A Review: Shooting With the Nikon Coolpix P1000

A Review: Shooting With the Nikon Coolpix P1000

Back in 2018 Nikon released the Coolpix P1000, a super zoom bridge camera with an optical zoom of 125 times. No other camera has this optical zoom range. It could be an alternative for all those part time wildlife shooters. Or perhaps not?

I almost forgot about this camera that hit the market in September 2018, a little over one year ago. Nikon managed to produce a camera with all the zoom you would even need. And some more. Ranging from 24mm wide angle up to a whopping 3000mm super tele. When pointing at the moon, you could almost spot the Apollo 11 standing in the Sea of Tranquility.

Well, to be honest, that is impossible of course, but you do see a lot of details on the surface of the moon when zoomed in to its maximum reach.

The ability to zoom from 24mm wide angle to an amazing 3000mm is something you have to see to believe. From a landscape photo with a tiny moon, up to a moon to large to fit the screen.

The ability to zoom from 24mm wide angle to an amazing 3000mm is something you have to see to believe. From a landscape photo with a tiny moon, up to a moon to large to fit the screen.

This optical zoom is amazing, making things possible that were almost impossible. But is it usable? Well, I found out during the short time I spend with this large compact camera.

An Overview of the Coolpix P1000

The Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a 16 megapixel sensor that measures 1/2.3 inch. The lens ranges from 4.3mm up to 539 mm. If we compare this to a full frame sensor, it is equivalent to 24mm – 3000mm. The aperture varies from a nice f/2.8 to f/8 when zooming in.

The focal length of this lens is 4.3 mm - 539 mm. With the 1/2.3 inch sensor of the Coolpix P1000 this is equivalent to 24mm - 3000mm on a full frame sensor. It comes to the expense of an aperture  that varies between f/2.8 and f/8, among some other thing

The focal length of this lens is 4.3 mm - 539 mm. With the 1/2.3 inch sensor of the Coolpix P1000 this is equivalent to 24mm - 3000mm on a full frame sensor. It comes to the expense of an aperture that varies between f/2.8 and f/8, among some other things.

This f/8 sounds a like a small aperture, but if you take the focal length into account, it isn’t that bad. Nevertheless, you have to realize this when using the camera during darker days, or in twilight. In a lot of occasions you might be in need of a high ISO value to keep a usable shutter speed.

When photographing handheld with a focal length of 3000mm, you should theoretically need a shutter speed of 1/3000 sec to prevent movement. But the Coolpix P1000 has amazing image stabilization that makes it possible to shoot hand held without any problems. The biggest problem I encountered when fully zoomed in, was to keep the subject in the frame. That turned out to be a real challenge.

The balance of the camera changes when you zoom in. The length of the zoom barrel is significant, and you feel a drag of gravity when you keep holding the camera in the same way when zoomed out. In a way, it is less convenient compared to a DSLR with a larger lens, although the Coolpix P1000 does weigh about one and a half kilograms.

The Coolpix P1000 is not a small camera. It has the size of a Canon EOS 7D mark II. But if you would place a similar zoom lens to the DSLR, it probably would be impossible to carry with you, something you can do easily with the P1000

The Coolpix P1000 is not a small camera. It has the size of a Canon EOS 7D mark II. But if you would place a similar zoom lens to the DSLR, it probably would be impossible to carry with you, something you can do easily with the P1000

The Controls of the Coolpix P1000

The Coolpix P1000 is a typical bridge camera, with the size of a medium sized DSLR camera like the Canon EOS 7D mark II. On it, you can find all the controls you would expect from a DSLR, and a wide range of buttons to access the most important settings.

The Coolpix P1000 has the basic controls you can expect on a camera. The menu however, is not that extensive. It is very basic and does not allow much camera tweaking.

The Coolpix P1000 has the basic controls you can expect on a camera. The menu however, is not that extensive. It is very basic and does not allow much camera tweaking.

The camera has a nice tilted screen that can pivot in every direction. There is no touchscreen functionality. The controls next to the screen are well placed and easy to reach. On top you find the different exposure settings and dials.

The menu is very rudimentary. There are not a lot of options to choose from, although it might be enough for this camera. You can make the most important settings. There is a possibility for an auto-ISO setting and although it is not mentioned, I presume it will take the focal length into account. Unfortunately ISO 1600 is the upper limit.

I ignored the communication functions and 4K film functions, and concentrated on photography. I used the auto ISO function, placed the camera in aperture priority, and chose to shoot raw images. I imagine most users would operate the camera in this, or a similar way.

