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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Unbeatable optical zoom range
Impressive video quality
Unimpressive battery life
Difficult to use at maximum telephoto range
Unimpressive low-light performance
Flimsy articulating screen
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is undoubtedly the king of superzoom cameras, and it offers a truly unique shooting experience. But first, you have to accept its high price, bulky size, and the numerous compromises Nikon found necessary to achieve its record-breaking specs.
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is currently the top dog in the superzoom arms race. No other camera offers a zoom range even approaching the insane 125x, 24-3000mm utilized by the P1000. However, such extreme capabilities can’t be achieved without compromise, and it is those compromises one must carefully consider before investing in Nikon’s telephoto titan.
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 invites invariably shocked reactions: That’s a point-and-shoot? Its lens is how long? How heavy is it? It is a truly striking camera that stands out in a crowded market. At a glance, it looks like a pro-level DSLR, and the truth is that the P1000 shares more than a few similarities with its interchangeable-lens brethren.
The body of the P1000 is big and solid feeling, if perhaps unexpectedly lighter than one would expect from a device of this size. This is a big camera—some might say too big, though in some ways the size can be an advantage over a more portable point-and-shoot. For those with large hands, this camera will feel better to hold than even some high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
We found that it was comfortable to use for long periods of time—our fingers never slipped off the textured rubber grip, and the massive lens barrel offered a comfortable second hold for steady shooting.
No other camera offers a zoom range even approaching it.
Although it’s easy to grip the camera securely and its light weight makes it easier to carry, the lack of heft makes it difficult to use at its most extreme telephoto ranges. A heavy camera provides greater stability, while lighter cameras are prone to jitter.
This is true even when the P1000 is mounted on a tripod, and this stability issue is not helped by the fact that the tripod mount is located to the back of the camera instead of at its midpoint. This may be the traditional location for a tripod mount on a camera, but keep in mind that large telephoto lenses for DSLRs often come with built-in tripod mounts of their own. The P1000 would be much more stable on a tripod if the tripod mount had been located on the lens barrel.
In our testing, the battery on the P1000 only took a few hours to charge from empty. We took hundreds of photos, filmed timelapses, and captured a large quantity of 4K video footage before it needed recharging.
We were able to get the P1000 up and running very quickly. Setup is simply a matter of inserting the memory card and battery into the camera, and then plugging it into an outlet. After a few hours of charging it’s ready to go.
On initial startup, a series of menus guided us through a fairly standard process including setting the time and date. Our only complaint was that we could only charge the battery internally, which meant leaving the camera plugged into an outlet for hours on end. While it is nice to have internal charging as an option, we would have liked to have an external battery charging station as well.
Be aware that the camera will refuse to function without an SD card—you can’t even use it as a digital spotting scope.
The P1000 does not lack for controls—the body is absolutely covered in buttons, dials, and switches. For the novice photographer it may seem daunting, but this array of physical controls will appeal to more experienced camera users. We did find there to be some variation in the quality of these controls; for example, the dial around the OK button feels a bit flimsy. But for the most part, the controls feel tactile and satisfying to use.
The P1000 has a typical mode dial on top with its various manual and automatic modes to select from. Next to that is a dial for settings adjustments, as well as the power button, a programmable function button, and the shutter button with the primary zoom control. We would have preferred to see a power switch as opposed to a button, or for the power button to be located better so that is harder to press accidentally.
Zoom can also be controlled via buttons on the lens barrel or by the ring at the end of the lens. Both the ring and the zoom buttons can be customized to control different aspects of the camera. There is also a “snap back” button so you can quickly zoom back out when tracking a subject and shooting at long focal ranges.
On the rear of the camera, there is a number of menu controls located to the right of the screen, as well as the photo review and movie record buttons. Of special note is the Manual/Autofocus selector switch. This a particularly valuable feature, since switching back and forth between manual and autofocus is frequently necessary with the P1000.
We had no trouble finding and changing the camera settings in the P1000’s simple and intuitive menu system. Just be aware that the availability of different settings varies widely depending on what mode you’re using.
The camera is not weatherproofed or ruggedized, though it does feel well built. It should be fine to use in moderately damp weather, but we wouldn’t risk it in the rain or in situations where it’s likely to get splashed or covered in dust and dirt.
The vari-angle display also feels delicate, and you should be careful when folding it out. You can also flip the display around and snap it back into the socket facing in, which is a great way to reduce the risk of damage to the surface of the screen.
The P1000 has a good array of ports, and we appreciated both the intelligent way they’re arranged, and the robust rubberized covers that protect them. This camera has a mini HDMI, USB, a headphone jack, and a remote shutter release port. The remote shutter release and headphone jack ports are both located in individual compartments, while the HDMI and USB ports share a compartment.
