Nikon P7100 Review
Nikon Coolpix P7100 Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Fairly typical saturation and hue accuracy, with moderate oversaturation of some colors.
Saturation. The Nikon P7100's default settings produced fairly typical saturation levels overall (113.5% or 13.5% oversaturated), with mild to moderate oversaturation in blues, reds and greens. Bright yellow, cyan, and magenta were undersaturated by a small amount. Overall, we think most owners will be pleased with default saturation from the Coolpix P7100, and saturation can always be tweaked. 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, when using Auto white balance, the Nikon P7100 did a decent job rendering Caucasian skin tones, though they were a bit warm and yellowish in our "sunlit" tests. Manual white balance performed better. 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. Like most cameras, the Nikon Coolpix P7100 pushes cyan toward blue, red toward orange, and orange toward yellow. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) Thankfully, there's very little yellow to green push as we've seen in other brands. With an mean "delta-C" color error of 5.82 after correction for saturation, overall hue accuracy was about average. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto 1 white balance had a slight magenta tint, while Auto 2 was very warm; best color with the Manual white balance setting. Slightly above average exposure accuracy.
|Auto 1 White Balance
|Auto 2 White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting had a slight magenta tint with the default Auto 1 white balance setting, though performance here is better than a lot of cameras. The Auto 2 setting is designed to preserve some warmth from Incandescent lights, but it went overboard producing a very orange cast. The Incandescent setting was much better, but still a bit warm and yellowish. The Manual setting produced pretty accurate color balance, though some colors were just a touch cool and greenish. The 2,600 Kelvin setting which matches the temperature of our lights produced a blue cast. The Coolpix P7100's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results with no exposure compensation. Most cameras we've tested required about +0.3 EV exposure compensation for this shot, so the P7100 performed better than average in this regard. 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.
About average exposure accuracy outdoors, with good color.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
The Nikon Coolpix P7100 produced some hot highlights in the harsh lighting of our "Outdoor" shots. In the Portrait shot above left, detail is quite strong in the shadows if a little dark, though quite a few highlights were lost in the white shirt and flowers. (Turning down contrast or enabling Active D-lighting really helps here.) An average amount of exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) was required to keep the model's face reasonably bright. The Coolpix P7100 did an okay job with color, producing fairly natural looking though somewhat warm, yellow/orange skin tones with Auto white balance. We preferred skin tones using Manual white balance, though they're still a little yellow. In the Far-field shot on the right, the default exposure is pretty good, but again some very bright highlights are clipped in the white trim. Shadow detail, however, is quite good. Color is pretty good, if slightly cool.
High resolution with ~1,600 to ~1,700 lines of strong detail from in-camera JPEGs, about 1,700 to 1,800 lines from RAW files.
Strong detail to
~1,700 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
~1,600 lines vertical
|ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~1,800 lines horizontal
|ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~1,700 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 1,600 lines in the vertical from in-camera JPEGs. (Some may argue for higher numbers, but aliasing artifacts start to occur at about 1,600 lines.) Extinction of the pattern occurred between 2,200 and 2,400 lines. We were able to extract a bit more resolution (1,700 to 1,800 lines of strong detail) with fewer artifacts by converting a RAW file with Adobe Camera Raw 6.6. Extinction of the pattern was also extended to between 2,600 and 2,800 lines in converted RAW files, though color moire was more apparent. 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
Fairly sharp images overall, with very little edge-enhancement visible around high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits definition in the shadows, though detail is still relatively strong for a "compact" camera.
|Definition of high-contrast elements
is affected by noise suppression
but there's very little 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 P7100 captures reasonably sharp images with very good detail, though noise reduction reduces definition in the finer details. Only very minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Very good results here. 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 moderate levels of noise suppression, as the darker areas of hair and regions of low contrast show less distinct detail. However, individual strands remain reasonably well defined in higher contrast areas. An above average performance for a compact camera here. 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 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. Take a look below, to see what we mean:
P7100PINE (ISO 100)
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 rollover crop from the left is from an in-camera Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The second is from a RAW file processed using the bundled Nikon ViewNX 2 software at default settings. Default settings produced a somewhat soft image, so a second ViewNX 2 conversion was made with the sharpness increased to +2. The fourth crop was converted with Adobe Camera RAW 6.6, then sharpened in Photoshop using strong but tight Unsharp Mask (USM) of 300% with radius of 0.3 pixels. As you can see, the second ViewNX 2 converted RAW file does offer a bit more detail than the in-camera JPEG. Adobe Camera Raw was able to extract the most detail, but as usual, noise is more visible. Still, noise isn't objectionable at base ISO, but be prepared to apply some generous noise reduction at higher ISOs, which is to be expected with images from a relatively small sensor such as the P7100's.
ISO & Noise Performance
Very good detail versus noise handling up to ISO 400. Noise and the effects of noise suppression become quite strong at higher ISOs.
|Normal (Default) Noise Reduction|
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
Very good performance at base ISO, though some smearing of fine detail by the camera's default noise reduction is already visible if you look closely. (The P7100 offers three levels of noise reduction.) ISO 200 shows a slight increase in blurring, but fine detail is still very good for a "compact" camera. ISO 400 shows slightly stronger blurring, and chroma noise (color blotches) start to appear in darker areas, but detail is still pretty good. At ISO 800 image quality takes a bigger hit, with much more chroma and luminance noise, though there's some detail left. Image quality is a little rough at ISO 1,600, with much stronger blurring and more obvious purple and yellow color blotches. Chroma noise is pretty bad at ISO 3,200 with large portions of the hair covered in purple blotches, while luminance noise obliterates fine detail. ISO 6,400 is a real mess, with even stronger noise leaving very little detail.