Real Life Use of the Coolpix P1000

Besides shooting the example of the zoom capabilities, as shown with the photos of the moon, I went for a walk during morning twilight.  I knew it would require some higher ISO values, since I did not bring a tripod with me. I hoped that wouldn't be a problem, but unfortunately the performance of the Coolpix P1000 wasn’t as good as I expected. During twilight the camera used the maximum ISO value, which produced a lot of noise. Even with a post processing on the raw files, the noise levels were unacceptable at ISO 1600. The result can be seen in the before-after example below. You can switch between the original, and the post-processed image with a lot of noise reduction applied in post.

A panorama of three individual shots during twilight. This image size shows not much noise, but zoomed in it will be visible. This one is shot in raw, and processed in Lightroom. (3x 24mm (FF equivalent) - ISO720 - f/8 - 1/125 with -0,7EV)

A panorama of three individual shots during twilight. This image size shows not much noise, but zoomed in it will be visible. This one is shot in raw, and processed in Lightroom. (3x 24mm (FF equivalent) - ISO720 - f/8 - 1/125 with -0,7EV)

An hour after sunrise I stumbled upon some kingfishers at a nearby creek. I was excited to have a optical zoom range of 24-3000 mm available, making it possible to take pictures of these small birds from a nice distance. But unfortunately the quality of the photos turned out to be… well, I have to say unusable. There is a lack of detail due to the unacceptable noise levels, even though I shot raw photos.

Two kingfisher birds at a creek nearby. Shot from a large distance using the maximum optical zoom capabilities of the Coolpix P1000. Unfortunately the high ISO level is ruining the quality. (3000mm (FF equivalent) - ISO1600 - f/8 - 1/100)

Two kingfisher birds at a creek nearby. Shot from a large distance using the maximum optical zoom capabilities of the Coolpix P1000. Unfortunately the high ISO level is ruining the quality. (3000mm (FF equivalent) - ISO1600 - f/8 - 1/100)

Another kingfisher shot at 3000 mm optical zoom. The image is not cropped during post processing. The zoom capabilites are amazing. The quality is not. (3000mm (FF equivalent) - ISO1600 - f/8 - 1/100)

Another kingfisher shot at 3000 mm optical zoom. The image is not cropped during post processing. The zoom capabilites are amazing. The quality is not. (3000mm (FF equivalent) - ISO1600 - f/8 - 1/100)

It turned out the camera had used the highest possible ISO level, which is ISO 1600. The results are not even good enough for social media purposes. 

When used with a lower ISO level, the result is reasonable, but not very good. Having seen the results, I decided to stop using the camera because it did produce the quality I want in my photos.

Conclusion

I was excited to use this camera for a while. And I was even more excited to stumble upon a pair of kingfishers, while having this enormous zoom lens available. It is something that you cannot find in a DSLR or ML camera.

I once used a Canon EF 800 mm f/5,6L, which is almost the maximum available for a relatively reasonable price. Even this monster of a lens does not come close to the focal length you have with the Coolpix P1000.

An alternative for the Coolpix P1000 is a large professional tele lens, like the Canon EF 800mm. But even with tele converters it is impossible to reach the focal length of the P1000. And the P1000 is much easier to carry with you.

An alternative for the Coolpix P1000 is a large professional tele lens, like the Canon EF 800mm. But even with tele converters it is impossible to reach the focal length of the P1000. And the P1000 is much easier to carry with you.

But be aware, the zoom range of the P1000 comes with a price: the results are not that great.

I know, it is the sensor size, together with the high ISO values I used for these photos, that is the big issue. At first I was surprised the camera has ISO 1600 as a limit, but now I know this is even beyond usable.

But the small sensor is necessary to reach the 3000mm focal length (full frame equivalent). And that is what this camera is about, to have the largest zoom range in the world; to break a record.

I guess Nikon made this camera to break records, and not for the image quality. Shooting with this camera is limited to lower ISO values if you want an acceptable result.

I guess Nikon made this camera to break records, and not for the image quality. Shooting with this camera is limited to lower ISO values if you want an acceptable result.

The Coolpix P1000 is a somewhat strange camera. It allows you to take pictures with a focal length that is nearly impossible for a full frame camera, while keeping it portable. But it will never replace any super zoom lens on a DSLR or ML camera. So I guess it is a camera for the enthusiastic photographer that wants to be able to zoom in a lot. On the other hand, the prize may not that attractive for those enthusiasts, especially with the lack of image quality I have seen.

