Nikon P900 Hands-On Review: It’s all about the zoom!

I’ve owned a couple of digital bridge cameras in the past and I enjoyed the flexibility and portability that this type of camera affords owners. The integrated zoom lenses on a bridge camera makes them an especially good choice for people looking for an all-in-one travel camera solution.

When I read that Nikon had launched a new CoolPix P900 with an equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm I was intrigued to see what this camera could do.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

P900 1

The Nikon P900 is a fairly large camera weighing in at 31.7 ounces/899 grams. This is slightly more than a D810 body weighs. The P900 handles well and has a nice feel and balance to it.

P900 2

It is very apparent when looking at the labelling on the P900 that Nikon is trying to differentiate this product by focusing on the equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm that it provides to owners. This is achieved by the combination of the camera’s optical zoom lens and its small 1/2.33″ sensor.

More reach is available when using the Dynamic and Digital zoom capabilities, with the Dynamic zoom providing 166X and the Digital going to 332X. As is to be expected image quality does suffer when the Dynamic and Digital zoom features are used. Never-the-less for people looking for maximum reach, especially when using a tripod, these features do offer another interesting dimension to the camera.

P900 3

It’s obvious to me that Nikon sees the potential market for the P900 as being all about its zoom capability. I must admit that when I used this camera it only took a few minutes before I started experimenting with it to see what distant subject I could capture with it. Shooting with the P900 can be summarized in one word… fun!

The P900 only captures jpegs in a 4×3 ratio and there is no ability to capture images in RAW format. Given the small 1/2.33″ sensor the P900 can’t be expected to produce outstanding image quality. Under good lighting conditions the jpegs will be acceptable for social media and smaller sized enlargements, perhaps up to 11″x14″ depending on how discerning an owner is about image quality.

Physics being what they are the small sensor does have limited dynamic range so highlights tend to clip and shadows can lose definition in high contrast situations.

As higher ISOs are used, the images do get noisy and at ISO-800 and above they can look quite grainy.  Many users of the P900 will likely not be overly concerned about this as their objective may be more about ‘getting the shot’, and not worrying nearly as much about the actual quality of the image, especially when used in a social media context.

P900 4

It is important to remember that the actual zoom lens used in the P900 is 4.3 mm to 357 mm. This means that the camera can easily be shot hand-held under good lighting conditions when the lens is fully extended. Since the P900 uses a small 16 MP 1/2.33″ sensor it has a 5.6X crop factor which is what creates the equivalent field of view of 24 mm to 2000 mm. The zoom is a variable aperture from f/2.8-6.5.

P900 5

There is no manual zoom capability on the P900, and the power zoom takes over 3 seconds to fully extend. There is a setting in the menu which allows a user to pre-set the starting zoom position when the camera is first turned on. People will find this very handy if they primarily shoot at the longer end of the zoom range.

There is no lens hood on the camera and adding a screw-on type is not recommended by Nikon. As a result you do need to be careful when shooting in bright, sunny conditions as lens flare can be an issue.

P900 6

The rear LCD panel on the P900 is fully articulated. This comes in very handy when using the ‘macro’ shooting feature or filming video when the camera is in an awkward position. I’m not a ‘selfie’ shooter but I imagine the articulated screen is also useful in this regard as well.

P900 7

There is a PASM dial on the top of the body, giving users more functionality. Using the PASM settings enables ISO-3200 and ISO-6400 to be used with the camera. When used in ‘Auto’ the ISO range is from 100-1600.

For many people I suspect the Nikon P900 may become the ultimate ‘auto shooter’ camera. They’ll simply set the camera on ‘Auto’, zoom in and out to their heart’s content and have fun capturing a wide range of images quickly and simply.

Even under good lighting conditions the auto-focus performance of the P900 is a tad slow. It is certainly more than acceptable for landscape and other types of static subjects but for faster moving nature subjects like birds-in-flight the P900 simply isn’t up to the task.

The auto-focus system also tends to get confused when the scene is fairly complex with branches and such in the foreground. For example, trying to shoot between branches to capture a perched bird can be a struggle for the P900. Subjects that are out in the open do not pose any issue at all so the P900 likely will have some success as a nature camera photographing static subjects.

