on September 28, 2011
For the past two decades I've been an avid photographer. My professional equipment choices have leaned towards Nikon. My point and shoot purchases towards Canon. I was in the market for a camera with the following attributes:
A decent travel camera.
Full Creative and manual controls.
Swing out LCD screen.
Compatibility with the Nikon Creative Lighting System.
High quality images including RAW output.
Good reliable performance
Good build quality
The Canon G12 was definitely in the running. So was the Olympus XZ1, Panasonic LX5 and the deeply discounted Nikon CoolPix P7000 These were all good camera's mind you. In the end I choose the P7100 after taking the Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 out for a test drive.
For the past week I've been putting my P7100 through its paces.
First thing I noticed was that the 3" LCD screen rendered beautiful almost photo surreal images and made shooting overhead in a crowd or doing Macro photography a breeze. The problems with the menu in the P7000 seemed to have all been ironed out in the P7100. Navigation and overall performance was quick and responsive.
There seems to be a button for everything including two customization buttons that offered quick access to favorite features such as Nikon's D-Lighting for difficult lighting situations or the Virtual Horizon display for taking level photo's.
I have large hands so even though this camera was a little larger then the usual size in this category it felt very comfortable and well balanced, especially with the rubberized grip.
One of the intriguing features was the HDR mode for back-lit situations. As I understand it the P7100 takes several pictures with a little D-Lighting magic and offers up a composite image. It seemed to work perfectly. Just for fun I plugged in my Nikon SB-400 flash. Works beautifully. I didn't really try out the video since I have no need of it.
From Twilight to dusk most of my photo images were keepers.
So here's what we got in Pro's and Con's.
Abundant manual and creative control.
Articulated 3" 921,000 dot LCD screen.
Built in 2 stop ND filter (wonderful!)
Outstanding battery life
720p @ 30fps video (love the frame rate)
Rubberized covering for good grip
Stingy Viewfinder. But it's better then nothing.
All of the documentation is PDF's on a CD ROM.
Drivers for RAW files are not available yet for Windows.
720p @ 30fps video (not 1080p but love the frame rate)
The 35 to 200mm equivalent zoom capability renders beautiful clean photo images from ISO 100 through 400. I had a lot of fun experimenting and playing with the scene modes. The P7100 is quick and responsive. I'm very happy with this camera and its performance. This is a camera for people who want full creative control.
Relax and rejoice! Adobe just released the Lightroom 3.5 update that includes Nikon P7100 Raw support. Images look great in Lightroom.
update Nov 2012:
Over a year later. Still love this camera. No complaints. I use it more then my Nikon DSLR D700! Its my go to camera for total creative control.
on October 16, 2011
I have had the P7100 for over 3 weeks and I am extremely pleased with it. I think the quality of the RAW images from the P7100 are as good as many a DSLR at ISO 100. The JPEGS are also, excellent. Of course, as the ISOs get higher there is more noise due to the smaller sensor, but it does very well at all ISOs for a compact camera, but do not expect DSLR low noise levels.
