Nikon P1000 Conclusion

53.9mm (300mm equiv.), f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 200, Flash.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Go big or go home. That's Nikon's sentiment when it comes to their latest offering in the consistently-popular "superzoom" category. Nikon already wowed us with the previous Coolpix P900, which offered a record-breaking (at the time) 83x optical zoom range. Yet they decided that wasn't enough zoom and created the rather outrageous Coolpix P1000, which sports a whopping 125x optical zoom range. In other words, this is a fixed-lens digicam with a 24-3000mm-equivalent zoom lens. That is just a shocking amount of zoom range for any camera!

Capable of shooting everything from landscapes to far-off wildlife, the Nikon P1000 is perhaps the most versatile cameras we've come across, particularly if you're simply talking about zoom capabilities. However, like most things, there are trade-offs to consider before you pick up this or any camera. Like its predecessor -- and most superzoom cameras -- the P1000 uses a tiny sensor, a 1/2.3"-type sensor to be exact, in order to have such a long-zooming lens be anywhere near handhold-able. The big downside is that this camera struggles in low lighting conditions and with higher ISOs. The smaller sensor, in general, is also simply not going to capture the level of detail compared to that of a larger-sensored camera.

But, if you're looking for a one-stop-shop camera for your outdoor adventures and traveling, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 just might hit the spot. Read on below to see how it fared in our testing...

Design & Features

By their nature, superzoom cameras aren't really "compact," usually sporting a fairly large, long-extending zoom lens, and the P1000 is no exception to that. However, the P1000 is quite small and lightweight compared to the gigantic lenses you'd need if you opted for a comparable DSLR setup. On the other hand, "comparable" doesn't really make sense; given the P1000's 3000mm-equivalent maximum focal length, as there really isn't a DSLR or mirrorless lens out there that can give you kind of telephoto reach.

However, when it comes to superzooms by themselves, the Nikon P1000 has to be largest, most extreme superzoom we've ever come across! The majority of the camera is composed of its massive 125x zoom lens. With a 77mm filter thread, the P1000's lens is very large -- larger than the already-big lens of the P900 -- and when fully extended it practically doubles in length. The "body" of the camera, relative to the lens, is pretty small, but it's still about the size of standard DSLR body. Like its predecessor, the P1000 features a nice DSLR-style grip that offers a sizable, comfortable hold on the camera. The body also features numerous physical controls, as well as a built-in EVF and articulated touchscreen. The OLED EVF is pretty good, and while it's not the largest nor the sharpest compared to higher-end cameras like the new Z6 or Z7, for example, the EVF here is both much larger and has a higher-res display than the EVF inside the P900. The LCD also works well, though we'd have liked a higher-res display and touchscreen functionality.

Overall, despite the rather shocking size of the camera compared to previous superzoom cameras, we don't have a lot of complaints when it comes to usability. As mentioned, the camera is fairly large, with a nice grip and lots of physical controls and buttons that are easy to find and operate. Nikon's managed to keep the weight down by using plastic for a majority of the camera's construction. Despite the size, the camera feels surprisingly lightweight. On one hand, that's a positive quality, but on the other, the camera does feel a little on the "cheaper" side just due to the lighter weight. The camera feels voluminous and almost "hollow," and its plastic construction doesn't have the same sturdy, refined fit and finish as we see with Nikon's DSLRs. Another drawback to this lightweight construction, albeit a minor one, is that with this big, long-zooming lens, the camera can start to feel unbalanced and front-heavy when you zoom in to longer focal lengths.

Image Quality

Yes, OK, so the P1000 has a record-breaking zoom lens, but can it take good photos? Thankfully, the answer is yes, but with some caveats. If you have enough light, such as shooting outdoors and during the daytime, the P1000 can capture pleasing images, with lots of detail and low noise. The P1000 even captures raw files now, something the earlier P900 could not, which is a nice upgrade for those who want more fine-grained control over image processing.However, with its very small 16MP sensor, the P1000 won't be able to capture the level of fine detail that you can get with higher-end cameras with bigger sensors. But then the trade-off is that you simply can't get this level of zoom range elsewhere. If you're not a pixel-peeper, the image quality at lower ISOs and in good lighting is generally quite pleasing.

Further, unlike the P900, the P1000 now offers 4K video recording at 30p (and 25p for PAL). Full HD video up to 60fps is also available. Although designed mainly for stills, the ability to capture 4K video is a big plus and can be a particularly fun endeavor given the camera's powerful zoom. What's more, the P1000 offers manual exposure controls for video, giving advanced video shooters a bit more control over the look and feel of their videos. Quality-wise, 4K footage is decent, but much like with photos, the camera struggles with high ISOs and in low-light. Autofocus during video recording was also a bit hit or miss, performing faster at shorter focal lengths.

135mm (750mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 250, Flash.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The big story here is, of course, the P1000's massive optical zoom lens, which performs surprisingly well given its range. Sharpness is pretty good, especially at short to moderately long focal lengths, however, we observed some noticeable corner softness due to strong distortion correction at wide angle. As is typical with long-zoom lenses, the sharpness degrades somewhat the farther you zoom. The lens offers a relatively bright f/2.8 max aperture, but that's only when zoomed out to the widest focal length. As you start zooming in to longer focal lengths, the lens begins to "stop down" rather severely and quickly, for example reducing the maximum aperture to f/5.6 at just 800mm-eq. At the really long focal length of about 2800mm-eq., the lens dims down to a maximum of f/8. The narrow max aperture when zooming in not only reduces the amount of light transmitted, but it causes significant diffraction which softens the image.

