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 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. 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.
This is a look at the range of the P100. The top left shot is at the lens' widest position. The crop to its right is the actual-pixel size, not print size. The bottom left is with the lens fully extended standing in the same spot as the top photo. The 100 percent crop on its right, though not great-looking, is pretty amazing--that's the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
Another example of the lens fully extended, this time paired with Nikon's Best Shot Selector that rifles off 10 shots and keeps the one that is sharpest. The print size is 9x12 and despite being a little soft and hazy, the printed result was nice. However, the branches lack texture to me and you have to ignore the blown out highlights.
Though it's bad with most megazoom cameras, the chromatic aberration (purple/blue fringing) is terrible with the P100, especially when the lens is fully extended. This type of high-contrast shot really brings it out; there's so much on the branches it makes the sky look purplish. Just about any shot I took where there was a light color next to a dark one would cause some amount of fringing.
Enough complaining, here's some of the fun stuff this camera can do. The CMOS sensor allows for some fast shooting; this was taken with the P100's 60-frame-per-second Sport Continuous mode. It's a 2-megapixel image, so no better than most newer camera phones, but there's no way you're capturing this shot with one of those or most other point-and-shoot cameras.
This uses the Night Landscape mode. It takes several photos with one press of the shutter release and layers them to reduce blur and noise. This is completely hand held--no tripod needed--and the print was good at 8x10. The crop is at 100 percent, not print size.
Another trick courtesy of the high-speed sensor is the Backlit Scene HDR (high dynamic range) mode. It, too, takes several shots and then layers them to produce what should be a photo with more balanced lighting. It captures two shots at once; one with Nikon's Active D-lighting used (far left) and one with HDR overlay (center). The photo on the far right is one I took in Program Auto. The HDR shot has the truest sky conditions, but also appears to make the whole shot cool. It's definitely a feature worth playing with, though, in difficult lighting.
Nikon includes a Distortion Correction option that can be turned on or off in P, S, A, and M modes. The top left is with the lens fully extended and the DC off; right is on. The bottom left is at the wide end of the lens with the DC off; right is on. With it off there is some noticeable pincushioning and barrel distortion, but I've seen worse from other wide-angle megazoom cameras.
Colors weren't terribly accurate in our tests, particularly reds and blues. In my test shots, however, everything turned out nice and bright and reasonably natural looking. Auto white balance looks warm indoors and cool outdoors. Exposure was generally very good, plus there are plenty of options for adjusting and improving the results.