With its crazy 125x optical zoom (24-3000mm full-frame equivalent), a 16 MP BSI CMOS sensor, 7 FPS continuous shooting speed and 4K video recording capabilities, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is a very unique camera that has no real competitors. Its closest rival is its predecessor, the Coolpix P900, which offers inferior zoom range, no RAW shooting capability, inferior electronic viewfinder, and it is limited to full HD video. This makes the P1000 possibly the most feature-rich superzoom the world has ever seen.
If you use a long enough lens and shoot the sea horizon, you will be able to see ships many miles away in their entirety, which proves that the Earth is flat. This is one of the arguments of “flat-Earthers”, a group of people who believe that the Earth is flat, that we never made it to the Moon, and that NASA is just a money-wasting machine. The Nikon Coolpix P900 and P1000 are their favorite cameras, because they can see further than “we are supposed to be able to see”…whatever the heck that means.
Anyway, where was I? Ah, the Nikon Coolpix P1000, the camera with an impressive 24-3000mm zoom range. 3000mm is no joke – it would seem like an ultimate camera for photographing distant subjects. But the reality is, with its tiny 1/2.3” sensor, it is more like a super telephoto lens attached to a smartphone. The actual focal length of the lens is 4.5-539mm, so it is primarily the crop factor of 5.6x that gets the lens to equivalent focal length of 3000mm in 35mm format.
As long as one does not look at the P1000 as a “do it all” camera, but more of a specialized tool to get as close to a subject as possible, it shows tremendous value. What else can get you to 3000mm equivalent field of view? A Nikon D500 coupled with an 800mm f/5.6 lens and a 2x teleconverter will weigh close to 6 kilos, cost you a little under $20K, and will only give you a 2400mm f/11 equivalent setup. To properly stabilize the gear, you will need a high-end tripod and a head, which will cost another $1K+ on top of that. And it won’t be sharp at f/11, so you will need to stop it down to at least f/13 to get anything “usable” at pixel level. That’s a lot of money to pay for a monstrous configuration that provides questionable results. In comparison, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 goes for under $1K and weighs mere 1.4 kilos. See where I am going with this?
1. Nikon Coolpix P1000 Specifications
Let’s take a look at the key specifications of the Nikon Coolpix P1000:
- Image Sensor: 16 MP 1/2.3” BSI CMOS Sensor
- ISO Range: 100-6400
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Processor: EXPEED
- Lens Focal Length: 4.5-539mm
- Equivalent Focal Length in 35mm Format: 24-3000mm
- Vibration Reduction: Yes, Up to 5 Stops
- Focal Range: 30.48 cm to Infinity (Wide), 7.01 m to Infinity (Telephoto)
- Optical Design: 17 Elements in 12 Groups
- Lens Filter Size: 77mm
- Continuous Shooting Speed: Up to 7 FPS
- Rear Screen: 3.2” tilt/flip LCD with 921,000 Dots
- EVF: 2.35 Million Dot, 100% Coverage
- Video: Up to 4K Video @ 25p/29.97p
- Memory Card Slot: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC
- WiFi and GPS: Yes
- Battery: EN-EL20a
- Battery Life: Up to 250 Shots
- Dimensions: 146.3 x 118.8 x 181.3mm
- Weight: 1415 g (Camera body, battery and memory card)
2. Build Quality and Ergonomics
The build quality of the Coolpix P1000 is quite good, in-line with what one would expect from a high-quality Nikon camera. The camera body is mostly plastic, including the bulky lens barrel. As long as you don’t drop the camera, it should be able to handle plenty of normal use in the field.
In regards to ergonomics, Nikon has mostly done a great job. The grip is covered with soft rubber, similar to what we see on Nikon’s high-end cameras. It feels deep, secure and comfortable, even for larger hands. The shutter release is where it should be, while the On/Off switch has been moved to a dedicated button on top of the camera. Although there is an up/down switch on the left side of the lens barrel for zooming in and out, Nikon also provided the same functionality on the shutter release dial. This way, you can move it clock-wise to zoom in and counter clock-wise to zoom out.
The top of the camera has a large PASM dial with plenty of options, including specific scene modes like Scene Auto, Moon Mode, Bird Watching mode, etc. To the right of it, there is a smaller dial that you can use to adjust specific settings. I set up mine to adjust Aperture when shooting in Aperture Priority Mode (done via Menu -> Setup -> Toggle Av/Tv selection) – the default behavior is to rotate the dial on the back of the camera.
