Smaller and cheaper than a digital SLR but with performance that dwarfs a compact, the Nikon Coolpix P100 is bridge camera with 1080p HD video capability
The Nikon Coolpix P100 is a likeable superzoom camera that weighs a scant 419g (with battery) and has an incredible 26x optical zoom. It's also a 24mm wide-angle camera that can capture vast vistas - we got it to take a very broad shot of the sweep of the Thames and were impressed with the breadth of detail it could encompass.
We were also pleased to discover a superior build quality on the Nikon Coolpix P100 than on its predecessor, the P90. It looks and feels good in the hand, with a rubber grip on its front right. The Nikon Coolpix P100 is compact enough to slip in a backpack or hang comfortably round your neck but not so small that the buttons are teeny or the frame too small to use.
Menu items can largely be selected using the navipad, with grouped menus to adjust for setup, shooting modes for stills, movie settings and playback. Standard adjustments to image size, white balance, modes and camera-assist tools such as the vibration and motion reduction tools can be selected without having to switch from modes on the camera's top dial.
Scene modes on the Nikon Coolpix P100 are either user-selectable or automatic. There's a ‘smart portrait' mode and an object tracker denoted by a (scary) crosshair target, and a continuous sports mode that can capture up to 10 frames per second. Aperture priority, shutter priority, multi-point autofocus and user-defined manual settings are all accessible from the dial menu.
The 3in tilt-adjustable LCD on the back of the Nikon Coolpix P100 and the huge extending lens are the only aspects that seem out of place on this otherwise well-proportioned camera - and these are hardly complaints.
The 460K-pixel LCD panel is a little stiff, but it's definitely useful to be able to angle it and capture awkward shots when shooting video. You can toggle between using either the electronic viewfinder or LCD, while a prominent red button on the back of the camera is used to start and stop video recording.
We preferred this to the typical arrangement of video mode selected from the dial. We've wasted valuable card storage by accidentally videoing when we wanted to take stills. You can start videoing regardless of the camera settings currently selected, which is a welcome change.
Read our review of the 12x zoom Nikon Coolpix L110
There's an HD/HS selection switch too, with HD footage sharper, while HS (high-speed) ramps up the capture rate to 240fps so you can later play it back smoothly in slow mode.
The Nikon Coolpix P100 supports ‘proper' high-definition video capture at 1080p, and has twin microphones on its top for true stereo audio.
Another ‘safety' feature is the Nikon Coolpix P100's refusal to take shots or allow you to adjust settings when the lens cap is on. The solution, though - switch off the camera, remove the lens cap, and try again - is frankly annoying.
We got mixed results when using the zoom while videoing scenes. It seems to need very distinct objects on which to focus and is less adept at this in video mode than when tasked with taking still photos. Given bright conditions and plenty of contrast, however, it produced sharp, colour-accurate footage.
SD cards are used for storage, while an HDMI port and an AV connector allow your video to be shown straight from the camera.
We were largely happy with the photos we took on the Nikon Coolpix P100. Without a tripod but with the in-built image stabiliser switched on we were able to take sharp shots, while the amount of zoom it offers is breathtaking. We felt like snoopers using it. The long zoom definitely benefits from some form of stabilisation, but focuses quickly and accurately.
Colour tends to desaturate over distance, but Nikon supplies in-camera software to brighten and soften images as required.
We were less impressed with how the Nikon Coolpix P100 handled some indoor shots. Here, you definitely want to turn off the auto settings and specify the white balance and aperture priority.
The Nikon Coolpix P100 took noticeably longer to focus than in bright, outdoor settings too. On occasion, we were given an onscreen hint to use the flip-up flash - a helpful reminder that the tools available aren't all digital.
People shots get their own smart-portrait mode. One or more subjects are first identified and the camera settings adjusted to make them look their best. We managed to fool the anti-blink feature too easily, though.
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