Nikon turned heads and struggled to fulfill demand with the P900, with its record-setting 83x zoom lens. It’s upped the ante—along with price, size, and functionality—with its newest bridge camera, the Coolpix P1000 ($999.95). It doesn’t replace the P900, which is less expensive and a lot smaller. Instead, it steps in to fill a niche for photographers who desire an extreme amount of zoom with its 3,000mm lens. It’s unapologetically big, with a lens that’s as audacious as it is large—but we’d expect nothing less from a 125x zoom.
Design: Big Lens, Big Camera
The P1000 is the largest “compact” camera we’ve ever seen. Its body is about the size of a small SLR—it resembles the D5600—with a protruding fixed lens, larger than any SLR starter zoom. The P1000 measures 4.7 by 5.8 by 7.2 inches (HWD), weighs 3.1 pounds, and supports 77mm front lens filters.
The superlative zoom range is the reason for the bulk. The lens is a 4.3-539mm f/2.8-8, equivalent to a 24-3,000mm in full-frame terms. It can snap shots of wide-angle landscapes, and zoom in to bring distant subjects into clear view. You can get an idea of what that gets you by taking a look at the image above, shot at 24mm, and the one below, at 3,000mm. All of the images and video included in this first look are provided by Nikon—PCMag has not yet had a chance to use the camera in the field.
There’s actually a good macro capability too—at the wide angle, the lens can focus on subjects just 0.4-inch (1 centimeter) from the front of the lens. A 3,000mm focus is available to 23 feet (7 meters)—we’ll have to see just how much macro magnification that delivers when we test the P1000.
The big body leaves plenty of room for physical controls. The left side of the lens barrel holds a zoom control rocker along with a framing assist button—it temporarily widens the field of view of the lens, compared with your set position, and shows an on-screen box overlay to indicate the actual zoom setting. This lets you find your target, frame it, and release the button to return the lens to the previous zoom position. When zoomed in, it is often difficult to find or track your subject due to the extremely narrow angle of view.
There’s a hot shoe (for an external flash) and a pop-up flash, both centered behind the lens, on the top plate. To the right of the Mode dial, on the right side of the top, are an additional control dial, the On/Off button, the Fn button, the zoom control, and the shutter release.
Rear controls include a focus toggle switch with the AE-L/AF-L button at its center. The P1000 includes a manual focus ring around the lens, an upgrade from the P900. There’s also buttons for EVF toggle, Record, Play, Display, Menu/Delete, and OK. A flat command dial, with four directional press functions, rounds out the physical controls.
The 3.2-inch LCD is a bit bigger than you’ll find on most compacts. It packs a 921k-dot resolution and looked fine in a briefing room setting, but we weren’t able to use it under direct sunlight. It is mounted on a hinge, so it can swing out from the body and face all the way forward. But it doesn’t support touch input, which seems like an odd omission for a $1,000 camera.
There’s also an EVF, which is about 0.39-inch (1cm) diagonal with 2,359k dots and OLED tech. It looked good in an office setting, but as with the rest of the camera, we’ve not had a chance to use it in the real world.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—Nikon calls its Wi-Fi system SnapBridge. The P1000 can send images to your smartphone automatically or on demand via Bluetooth, and it can be remotely controlled via your phone via Wi-Fi with a live feed to your phone’s screen. Nikon also offers a wireless Bluetooth remote for remote image capture.
The battery is rated for 250 shots, or about 80 minutes of video capture by CIPA standards. That’s on the low side, so you may want to consider picking up a spare. The P1000 supports in-camera charging, but we’re not sure if you can use it and charge it at the same time.
There’s a single memory card slot, with support for UHS-I speeds and SD, SDHC, and SDXC card formats. Interface connections include micro HDMI, micro USB, and a 3.5mm microphone input.
Performance and Image Quality: Question Marks
The P1000 uses a 1/2.3-inch image sensor with 16MP resolution and a BSI design. It supports Raw and JPG capture, can shoot from ISO 100 through 6400. We expect Nikon to deliver quality imaging and performance, but there is one big question mark in regards to image quality—diffraction.
When light enters the lens through a narrow opening it tends to scatter, harming image quality. We found that it was an issue with the P900 and its lens, which closes down to f/6.5 when zoomed all the way in. The P1000 is even narrower, f/8, and we’ll make sure to take plenty of images at full zoom to see how it holds up to diffraction.
Video is available at up to 4K resolution at 25fps or 30fps, and you can also shoot at 1080p or 720p at up to 60fps. There’s no 24fps capture option, which will disappoint videographers who prefer the look of the cinema to video. There is uncompressed output available via HDMI, so it is possible to connect a field recorder to net video at a higher quality than the camera can manage internally.
The word unique gets thrown around too much, but it is aptly used to describe the Nikon Coolpix P1000. We’ve not yet seen a camera quite like it—unabashedly big, with a lens that delivers more telephoto reach than you’ll need for most images. You won’t always want to shoot at 3,000mm, but there’s not another consumer camera that will let you do so without resorting to heavy digital zoom.
Even if you don’t need the extra zoom, there are some appealing upgrades over the P900. The P1000 adds Raw capture, a manual focus ring and hot shoe, 4K video, and a palpably larger EVF. It’s also more expensive, but you may find that the features are worth the extra cost, even if you don’t always utilize the full breadth of the lens’ range.
There are a number of good bridge cameras on the market. The P1000 seems a bit more niche than the P900 and our favorite model with at least a 50x lens, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. We’ll have to wait and see how the P1000 compares.
For not much more than the P1000 you can also opt for the Sony RX10 III, which has a shorter 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom, but one that’s brighter and backed by a sensor that’s four times as large and packs 20MP resolution. The zoom range isn’t nearly as vast, but it will deliver better image quality than any 1/2.3-inch sensor camera if you constrain yourself to 600mm.
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is scheduled to ship in September. We hope to have a review ready around that time.