An industrial sunrise. This image allows a base ISO level. Therefor the quality is reasonable. (345mm (FF equivalent) - ISO100 - f/8 - 1/2500)

An industrial sunrise. This image allows a base ISO level. Therefor the quality is reasonable. (345mm (FF equivalent) - ISO100 - f/8 - 1/2500)

What I Liked

  • Amazing optical zoom range
  • A programmable zoom switch on the side of the lens barrel
  • Relatively small and light weight
  • Shoots raw images
  • 4K video (although not tried out)
  • Titled screen
  • Very good and usable image stabilization

What I Did Not Like

  • Image quality is disappointing
  • A lot of noise with ISO 400 and higher
  • ISO 1600 is nearly unusable
  • Not a lot of menu settings available (although perhaps enough for this camera)

A cormorant up close. This is possible thanks to the large focal length. Unfortunately the high ISO value is degrading the quality too much. (3000 mm (FF equivalent) - ISO800 - f/8 - 1/125)

A cormorant up close. This is possible thanks to the large focal length. Unfortunately the high ISO value is degrading the quality too much. (3000 mm (FF equivalent) - ISO800 - f/8 - 1/125)

What do you think of this camera? Would you consider using it for its zoom capabilities, despite the quality? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please let me know in the comments below.

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37 Comments

Dave Carhart's picture

I agree 100% with your opinion in this review. I wished I had read it before buying the p1000 instead of the ones not wanting to anger the Nikon gods.. Great spotting scope, horrible camera. Fortunately Best Buy gave me a 100% refund on the return and I used it towards a Canon 100-400 zoom. even with cropping I get better IQ,

Nando Harmsen's picture

It is fun using, and the focal range is amazing. ;)

Arthur Strauss's picture

Every camera has pluses/minuses including cost of the camera/accessories. I’ve had the P1000 for over a year now and find it very functional for what I use it for - birding/wildlife (including macro for insects). I avoid low light situations because of the sensor size and would purchase/rent a Nikon D5 or equivalent if I were going after flying targets. Good review of the basics, though.

Nando Harmsen's picture

If I buy a camera for $1000 I want it to perform also in less ideal light. Some noise is no problem but the image quality is worse than I would expect from a camera that is about one year old. I wish it was different because it can be a very valuable type of camera for many

Carl Crumley's picture

I've had the camera for over a year and I agree completely with Mr. Harmsen's review. I have found, however, that it makes a wonderful camera for shooting video of solar and lunar transits of the International Space Station. Those transits are often only a fraction of a second so video is the only practical solution to capturing them. At 30 FPS and a fast shutter speed the video I capture results in 15 to 20 still images of a transit by using a fast shutter speed. Other than this rather obscure use the camera is pretty much useless.

Nando Harmsen's picture

What a great result. What kind of filter did you use to dim the sun light?

Richard Feynman's picture

SKIP TO END if you just want to see some shots close to 125X zoom taken *handheld* on a *so-so lit* day. Anyone who wants to see much better examples, head over to the Nikon Coolix forum at DPReview.

This camera is pure fun and nothing short of a miracle product for anyone who actually buys it for its correct purpose - taking zoom photos one can otherwise only dream of, and not trying to do it at twilight!

Are the pics DSLR quality? Of course not! Now tell me what camera/lens combo under $20,000 could even take those photographs?

I don't mind a camera I like being criticized, what I do mind is the seeming obsession reviewers have with reviewing products for uses they are not intended for, and in the process misleading buyers by throwing ridiculous criticisms at them. Instead, tell people what a product should and should not be used for.

To make matters worse, the reviewer does not show one single example of the camera operating within its optimal range.

"I went for a walk during morning twilight. I knew it would require some higher ISO values, since I did not bring a tripod with me. I hoped that wouldn't be a problem, but unfortunately the performance of the Coolpix P1000 wasn’t as good as I expected."

You went for a walk at twilight with a camera with a 1/2.3 inch sensor and 3000MM zoom and no tripod and you thought you were going to get good photographs? Are you planning on reviewing a camera next month with a 24MM lens and criticizing it because it doesn't do good moon photos :-p?

Is there a reason you didn't take a single photo in the ISO range that any moderately knowledgeable photographer knows this camera should be used at? This doesn't just apply to this camera, but any high zoom camera using a 1/2.3 sensor. Try taking some photos with a Canon SX70 that has a comparatively modest zoom of 65X at twilight and see what happens.

"An alternative for the Coolpix P1000 is a large professional tele lens, like the Canon EF 800mm."

I don't think a $13,000 lens that weights 10 pounds and is a little shy of the size of a shoulder launch missile is an alternative :-p.