The lens barrel has a single ring called “Control ring” that can be used for adjusting focus when shooting in manual focus mode, or when shooting in autofocus mode, it can be programmed to adjust things like Exposure Compensation, ISO or White Balance (Menu -> Setup -> Control ring options). To the left of the lens barrel you will find a “Snap-back zoom” button used to quickly zoom out of the scene and zoom back in to help with the framing. Right next to it, there is a large up / down switch that by default is used for zooming in / out, but you can also set it up to adjust focus when shooting in manual focus mode.
The back of the camera is designed quite well, with an intuitive rotary dial and four buttons to the top and the bottom of the dial. The rotary dial has a four way button layout as well, so that you can quickly adjust things like exposure compensation, self-timer, etc. Right above those is a dedicated video recording button, which is conveniently located to be able to quickly capture video footage with your thumb. The last two buttons are to the right of the EVF. The first button is used to switch between the EVF and the LCD, while the AEL-AFL button can be used for locking the exposure / focus, as well as for switching between autofocus and manual focus. Sadly, the Coolpix P1000 cannot be set up for back-button focusing using the AEL-AFL button. The only solution that somewhat provides this functionality, is to switch to manual focus, then use one of the buttons on the rotary dial to autofocus. It is not convenient by any means though.
The EVF on the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is very good. It has a lot more resolution compared to the P900 (2.36 Million Dots vs 921K Dots) and it feels brighter in comparison. It is not as good as the EVF on the Nikon Z-series cameras – it feels quite digitized and noisy in low light, but that’s expected, considering that the image is coming from a tiny sensor. I like that Nikon engineers pushed the EVF away from the camera body, so that you don’t end up squishing your nose on the rear LCD.
Speaking of the LCD, it is quite large at 3.2” and it has plenty of pixels (921K dots) to make images and the menu look great, without any pixelation. I love the fact that the LCD screen is fully articulated – you can flip it to the side and rotate it from front to back, to be able to capture any subject at any angle.
Similar to some other Nikon cameras, the SD memory card slot is located inside the battery chamber. The tripod socket is placed parallel to the center of the lens barrel, making it easy to attach tripod plates.
The menu system of the camera is somewhat limited compared to Nikon’s advanced DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but that’s a good thing, considering that it is a point-and-shoot aimed primarily at beginners and enthusiasts.
Overall, Nikon did a great job with the ergonomics of the P1000. Aside from the inability to program the AEL-AFL button for back-button focusing, I really don’t have any other complaints.
3. Lens Performance
As you may already know, superzoom lenses are a big gamble when it comes to their optical performance, as it is not easy to optically design a sharp lens with such a large focal length range. Making sure that each sample performs well is not easy either, so you will naturally have some that are sharper than others at different focal lengths. My particular sample performed quite well optically in its mid-range – it seemed to be somewhat weak on the wide end, and when zoomed in all the way to 3000mm, it was not particularly sharp either, especially in the corners. But from around 105mm to 1600mm, it showed excellent sharpness at maximum aperture.
Another thing to keep in mind is the effects of atmospheric particles on sharpness at long focal lengths. Heat waves, haze, moisture and other elements in the air can cause a lot of damage to images and reduce the perception of sharpness in images. I struggled with that quite a bit at 3000mm when shooting the moon – atmospheric haze was a huge problem, in addition to the shaky nature of such long focal lengths. I document my experience shooting the moon further down in the review.
I encountered similar struggles when photographing wildlife at 2000mm and above. Although the P1000 feels quicker to focus than the P900, it hunts quite often in less than stellar light, and it is not a great choice for fast-moving birds. Perched birds are not a problem, but if a bird is constantly on the move and you need to refocus, operating the camera can get frustrating pretty quickly.
Still, once you nail focus, the P1000 can be a great tool for watching and tracking wildlife (there is even a dedicated “bird watching” mode on the camera), provided that you don’t have a lot of heat waves to battle with. I personally love the ability to shoot 4K video at long focal lengths, which I discuss below.
Here is a table of maximum apertures and focal lengths of the P1000:
|Aperture||Focal Length Range|
As you can see, the lens loses a lot of light as you zoom in. This is something you have to keep in mind when shooting in the field – you will need a lot of light in order to take sharp images at long focal lengths, especially anything beyond 1600mm. Shutter speed drops fairly quickly at long focal lengths, so you will need to balance shutter speed and ISO quite a bit to get images without camera shake / motion blur, with the least amount of noise possible.
4. Vibration Reduction Performance
Similar to the P900, the Coolpix P1000 comes with optical vibration reduction (VR), which is supposed to provide up to 5 stops of compensation. While I cannot say that I was able to get 5 stops of compensation, VR worked quite well for me, especially when hand-holding the camera. To be honest, I cannot imagine not having VR when using such long focal lengths – even finding a subject in the frame can get difficult.
