This fall, many buyers will consider the compact, 8-megapixel Nikon Coolpix P1 for its novel built-in Wi-Fi transmitter. They'll find, however, that its wireless capabilities are limited compared with those of other consumer Wi-Fi cameras, such as the Canon PowerShot SD430. While the Kodak can transfer, print, e-mail, and Web-post pictures via a wireless hot spot, the Nikon can transfer pictures only to a nearby computer or printer--both of which are faster and less complicated operations over a USB cable. Fortunately for Nikon, the Coolpix P1, which also has a 5-megapixel sibling, the Coolpix P2, which delivers good image quality and a familiar Nikon interface that makes it much better than the Kodak for shooting photos.
Before using the Coolpix P1, you must install a version of Nikon's image-management software that includes a wireless-setup routine. Setup is fairly simple, but Wi-Fi transfers are a chore: they're much slower than USB transfers, they drain the camera's batteries, and they're subject to the whims of your computer's Wi-Fi reception. We see the P1's Wi-Fi capabilities as helpful for special applications--for instance, printing photos as they're shot at events--but superfluous for typical home use.
The 6.6-ounce Nikon Coolpix P1 has a fairly mixed feature set, with myriad image-control parameters but limited manual-exposure options. You can adjust contrast, saturation, and sharpening and can even turn sharpening off. Most of the 16 scene modes have two advanced options that provide a bit of manual control. However, the P1 doesn't offer full manual exposure--only an aperture-priority mode that lets you select from a fairly limited range between f/2.7 and f/7.3. The lens has a pretty standard 36mm-to-126mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range. The camera has no raw or uncompressed-TIFF support.
Image quality is very good on the Nikon Coolpix P1, with neutral color balance and minimal lens and processing artifacts. Flesh tones are pleasing and warm, showing little ruddiness even with flash. The lens-and-sensor combination provides fairly sharp images. The smart exposure system makes it very hard to blow out highlights, though unfortunately, its compression of the dynamic range means shadow detail suffers. Flaws are minor; we noticed a bit of vignetting and barrel distortion in our test shots, but it was hard to see in everyday snapshots. We did see purple fringing in backlit scenes when viewing photos at full size, though.
The Nikon Coolpix P1's most noticeable flaw is its somewhat sluggish performance. Slower than many cameras in its class, it takes more than 5 seconds to grab its first shot after powering up, and it has a poor continuous-shooting rate of 0.7 to 1.4 frames per second. Shutter lag is average at around 0.7 second.
Some users may find the Nikon Coolpix P1's photo quality good enough to offset the poor performance, but you may want to shop around a little before deciding.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)