I find the ergonomics and features of the P7100 are excellent and very much like a DSLR. I love the articulated LCD. For me, the articulated LCD makes a huge difference. I now am taking photos with perspectives I simply did not try to get before with a fixed LCD. Also, I can steady the camera against my body with the LCD in horizontal position to reduce camera shake and it is easier to see in bright sunlight. There is a Command Dial and a Sub-Command dial and the two dials makes Manual Mode easy to use, although this is not a mode I typically use, as there is no histogram available when using Manual Mode prior to taking the photo and you can not see exposure changes reflected in the LCD, as you can in other modes (P,S,A, ), when using Exposure Compensation. I particularly like the exposure compensation dial and the range of up to +/-3f/stops. Also, the placement of the AE-L/AF_L button is such that I can easily press and hold it with my thumb and press the shutter with my index finger (you can not release it without canceling the setting). There is also a Quick Menu Dial that allows you to access many parameters without having to go through the menu system. The menu system is O.K. but it could be better arranged. I find that there are enough buttons and dials (which are laid out well) so that I do not need to access the menus much. There are also 3 custom user modes that can be set up, but I have not done so. Some people say that having an optical viewfinder which is small and shows "only" 80% of the field of view makes it next to useless. I do not agree. In situations where it is difficult to see the LCD (so far I have not had to use the optical viewfinder due to this problem with my P7100) or for action photos it is very useful. Also, the optical viewfinder held against your face helps to steady the camera and reduce camera shake. Of course, the Nikon 7100 has built in vibration reduction. My P7100 is replacing my P7000 which had a fixed LCD and I did use the optical viewfinder when I had trouble seeing the LCD and for action shots and it was very useful. The fastest shutter speed is 1/4000, however it can only be used at wide angle and f/8. So for practical purposes the fastest shutter speed available is usually 1/2000. There is a built in neutral density filter enabling you to reduce exposure by 3 f/stops to avoid overexposure. Also, the built in flash has exposure compensation of +/-2 f/stops available. I believe you can use Nikon external Speedlight flashes SB-400, 600, 700 and 900, as well as the Su-800 wireless commander with the P7100. However, I don't know if all the features of these flashes can be used. I think for example, to use a wireless flash you may need the Commander.
I find that the speed of the P7100 is fine with the menus changing quickly and generally fast focus. There are times when focus slows down and I may have to change the focus setting to get focus. This occurs in low contrast situations. Overall, though I am happy with the way it focuses. The time it takes to write RAW files and RAW/JPEG is a little slow and Nikon hopefully will improve on this in the future "editions". Also, the number of frames per second is low compared to some cameras, so action photography is a bit more of a challenge. I think that to get faster frame rates Nikon would have to use a different type of sensor and probably this would result in a lessening of picture quality. So I am happy that Nikon did not go that route and I like the extra challenge of catching the moment rather than relying on the camera to take a bunch of frames.
The P7100 is about as heavy and large as I am willing to accept in a compact camera. However, it fits easily into the front pocket of my shorts and into my jacket pocket. I can also just squeeze it into the front pocket of my well worn jeans. My only purpose in switching from a DSLR to a smaller camera was so I could carry it in my pocket and 'forget' about it. The P7100 meets those requirements and the extra size and heft, compared to some compacts, gives it a very nice feel in my hands. The reason I chose the P7100 over its competitors was because of the extra focal length on the telephoto side. For me, the new small interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras with an equivalent focal range of 28mm to 200mm lens are still too big and heavy to bother with. I do have the Nikon wide angle converter and adapter for the P7100 so I have a total focal length range of 21mm to 200mm equivalent - when I decide to carry the converter/adapter with me. :)
I will not comment on the P7100's video capabilities, as I do not use video.
For my photographic purposes I would rate the P7100 with 4.5 stars. It is the best compact camera I have owned. I rounded up to 5 stars rather than down to 4 stars when I rated it above. I highly recommend it.
on October 5, 2011
I have been using the P7100 for over a month now. I am familiar with the camera as I used the P7000 before (for one year and since it came out). I did have problems with the P7000, but mainly issues with the lens cover not opening fully and those issues developed very early on. The Coolpix P7100 does not exhibit those problems so it's a great camera. I tested it on a 1000 pictures in one week. It takes wonderful pictures with very appealing and natural colors. Everybody comments on the picture quality. So optics are great.
The camera is user friendly with lots of dials that save time. The predecessors did not have all the dials. I have used the camera in all possible modes and find it responsive. I have captured action pictures such as surfers, bikers, runners, volley ball players and the camera delivers wonderful results with very sharp pictures.
I am not a photographer. I just enjoy taking pictures. But I have taken the time to learn the camera. One can snap some shots without bothering with the manual settings. But it can do so much if the user takes the time to learn its potential; and most photographers who use it as a backup do use those features. It's not to be compared to a DSLR. People often make that mistake. However, the picture quality is very close to that of a DSLR. I know, because people who own DSLR have commented on P7100 pictures being very much like those of a DSLR. It's a very smart camera, as long as it is used as it should. If you don't want to bother with the features available then there are other products on the market, simpler and cheaper or just use an iphone.
