, however, due mostly to noise and noise suppression efforts. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did help even out the exposure some, but also resulted in a brighter overall exposure. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 also has D-Lighting setting that attempts to balance out high contrast images, though again, results tend toward overexposure.
High resolution, 1,800 - 2,000 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
2,000 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,800 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height horizontally, but only to about 1,800-1,850 lines vertically. While lines are distinguishable here, they aren't super sharp. Extinction did not occur. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Fine detail is soft from noise suppression, and high contrast areas show noticeable edge enhancement.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of edge enhancement.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 captures a lot of fine detail, though detail definition suffers from noise suppression. In high contrast areas, the camera produces bright enhancement artifacts, such as along the trim in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows fairly strong noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands become lost even in the moderate shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, images from the Nikon Coolpix P6000 suffer from a loss of fine detail due to aggressive noise reduction, even at the base ISO of 64. As is almost always the case, quite a bit more detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs. The Coolpix P6000's RAW files are quite noisy, but you can extract more detail if you are willing to live with more noise than the P6000's JPEGs. Take a look below, to see what we mean:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image. The first image is a in-camera Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The second is a RAW file converted with Nikon ViewNX 1.3.0 using default settings, while the third uses the Neutral Picture Control option, with some light sharpening applied in Photoshop. The fourth, ACR image was processed with Adobe Camera Raw 5.3, with luminance noise reduction set to 40, then sharpened in Photoshop using Unsharp Mask at 500%, radius 0.3 pixels. You can probably do even better by using a good third-party noise reduction program such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja or Noiseware instead of ACR to perform noise reduction.
ISO & Noise Performance
Good noise handling at the lower sensitivity settings, though even at the moderate settings, noise suppression becomes fairly strong. At the highest levels, detail is almost obliterated.
|ISO 64||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
|ISO 2,000||ISO 3,200||
The Nikon Coolpix P6000 handles image noise pretty well at ISOs 64 and 100, which you'd expect, though it does trade away fine detail to achieve low noise levels. Starting at ISO 200, noise suppression efforts become strong, blurring detail quite a bit and strong white noise pixels become evident. By ISO 800, the entire image looks like a pastel drawing, with very little definition at all. At ISO 1,600 and up, noise grain becomes more pronounced, though noise suppression remains strong. The other side effect here is cooler color casts at ISO 1,600 and up, the result of more blue noise pixels. See the Print Quality section below for the recommended maximum print size at each ISO setting.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though limited shadow detail. Slightly bright contrast, but still good results overall. Good low-light performance.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 performed about average under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, as contrast wasn't so high that it appeared overly edgy. Contrast is slightly high, but results are still not too bad considering the light source. Shadow detail is a bit limited, mostly due to noise suppression. At +0.7 EV, the highlights on the white shirt are a tad hot, but the exposure at +0.3 EV was too dim overall. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 features an adjustable contrast setting, as well as a D-Lighting mode designed to atone for higher contrast situations. Both options lighten the overall exposure in their attempts to even out tones, but results are still pretty good. See the Test Shots page to view test images taken with those options. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
As previously mentioned, the Nikon Coolpix P6000 lets you adjust the image Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpness in seven steps each. As can be seen below, the contrast adjustment worked well at opening up the shadows, but highlights were still blown at the lowest setting. It would have been more effective if we shot this series at +0.7 EV instead of +1.0 EV.
|Contrast Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with the default as well as the two "extreme" contrast settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.
|Active D-Lighting Examples|
Active D-Lighting The Nikon P6000 offers three levels of Active D-lighting, plus the default Off setting. Nikon's Active D-Lighting does a good job at preserving highlights while bringing up detail in the deep shadows, though not surprisingly, more noise is visible in the darker areas of the test shots above. Unfortunately, the Normal and High settings added a cool cast to the images, evident in the model's white shirt. Note that Contrast cannot be adjusted when Active D-Lighting is enabled.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 performed well under low-light, with bright results at the lowest light level at the lowest ISO setting. Color balance was slightly cool from the Auto white balance in many shots. Noise remains fairly low up to ISO 200 (though as mentioned previously, detail suffers). Above that sensitivity, bright pixels and noise-reduction artifacts become progressively more visible. The Nikon P6000 was only able to focus down to just past 1/2 foot-candle light level unassisted, but was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Modest flash power at close range, and coverage is uneven. Exposure compensation has no effect on shots in the normal flash mode, though does help Slow-Sync mode.
|28mm equivalent||112mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, +1.3 EV||Slow-Sync Flash, +0.3 EV|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was fairly uneven at wide-angle, though more uniform at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Nikon Coolpix P6000's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost for bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter and more even results, at only +0.3 EV, though with a slight warm cast from the background lighting. Though results are a bit warm, the Slow-Sync image seems more natural because of the ambient lighting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide-angle and ISO 100, flash intensity began to decrease slightly from about 12 feet on. At telephoto, flash power maintained the same intensity to about 7 feet, decreasing in brightness at 8 feet and beyond.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the Coolpix P6000 performs as Nikon says it will, though it had to raise the sensitivity slightly at both wide-angle and telephoto settings. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality at 11x14 inches. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7. Better performance from RAW images.
The Nikon P6000 was able to produce good 11x14-inch prints at ISO 64 and 100. Quality at 13x19 inches was okay, but overaggressive noise processing messes with low-contrast detail, creating what looks more like a painting than a photograph. Theoretically, the Nikon P6000's 13.5-megapixel sensor should produce images that look quite good at 16x20, but JPEG image detail just won't support it.
ISO 200 shots are also usable at 11x14 inches, but look better at 8x10. With the exception of dark areas, the ISO 400 shots are also usable at 11x14, and better at 8x10.
ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7. ISO 1,600 shots lost some contrast, with dark colors appearing more purple.
Overall, the Nikon P6000's JPEG printed results are disappointing, thanks mostly to over-aggressive noise processing.
RAW. Print quality improves significantly when you shoot RAW files with the Nikon P6000, with ISO 64 images looking good printed at 16x20 when processed in View NX and sharpened in Photoshop. Without the sharpening, some details are soft. ISO 200 images are usable at 11x14, but better at 8x10, and from here it starts to track the JPEG image-quality-to-print-size ratio. But at least the camera is vindicated at its optimum ISOs, going up two print sizes, from 11x14 to 16x20. With careful processing, the Nikon P6000's ISO 64 and 100 images can be printed at up to 20x30-inches without resizing.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix P6000 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon Coolpix P6000 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.