This design—the compartmentalization coupled with the excellent port covers—is superior to many DSLRs. Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack for audio monitoring.
The hot shoe mount allows you to use a variety of accessories, including flashes and microphones.
You do get Wi-Fi image transfer capability as well, which is useful for editing and sharing images on the go. This is done using the free Snapbridge app, and it’s easy enough and fairly quick to transfer images this way.
The P1000 is capable of capturing good images in optimal lighting conditions, but it struggles in dim conditions. We found that image quality goes downhill quickly past ISO 400, and we wouldn’t recommend shooting over ISO 800 if at all possible. At the maximum ISO of 6400, images are mushy and filled with noise. However, at ISO 400 and below there is very little noise, and images are sharp and detailed.
Nikon obviously realized that low light would be an issue for this camera, and to counteract sensitivity issues they included a remarkably powerful flash. This pops up with a satisfying spring loaded mechanism, and is bright enough to light subjects even at telephoto ranges. For a built in flash, it does a reasonably good job.
Image quality goes downhill quickly past ISO 400.
Also assisting with low-light shooting is a highly-effective image stabilization feature, which does a valiant job of minimizing vibrations at extreme zoom ranges. But at 3000mm, this stabilization can do little to compensate for shakes and judders amplified by extreme focal range.
The COOLPIX P1000, like many superzoom cameras, produces the best images at short focal ranges. You will only have the maximum 2.8 aperture available to use at the widest angles, after which it grows steadily narrower. Image quality and brightness remain good up to 1500mm, where the camera is still able to achieve an aperture of f/5. Above 1500mm, the photo quality decays quickly and the aperture shrinks to f/6, then f/7, and finally you are stuck with f/8 at its maximum 3000mm, which is very dark indeed.
JPEG quality is about what you’d expect from a point-and-shoot. It will please casual photographers, but more experienced shooters will want to take advantage of the post-processing flexibility that RAW images provide. If in doubt, you can always capture both JPEG and RAW files at the same time.
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 offers crisp and beautiful 4K video among a range of different resolution and framerate settings. You can also shoot in 1080p resolution or lower at up to 60 fps, though this is as good as it gets in terms of slow motion capability.
For basic video recording, this camera is well equipped. The 4K footage is very impressive—we found that it compares favorably with professional interchangeable-lens cameras.
Notably, there is no extra crop when shooting in 4K as opposed to 1080p, something that is a frustrating issue in many other cameras (especially those from Canon). The P1000 also has a great external microphone port, though as we also mentioned, there is no headphone port for monitoring audio.
The P1000 is slow as a snail when it comes to focusing in low light, and often refuses to grab any focus at all in dim situations.
We also found in our testing that the camera has a hard time distinguishing subject from background, like when we tried to photograph a bird against the sky—it often just focused on the sky. Fortunately, there is a dedicated manual/autofocus switch. Autofocusing using the adjustment ring on the lens barrel is easy and accurate thanks to the smooth, satisfying mechanism and useful “focus peaking” feature.
With focus peaking, the camera detects areas of the photo that are in focus and highlights them on the screen. This allows you to see what’s in focus while manually focusing, making the process much easier and more accurate.
Additionally, the secondary zoom buttons on the lens barrel can be programmed to control fine focus instead. With this feature, you can make large, sweeping manual-focus adjustments using the main adjustment ring, and then make micro adjustments using these buttons.
As previously mentioned, the display on the P1000 feels very flimsy indeed. However, it does earn points for being vari-angle, and it’s perfectly clear and usable with a resolution of 921,000 dots.
The LVF (Live Viewfinder) is a different story altogether—with 2.36 million dots, it is large, comfortable and crystal clear. This is actually one of the best LVFs we have tested on a point-and-shoot camera, and it even rivals LVFs found on high-end interchangeable lens cameras.
A sensor automatically detects when your eye is brought up to the LVF, and we found this to be an effective system of switching between the screen and live view display. However, as with most sensors like this, it can often (and annoyingly) be triggered by accident while using the vari-angle display. The good news is that this functionality can be toggled so that only the LVF or the display is turned on.
One of the most exciting things you can do with the P1000 is point it at the night sky and capture the wonders of the cosmos otherwise invisible to the naked eye. With 3000mm, it is perfectly possible to snap recognizable photos of other planets—Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s cloud formations and moons are particularly spectacular.
The P1000 also has modes that are specifically designed for astrophotography, including a mode on the command dial for photographing the moon. While the P1000 does take great photos of the moon, we wouldn’t recommend this special mode since all it really does is let you select different color casts for the moon. Instead, we’d recommend using manual mode for most astrophotography.
