Sunday, 13 November 2016

Nikon Coolpix P900 review

This is a purchase I'd been considering for some while, in particular after seeing the aviation and lunar photography of Angie Garrod on her Twitter feed. The type of camera in question is the 'bridge camera', with a fixed lens rather than the interchangeable lenses on a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. The 'bridge' is between the simple point-and-shoot models aimed at amateurs and the cameras with more advanced features for the more demanding user. In particular, it features a zoom lens of hitherto unsurpassed parameters.

Wanting to get closer to distant objects, such as aircraft flying at cruising altitudes, wildlife (in particular birds) and the moon, I was intrigued by the potential of a camera with a lens that promises the equivalent of 2,000mm focal length, or 40 times the magnification of a standard lens on a 35mm camera.

Of course there's a catch - this is not a 35mm camera, nor even a DX format camera; the sensor is 5.6 times smaller than 35mm and 3.7 times smaller than on my DX-format Nikon D3300. But that small sensor is packed with 16 million pixels (as opposed to 24 million on the D3300's sensor).

When Bob first informed me of the Nikon Coolpix P900 and its amazing zoom, I was sceptical at first, but after seeing Ms Garrod's photos, I thought that this could indeed be a useful acquisition. Instead of carrying either the D3300 and a wide-angle and telephoto zoom or the D3300 with telephoto zoom and my Nikon Coolpix A with fixed wide-angle lens, here's one camera that gives coverage from 24mm right through to 2000mm. Less carrying, and effectively four and half times greater telephoto range. My Nikkor 55-300mm lens for the D3300 gives the full-frame equivalent of 82-450mm.

I did the research, and wanted to try the Coolpix P900 hands-on before purchase. There was one in Euro RTV AGD in Złote Tarasy; the demo model (last in stock) felt tired and shabby. But a few weeks later, a Coolpix P900 turned up at AB Foto in Złote Tarasy, tried it - much tighter (obviously the one at Euro RTV AGD had been played with my many shoppers). So I bought it, at around list price (equivalent of $600).

First impressions - lot of things I don't like. The non-intuitive on/off button (hard to use with gloved fingers); the design (it looks like some clunky early-90s throwback); the plasticky feel; the lack of manual zoom (power zoom drains the battery tremendously), the haphazard way the controls are distributed around the top and back of the camera.

But this is a technological marvel. Work your way through the 242-page manual, and discover vast numbers of clever tricks this camera can do. It can cooperate with your smartphone. Download Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility, and you can release the shutter remotely (good to avoid shake when taking pics from a tripod); you can review the pics on your phone and share them instantly on social media.You can frame your photo on the screen on the rear wall of the camera, or you can use the electronic viewfinder. As your eye approaches the finder's window, the screen turns off and the viewfinder comes on.

For me, it was the lens that did it. The ability to get four-and-half times closer to your subject than the biggest lens I normally carry about with me is quite something.

Sadly, tomorrow's supermoon is likely to be hiding behind cloud here in Warsaw, but plenty of snaps from this camera will appear on my blog before too long. Indeed, all the pics from the previous post were taken on the P900. I took it on my walk today, but the weather was dreary and the results unremarkable, nothing with which I can show off the camera's unique capabilities. Just this shot of a cygnet on the pond as it ices over. Lens zoomed out to the equivalent of 550mm.

Watch this space!

This time last year:
At which I try my hand at automatic writing

This time three years ago:
Free wi-fi in every room?

This time four years ago:
An advanced plan to escape the Hammer of Darkness

This time five years ago:
Poppies and pride

This time six years ago:
Setting sun in the mountains

This time seven years ago:
That learning moment

This time eight years ago:
Along the Polish-Czech border

This time nine years ago:
Ul. Poleczki - remember it this way?

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