I love the long (200mm) zoom which is very useful in some situations. Comparable advanced compacts don't have the long zoom.
The camera performs wonderfully in low light - I often take pictures in difficult light conditions (such as mountain scenes),in very low light, twilight etc., and I am consistently happy with the results. But those features were equally good with the P7000.
The RAW write time has improved from the predecessor and is very acceptable now.
It's always possible to find flaws with a camera. People have different expectations. But I use this camera all the time and I love it. I like to challenge it with hard to do shots and I have fun. I always get good results in my opinion (and several other people who saw my pictures). It is the only camera I use. My SLR is a film camera. I don't see the point of switch to DSLR, not with the P7100.
This camera is fairly new and just because someone owns a DSLR, and perhaps a Nikon DSLR does not imply that this person has carefully taken the time with the P7100. Every product requires an acquaintance time. All I can say is that I like what comes out of this camera and I love the pictures that other people take with this camera; and many people take much better pics than me with that same camera.
The only disappointment for me is the lack of a user's guide; but I use the P7000 guide if I need to refer to it should I forget something. The P7100 has few added features though, such as scenes with effects. For the most part I know the camera and rarely need the book, but for someone new to the camera it might be a problem.
I do recommend this camera.
on January 25, 2012
First, a little background: I'm a longtime Nikon user since the days of film, but when it comes to point-and-shoot digital cameras, Nikon's offerings really haven't measured up to what the competitors were putting out. I have a Nikon D700 DSLR, which is awesome. But in searching for something more portable and convenient that wouldn't entail a huge sacrifice in image quality, I've finally found what I'm looking for in Nikon's Coolpix lineup: the P7100.
This is, flat-out, the best compact camera in this price range that I've ever used, and I've tried plenty from various makers. I had considered the Nikon 1 series mirrorless cameras, but the price seems a bit steep for what they are, and the idea of having a second camera with interchangeable lenses undercut the convenience factor. So I gave the P7100 a try, and I don't regret it at all.
Here are the pros and cons as I see them:
Great image quality and the ability to shoot in Raw, which very few Coolpix cameras allow. If you don't know, shooting in Raw gives you much better control and more options in processing your photos. It's far easier to correct bad white balance, for one.
A built-in neutral density filter allows you to use a longer exposure in bright conditions (good for waterfalls and seascapes).
An interval timer for time-lapse shooting.
A relatively fast aperture (2.8 at the wide end of the zoom) and good low-light performance (noise is very well controlled for a small camera).
A real hotshoe and compatibility with Nikon's Creative Lighting System (you can use any speedlight in Nikon's lineup) for professional-quality lighting in portraits and other shots.
Fast, accurate autofocus with subject tracking that really works.
Vibration reduction (reduces blur from camera shake at slow shutter speeds).
An optical viewfinder (I rarely use it, but it's nice to have when you do need it).
A tilt-out LCD display (makes shooting from the hip, or ground level, much easier).
Full manual controls for aperture, shutter, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation (You get to decide instead of the camera! What a concept!)
The zoom range is good, but not great (optical zoom is 28mm to 200mm in 35mm equivalent. You can go wider, to 20mm equivalent, but the adapter and lens to do that cost about half what the camera itself does.) It would be nice to be able to hit 300mm with the optical zoom.
It's on the large size for a compact camera (you'll need a big pocket if you want to keep it there).
CLS functionality is limited to one remote group of speedlights. Just Group A, no B or C.
Top video quality is 740p at 24fps, not 1080p, and like all small cameras, the built-in microphone picks up clicks and thumps as you zoom or operate the camera.
