Customer Review

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good, serious small camera, January 25, 2012
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This review is from: Nikon COOLPIX P7100 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 7.1x Optical Zoom NIKKOR ED Glass Lens and 3-Inch Vari-Angle LCD (Camera)
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.

Other observations:
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.
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