The P100 has robust movie options, especially compared with past Coolpix models. Regular movies can be recorded at HD quality; 1080p at 12 or 14Mbps and 720p at 9Mbps, though it is variable bit rate, so more motion means larger files. There are settings for VGA and QVGA, too. All are at approximately 30 frames per second. You get full use of the zoom while recording, a choice of single autofocus that locks when you start recording or continuous AF, and electronic stabilization. Be warned, though, that you will hear the zoom and if you plan to use the zoom during recording, you'll want to switch to the continuous AF, which makes near-constant audible chatter. It's not exactly quick to focus, either. The stereo mic on top does a decent job and there's a wind filter you can turn on, too.
In addition to the regular movie mode is the high-speed mode with four options, the fastest being 240fps at a resolution of 320x240 pixels. Then there's 120fps at 640x480 pixels and 60fps at 1,280x720. Those all result in slow-motion movies with maximum recording times of 10 seconds each for 240fps and 120fps (that's 80 seconds in playback) and 30 seconds max for 60fps, which stretches out to 1 minute in playback. There's a 15fps option with a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, but records at twice the speed of a normal movie. There's a maximum recording time of 2 minutes giving you 1 minute of video. No sound is recorded in these modes and you don't have use of the zoom.
Megazooms are notoriously slow when it comes to shooting performance, but the P100 is exceptionally fast for the category. From powering on to first shot is 1.8 seconds with an average shot-to-shot time of 1.4 seconds; using the flash doubles that time. Shutter lag is fairly low at 0.4 second in bright light and 0.6 in dim. And again, thanks to the fast CMOS sensor, the P100's continuous burst mode is capable of 11.8fps, which is actually faster than Nikon's stated speed of 10fps. Like all compact camera's that sport this type of burst mode, once you release the shutter you're waiting several seconds for the camera to catch up and store the images to the memory card.
The P100's photo quality, though decent for a point-and-shoot camera, is no doubt going to let down anyone expecting higher-caliber photos because of its price and design. Megazoom cameras generally take soft, somewhat hazy photos and this one's no different. The lowest ISO is 160 and things aren't really sharp there; start adding in more noise reduction as you go up in ISO and subjects only get softer. Plus, subjects have a decidedly digital, processed appearance. Photos are OK at ISO 400, but they start getting yellow blotches to them. The P100 can be locked to use ISO 160 to 200 or ISO 160 to 400; I strongly recommend using the former when you're in bright conditions. The results above ISO 400 just aren't good for much beyond small prints and Web use. Every user is different, though, and seeing what this camera is capable of, some people will just be thrilled with what they are able to capture and more forgiving of the results.
Typical of wide-angle long-zoom lenses, the P100's exhibits some barrel distortion at its widest position and pincushioning when the lens is fully extended. Nikon includes a Distortion Correction option that can be turned on or off in P, S, A, and M modes. Also, though it's bad with most megazoom cameras, the chromatic aberration (purple/blue fringing) is terrible with the P100, especially when the lens is zoomed out.
Colors were not accurate in our tests, particularly reds and blues. In my test shots, however, everything turned out bright and reasonably natural looking. Exposure was generally good, though highlights are prone to blooming and clipping. On the other hand, there are plenty of options for adjusting and improving the results.
Video quality is OK, on par with a pocket video camera. Those with hopes of the P100 replacing a full-fledge HD camcorder will likely be unsatisfied with the results.
The Nikon Coolpix P100 is one of those cameras that consumers will love for all that it can do or hate because one of those things isn't taking superb photos. If it was going to be someone's primary camera, I would say pass. Those interested in experimentation and want a lot of settings to play with, and a really long lens, but aren't as concerned about getting the best quality photos and video in return, will likely be thrilled.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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