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First Look: Nikon Coolpix P7000

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First Look: Nikon Coolpix P7000

4:59 /

The Coolpix P7000 is a fine camera that lots of enthusiasts will appreciate for its smart shooting design, interesting feature set, and worthy photo quality.

-Hi, I'm Lori Grunin, Senior Editor for CNET and this is the Nikon Coolpix P7000. Nikon allowed 2 years to lapse between the P6000 and the success of the P7000. But the Nikon credit the P7000 is a complete reworking of the P6000 rather than just an update. The most notable step forward is the welcome return to a lower resolution sensor. Consumers tend to eat up those marketing driven resolution boosts, but hobbiest always push back and in this case Nikon gave the P7000 the same 10 mega pixel like the rest of its class. Other changes include a new sloping top design with the completely new control layout, really similar to the Canon G series though. It's got a longer zoom lens, a larger LCD, an HD movie capture complete with mic input. The camera also has a built in neutral density filter, something I'm really a big fan of. As with the P6000, the P7000 uses a new standard OS compatible NRW raw file, rather than its proprietary NEF format. And the camera has some basic raw processing to create secondary JPEG. It also ups the exposure bracketing to 5 shots and adds white balance and, more interestingly, ISO sensitivity bracketing. Slightly bigger and heavier than the G12, it has the same fundamental design albeit with the longer lens. It has a comfortable rubberized grip and a thumb rest that allows you to shoot one handed. The top mode dial offers the usual manual, semi manual, and automatic shooting modes, as well as 3 user setting modes. I specially like the way you configure them completely through the menus. There is also a programable function button on the front next to the lens to which you can assign direct access to variety of setting. In conjunction with the zoom memory setting, which allows you to preset stops of variety of focal lens, you can create a custom set zoom range. I have to admit though, I always forget the button is there. It's a bit too unobtrusive and awkward to reach. Another noble design, the quick menu dial allows you to select among various shooting settings and the 6 slot customizable my menu. The buttons in the middle lets you change the settings for the selected option. I like the concept as well as the execution. However, when the flash is raised, that button is the only place to grip with your left hand if you hold the camera like a point and shoot, rather than a DSLR. Speaking of the flash, the P7000 will allow you to quickly dial a flash compensation in fractions of power, a half, a quarter, an eight, a sixteenth, etc, rather than in stops. I also like the operation of the P7000 back selector dial better than the G12. It's far less prone to accidental selections and the location of the adjustment dial is nicer here than on the G12 because it falls close enough to your thumb that it feels natural to operate. They are shaped differently than the G12; Nikon has a round view finder as supposed to a rectangular one. It is about the same size and same quality. Especially useful on this camera though is the display it doesn't tilt or scribble, so you can get better visibility on it in direct sunlight. If you are time lapsing, something that an Nikon has a lot of, you actually lose some capability relative to the P6000. For instance, while you use to be able to shoot up to 1800 frames, now it's cut at 300 minutes such as 300 frames at 1 minute interval or 30 frames at 10 minute interval. Typical for its class, the P7000's JPEG noise profile looks okay at ISO 200 and below. But at ISO 400, you start to see color noise creep in and by ISO 800 details simply look mushy. Like a lot of its competitors, this camera tends to produce somewhat crunchy looking details in places that aren't around the main focus area, especially at wide apertures. I also found the automatic white balance exceptionally cool and finally it does seem to clip highlights a little more frequently than comparable cameras. The lens can be very sharp and it displays surprising little fringing in general. This model also updates its movie capture options, it now supports 720p and the quality is just okay. It's got some scenery edge detail, but descent exposures and not a lot of more arrays; so it's fine for the occasional clip. It can also zoon during capture and the lens is quitter than I expected. For the most part, the P7000 shooting performance matches that of the G12, but neither can keep up with the LX5. And it feels noticeably sluggish shooting raw, for the most part I think shooters in this class would prefer wider angle, faster aperture lenses like that of the LX5, and probably the more compact design as well. But P7000 is a fine camera that lapse enthusiast to appreciate for its smart shooting design, interesting feature set, and worthy photo quality. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Nikon Coolpix P7000.

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