Suffice it to say, with the combination of a small sensor and some very narrow aperture values at longer focal lengths, the P1000 struggles in low light situations. Not only does image quality suffer due to high ISO noise and diffraction, but the camera's contrast-detect AF system struggles in low light, especially when hand-held as you zoom.

144mm (800mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 200, -1EV
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Autofocus & Performance

When it comes to autofocus and performance, the Nikon P1000 is decent, but it's certainly not going to win any awards for speed. In terms of single-shot autofocus, the P1000's contrast-detect-based AF system proved quite swift when shooting at shorter focal lengths and in good lighting conditions. However, when you start to zoom to longer focal lengths and if the light levels drop, AF speed can drop quite a bit, especially when the camera is hand-held. As mentioned, the lens dims down rather severely at longer focal lengths, putting the camera at a big disadvantage in low light situations, not only for image quality but for AF performance as well. And although we don't test continuous AF speed in the lab, one of our field testers found that C-AF was underwhelming, which isn't all that surprising given the P1000's contrast-detect AF system. So while this powerful superzoom camera seems tailor-made for subjects like birds and wildlife, it's best suited for more static subjects and those in good lighting.

In other metrics, the Nikon P1000 exhibited a pleasingly low shutter lag and a decent 7fps full-res burst rate. However, in single-shot mode, the shot to shot time was a bit sluggish, and burst shooting was quite limited given the camera's meager 7-frame buffer capacity in Continuous Hi (7fps) mode. Plus, the camera seemed to lock up while it clears the buffer.

4.3mm (24mm equiv.), f/4, 1/400s, ISO 110.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Summary

Despite some rather notable downsides when it comes to image quality and performance in certain circumstances, the Nikon P1000 is, nevertheless, a rather astounding camera. No other camera to date has managed to offer such an impressive level of optical zoom. What's more, with the P1000's 3000mm-eq. optical zoom, no interchangeable lens system can match that either. It really does stand on its own.

If you manage expectations when it comes to sheer performance and can shoot at the lower ISO settings and in bright, outdoor lighting, the P1000 can capture some impressive images and 4K video. Having that much zoom ends up being just a lot of fun! It's not compact by any means, but it's still comfortable to hold, the VR works well (thankfully!), and it will fit in a backpack or medium-sized shoulder bag with ease. The P1000 is also rather pricey compared to the other superzoom models, with an MSRP of $1000 -- that's a steep jump compared to the $600 asking price of the Coolpix P900.

Overall, though, the P1000 is a very fun all-in-one solution for travelers, backyard birders, and wildlife enthusiasts. So, despite some shortcomings, the Nikon P1000 is a really unique, super-interesting camera that provides a shooting experience unlike any other camera currently on the market. The impressive Nikon P1000 definitely earns a Dave's Pick!

 

Pros & Cons

  • Record-breaking optical zoom from 24mm wide-angle to 3000mm ultra-telephoto
  • Surprisingly good optical performance for its range
  • Fast f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle
  • Effective VR image stabilization
  • Low geometric distortion in JPEGs
  • Good Macro mode, works up to about 155mm eq.
  • Decent image quality at low ISOs given sensor size
  • Bright, snappy colors in JPEGs
  • Supports RAW mode (.NRW)
  • Quick startup
  • Fast AF speeds (when tested on a tripod in good light)
  • Low shutter lag
  • Decent 7fps full-res burst speed (but see Con regarding buffer size)
  • Very good coverage accuracy from EVF and LCD
  • Larger, higher-res EVF than P900
  • Comfortable, deep hand grips
  • Lots of physical controls
  • Vari-angle LCD
  • Pop-up flash works well
  • 1/4000s flash sync
  • i-TTL flash hot shoe
  • Shoots 4K video at 30p/25p
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with Bluetooth
  • Accessory port
  • Clean HDMI out
  • External mic jack
  • USB charging
  • Multiple remote control options (Wi-Fi, MC-DC2, ML-L7, WR-R10/WR-T10, WR-1)
  • Tiny sensor struggles with low-light/high ISO image quality
  • Default noise reduction is a bit heavy-handed
  • Slightly soft JPEGs with noticeable sharpening haloes at default settings
  • Max aperture reduces quickly as you zoom in (but no surprise given the range)
  • Soft corners at wide angle (due to strong distortion correction)
  • Sharpness falls as you zoom in (again, no surprise)
  • Shallow 7 frame buffer in Continuous H mode
  • Camera locks up while clearing buffer
  • Overly warm results with Auto white balance indoors
  • Hand-held autofocus performance drops in low-light & at longer focal lengths
  • Underwhelming C-AF performance
  • Large size can be unwieldy & long-extending lens can feel unbalanced a longer focal lengths
  • Plastic body construction keeps weight down, but doesn't feel as sturdy or robust as Nikon's DSLRs
  • No touchscreen
  • No headphone jack
  • Poor battery life
  • Expensive




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