Nikon P900 First Shots: This “MEGA” 83x Superzoom hits IR labs, with a bonus shot of “Gena” thrown in


posted Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 5:43 PM EDT


Nikon's been quite busy lately on the superzoom front. First, their flagship model from 2014, the P600, won Best Overall model in our Best Superzoom 2014 race. Then, earlier this year, they announced the follow-up P610, which has basically the same imaging pipeline, with the notable changes occurring in areas not directly related to image quality or optical zoom range.

But shortly thereafter they shook the superzoom world with the announcement of the P900, which leap-frogs the field and zooms to an unprecedented 2000mm equivalent telephoto. The P600/P610 were already the longest zoomers on the block in this category, at 1440mm eq. focal length, and yet the P900 somehow manages 560mm more range! (That's mighty far, folks.)

To give you a quick reference to the P600's already stellar performance in our Best Superzoom shootout, we invited our regular model "Gena" back to the same location, on a fairly similar overcast day, albeit not exactly identical conditions. We weren't able to remember the specific spot, but as you'll see from Dave Etchells' explanation below* regarding actual focal lengths, it was within 2-3 feet. She's also not angled exactly the same, but again, we just wanted to give you a quick reference point similar to an earlier shot from the P600 last October, as a gauge to the real-world difference in focal lengths between 1440mm and 2000mm.

So, below is Gena from the P600 as shot last October during our Superzoom contest, at its maximum optical telephoto reach of 1440mm (see Dave's note on actual focal lengths below, though), followed by her shot today at the P900's indicated 1400mm reach and finally the P900's maximum indicated focal length of 2000mm.

The crops below are 1:1 to show the detail, and clicking any image will take you to that image's carrier page, where you'll have access to EXIF data as well as the full resolution image.

Nikon P600 at its reported maximum optical focal length of 1440mm

1/10s / f/6.5 / ISO 100 / 258mm (1440mm eq.)
[1:1 crop]

Nikon P900 at its reported "mid-range" focal length of 1400mm

1/30s / f/6.3 / ISO 100 / 250mm (1400mm eq.)
[1:1 crop]

Nikon P900 at its reported maximum optical focal length of 2000mm

1/25s / f/6.5 / ISO 100 / 357mm (2000mm eq.)
[1:1 crop]

*Astute readers will notice that the shot from the P900 at its 1400mm setting actually looks larger than the one from the P600 at its 1440mm max tele focal length, rather than smaller as you'd expect from the stated focal lengths. There are two reasons for this. First, we determined that the actual focal length of the P600 at its max tele setting is actually 1380mm, vs the 1440 claimed (Click here for the details). Checking the P900 at its 1400mm setting, it actually measured slightly longer, at 1439mm. The second part of the difference is that we didn't quite nail the camera-subject distance relative to the previous setup; measurements from the shots themselves show that Gena was about 2.5-3 feet closer to the P900 (out of a ~60 foot shooting distance) than she was to the P600 previously. The net of these two differences is that she's roughly 11% larger in the P900 "1400mm" shot than she is in the P600's maximum optical focal length of "1440mm", as shot previously. We felt that this was still a useful comparison against the P600, though. It's particularly interesting to note how much less image noise is present in the P900's image, while detail handling doesn't seem too far different. (This is just a first-blush impression though; stay tuned for our full report on the P900's image quality, coming soon.)

• • •

And now, for our regularly scheduled programming, we offer you our Nikon P900 First Shots, where you can pixel peep images of our Still Life target from the Samples Page or compare the P900 image quality across the available ISO spectrum in our Comparometer. Below is a glance at the P900 vs the P600 at base ISO.

Nikon P900                         ISO 100                        Nikon P600

[Click for fullres image]                                           [Click for fullres image]

While it's notably challenging to compose your shots at an equivalent focal length of 2000mm (despite the P900's apparently excellent IS, 2000mm is a really, really long focal length, so effective composition requires almost microscopic adjustments of camera orientation), the P900 is an interesting and exciting camera. It's focal length range is essentially impossible to achieve in the SLR arena, and despite the limitations of its small sensor, it has the potential to capture images that are simply unattainable any other way. (OK, a high-resolution DSLR with an 800mm lens might be able to do better at the pixel level, but we're talking about a $13,000 - $15,000 setup at that point.)

We'll have a lot more to come on this amazing mega-zoom camera, but in the meantime, check out our standard lab shots and the photos of the ever-accommodating Gena on the Gallery Page. (Gena really gave her all for these shots, narrowly avoiding drowning or serious injury: It was a somewhat windy day, and we were shooting between the gusts to avoid camera shake. One final gust actually upended Gena, though, and she just missed a dip in the lake, although her hairpiece got a little wet in the process. So special thanks to Gena for her service above and beyond the call of duty! :-)

Nikon P900 Lab SamplesComparometerBest Superzoom 2014