Taking the P900 to a controlled venue like a zoo would be a different story and I can see owners having a blast using this camera in that kind of environment.

p900 8

The camera has an integrated flash which many owners will find useful for family-type images or when indoors shooting at wider angles. The VR on the camera works very well and I found that I could capture images at slower shutter speeds without too much trouble.

p900 9

The battery is charged while installed in the camera and takes over 3 hours to attain a full charge. Owners may want to buy an additional battery in order to have a spare on hand. The battery is rated for 360 images but I found I could get double that number of images if I didn’t use the rear screen.

15 thoughts on “Nikon P900 Hands-On Review: It’s all about the zoom!”

    1. Hi Frank,
      I haven’t used the P900 for quite a while, since I had a ‘review sample’ from Nikon Canada in order to write my review. If my memory serves (a challenge at times) I think if you keep ‘extending the zoom’ with the power control the camera will automatically go into digital zoom at the end of the optical zoom range.
      Tom

  1. Hi Tom,
    I realise I am a little late commenting and discovering this haha, but I have just recently got into it photography properly and have found your review and pictures really really helpful! Lovely pictures also. I wondered whether you thought this camera would be appropriate for aviation photography? Particularly take off and landing. The zoom on this seems advantageous for capturing mid flight but heard mixed reviews about slow shutter speed, so just wondered what you thought 🙂

    Thank you, and again awesome job on the review really enjoyed it 😀

    Katie

    1. Hi Katie,
      Welcome to the website – always great to have another new reader! It has been quite a while since I reviewed the P900, and I sent the review sample of the camera back to Nikon Canada ages ago. The auto-focus performance on the P900 is not one of the strong points of the camera. I found there was some noticeable hesitation when attempting to photograph birds in flight, and this would not be a camera I would choose for that type of photography. I never attempted to photograph aircraft with the P900 so I have no first hand experience on which to draw. I suppose if you had a decent length of time to focus on your subject the P900 may do an acceptable job as long as it was large enough in the frame. I realize that is a tepid comment – but that’s the best I can offer based on my experience with the camera.
      Tom

  2. Excellent bird photos. In magic light half hour or one hour before sunset wold bring more details. a diffuser on a flash would be great. does it has a shoe that can mount a flash. Gary fong diffusers or a diy wolld aswsome

    1. Hi.I ‘m going to change the macro mode in manual focus to normal.(in my camera ,manual focus range is above 30 cm. Please guide me.

  3. Hi Guys,

    I’m seriously considering the P900.
    I currently have a few lenses for my current camera which is a Sony Nex 6, I just hate chopping and changing lenses, so have been looking for a good bridge camera. I would mostly shoot landscapes/family event type photos. I have my GoPro for my snowboarding.

    Would appreciate thoughts/advice

    1. Hi Stewart,

      I think the Nikon P900 is a decent camera for the money. It really depends on your needs, budget and image quality expectations. As I noted in my review the image quality of the P900 is ok given its tiny sensor. The camera doesn’t shoot in RAW so there’s little opportunity to get more from the files. The big differentiator for the P900 is its incredible zoom range. If you really need this then there isn’t much on the market that competes with it.

      If, on the other hand, you are looking for a good zoom range for most types of photography there are a lot of other cameras to put in the hopper. Panasonic makes some excellent bridge cameras for example. Nikon will likely be introducing at least one (maybe more) higher end bridge camera within the next couple of months. It will likely have either a 1″ or APS-C sensor in it so the image quality would be much better than what you’d get with the P900. If you can wait a few months it may be worthwhile to hold off…typically camera manufacturers launch a lot of new gear in February.

      Tom

  4. I enjoyed your review. I bought a P900 awhile back to take as a second camera on a trip to the Grand Canyon and other Southwest locations. When I accidentally dropped my D5300 while on the trip, it moved up to primary. There are certainly limitations. I find the EVF to be very dim in bright light, making composition more challenging. That may be just a problem with my copy.

    All in all, I was happy with the camera and got some shots that I wouldn’t have otherwise. The anti-shake works incredibly well, salvaging shots in spite of wind and moving vehicles. You can see some samples here: http://www.pbase.com/d_berry/southwest

    Thank you for posting such a comprehensive review.

  5. Hi Tom,

    Great information here. I do think you need to edit the opening header as you have 24mm to 20000mm. Can’t wait for that camera to be built.

    The information you’ve provided here will help me recommend or not recommend this particular model to those who ask me for advice however from what I see of your images the camera seems to be quite capable for those who need a good bridge camera. Thanks for the review.

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for catching that typo on the efov range…much appreciated. The P900 is an interesting bridge camera and for people specifically wanting a long equivalent focal length it would be a very good choice.
      Tom

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