If you're like me, you want the camera defaults always set on the highest quality settings. In order to do that, you must shoot Raw+Jpg Fine. That way if you're shooting Raw and you switch to a scene mode where the camera only shoots jpg, it will stay at Fine quality (the camera default, which can't be permanently changed, is normal quality). Just make sure you have a good sized memory card so it doesn't fill up with jpgs you don't need.
The sensor count of 10 megapixels is a bit small by today's standards. I would have liked at least 12, but unless you're heavily cropping your photos, 10 is plenty. Honestly, the quality is so good, I keep being surprised when I remember that it's "only" 10 MP.
The strobe effect of the redeye reduction on the built-in flash is painful. It's really bright. Use it if you like photos of people wincing. When I use the popup flash on my D700, I don't notice this. There's something different. Thankfully, you can always use a real speedlight.
There are a bunch of scene modes (most are jpg only, no Raw), including a backlit HDR mode, which automatically merges shots at different exposures) and a low-light mode, along with some special effects (I like the zoom exposure mode). Battery life is good for a day's shooting; you can shoot time lapses without worry.
I absolutely love this camera.
When Nikon released the Coolpix P7000 in 2010, I took a close, hard look at it. That camera seemed to have most of the features that I was looking for in a compact pro-level digital camera without the bulk of a DSLR. I had a chance to use one belonging to a friend for a few days, and though I liked it, the overall performance seemed a bit slow, especially compared with the Canon G12 owned by another friend.
First, the P7000 was slower than the G12 in most every way, and the Canon had an excellent 2.8-inch Vari-Angle LCD panel, a feature that I had come to really appreciate with my own Nikon D5000 DSLR. The Canon was very tempting, but I decided to wait and explore other options in pro/enthusiast compact cameras. And while I was narrowing the field, Nikon announced a new camera in the fall of 2011.
I'm glad that I waited, because after doing plenty of research and comparison between the current offerings of cameras like this including some that were being announced, I bought the Nikon COOLPIX P7100. Sometimes it's good to hold up on buying what one really needs.
I had explored the new mirrorless cameras from Nikon and others, but for serious, practical photography with a camera smaller than a regular DSLR, this one fits precisely that role. The lens is fixed, but it's a Nikkor that equates to a 28-200mm on a 35mm SLR, a 7.1x zoom in fact. There's also a small optical viewfinder that may be tiny, but it's useful when needed.
Getting down to the subjective nitty-gritty, here are my basic observations.
* Substantial 7.1x optical zoom range; extra punch over 5x helps
* Tilting 3-inch Vari-Angle LCD display is just what's needed
* Excellent image quality, far better than anticipated
* Superb ergonomics; rational array of controls
* Very respectable battery life; averaging 320 - 350 shots per charge
* Much faster operational speeds than the P7000
* Uses readily-available SD card; SDXC support
* RAW (NRW) support for when needed for serious images
* Hot shoe accepts wide variety of Nikon Speedlights
* Rubberized grip area on the body
* Wish the P7100 would go to 24mm wide angle, but a 28-200mm zoom is more important
* f/2.8 maximum aperture limits it's low-light use; f/2.0 would be good
* Only 720p HD video offered; subjectively not crucial
Besides the Nikon COOLPIX P7100, I had taken a realistic and objective look at a number of better digital cameras that I hoped would meet my own subjective individual needs, and then narrowed the list to the following: the Canon G12 10 MP Digital Camera with it's 5x optical image stabilized zoom and 2.8 Inch Vari-Angle LCD display, and the Fujifilm X10 12 MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera, which featured its f2.0-f2.8 4x optical zoom and a 2.8-Inch LCD display. Each of these cameras had very strong points, each with its own set of features that would be useful for the creative process.
But even though the Fuji X10 had a very fast and sharp lens, it had the shortest zoom range and its LCD screen was fixed as opposed to the tilting screens of the Canon and the Nikon, so that left two. The Nikon had a significantly higher LCD screen resolution than the Canon (921k dots vs. 461k dots), and the Nikon's LCD at 3.0 inches was about 10% larger than that on the Canon. The Canon offered slightly more dynamic range (11.2 EV vs. 10.7 EV), about half a stop, and a bit better macro capability, but the Nikon's 7x optical zoom (28mm - 200mm) compared to the Canon's 5x (28mm - 140mm) was the final deal clincher for me.