Still, pretty good performance overall for a compact camera. Noise performance is similar to its predecessor, the P7000, though the P7100 seems to do slightly better in terms of fine detail at lower ISOs here. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong detail, with pretty good dynamic range for its class when contrast is adjusted. Good low-light performance, capable of getting bright images in near darkness.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
Sunlight. The Nikon Coolpix P7100 did fairly well in bright sunlight for a "compact" camera. We preferred the exposure with +0.7 EV compensation overall, as the model's face was a bit dim with +0.3 EV, and too many highlights were blown at +1.0 EV. Default contrast was pretty high so there are quite a few washed-out highlights in the white shirt and flowers, but shadow detail is pretty good. Adjusting contrast or employing the P7100's Active D-Lighting feature helps tame those hot highlights and open up dark shadows. See below.
Outdoor Portrait Contrast and Active D-Lighting
Above are examples of our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with Nikon's three levels of Active D-Lighting at +0.3 EV, as well as with contrast turned down to a minium. Rollover the links to the right to load the corresponding thumbnail image and histogram, and click on the links to get to the full resolution versions.
As you can see, the Low Active D-Lighting setting primarily boosted shadows while the Normal and High settings also dialed-back highlights, preventing most highlights from clipping. Noise was more apparent in the boosted shadows, though. The lowest contrast setting also did a pretty good job at holding on to highlights and opening up the shadows.
|Far-field Contrast and Active D-Lighting
Roll over the links above to see the effects of the P7100's Contrast and Active D-Lighting settings on our Far-field shot.
|Face Detection Examples|
Face Detection. The table above shows results with the default exposure using standard Aperture Priority AE, as well as with face detection enabled, and in full Auto exposure mode. As you can see, the Nikon P7100's face detection in improved exposure dramatically compared to the default exposure in Aperture Priority mode by reducing the shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/50s. Full Auto mode however made very little difference. EXIF metadata reports no face was detected, so face detection needs to be manually enabled if you want it used in full Auto. The P7100 also provides a Scene Auto Selector mode which should automatically detect faces, as well as Portrait and Night Portrait scene modes, however we did not test those modes.
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 P7100 did pretty well in our low-light tests, capturing fairly bright, usable images at sensitivities as low as ISO 100 in manual exposure mode. The Nikon P7100 is capable of shutter speeds as slow as 60 seconds in manual mode, so it had no problems capturing usable images at very low light levels. Do note that shutter speed range changes with ISO setting and exposure mode though. You can see that in the table above, where the slowest shutter speed in manual mode at ISO 3200 was 1/2 second, at at ISO 6400 it was 1/8 second. Noise is very well controlled to ISO 400, and color balance looks quite neutral with the default Auto 1 white balance setting. We saw a few hot pixels here and there, but nothing unusual.
The camera's autofocus system did fairly well in low light, too. It was able to focus down to below 1/16 foot-candle without the help of the AF assist lamp which is excellent, though enabling AF assist actually made AF performance worse at short range, overwhelming the AF system. With AF assist enabled, we were only able to get the Nikon P7100 to focus down to about two foot-candles, so be sure to try turning AF assist off if you're having trouble focusing in low light with it on.
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
A moderately powerful flash for its size, with somewhat uneven coverage at wide-angle. Good exposure in our indoor portrait test shot.
|28mm equivalent||200mm equivalent|
(ISO 100, 0 EV)
(ISO 100, 0 EV)
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was somewhat uneven at wide-angle, though we've seen much worse. Coverage was much more uniform at full telephoto. The Nikon P7100's normal flash mode did a good job with our indoor flash portrait test, resulting in a bright (almost too bright) image at ISO 100 without needing any exposure compensation. The P7100 used a slower shutter speed of 1/30 second which could result in subject motion blur, though the camera's shutter priority mode could be used to address that issue. The Slow-sync mode's slower shutter speed of 1/5s retained much more of the warm ambient light, with a strong orange cast in the shadows.
ISO 100 Range. At wide-angle and ISO 100, flash shots were bright to about 10 or 11 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At telephoto, flash shots started out dim at 6 feet, and got dimmer from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 200
Auto ISO 800
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, results at full wide-angle are inconclusive as the bright foreground likely caused underexposure of the flash target at the rated flash range of 29.0 feet at ISO 200. At full telephoto, the Nikon P7100 produced a bright image at the rated range of 14 feet, but boosted ISO to 800. 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.
ISO 200 looks quite nice at 13x19 inches.
ISO 400 images are usable at 13x19 inch, but shadow noise is a little more pronounced. Printing at 11x14 looks a lot better.
ISO 800 shots are a little rough at 11x14, but I'd still call them usable. They look quite good at 8x10.
ISO 1,600 images are usable at 8x10, though with enough luminance noise in the shadows that we prefer the 5x7-inch print.
ISO 3,200 shots are usable at both 5x7 and 4x6, but we wouldn't call either great; just usable thanks to faded color and contrast.
ISO 6,400 files are usable at 4x6, but with very little nuance to the colors.
Results are pretty good, a little better than the P7000, particularly at ISO 400 and 800. We'd suggest limiting your high ISO shooting to 3,200 at the outside, leaning toward 1,600 in general.
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 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II 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 P7100 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 P7100 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.