2) Frame Rates and Shooting Speed
At full resolution, the P900 can shoot 7fps and you get a 7-frame burst before the buffer fills. It takes 4 – 4.5 seconds for the buffer to clear. All the while your viewfinder or LCD will just show a preview of the last frame shot so you lose sight of your subject for those precious seconds. Many times I waited for the buffer to clear, only to discover my subject was no longer to be seen or had just finished some interesting behavior I missed because of the P900s limitations.
The buffer increases to 60 shots for the 60fps and 120fps burst rates, but image size is reduced to achieve this, 1920×1080 for 60fps and 640×480 for 120fps.
This Grackle was doing some acrobatics to hang on to this branch in high wind. 60 fps allowed me the option to grab a frame at the height of action.
The Pre-shooting Cache is one feature I was very eager to check out. Anticipating wildlife action can be tricky at best – I have tons of shots of bird butts just leaving the frame when the lag between my brain to my finger to the completion of the shutter button depression was just too long. The Pre-shooting Cache starts recording frames at 15 fps when you depress the shutter release halfway to focus, but before you actually click the shutter. You can hold the shutter button halfway as long as you want and the P900 continuously records frames and tosses out all but the last five frames until you click the shutter. At that point the P900 saves the five frames recorded in the 1/3rd second before you clicked the button. You can keep shooting up to 20 frames total before the buffer fills, then of course you wait for the buffer to clear.
My reflexes were a bit too slow to capture the moment this raven hopped, but thanks to the Pre-shooting Cache, I ended up with the shot. This works amazing except for one thing – image size is reduced to 1280×960. Of course this is all just a function of processer speed and buffer capacity. When camera manufacturers deem it in our best interest, they will give us that capability. Note that this will not work with cameras using mirrors and focal plane shutters. However, I see no reason this couldn’t be implemented in Live View on a DSLR. Hey, Nikon could include it as one of the additional features they’ll offer in the I Am Advancing firmware update program. Oops, I forgot – I Was A Hoax.
To me, the biggest shortcoming of the P900 is its shutter lag. At the wide end it’s reasonably quick, but when shooting telephoto, the lag is a whopping 3/4ths of a second. For sports or wildlife this is a no go. The only workaround is the pre-shooting cache, but this reduces file size so much that it’s unsuitable for outputs bigger than web use.
AF performance is fast, but at longer focal lengths this is offset by the P900’s protracted shutter lag. Unless it’s recognizing faces, the P900 usually grabs the nearest object in the focus pattern to focus on. If you’re trying to shoot a deer hiding behind some branches the P900 will get fooled by the branches. Three work-arounds to this – try finding an object at the same distance as the deer to lock focus on, then recompose, lock focus on the branches and move closer until the deer is in focus, or resort to manual focus. Like most manual operations with the P900, manual focus is a tedious procedure. If your subject is not going anywhere and you have plenty of time you can take advantage of focus peaking. Focus peaking takes areas of crisp micro-contrast in the composition and highlights them in white, indicating those are in focus. This is an awesome feature I wish was enabled in live view on Nikon’s DSLRs.