When using a tripod, I tried shooting with both VR enabled and disabled. I found that keeping VR enabled helped when using a shaky tripod, or when it got a bit windy. However, when it was absolutely stable and when I was using a self-timer, turning off VR gave me sharper results. Your mileage might vary, but I have to warn you – turning off VR and trying to adjust the tripod can get really difficult above 2000mm, because everything gets extremely shaky.
5. Autofocus Performance
The autofocus performance of the P1000 is similar to that of P900 – it is not great, especially when compared to a modern DSLR or a mirrorless camera. Although the focus motor seems to be fast, and the camera snaps into focus fairly quickly when there is plenty of light and contrast, it tends to lose focus and hunt quite a bit, especially at longer focal lengths. Tracking subjects is difficult, so if you have wildlife that constantly moves, using the P1000 can get very frustrating. The camera also gets easily fooled by things in front and behind the subject. I have tried tracking a bird on a tree with a bunch of branches, and the camera kept on focusing on everything but the bird, making it tough to keep it in focus.
Where the P1000 shines, is if you have a very clear view of the subject, and there is plenty of ambient light. In such conditions, it does a great job at keeping the subject in focus.
6. Frame Rates and Shooting Speed
Similar to the P900, the P1000 can shoot up to 7 FPS, and its buffer is limited to just 7 frames. Once the buffer fills up, the camera just stops shooting. The good news is, you can just restart the process and shoot more. I did this 3-4 times before the buffer really filled up – that’s when I got rotating squares on the screen, indicating that the camera is busy. After 5-6 seconds, the camera would come back to live view and allow me to start over. That’s not bad, but certainly far worse than a good wildlife camera like the Nikon D500, which has a huge buffer and can shoot many more frames in comparison.
7. Image Quality
As I have already pointed out, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a tiny 1/2.3” sensor, similar to what you would find on some smartphone cameras. This means that we can expect similar image quality as what we can get from a modern smartphone and other small sensor point-and-shoot cameras. Both P900 and P1000 have identical sensor sizes and sensor resolution, so there is not much difference in image quality between the two.
Unfortunately, the 1/2.3” sensor is not a great choice in terms of high ISO and dynamic range performance. Cramming so many megapixels in such a tiny sensor certainly has its drawbacks, and it really shows in images.
In fact, when shooting at short focal lengths below 50mm, I really see no benefit of using the P1000 – you are going to be better off using your smartphone. Why? Because smartphones are equipped with very powerful processors that can handle a lot of computational photography, so they can yield images that are sharper, less noisy and capture far more dynamic range.
For example, some modern smartphones can capture a series of images, then use an averaging technique to reduce noise in the resulting image. They can also capture multiple images at different exposures, then seamlessly blend them to create a single composite. In addition, they can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to create images, something the P1000 and other modern digital cameras were never designed to do.
To me, this brings up an important point – I think Nikon should make future generations of its Coolpix cameras more specialized, only focusing on their telephoto performance. What is the point of shooting at 24mm, if your smartphone can take a much nicer and cleaner image? Considering that it is difficult to design lenses that can span both wide and telephoto ranges, I think Nikon would be able to make its next-generation point-and-shoot smaller, lighter and potentially superior in optical performance. I would rather have a sharp 100-2000mm lens, than an average 24-3000mm one…
In terms of ISO range, the P1000 does fairly well up to ISO 400, sometimes even 800 – anything above that looks like trash. In fact, I tried to keep my ISO at 100 whenever possible, because even base ISO showed its limitations when trying to recover highlight or shadow detail in post (I only shot in RAW). A better technique would be to switch the camera to continuous shooting mode, and shoot a burst of images, then bring them all to Photoshop and average them out – this will significantly reduce noise and increase overall sharpness. However, this technique only works well when shooting from a tripod, and when there is no wind or subject movement, so its use is quite limiting.
One of the biggest differences between the P1000 and P900, is that the former can shoot RAW. This is enough of a difference for many to consider choosing the P1000 over the P900. With the P900, you have to make sure to nail white balance each time, and you are at the mercy of 8-bit JPEG images. This is no longer a problem with the P1000, since you can always shoot auto white balance, and there is more legroom with recovering shadows and details in RAW files.
8. 4K Video Shooting
While the Coolpix P900 was limited to Full HD video resolution, the P1000 is able to record high-quality 4K UHD video at 3840×2160 resolution in H.264 / MPEG-4 format, which is impressive. The camera has an HDMI port to output video to an external monitor or recorder, and even has a microphone port to record external audio. Take a look at this sample video from Nikon, which shows what a close-up of a lion’s face looks like at 3000mm. I don’t do much video, but after looking at this footage, I think the P1000 would be a better candidate for 4K video at 3000mm than stills!
