When one thinks of owning a professional camera, most likely the first things that will come to their mind are DSLR cameras. While this may be right to a very large extent, cameras, which are available in the compact form factor that can also offer some of the features and controls found on professional DSLR cameras. The advantages of having a professional compact camera are that it gives the user the ability to have most of the features of a DSLR in a compact camera body, which is much smaller than a DSLR. Nikon has been releasing professional compact cameras, since sometime now and have been building up on their existing line-up. Nikon recently unveiled the Nikon Coolpix P7100.

Optical viewfinder featured on this camera

Optical viewfinder featured on this camera

The Coolpix P7100 is based on the P7000, which was released last year and has some interesting features, which everyone, including professional photographers can find handy. Read on to know more about this flagship camera from Nikon’s Coolpix range of cameras.

Design and Build Quality
The P7100 is fairly larger than most compact point and shoot cameras found in the market. The camera has an all black finish, giving it a very professional look. The matte finish adds class to the camera. Besides the black finish, there are hints of white on the buttons and the dials indicating the names of the controls. The front of the camera features the lens, complete with a lens ring. One can remove this ring to add another compatible lens upon the existing one. On the face of the camera is a scroll dial, along with the AF assist, function key and the viewfinder. The sides feature the eyelets where one can attach the neck strap that Nikon packed-in along with the camera.

The camera has numerous dials and buttons that help the user control the different settings. There are a total of 7 dials and 10 buttons on the camera, excluding the shutter release button and the 4-way jog dial that doubles up as a scroll dial. Majority of the buttons are located to the right of the screen and a few have been placed on the top of the camera. The 3-inch flip-out screen at the back allows one to conveniently shoot images from either high or low angles. The build quality of the hinges is good and there were no problems, while tilting it. The dial located at the side of the screen has standard camera functions such as timer, macro, etc. This dial acts as a button as well. There are two other dials featured on the back of the camera.

3-inch flip-out screen

3-inch flip-out screen

At the top of the camera is a dial for adjusting EV rating, mode dial as well as a handy dial for quickly accessing various settings such as ISO sensitivity, white balance bracketing, etc. As with most cameras, the zoom rocker is attached to the shutter release button. Also placed at the top of the camera is a flash mount allowing one to add an additional flash, if the on-board flash is not sufficient enough. The flash of this camera is housed within the body of the camera and to deploy it, all one has to do is press the flash button on the back of the camera. Connectivity options for the P7100, include a mini HDMI and a proprietary USB port. These ports are located to the  right of the camera and are housed under a plastic flap. The other connectivity option comes in the form of a 3.5mm jack for mic. This is located to the left of the camera and the flap that conceals this port is made out of plastic. When the flaps for the connectors are closed, they flush along the body of the camera, thereby giving the camera a nice look.

The battery bay houses the battery and memory card slot. The flap for it works with a locking mechanism and the build quality feels sturdy. The overall build quality of the camera is really good and it has a rich look and feel to itself. Being a bit bulky, it would be slightly difficult to fit in one's trouser pocket. One would feel comfortable carrying this camera in a bag, instead. Clicking images using the right hand is possible, because of its compact form factor, however, with it being a bit heavy at 395g, the handler may experience some strain.

Features
The Nikon Coolpix P7100 is loaded with features and the best feature found on it is the ability to tweak settings easily due to the plethora of controls available. The camera uses a 10.1 Megapixel CCD sensor with a 7.1x optical zoom, which gives an equivalent focal length of 28 to 200 mm. To reduce the blur in images captured, the camera uses a Lens Shift type image stabilizer. The camera has a 3-inch vari-angle tilt-out screen, which is clear and has fair amount of detail, which can be noticed in most lighting conditions. A neat, but not uncommon feature on the camera is the ability to view through the optical viewfinder or the display. One would have to select the option from the button next to it. However, a rather annoying aspect of it is that while viewing through it, pictures appear bearing the pin cushion effect making one feel they are looking at the same scene through a fish eye lens. Apart from that, while looking through the viewfinder, the focus seems a bit off, and this was a tad bit irritating. The viewfinder has a feature called real image zoom, wherein when one looks through the viewfinder and zooms in to an object, the zoomed-in image will appear through the viewfinder.