Here is a real and unbiased list of pros and cons from an owner for anyone interested in this camera.

Pros:
- There is no regular camera that can shoot anywhere close to the zoom levels of the P1000. To approach these zoom levels you'd be spending $20,000 on a DSLR with a 10 pound lens.
- Amazing photo quality across the range for a $1000 125x zoom camera. All your non-photographer friends will be amazed.
- You'll be able to capture high quality photos of birds and animals at distances you wouldn't otherwise even be able to capture. That means a good image vs *no* image!
- Some fun night modes that allow for surprisingly interesting captures in areas such as large cities with street lights. This however, requires one to actually learn how to use the camera.

Cons:
- Meant to be used in daylight, the brighter the better. Don't expect great images on overcast days.
- Amazing photo quality for a $1000 125x zoom camera, but don't expect the same quality you'd get from a larger sensor camera. If you want only the *best* image for your dollar, this camera is *not* for you.
- Not a light weight camera.

Summary:
- ALL cameras involve TRADEOFFS. The question is what do you want to accomplish? What will make shooting fun for you? If you want to be able to take great photos in daylight, and capture birds and animals or other long distance scenes at zoom levels no other camera can approach, this camera is for you. If you want to be able to take photos in dark light, or want only the best image quality possible for your dollar, or want a lightweight camera, or want some zoom but IQ is more important than zoom, this camera is not for you. I own this camera for its intended use and love it.

I suspect most people who own this camera also own another camera for other occasions. I also own a NIkon Z6 which is obviously a much better camera for sheer IQ. That doesn't stop me from having a ball with this camera, because I bought it for its intended use.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Your comment brings a smile to my face. I think you did not completely understand the things I said. But I am happy you are very content with the camera.
For me, I rather spend $3000 for 1000mm focal length and a reasonable quality, than $1000 for 3000mm focal length and the limitations this camera offers.

Richard Feynman's picture

"For me, I rather spend $3000 for 1000mm focal length and a reasonable quality, than $1000 for 3000mm focal length and the limitations this camera offers."

As I said, even a person spending $1000 for whom IQ is the top priority should not buy this camera. I judge the camera for its intended use. You review it for an unintended use.

There is nothing wrong at all with taking some twilight photos to show how its performance suffers in that area. But that you refuse to take a single photograph in sunlight showing what it can do makes one wonder why you even bothered to review the camera?

Nando Harmsen's picture

I did also shot images in sunlight and yes, they are better in quality, I did not show these images, and that may be a mistake at my part indeed.
Nevertheless, a 2018 camera like this should perform better at ISO400 or ISO800 at least, especially with the focal length and aperture in mind. It will limit the use for sunny days only, because when there is overcast, it will need at least that ISO levels to freeze the movement of birds.

If the camera is only for "that intended use", as you said, it is a very limiting camera indeed.

Richard Feynman's picture

"Nevertheless, a 2018 camera like this should perform better at ISO400 or ISO800 at least"

Then it would no longer be P1000 for $1000, it would be a P10000 for $10,000. The only way to accomplish better low light performance is to use a larger sensor which would require such a massive lens it would be impractical and much more costly.

Augustin Man's picture

There is nothing wrong with the camera, if the shooter understands what implies an enormous FL and subsequently a tiny sensor. For instance here is an example of faraway shooting by night (2km distance on Google Maps). The Catholic Cathedral is on the center of the image. Of course it implies a very low SS (15s) and tripod; there is no other way to get such an image at affordable price.

Nando Harmsen's picture

True... if you can keep your ISO level as low as possible, there is not a problem.
I agree, this cannot be accomplished with any other affordable camera.

Yury Hushchyn's picture

I would rather agree with Richard Feynman on usability/purpose of P1000 than with the author of this review. P1000 is a kind of thing love-it-or-hate-it. There is nothing in between.

I do primarily two kinds of photography - sports (photographing kiteboarders in action) and shipspotting. Both genres involve shooting at very extreme zooms. I have three setups that serve this purpose - Fujifilm X-T3 with Sigma 60-600mm using Fringer EF-FX II Pro adapter, Fujifilm X-T30 with native Fujinon 100-400mm, and Nikon P1000, so I did multiple comparisons of all three for myself (never published, and have no plans doing so). Review is 100% correct on the fact that P1000 is crap when it comes to low light situations, but that is absolutely expected for this kind of sensor, zoom and F/8 aperture. But when it comes to normal or bright light, P1000 is definitely on par with my other two way more expensive setups: at everything longer than 1200mm it easily beats both Sigma 60-600mm (becoming 900mm on X-T3) and Fujinon 100-400mm with 2X teleconverter (which becomes F/11 at magnified 800mm), outperforming heavy crop required to achieve similar composition. At distances I photohraph ships atmospheric distortions and haze make all lenses, cameras and sensors virtually equal, so one with longer lens simply wins by allowing downscaling rather cropping.

