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Customer Review

255 of 267 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So far I love it...blown away by the low light video, April 6, 2010
This review is from: Nikon Coolpix P100 10 MP Digital Camera with 26x Optical Vibration Reduction (VR) Zoom and 3-Inch LCD (Black) (OLD MODEL) (Electronics)
Just got home tonight with the camera; went to the store with the idea of buying the Canon SX20IS after reading all the reviews of the Nikon p90 and the Canon; previously I had gotten the JVC HD-1 $3000 HD camcorder and several Sony mini DV camcorders, and a Canon S2 (10x zoom) 5MP digital camera. Before that I had the OM-2 (film) SLR, for which I have a zillion lenses. We also have a Panasonic point and shoot and a new Canon 1300 elph. I notice that a lot of people griped about the Canon SX20 focusing and low light, and even more griped about the Nikon p90. At the store, they had the Canon and the Nikon p100. I thought both of them performed very well at high zoom, during zoom, good focus quickly, etc. Color looked good on the displays. I really like the Canon S2 as a point and shoot (early or first with the high zoom); can't stand the low zoom point and shoot idea, since I want to be able to bring out things I can't actually reach (architectural details, wildlife, etc.). I finally decided to try the Nikon (first one I've ever had) on the basis of the CMOS chip, 26 instead of 20:1 zoom, 1080p vs 720p, Li-ion battery vs. AA, and mainly the fact that in the (well lit, but not blinding) store, the image on the display was much brighter on the Nikon than the Canon. However, the actual pictures on the Canon were bright and nice, but it was easier for me to see to compose the shot on the display with the Nikon. It was so easy to use I was able to record video or stills and play them back in the store; and it turned out the Nikon was on sale and cheaper than the Canon.

My philosophy of picture taking is that I want to remember vacations, excursions, etc.; my ideal camera would see things the way my eye does except for bionic enhancements like night vision, zoom, etc. But in particular, I love existing light shots (and video) and love the HAD low light sloppy low res color slow shutter option on the Sony camcorders since you can (for example) take video of your wife at dinner in a dim restaurant and have it even if sloppy, at least in color and something like what the experience really was. So I am after memories, and not art, but if you can do art, that would be great. Anyway, I had no idea what to expect out of this thing; based on the tiny size, ultralight construction, low cost, etc. I figured it would be mainly a toy, but I hoped I could take it on vacation as a one thing does all photographic tool. I got the Sandisk "ultra" 16GB SDHC card for it, 15MB/s, figuring for HD you need the fastest card you can get.

I had not read any reviews before buying it, but when I read them when I got home with it, I was pretty bummed out.. all the stuff about locking up, hellish noisy zoom, sloppy focus, can't use the zoom with video, etc. etc.

I am happy to say that my experience didn't confirm any of that. (Of course, it might lock up etc. at some point, I have only had it a few hours but I have a theory about that I'll mention later.)

Anyway, I immediately went around the inside of the house in regular low light condtions shooting stills and video. By low light I mean some rooms only had light coming through the doorways from other rooms, some rooms had a few 13W compact fluorescents, one last room had 5 65W ceiling can lights on. It was lit for atmosphere not reading books. Bottom line is I had no trouble getting very nicely well lit pix and video in any of the rooms with lights on. In a stairwell with no light except a 13W compact fluorescent 6ft outside an archway leading to the stairs the wall and furniture seemed v. dark brown; by eye I could easily see the color. Where the stairs went up to total shadow, the camera cut out to black and white where by eye I could still see color. In comparison to a 5 year old top of the line Sony mini DV one CCD camcorder it was about like the camera on normal setting, not "slow color shutter". In other words, about as much as I could hope for.

The zoom is not as easy to control to get exact magnification as the Sony, BUT (and this is important) while you can hear the zoom motor on playback, it is very subdued and I didn't find it at all noticeable..when the room is silent, you can hear it, but it is about like a very soft whisper. In normal tourist situations I don't think you'd notice the zoom noise at all. With a bit of practice, I was able to use the zoom to my satisfaction.

