We get hands-on with the incredible Coolpix Nikon P1000 megazoom and its all-seeing lens
The press release for the P1000 made for entertaining reading. A fixed lens bridge camera with 125x optical zoom, equating to 24-3000mm in 35mm terms? “Tell me more!” Weight: 1.42kg, Length: 181mm. “Yikes, this thing is huge!” See, the P1000 isn’t blessed with a big sensor. Deep within lies a tiny 1/2.3-inch 16Mp chip, the same size you’d find in a budget compact or a smartphone, and unlikely to set any image quality records. Then my already slackened jaw descended into freefall. RRP: £1000/$1000.
You do at least get a lot of camera for your money. The P1000 is roughly as bulky as a D750 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 attached, but with much more girth around what would be the lens mount. It’s a comfortable camera in the hand though, with a well sculpted grip, even if build quality doesn’t feel quite as robust as a Nikon DSLR.
The selection of rear buttons (and basic menu interface) are also more in keeping with a Coolpix compact than something like a D3500 DSLR, but there is a PASM mode dial, and a control wheel for adjusting key settings. The flip-out 3.2-inch, 921k-dot monitor is a match for an entry-level DSLR for clarity, but it lacks touch-sensitivity, which stings considering the P1000’s price tag. Thankfully Nikon hasn’t skimped on the 2359k-dot OLED EVF, as this is a real pleasure to use.
Fire up the rather podgy P1000 and first impressions are quite positive. Despite not having any phasedetection points, the AF is near instantaneous and reliably accurate at shorter focal lengths, and it rarely struggles to lock on even when the zoom reaches an equivalent 1000mm. But plough on to 2000mm and beyond and the AF can miss its mark, sometimes hunting several times for an accurate focus lock on.
The lens could benefit from a focus limiter switch to lock out short focal lengths when you’re zoomed in. But there’s a snap-back zoom button that enables you to zoom out to relocate a fleeting subject and zoom back in, all at the touch and release of button. There’s also a customizable control ring around the front of the lens barrel, but annoyingly this can’t be used for manual focus to override any AF uncertainty.
It’s not just the AF that struggles to cope with the immense zoom reach. The P1000 packs an excellent lens-shift VR system that performs admirably up to around 1500mm, but beyond this you’ll need a statuesque stance – or tripod – to ensure a sharp shot. Bright conditions are also essential, as the lens stops down to a maximum f/8 aperture at the longer focal lengths.
This wouldn’t be a problem if you could keep shutter speeds high via increased ISO sensitivity, however do this and image quality takes a tumble.
The P1000’s sensitivity range tops out at ISO6400, but the tiny 16Mp sensor struggles to maintain good detail and dynamic range even at ISO800. We compared the P1000 to a Google Pixel XL for wide-angle image quality, and though the big Nikon comes close in daylight, the smartphone trounces it in dimmer conditions, resolving far more detail despite only packing a 12Mp sensor.
05 02 Forget just shooting the moon – the P1000 could probably zoom in on Aldrin and Armstrong’s flag and debunk the conspiracy 04
80mm At 80mm-equivalent focal length, the camera has already zoomed beyond a 3x DX DSLR kit lens
24mm Despite the P1000’s reach, the lens can still go as wide as 24mm-equivalent, good for city streets
06 03 01
3000mm Shoot from an elevated spot when zoomed all in, or the curvature of the earth may block your subject!
500mm 500mm equates to nearly 21x zoom – easily enough reach to fill your frame with most far-flung subjects