I would suggest to that anyone considering the Nikon P7100 that it's worth the time to take a close look at these three cameras that go many steps above the general point and shoot category in features and quality of images. We each have our priorities; choices are a subjective thing for each of us, and for me the Nikon offered the best balance of what I was looking for.
There wasn't much about the P7100 that I wasn't aware of before it arrived and took it out of the box, as I had already played with a couple of them. When first unboxed, it was apparent that the Nikon attention to detail was all here. The first thing that's noticed is how solid this camera feels, and maybe that's partially due to its magnesium chassis. Followed the printed Quick Start Guide and charged the battery for the recommended 1 ½ hours while reading and going through the box contents. This camera came packaged with:
- EN-EL14 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
- MH-24 Battery Charger
- AN-CP21 Strap
- Reference Manual on CD-ROM
- NikonView NX 2 CD-ROM
- UC-E6 USB Cable
- EG-CP16 Audio/Video Cable
The MH-24 Battery Charger blinks when charging, and glows steadily when the battery is topped up. Put the battery cap in a safe place for when it's needed. Once the battery was charged, inserted a Class 10 SDHC card and took the P7100 out for a trial run.
Even though I had played with this P7100 before, I now had a chance to really put it through its paces. This one was mine. Larger than most compacts, this camera subjectively has a comfortable feel; everything seems to fit the hand quite easily. There are enough controls and options that can be set to customize it to ones individual preferences, and in my initial explorations, found that this was easy to accomplish.
The P7100 In Use:
The small quick menu dial on the top of the camera body quickly became my ally, and it made access of the various functions such as ISO settings, white balance, auto bracketing and such to be far easier than exploring the camera menus. Fiddled with various shots trying face detection, the various metering settings and such, all part of the learning experience. This method is far better than digging into the viewfinder menus to access the various features.
The small optical viewfinder is useful under some circumstances, but be aware that you really getting about 80% of what will actually show in your resulting images. It's useful when needed, but the tilting 3-inch Vari-Angle LCD display is for this user where this camera really shines. It's a brilliant and very sharp monitor, offering very close to 100% of what your results will be, and for one who wears glasses, those 921,000 dots do help. It allows for creativity from some fairly awkward angles, and as I have made good and frequent use of this feature on my D5000, am happy to have it on this camera.
Once one gets used to it, and that doesn't take long, the ergonomics and controls of the P7100 are excellent. Now that I've spent some real time with it, there's nothing that I would change in that respect. Am not a much of a video shooter, but from the little that I've done, the video quality is good. The 720p may be a bit dated for some, but if you need to shoot only the occasional video, then it should be adequate.
The built-in flash does a better job than was expected, and within the abilities of how these function, have no complaints with the results. But when I attached and used the Nikon SB-400, the resulting images were close to dazzling. I've used my SB-400 and the older SB-600 on my Nikon DSLRs, but this combination on the P7100 helped produce some of my best flash images ever.
As noted early, I'm getting a very respectable 320 - 350 shots per charge with the standard EN-EL14 battery, but experience is a good teacher, so I usually try to get spares. When I went online here to get the second Nikon EN-EL14 battery, there was a shortage. EN-EL14 fits and is made specifically for the Nikon D3100, D3200, D5100, COOLPIX P7000 and COOLPIX P7100 digital cameras. I did find a genuine Nikon EN-EL14 battery for close to Nikon's suggested SRP of about forty bucks, but you have to dig. There are additional issues dealing with these Li-Ion batteries, and I keep the info updated in the comments to my review of the Nikon EN-EL14 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery. In any case, don't waste your money on clone or third-party batteries for this camera.