Another pleasant surprise to me was that the hand held video when walking around the house from darkness to light was smooth and generally not jerky..the image stabilization must work very well, considering you don't have any weight to stablize the tremor of your hands, footsteps, etc. The video even handles normal panning (aiming the camera forward while walking around the end of a table, for example) without any major glitches...if you shake your hand beyond a given limit, there is an instant of moderate blurriness, but it handles the panning motion by making the whole scene's resolution lower; while walking and turning in low light, it is maybe NTSC quality, not HD. But the JVC HD-1 just blew up and went to blocks of "ice" if you panned, so I have no complaints about that. If you hold the camera still (handheld, low light as described) the picture is very sharp and looks like HD to me. So I don't agree with the review that the video is "crap". I think it will probably be sufficient to take this on vacation as my only camera, but I want to try it out in better conditions for a longer time first. My wife was blown away by the sound clarity, stereo, etc. She thought it sounded better than the Sony camcorders.

It seems to me that the basic operation (load, shoot, zoom, focus, etc.) is very easy and very satisfactory. So, so far I love it. If it had the equivalent of slow color shutter and nightvision it would be pretty well perfect (well, I'd like it to weigh twice as much also, to make it easier to keep steady, but even being light as a feather it competes well with the much heavier camcorders).

The display, navigation, menus, etc. seem to me easier to use than the Canon equivalent; having just set up my wife's new 1300 elph.

The comments about the viewfinder being dark, grainy, etc. is true in very low light...until you take a picture. As soon as you depress the shutter button to focus, the viewfinder lights up in crisp bright detail and it's easy to see what you are going to get...I suppose that is some sort of power saving feature. If you are walking around looking through the viewfinder, it may look worse than the Sony camcorder (or the Canon S2) until you press a button to shoot, then it is bright. I can live with that OK. In decent light (moderately well lit room at night) I don't notice it. In general, no complaints about the viewfinder. The diopter control worked like a champ and I will use the viewfinder not the display for shooting..only use the display for playback.

I like the flash being folded down, so you can suppress it if you wish (which I usually do), and it is easy to pop up if you want it. The flash comes on instantly..unlike the S2..no waiting period on the first use of it.

The Canons Sxx series is better in that you can have the display rotated out of the way (plastic out instead of display out) to keep it clean when you are using the viewfinder.

In short, I just tested it every way I could think of under the worst lighting and shooting (all hand held, low light) conditions and it did very well. I displayed the pictures and movies on a 44 inch top of the line Sony 1080p TV with mini HDMI/HDMI connection cable, and even handheld, you could zoom in (easy, from the camera) before you could see pixelation on the stills so I presume they are better than a couple of MP of usable info even under these lousy conditions.

Just a word of encouragement for its capabilities as a hybrid camera/camcorder...it well exceeded my expectations. With a tripod or decent technique it should be excellent indeed..and very usable without it.

I am very pleased with it. When it's daylight, will do some more rigorous tests of image quality outside in decent light. By the way, it takes (handheld, so very blurry) time exposures up to at least several seconds of exposure ...so I would expect that like the OM-2, which was great for taking full color pictures of my parents' backyard in the country by starlight, one should be able to take pictures in very dim light with a tripod.

If anything negative turns up, I will post a followup. Otherwise, very happy. I do notice it dies quickly when its buttons are not being pushed...I wonder if this is the "lock up" some talked about. I didn't find it a problem, just hit the power button and you're good to go. A bit disconceting vs. the Canon or Sony which stay inactive a lot longer before hibernating, but you may be able to change the setting on that if you want to.

