The Nikon P1000 is the best bridge camera of 2018... but it's not for me
The Nikon P1000 is Nikon's latest bridge camera boasting an incredible variable aperture lens with a 35mm equivalent focal range of 24mm to 3000mm. We were afforded the opportunity to spend a day shooting with this camera prior to its release. This camera boasts numerous upgrades from the well-regarded P900 including additional focal range, RAW shooting, 4KUHD recording and 5 stops of Vibration Reduction stabilisation. In this article, we'll attempt to answer your questions and demonstrate the versatility of this colossus of a camera.
Does the Nikon P1000's incredible range produce useable imagery?
The P1000 picks up where the P900 left off by expanding its reach a further 1000mm, reportedly enough to capture close-ups of the moon. Nikon's sample images show lunar images that fill the frame, in fact, it even has a dedicated moon mode. In this review, we haven't recreated any epic moon imagery but the outstanding range of this camera did allow us to locate landmarks in a neighbouring town 12 miles away.
1) This is Neptune's Fountain in Cheltenham photographed from across the road at 24mm on the Nikon P1000. In this image, you're hard-pressed to locate the fountain let alone Neptune but in the next image...
2) I've actually managed to fill the frame with Neptune's face. This was shot handheld at 3000mm from the exact same position as the previous photo.
It also improves on the EVF and now delivers the ability to shoot in RAW, two caveats of the previous model.
The lens is made up of 17 elements in 12 groups including, 5 ED lenses and a Super ED lens. I'm not entirely sure what that means but the construction sounds relatively complex which somehow reassures me of its quality. I'm guessing you can't achieve a focal range of 24-3000mm without some degree of complexity. The variable max aperture of which is F2.8 to 8. The lens is also capable of taking macro shots at its closest focusing distance of 1cm. The utility of this feature is up for debate as we encountered shadows from the lens BUT we were impressed with the cameras ability to do just about anything.
Can you take macro photos with the Nikon P1000?
As you can see from the image of the coffee below at 24mm, while it is in focus the camera is within a couple of inches of the coffee and the lens is so close that it casts a shadow over the cup. However, by pulling out slightly and increasing the focal length you get much better results, see the shot of the Pain au chocolat.
Sample images from the Nikon P1000 at different focal lengths:
It is important to remember that the true focal length of this camera is 4.3mm to 539mm. The 1/2.3-inch sensor measures a mere 4.55mm by 6.17mm or 28mm2; by comparison, a 35mm full-frame sensor is 864mm2.
What does that mean? The small sensor means the camera has a crop factor of about 5.6. When you look at the focal length in the metadata of your images rather than seeing '24mm' the focal length will read 4.3, 4.3 multiplied by 5.6 gives you about 24mm.
Here are a few more sample images from the Nikon P1000 starting at 24mm and extending through its focal range to 3000mm. Considering the sensor is tiny the image quality is great. The last image of the bike mirror when viewed at a larger size, these are only 600x450, is so detailed that the writing that reads 'OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR' is sharp, clear and fully legible at 3000mm.
Please note: The camera was resting on a table when these were taken. You may not be able to replicate the same results handheld.
I'm not going to pretend the camera is compact, it's enormous, it's the Hubble Space Telescope of bridge cameras, but for its size, it doesn't weigh a great deal. The camera weighs in at 1415g or just over 3lbs, this is 500g heavier than it's predecessor, granted it's not the lightest camera on the market but it offers capabilities similar to those of much larger professional rigs. However, a 3lb weight on a strap is going to feel heavy no matter how you carry it after several hours.
Inside of this hulking body is, however, the dual detect optical VR system you'll need to shoot photos at 3000mm. Albeit built around a compact 1/2.3 BSI-CMOS sensor. With this setup, you can expect to achieve an ISO range of 100-6400 and shutter speeds of up to 1/4000s.
Does the Nikon P1000 have weather sealing?
I'd love to say the construction feels robust but it instead feels distinctly plasticky. I would be nervous about impacts, even minor ones, given the number of moving components and the complex arrangement of lens elements it requires to extend and retract that incredible zoom lens. Also, it is not weather sealed. If you're an avid outdoorsman you may want to take precautions by using a protective lens filter and a cover.
Does the P1000 shoot RAW? What else is new?
RAW shooting is a welcome addition to this model but I imagine there will be limitations to how much extra clarity we'll be able to squeeze out of this camera in post given the half-inch sensor, complex glass and astounding focal lengths. However, this camera isn't designed to be used in a professional capacity so though I doubt I'll be able to recover over a dozen stops of dynamic range, the fact that enthusiasts and hobbyists now have the option to edit their photos at all adds value to the offering.
The image quality of the Nikon P1000 straight out of the camera is good...
I haven't yet had the time to apply my own post-processing to any of the images I shot during this review due to the unprecedented number of new camera releases recently. Lightroom also has yet to support the .NRW Raw files that the P1000 produces.
However, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by the jpegs we pulled straight out of the camera. The colours were rich and even at very long focal lengths when handholding the camera the images were crisp. I was impressed by its ability to resolve stable images with good clarity all the way up to 1500mm and above! Naturally the closer you get to 3000mm the more difficult it becomes to capture images with precise focus and without a bit of camera shake; there's only so much the VR system can compensate for. With a good stable tripod, however, the sky appears to quite literally be the limit.
Something a great deal of P900 users also seem to be excited about is the addition of 4K UHD video and a stereo mic that, by all accounts, is halfway decent for an onboard microphone. Videos can be shot at up to 29 minutes in length or 4GB in file size depending on which comes first. We have, however, been told there is the potential for overheating to occur before reaching that 29-minute mark.
The camera features a 2.3m dot OLED viewfinder and 3.2" 921k dot LCD screen.
The battery is deceivingly small for a camera body of this size and achieves a CIPA rated 250 shots before depletion. I'm guessing if you're shooting 4K and making use of the power zoom you'll want to purchase an extra battery or two.
Conclusion on the Nikon P1000
While I enjoyed shooting with the camera immensely and was impressed with the wide focal range, it's simply not for me. The old adage "Jack of all trades, master of none" comes to mind. The P1000 does many things well but it hasn't mastered anything in particular. It struck me as more of a novelty rather than a serious photographic tool, but then photography doesn't need to be serious.
I have a hard time imagining exactly who the P1000 appeals to. It's too big to be a travel camera and lacks the requisite discretion for street photography. It has little professional application, besides documentation, and it feels too bulky for family holidays. That sort of leaves us with the birders and the weirdos... but I digress.
I suspect this camera's appeal is heavily determined by individual interests and hobbies and it has been well-received by many. One thing is for certain; anyone lucky enough to own one of these will get their money's worth in fun alone.
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