The P7100 is the type of compact digital camera that you may want to spend a little time getting used to, and maybe even a couple of hours getting into the manual reading how to get the most from it. The images straight from the camera look quite, with excellent details, bright colors, and very good performance at both the wide angle (28mm) and telephoto (200mm) settings, with surprisingly low noise. This is a highly-recommended 5-star compact digital camera worthy of the Nikon name. Prices keep trickling down on this model, and if you can get it for under $300, don't hesitate; grab it. You'll be glad that you did.
on October 24, 2011
I used to be a pro photographer but since my retirement I just wanted to have a nice point and shoot camera for all my shooting needs. Nikon P7100 far exceeded my expectations. I would have gotten the P7000 but instead I waited for the P7100 because I wanted the tilt LCD screen...please note that long before Nikon came out with this camera I did put in a request to Nikon for a tilt screen on the future models, I don't know if Nikon listen to me or not but I am tickled that they did come out with it. The P7100 is a little larger in physical size than the P7000 plus 2 oz heavier which is no problem. One feature that I really like is the 800mm digital telephoto which is sharper and clearer than all other models I tried...way better than the Canon G12, I had the G12 for a while but took it back to the store because of it's many limitations, then I got the Nikon P7100 because there are no limitations! The G12 had a lot of molting in it's lowlight pictures while the Nikon has no molting at all. The G12 only goes to 140mm while the Nikon P7100 goes to 200mm plus over 800mm on the digital telephoto which is far superior than all other cameras I tested. The P7100 menus are very easy to use and very straight forward, also, the dedicated buttons are well thought out and strategically located for ease of use. It is one of the easiest to use cameras on the market! It is extremely fast in low light situations! Shutter lag is negligent! The LCD screen is easy to see outdoors in bright sunlight plus the LCD screen shows accurate colors unlike the new LCD screens on the new CMOS type cameras which show inaccurate colors so you can't use the LCD screen to see exactly what you are getting....but with the Nikon p7100 it's colors on the LCD screen are spot-on! I read one reviewer's report who rated this camera with one star based on his inability to use the enclosed nikon software which is NOT fair for reviewing of this camera. I have an Apple Macbook with iPhoto and PhotoShop Elements 8 editing software and it works flawlessly with my Macbook especially the RAW files which are extremely easy to use so why anyone would have any problems especially on an Apple Mac computer would have to be mentally challenged. There are a lot of new cameras on the market today with many bells and whistles but all I wanted was the finest of features that would enable me to take good pictures but the Nikon P7100 takes exceptional pictures! If you want the finest point and shoot camera on today's market then this is the camera for you but if you like to be razzle dazzled with a lot of fancy bells and whistles of which most you'd never use then go for the new whiz-banner CMOS cameras that cost twice the price.... For super excellent photography at a fair price that will last you a lifetime then go for the Nikon P7100
on October 22, 2011
I have both P7000 and P7100.
I loved P7000, but there were few things I would like it to have - like the tilted screen, separate buttons to change S and A, when I shoot on Manual. I was happy with the image quality, with the vivid colors, etc. It is very capable camera - I was doing everything from Macro (close-up) to even shooting sports and using panning technique. I never had shutter lags and menu problems the other were complaining about.
I bought the P7100 when it came out. It is the same camera with added those things I was missing on P7000. Amazing! There is even nice bokeh when shoot at small f. I post some pictures, so you can take a look.
For it's group - as a high end P&S this is really amazing camera. Highly recommend to everyone.