A bunch of dials on the top

Three dials on the top

The camera can capture images in both RAW as well as JPEG formats. This is a feature that is mostly found on DSLR cameras and this feature on a compact camera seems good. The output format for RAW images is NRW. HD video recording, too is possible on the P7100, however, it is limited to 720p and not full HD 1080p. The interface of the P7100, is similar to various other cameras from the same brand and if one has had a Nikon in the past, they can get used to it very quickly. The interface is pretty easy to navigate through, even for those who are new to Nikon cameras. The ISO sensitivity found on this camera range from 100 to 3200, while the aperture priority at its widest is F/2.8 and at its narrowest is F/8.

One of the neat features of the P7100 is the dial for accessing options such as ISO, whitebalance, image quality, the ability to adjust the display, custom picture control and bracekting. One can quickly select any of these options by clicking the button located at the centre of this dial. The camera can support SD cards including SDHC as well as SDXC. Other features of this camera, include its ability to capture 16 images in a single burst, and in scene modes such as Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Close-up, Food, Museum, etc. Featurewise, this camera is loaded and one can certainly immerse themselves in the different options available.

Performance
While handling the camera, one can get engaged trying out the various settings available on the body of the camera, itself and this is really convenient as there is no need to go into the menu to adjust the settings. This allows handling of the camera with both hands to go much quicker, and one can easily adjust the settings for different scenes, without too much of looking around.  We tested the ISO sensitivity and aperture priority in a controlled environment, along with outdoor as well as indoor shots.

ISO sensitivity test

ISO sensitivity test

ISO Sensitivity Test
The P7100 handled noise quite well. The noise gradually set in at the slow ISO 800 speed, while at its fastest, which is ISO 3200, noise levels rose significantly. At ISO 100, there was no image noise noticed at all. The colours also appeared to be getting paler, with an increase in the ISO settings.

Aperture priority test

Aperture priority test

Aperture Priority
Aperture at its widest is F/2.8 and from the image above one can see that there is a lot of depth of field noticed. If one wants sharp images, then the Coolpix P7100 is a good option, with aperture priority set at F/8.

Zoom test

Zoom test

Zoom Test
During our zoom test, due to the image stabilizer onboard, we did not notice any blur, even at the camera's maximum zoom, which is 7.1x.

Performance Continued

Outdoor pictures shot well, since its white balance came into play and we noticed a very even colour tone across the entire scene. However, although insignificant, we noticed slight amount of colour fringing when the image is zoomed in on a PC. Indoor images shot well and there was minimum amount of grain noticed. All colours appear natural and there is no colour desaturation. We got great results with macro shots, but there was a slight purple tinge noticed.

Very slight colour fringing seen in macro shots

Very slight colour fringing seen in macro shots

Video recorded pretty smoothly at 720p and for a 54 second video it took upto 60.4 MB of space. This is because it recorded videos in HD. An issue we noticed, was that there were some focusing issues, while moving from a dark area to a bright one. But this lasted for even less than a second and the camera regained its focus. The pop-up flash is quite good and can light up an area of around 12 feet. This will be sufficient for night photography. Nikon bundles a 1030 mAH lithium-ion battery with this camera and the company rates it at approximately 350 shots.

A stylish matte black finish

A stylish matte black finish

Verdict
The Nikon Coolpix P7100 is available in India at a street price of Rs. 20,000. This camera is a delight to use for amateurs, professionals, as well as enthusiast level photographers. The ability to tinker around with all the settings allows one to enjoy DSLR-like features on a compact camera. The camera has a really good build quality, neat features and does well in performance area. The price of the camera is pretty competitive as well, making it another reason why this camera would be a worthy option.

Its predecessor, the Nikon P7000 is being sold presently at a street price of just over Rs.19,000, making this an attractive upgrade. This camera is ideal for those who have point and shoot cameras and are looking for a compact camera with more functions. It is a great option for those owning a DSLR, and are wanting a compact camera.

Publish date: November 24, 2011 12:43 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:01 pm

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