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Nikon P7000: Completely different from its predecessor

Nikon made the Coolpix P7000 a much different camera from its predecessor, the gone-nowhere P6000, probably in hope of a better showing against market-leading models like the Canon PowerShot G11 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.

Nikon USA

Given its roots, Nikon's lag in the increasingly crowded enthusiast compact market strikes me as odd. Not only does the company lack a competitor for the popular Canon PowerShot S90 (and its presumably potentially-as-popular replacement, the S95)--even Samsung has a competitor for that in the TL500--but its G11/LX5 competitor the P6000 has been languishing, unloved for 2 years. Nikon seems to be attempting to rectify that with the Coolpix P7000, in part by following the same path Canon took from the G10 to the G11. And really, the P7000 seems like a complete reworking of the P6000 rather than just an update.

Nikon P7000 back
Nikon USA

The most notable step on that path is a welcome return to a lower-resolution sensor. Consumers will eat up those marketing-driven resolution boosts but the hobbyists always push back, in this case to the same 10 megapixels as the rest of its class. Like the G11, the P7000 goes a little retro-dial happy, with an exposure-compensation dial as well as a "Quick Access" dial behind the pop-up flash for calling up ISO, quality, histogram, bracketing and MyMenu settings; I'm not sold yet on a dedicated dial for the latter compared to the speed of using the four-way navigation switch on the back of the camera. Another recanted feature includes the GPS, though I'd've thought they would have replaced it with integrated Eye-Fi support. And I hope it wasn't dropped because Nikon attributes the failures of the P6000 to GPS' inability to carry it out of relative obscurity.

Other changes include a new sloping-top design with a completely new control layout, a longer zoom lens, larger LCD and HD movie capture. Here are the basic specs:

9/8/2010: updated with newly available spec information

  Canon PowerShot G11 Canon PowerShot S95 Nikon Coolpix P6000 Nikon Coolpix P7000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 13.5-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 64 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Lens 28-140mm
28-105mm f2-4.9
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 2.0 0.8 0.8 0.4
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a
frames n/a
frames n/a
2.5 fps
frames n/a
Viewfinder Optical None Optical Optical Optional OVF or EVF
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256-segment matrix 256-segment matrix n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec 15-1/1,600 sec 30-1/2,000 sec 60-1/4000 sec 60-1/4,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes No Yes Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 30fps VGA H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
30fps VGA
n/a AVI
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p AVCHD Lite
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No n/a Yes
Zoom while recording Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a
Mic input No No No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 220 shots 260 shots 350 shots 400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.2 4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces) 14.5 7 (est) 8.5 (est) 8.5 (est) 9.8 (est)
Mfr. Price $499.99 $399.99 $499.95 $499.95 $440
Availability October 2009 August 2010 September 2008 September 2010 August 2010

Ah, the lens: I bet Nikon's going to take some heat for it. For the most part, I think shooters in this class would prefer the wider angle, faster aperture lenses like that of the LX5. Nikon plans to offer a wide-angle adapter, but you're still stuck with that f2.8 aperture (and you'll likely lose some light with the adapter). And you can't fight physics; the more range you try to pack into a lens the less sharp and more distorted it gets--7.1x might be pushing it for some picky photographers. The camera does have a built-in neutral density filter, of which I'm a big fan.

This model also comes up to snuff on its movie-capture options, though I don't have any specs on bitrate. It offers manual exposure controls and the ability to zoom during capture; when I asked about lens noise, a Nikon spokesperson replied that whether you hear it depends upon the ambient noise, for whatever that's worth. Like the P6000, the P7000 uses "standard" OS-compatible NRW raw files rather than its proprietary NEF format, and the camera has some basic raw processing to create secondary JPEGs. It also ups the exposure bracketing to 5 shots.

While cheap dSLRs, compact ILCs and powerful ultracompacts like the S95 are chipping away at the market for these models, there's still some reasons to buy them: Optical viewfinders, large enough for big hands but not overly so, and that rangefinder-like aesthetic. It will be interesting to see if the P7000 can get Nikon back in the game.