----Update after more testing-----

I took it around outside in bright sun to see how it does in high light levels, also took some mroe interior shots & video trying some other situations, such as flash with high zoom level in the dark, etc. It did very well. You can point it at something that is so dark you can't see it, and get a perfect flash picture. You can focus perfectly for time exposures (tripod) through moderately dirty glass at things outside. Focus seems fast and reliable under all conditions except when you are shooting video and move to something that is significantly further away. In that case, it is slow to refocus and the focusing makes sharp clicks on the video sound track (you're supposed to turn the AF feature to focus only at the start of the video, and not make that sort of move anyway according to the manual.)
I found the focus worked fine outdoors when you were recording video and panning from far off to close up objects, also no noticeable noise. Another defect for video is that the zoom (as others have commented) is very quick, but you can slow it down by using lighter pressure on the lever; I found the rate of zoom could be controlled to be comparable to a camcorder. However, it has one glitch that is completely understandable for a still camera but requires some work-around for video, which is that when you have zoomed out to high levels (say 20+) and are filming, when you try to zoom back in, there is a wibble and jerk in the image as the drive connects with the lens, making the picture shake all over for a second or so. That is about the only unexpected issue I was able to find. There is a lot of wind noise in high wind; there is a wind noise suppression feature I didn't try. I expect you could put a fuzz pad over the mics also if it bothered you. All in all, I still love it and figure to take it as my sole camera on trips. I haven't tried all the fancy scene and specialty stuff, and haven't yet loaded the Nikon software on the laptop. I find the playback on the HDTV to be an absolute delight, and all the contols to be very intuitive and every day discover new things I like...for example, it remembers what you've been doing, and comes up with the video screen if you were shooting video, still for stills, etc. Of course if you push the other trigger button it immediately switches. Etc. A million little convenient things like that. For vacations, a neat feature is that when you have your clips displayed on the TV, as you move the zoom lever to the left it puts more and more clip thumbnails (up to 16) on the screen, and then goes to a calendar with the days for which you took shots highlighted, so it would be easy to go back after a trip and find a given subject.

For battery life, it told me battery depleted when I had taken about 130 still images and 35 video clips, maybe half the stills with flash. Probably had erased 10-15 stills and 5-10 videos. Had about 30 minutes of video on the camera, probably. Computer said card had 2.5 GB of files. I had watched all the stills and video at least once on the camera display, and at least once on the TV. So if you were just shooting, it should last significantly longer on one charge.

So all in all, I give it an excellent rating. My only real complaint is the jerking of the zoom when the retraction drive is kicked in when you are shooting video. So I have learned to shut off the video and retract the zoom ratio before starting up the video again at the new zoom ratio if operating at high zoom ratios. Otherwise, it pretty well exceeds every expectation. I am delighted with it. It's hard to imagine you can do so much photography so easily with such a tiny camera.

PS: It has not "locked up" on me, but thanks to N Jaeger for pointing out my first night speculation about that was completely off base.. totally separate issue from the hibernation time (which you can change). As others have said, apparently need to do a hard reboot by pulling the battery out if it does lock up.

One other thing is the manual gives the data transfer rates under various uses, and the fastest is 14MB/sec for HD video, so the choice of the "ultra" Sandisk card (15MB/s)was probably good. I haven't ever seen a delay in saving, processing, or shooting. The camera indicates about 29 minutes of shooting time when you bring it up in 1080p record mode, but I can't imagine that being a limitation. But if you wanted to set it up on a tripod and just shoot your life for the full 2 to 4 hours a big card would allow, I guess you couldn't do it.

When you play a low light video back through the HDMI cable to the tv, it seems to come out enhanced and bright vs. what you see by just pulling the card and viewing it with Windows on an HP dv6 entertainment pc. The stills and brightly lit videos look the same both ways, but apparently the camera will do some processing on data it considers suboptimal. I assume the Nikon software would do the same in the computer but haven't tried it.

I remain really tickled with the camera. Good luck.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 7, 2010 3:01:03 PM PDT
NJ says:
The lock-up issues have nothing to do with the camera's hybernation function. The camera will freeze like a PC will occasionally freeze and the only solution is to hard-boot, or in the case of the camera remove the battery.

Posted on Jul 8, 2010 9:08:51 AM PDT
The video mode fastest mode provides 14 Mega Bits per second sustained speed bitstream, and your card is 15 Mega Bytes per seconds max (peak or burst) speed. If byte has 8 bits, then all depends on camera processing speed, how quickly bit stream out of the sensor gets packed into bytes and stored in the memory. The byte versus bit rate comparison is a good conservative and safe measure even for slower processing camcorders.

Other true HD video camera standards that use AVCHD also use 17, 24, and 35 Mbits/sec, providing better video quality, but they cost much more, and may require yet faster memory cards.

Posted on Jan 9, 2011 2:28:24 PM PST
Sofia Ramos says:
what is the difference between a refurbished camera and a used camera?
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