9. Battery Life
Although Nikon states that the P1000 is capable of only yielding 250 images from a single charge, I was easily able to surpass this number when shooting in the field. Keep in mind that CIPA numbers are calculated based on usage of LCD, EVF and flash, so if you do not use flash at all, minimize the use of EVF and LCD, you will get a lot more images than stated by Nikon.
10. Shooting the Moon
One of the reasons for wanting to get a camera like the Coolpix P1000, is to be able to capture distant subjects in great detail. The moon is a perfect subject for the P1000, because you can literally fill the frame with the Moon! In fact, if you zoom beyond 2000mm at full Moon, it will be larger than the frame, so you will only be able to capture parts of it.
The Coolpix P1000 has a dedicated “Moon Shot Mode”, which is something you can access on the PASM dial. Once you switch to this mode, you can simply align the brackets over the moon, push “OK” and the camera will automatically zoom 1000mm (default behavior). If that’s not enough, you can change the value from 1000mm to 2000mm, 2400mm or 3000mm through the camera’s menu (Menu -> Moon Shot Mode -> Focal length selection). The Moon Shot Mode also automatically enables a 3-second self-timer, so that you don’t end up with a blurry image due to camera shake.
While the Moon Shot Mode seems to be quite helpful, it does have one big negative – it switches image recording to JPEG shooting, and there is no way to switch back to RAW through the menu, unless you switch away from the scene mode into one of the PASM or Auto modes. This is a major oversight on behalf of Nikon, and seems to be more of a bug / oversight, than a planned feature. I hope Nikon addresses this via a firmware update in the future, although considering how long the P1000 has been out, I don’t have much faith in it ever happening.
For this reason alone, I only photographed the moon in Aperture Priority and Manual modes, as I did not want to resort to JPEG.
Without a doubt, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is a very unique offering that has no real competition today. With its insane 24-3000mm equivalent zoom range, it is a truly versatile superzoom camera. Bird watchers will love this camera, because they can get a close-up image or a video of their subject without disturbing it. They don’t have to carry and set up large and heavy gear, and best of all, they can do it for under a thousand dollars!
However, the camera has its list of flaws. To be able to achieve such an enormous zoom range, Nikon had to stick a tiny 1/2.3” sensor into the P1000, which obviously limits its potential in terms of ISO and dynamic range performance. Even when shooting at base ISO in RAW format, one can easily see noise patterns, especially when shadows are recovered. Some of the detail looks quite mushy, partly because of the small sensor, and partly because the 24-3000m lens is far from being perfect – something we can expect from such a superzoom. My sample didn’t do well on the wide end, as well as the long end in terms of sharpness, particularly outside the center frame. While it might not matter for shooting most subjects that will be centered anyway, it is something you have to always keep in mind. I personally found my iPhone to yield much better results on the wide-end, which is disappointing for the P1000, considering how big and heavy it is in comparison. As I have pointed out in this review, Nikon should take that into account and potentially do away with wide focal lengths, specializing only on long range telephoto – something smartphones cannot really compete with at the moment.
In addition to image quality concerns, the camera is very slow to focus and track subjects. I tried to do some wildlife photography with the P1000 and I gave up rather quickly, as it was a very frustrating process to constantly keep moving subjects in focus. The camera would front and back focus, hunt, and sometimes completely fail to acquire focus, especially at anything longer than 2000mm. This is not very welcoming news for wildlife photographers, who need their cameras to constantly keep up with fast movements and erratic animal behavior.
However, these are all normal concerns on a camera like this – it would be extremely difficult to make something that is drastically better without completely overhauling the camera and making it more like a smartphone. Still, there is a lot to like about the P1000, especially when compared to its predecessor.
With the added range, ability to shoot RAW, 4K video shooting and a few other enhancements, the Coolpix P1000 has a number of advantages to put it ahead of the P900. Sadly, Nikon put a $300 price premium on the P1000 upon its release, which makes it tough to choose for those who are on a tight budget. Currently, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is selling for $999, while the P900 has been discounted to $499 thanks to the $100 instant rebate. One has to wonder if the P1000 is truly worth twice the price premium. I guess I will leave that up to you to decide…
10) Where to Buy
As usual, you can buy the Nikon P1000 from our trusted partner, B&H Photo Video, using this link.
Nikon Coolpix P1000
- Optical Performance
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Battery Life
- Image Quality
- High ISO Performance
- Size and Weight
- Metering and Exposure
- Movie Recording Features
- Dynamic Range
Photography Life Overall Rating