Nikon Coolpix P600 review: Telescope meets point-and-shoot

The rest of the controls haven't changed from the P510 (it's a pretty standard digital camera control layout). There is a rocker switch on the lens barrel for controlling the lens. It can be used to zoom in and out (handy when shooting movies), to snap the lens back a bit in telephoto should your subject move out of frame, or for manual focus with peaking. There is also a programmable function button just behind the shutter release; its default is changing continuous-shooting modes, but it can be set for ISO, white balance, metering, AF area mode, color mode, or image size.

The camera's interface is easy enough to navigate that first-time users should have no trouble getting around. Navigation is a bit sluggish, though, with a slight delay with every button press. For those who like to actually take control away from the camera and change settings, this can be somewhat frustrating and it doesn't help that outside of the aforementioned function button, there are no buttons for direct control of ISO, white balance, metering, or AF area modes.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The battery compartment and card slot are under a door on the bottom, right next to the tripod mount, so you can't remove the card or battery while it's mounted. The battery life has been improved, now up to 330 shots. The battery is charged in-camera and the wall adapter takes more than 3 hours to fully charge the battery from zero. If a typical day of shooting for you will include the high-speed burst modes and movie capture and using the 3-inch LCD and the zoom a lot, you'll want a backup battery.

Ports are under a cover on the body's right side; you get a Mini-HDMI and a Micro-USB/AV port, and the latter is no longer the proprietary one Nikon has used in the past, but the one that's used for most mobile devices these days.

There's no accessory shoe for an add-on flash, limiting you to the onboard pop-up one. It doesn't automatically rise when needed, instead remaining off until you push a button on the left side of the camera. It's adequately powerful and there are flash exposure compensation settings available.

Lastly, the P600 has built-in Wi-Fi. You can use it to connect with Android and iOS devices for viewing and transferring photos and videos as well as remotely controlling the camera. Unfortunately, you only get control of the zoom and shutter release and you can't start and stop movie recordings. You can, however, set it to use your smartphone to geotag your photos, which is good since the camera doesn't have GPS.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix P600
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
White balance Auto (normal), Auto (warm lighting), Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Auto, Scene Auto Selector, Scene, Special effects, Night Landscape, Landscape, Subject backlighting/HDR, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, User, Movie, High-Speed Movie
Focus modes 9-point AF, Manual AF (99-point selectable), Center AF (wide, normal), Subject tracking AF, Target finding AF, Manual
Macro 0.4 inch (at 3 increments from the maximum zoom position to the telephoto position)
Metering modes 224-segment matrix, center-weighted, spot
Color effects Soft, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High ISO monochrome (ISO 12800), High key, Low key, Selective color, Silhouette, Cross process; Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome (customizable)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 7 shots

The P600 has a nice mix of shooting modes, making it a good choice for both snapshooters and those who want a little more control. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector, located in with the other Scene modes. It adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which shuts off all photo settings from the user except for image quality and size.

Outside of the Scene Auto Selector there are 17 other scene modes, such as Landscape and Portrait as well as a Pet Portrait mode that will automatically shoot when it detects a cat or dog face, as well as an Easy Panorama Assist that requires you to just press the shutter release and pan the camera vertically or horizontally.

Nikon also added scene modes for birding and moon photos. Each gives you a framing border at the wide-end with an angle of view equivalent to that of 800mm for the former and 1440mm for the latter. Once framed you can press the OK button on the camera and it will shoot the lens to those positions. The Moon mode also lets you adjust hue and exposure compensation. Frankly, I found them more trouble than they were worth because of how slowly the camera responds.

If you want to do more than just point and shoot, the P600 has Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-speed-priority, and Manual modes. Shutter speeds are adjustable from 15 seconds to 1/4,000 of a second (though ISO must be fixed at 100, the aperture at f7.6, and the lens at the 24mm post to access the full range). Apertures at the wide end go from f3.3 to f7.6 with a total of eight stops. The telephoto end has just three stops: f6.5, f7.3, and f8.2.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Beyond aperture and shutter speed, Nikon includes manual adjustments for noise reduction, sharpening, contrast, and saturation, color filters and toning for monochrome photos, and things like exposure bracketing and flash exposure compensation. If you come up with a set you like, you can store them in the Custom mode for easy recall. Lastly, if not having raw support is a deal breaker, well, consider the deal broken.

For video, you can record up to a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels at either 30p or 60i. There are also a couple of high-speed recording options, including 720p at 60fps and VGA at 120fps. The camera's Special Effects modes, such as Soft, Selective Color, and High-contrast Monochrome, can be used for shooting movies, too.

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix P600's zoom range is remarkable, especially given its price and size. No, you won't get dSLR quality photos from it and it lacks some the more enthusiast-targeted features of its competitors such as a hot shoe and raw capture. And, at least for me, the performance is a bit too slow. But if those things aren't crucial for what you're going to be shooting, this should do fine by you.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 60 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"