on October 1, 2011
I'm a very experienced and knowledgeable photographer, but it's now how I make my living. I normally use a Nikon D3s. That monster wonderfully serves its purpose as Nikon's top-of-the-line-do-it-all pro camera. But it's BIG and HEAVY, often causing certain non-photographers to comment, "It must take really great pictures," or "OMG, it's soooo big..." (in response to the latter, I simply deepen my voice and say, "Why, thank you."). I wanted a small camera as an alternative to carrying the D3s to family functions and other snapshot-worthy occasions, and which I can easily take everywhere and put in a coat pocket. After several days with the camera so far, I think the image quality is excellent, and I'm impressed with the features and and configuration options of the P7100. The camera produces sharp, saturated, properly exposed pictures right out of the box in full Auto mode, but also has the traditional Nikon P S A and M modes. Menu options are easy to understand and configure by just playing around with them. It's not rocket science. The camera shoots Raw images, so you can edit, tweak and improve them in Nikon's Capture NX2 or Adobe Lightroom.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with the P7100's performance. It fulfills the purposes for which I got it admirably. Yes, it's rather pricey for a camera of this size, but its very feature-rich. Overall, I'm very satisfied. And it's a fly-weight compared to a pro DSLR. Nicely done, Nikon. Now I will have to get used to people saying, "It's like, sooo little....")
on November 14, 2011
The Nikon CoolPix P7100 replaces their previous model, the P7000. The P7000 reportedly had some issues that kept many folks from loving the camera. But the 7100 seems to have addressed all the issues, and it is a wonderful camera. I own a Canon PowerShot G11 and a Panasonic Lumix LX5, and the Nikon scores points with a longer reaching lens and a great LCD display. The lens starts at 28 mm--not as wide as the Panny, and the LCD cannot be flipped 180 degrees for self portraits as on the G11. The Panny has a shorter reach but faster lens.
Photos taken with the P7100 show nice detail and when RAW photos are post-processed, the results are impressive. You will be able to print 8.5 x 11 nicely (and even 13 x 19 when needed). Shot-to-shot time is acceptible, and the optical viewfinder, though primitive, saves the day in bright, direct sunlight.
The Nikon P7100 feels solid and substantial, and though slightly larger than the G11, it is a superb camera to carry around all day for travel, sightseeing and the like. I have relegated my G11 to backup status and the Nikon CoolPix P7100 is now my carry everywhere camera. Nice job, Nikon!
on March 9, 2012
No camera does everything, but this comes closer than any I've found. First, it's reasonably compact, with a built-in retractable lens. It will fit in a jacket pocket, and with the nice Nikon shoulder strap (included) it's pretty light and small to wear on your shoulder by your side.
2nd, it has a larger sensor than most point 'n shoot cameras, almost 75% larger! Because of the larger sensor, the image quality and low-light performance are very good, much better than your average point 'n shoot. So, by comparison, even though the Nikon P310 (a smaller camera with a smaller sensor) has a larger "fast" aperture of F1.8 (versus F2.8 on the P7100), the P7100 has just as good if not better low-light performance than the nominally faster P3100. You can get away without using a flash for most inside shots. And the P7100 does have a built-in flash which works well.
3rd, it has a more powerful zoom lens than its competitors with the same size sensor (Canon G12, Panasonic LX-5, Olympus XZ-1). This was the deciding factor for me. The similar but more expensive Canon G12 has a 5x zoom lens, but the Nikon P7100 has 7.1x, for significantly better zoom capability. Any DSLR or interchangeable-lens-camera with equivalent zoom capability would be much larger.
4th, it's very customizable with lots of control over settings. This camera is covered with knobs, dials, buttons, and levers! It's pretty confusing at first, but you can also just use the "auto" or "P" setting and let the camera adjust itself. I recommend David Busch's Nikon Coolpix P7100 Guide to Digital Photography for learning how to use all its settings.
I've had some problems getting the distortion control to work when the dial is set to "auto" but it seems to be working now.
Finally, it has an optical viewfinder--an increasingly rare feature these days! The optical viewfinder is very handy when sunlight makes the LCD screen unviewable, or when you need to turn off the LCD screen to save power. The viewfinder is pretty small, but works fine in a pinch.
A good case is the Lowepro Apex 60 AW (Black). The camera with strap fits snugly inside, and there is also room for a extra battery and SDHC card. Or just get a neoprene sleeve: OP/TECH USA 7401024 Soft Pouch - Digital D-Mini, Neoprene Pouch for Compact Digital Camera (4x5x5 Inch) - Black