As a result, I always carry P1000 alongside with my primary setups - it allows me to capture most interesting moments if something unique happens far away, such as pilots boarding big ships in tricky conditions, or complicated ship-to-ship transfer operations.

You simply MUST use good tripod to get good results (photos of my setup attached). And in good light it is more than capable of capturing reasonably good images.

Yes, quality of these images are not suitable for prints, but it serves its purpose of delivering unique content for your social media presence reqlly really well, not mentioning it is just great alternative for a scope or binoculars.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Unfortunately a good tripod won't make the quality of the images better. Sure, you would get less risk of unsharp images due to the focal length, but the image stabilisation of this camera is amazing. I had no trouble shooting sharp images with 3000mm, Unfortunately it will only produce reasonable results in good light situations.

Yury Hushchyn's picture

Yes, very true. Low light performance is just terrible.

Augustin Man's picture

I'm sorry to say the author doesn't know how to shoot with that kind of cameras. Here is another kingfisher at 3000mm, unfortunately not mine:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/62330549

I'm attaching here also one of my images, also at 3000mm, of a sparrow in golden hour light, handheld, SOOC.

Happy shooting everyone!

Nando Harmsen's picture

Well, I guess you won't believe me if I told you I have some experience with these kind camera's (and a lot of other cameras)
The quality with ISO1600 tells me enough. And if I could shoot that little bird with ISO100 I am sure the quality will be better.
Unfortunately real world situations are not alway ideal, and I would ask of my camera to perform also well under those less ideal situations.

Mark Harris's picture

Oh no Nando Harmsen, you made a BIG mistake. The P1000 fanboys are almost as sensitive about their P1000 camera as the m43 fanboys.
They cannot accept that what you are saying is exactly right. The results of the camera due to the tiny sensor and diffraction hitting fast as hit the longer focal range, is a FACT. They like to feel is a great all in one camera when is NOT.
Is it fun, sure it can be fun to get that reach but is the IQ good...hell no is not good unless all you plan to do is post IG photos in decent to good light.
You called it as it is but "they" dont like to read that.

Yury Hushchyn's picture

Re-reading entire thread and trying to figure out who and when said here P1000 is a great all in one camera? People reasonably note it is good for certain use cases, and crap for others. Just as any other camera out there. So specific tool for specific job. And P1000 does SOME types of job surprisingly well, and others terribly bad. Where is fanboyism here?

Richard Feynman's picture

"Re-reading entire thread and trying to figure out who and when said here P1000 is a great all in one camera?" Exactly Yury, no one did. He just made it up. I have not see any fanbois here. Both you and I gave accurate representations of what it can and can't do.

Michael Dougherty's picture

Personally. I think my P1000 is not very good camera but it can capture some still motion images in bright light that you are simply not going to get with other equipment ... and that's what is is for. BTW, the macro mode produces better images than is should. Under 2500mm, the sharpness is very reasonable on static subjects but it does require proper technique. Use a cheap tripod to help with the longer shots.

Nando Harmsen's picture

True. It can do things no other camera can do, in very limited situations unfortunately. A tripod can help with holding it still, but the image stabilisation works amazingly well.

Richard Feynman's picture

I personally don't consider sunlight a "very limited situation". Other legitimately may. If there is not good sunlight, I'm using a different camera.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Limited in this way: it is not always sunny ;)
But the price of this camera does not allow to have it just for optimal situations. And it is not a camera to put inside the camera bag for just in case.
:)

Michael Dougherty's picture

Nando .... I was in Kachemak Bay Alaska last March photographing Eagles mostly with a D850 with battery pack and Tamron 150-600 G2 and actually threw a P1000 in my camera bag just in case. I'm sure I am the exception.

http://thephotoexperience.com/TPE/110-LOCATIONS/19-kachemak-eagles/00-lo...

Nando Harmsen's picture

These small size images makes it difficult to judge the quality, but it looks good in first glance.

Nando Harmsen's picture

hahaha - indeed. But I am happy those P1000 fanboys are content with their camera. They don't have to agree with me, of course.

Michael Dougherty's picture

The last time I was in Yellowstone, I saw some wolves very far away. Absolutely useless image with my 100-400. Should of had my P1000. Maybe not gallery quality but at least I would have had a nice image of some wolves.

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