One of the most exciting things you can do with the P1000 is point it at the night sky and capture the wonders of the cosmos.
The camera also includes a “Star Trail” timelapse mode, which works great so long as you have a very sturdy tripod, a full battery, and don’t mind leaving your camera outdoors for hours at a time. We didn’t find the P1000 particularly effective at shooting the whole night sky—it’s just not sensitive enough. But for observing large and relatively close-to-Earth celestial bodies, it’s hard to beat.
The P1000 is obviously meant to appeal to wildlife photographers—if you’re photographing wild animals, the more distance between you and your subject, the better. With 3000mm, it is possible to observe wildlife from so far away that those animals may not ever know you are there. While other cameras capture dots on a distant mountain peak, the P1000 puts you face-to-face with those mountain goats.
All this being said, the P1000 is not so great for bird watching, even though it has a dedicated mode (with its own place on the main mode dial) for bird photography. We didn’t find much difference between using this mode and the regular auto mode. But the problems with photographing birds exist in whatever mode the camera is set to—birds are very fast and unpredictable. You need a high shutter speed and good autofocus to capture them. We already discussed the P1000’s shutter speed problem, and the matter of autofocus is even worse.
The “snap back” zoom button is useful for tracking birds and other wildlife, though we discovered that it is a little slow for this purpose. It’s a nice feature, but it really needs to be more responsive.
Photographing sporting events is an ideal use for the Nikon COOLPIX P1000. Even if you’re at the top of the stands, you can zoom in close enough to see the sweat dripping from the quarterback’s face.
Poor autofocus and low-light performance might give you trouble, but we could definitely see using this camera to get closer to the game, especially if you’re sitting far back from the field.
The P1000 is surprisingly capable at macro photography, though it has a few quirks in this regard. It can get as close as 0.4 inches at focal ranges up to 135mm. This is quite close indeed, and you can get very nice photos and video of tiny subjects. However, if you want to use autofocus at such distances you will have to use the dedicated Macro mode, which is accessible in Scene mode.
In Macro mode, you get two options: single shot and a multi-shot noise reduction mode, which is very helpful for capturing macro photos where unwanted noise is a more severe issue. To utilize this feature, you will definitely want to keep the camera on a tripod.
We also found that the huge front lens element is so big that it actually prevents you from getting close enough to get good magnification.
The P1000 has an MSRP of $999, which is a lot of money for a superzoom or other point-and-shoot camera. For this price, you could buy a budget full-frame mirrorless camera like the Sony a7, or even the Sony a7II on a sale. Alternatively, you could buy a cheap DSLR like the Canon T3 and a Sigma 150-600mm C lens for about the same total price and get truly amazing super telephoto images, or simply buy a cheaper superzoom camera (many competing models are typically available for $500 or less).
With all this in mind, you could easily make the assumption that the P1000 is badly overpriced. But you have to consider the fact that this is a unique, record-breaking camera. There is nothing else quite like it, so whether it’s worth it’s steep asking price depends on how highly you value those bragging rights.
The P1000 faces stiff competition from many different cameras for many different reasons, but the Canon SX70 HS comes closest to it in terms of features and functionality. In many ways, the SX70 exceeds the P1000, while at the same time retailing for almost half of what the P1000 will cost you: it offers better image stabilization, better low-light performance, and that wonderful Canon color science.
The screen of the SX70 is also much superior to that of the P1000. Both cameras have vari-angle displays, but the Canon’s is not only brighter and sharper, it is much better built and feels on par with screens found in Canon’s DSLR and mirrorless cameras. In contrast, the Nikon seems dim and very flimsy.
The Nikon does offer more than twice the maximum focal range as the Canon, and it’s body is much nicer to hold due to its large size. However, the Canon is better at macro photography, has faster autofocus throughout its zoom range, and is much more compact.
The P1000 easily beats the Canon in terms of 4K video recording since it doesn’t have the extra crop that Canon has implemented in the SX70.
The choice comes down to how much you value the extra zoom range and video quality offered by the P1000. Unless you need that, or you are really enamored by the considerable “cool factor” of the P1000, then the Canon SX70 is the better buy.
It’s expensive and kind of impractical, but the crazy zoom is really fun to use.
Owning a Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is a bit like owning a sports car: it’s a cool camera, but it isn’t very practical. It’s bulky and expensive, plus it has a steep learning curve and a lot of annoying quirks. But this camera will bring some people a lot of joy, and if you really want a fun camera with record-breaking zoom range (and don’t mind the price), then maybe the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is for you.