Nikon P900 Optics

Lens Test Results

A massive 83x optical zoom, with decent performance for its class.

24mm eq. @ f/6.3 220mm eq. @ f/6.3
2000mm eq. @ f/6.5 4x Digital Zoom

The Nikon P900 is equipped with a 4.3-357mm lens, offering a whopping optical zoom ratio of about 83x, translating to a 35mm-equivalent focal range of about 24-2000mm. The lens is fairly fast (bright) at wide angle with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, but at the telephoto end, maximum aperture falls to only f/6.5, which is rather dim. The following table reflects the maximum and minimum apertures as reported by the camera at popular focal lengths:

Focal length
(mm eq.)
650 1400
Max. aperture
f/5.6 f/6.3
Min. aperture
f/8 at all focal lengths

The above set of images was taken from the same location as an illustration of the enormous amount of optical zoom offered by the P900. Optical performance is pretty good considering the range and the P900's price, however the lens isn't terribly sharp at maximum telephoto. On top of the 83x optical zoom, there's up to 4x digital zoom for an incredible 8000mm equivalent focal length, though as you can see, that much digital zoom produces a very soft image. See below for lab results on macro performance, geometric distortion, sharpness, etc.

A smaller than average sized minimum coverage area, with very good detail. Flash is blocked by lens at closest distance.

Macro, 24mm eq., f/6.3 Macro with Flash

The Nikon P900 captured a smaller than average sized minimum area measuring only 1.93 x 1.44 inches (49 x 37 millimeters). Sharpness over much of the frame is good, but corners show quite a bit of softness (most lenses show some softening in the corners at macro distances), and you can also see fairly strong pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration. The lens focuses so close in macro mode (~1cm from the front element) that it's difficult to get even illumination from ambient lighting, though note that our subject isn't flat. The lens casts a shadow when using the flash, blocking much of the light and resulting in a dim, unevenly lit image.

Geometric Distortion
Very low geometric distortion in camera JPEGs.

Complex distortion at wide angle is less than 0.1 percent
Complex distortion at telephoto is less than 0.1 percent

Thanks to in-camera distortion correction, there's almost no geometric distortion in the P900's JPEG files at normal distances. At full wide angle, we measured well under 0.1% pincushion distortion, though it was wavy (complex) in nature. At full telephoto, distortion was difficult to accurately measure with the target we use for superzooms, but it's also under 0.1% and complex pincushion distortion This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide-angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

The Nikon P900 does not support RAW capture, so we can't see how much distortion correction is taking place during JPEG processing, though we suspect there's a lot given the size and range of the lens.

Chromatic Aberration and Corner Sharpness
Low to very low chromatic aberration in JPEGs. The lens produces some soft corners wide-open, though corner sharpness improves stopped-down.

Aperture: Maximum
Wide at f/2.8: Lower right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Very soft
Wide at f/2.8: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp
Tele at f/6.5: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Softness: Moderately soft
Tele at f/6.5: Center
C.A.: Low
Softness: Slightly soft

Chromatic Aberration. Thanks to effective in-camera chromatic aberration suppression, there's fairly low C.A. seen in the corners at either wide angle or telephoto in JPEGs, and there's virtually none in the center at wide angle. At full telephoto, some chromatic aberration can be seen, but it's fairly low.

Corner Softness. Wide-open at full wide angle, the lens showed a little de-centering, with the lower right corner producing softer results than the rest, and softness extended fairly far into the frame. Corner sharpness is actually pretty good in the other three corners, and the center is sharp. At full telephoto, all four corners are moderately soft, but corner performance isn't bad for a lens with such a range. The center is slightly soft though, and not as sharp as at wide angle. (Note that the target above we use for superzooms at telephoto is at a different scale than our standard target used for wide-angle and shorter zooms, so resolution cannot be directly compared.)

Vignetting. There is some vignetting (corner shading), as indicated by the darker corner crops above than those from the center particularly at the wide-angle end, but it's fairly minor.

Aperture: f/4 (W), f/8 (T)
Wide at f/4 Lower right
C.A.: Low
Softness: Improved, but still soft
Wide at f/4: Center
C.A.: Very low
Softness: Sharp
Tele at f/8: Upper left
C.A.: Low
Softness: Moderately soft
Tele at f/8: Center
C.A.: Low
Softness: Fairly sharp

Stopped-down: As is often the case, stopping down a few clicks improved corner performance at wide angle, however the same lower-right corner was still softer than the others due to de-centering. Stopping down to f/8 at maximum telephoto improved sharpness in some corners a bit but made others slightly worse, and the center became slightly softer than wide-open due to diffraction. Oddly, overall contrast was lower at telephoto. Vignetting was reduced at both ends, though.

Overall, pretty good performance from the P900's lens considering the phenomenal range it offers.

Viewfinder Test Results

Very good accuracy from the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

Wide, EVF
Wide, LCD

The Nikon P900's EVF and LCD monitor both provide about 99% coverage at full wide angle. (Note that the P900's lens is too long to test viewfinder coverage at full telephoto in our lab.) This is very good performance, especially considering the amount of geometric distortion correction that must be taking place.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix P900 Photo Gallery .

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