In the superzoom arms race, the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is currently on top. No other camera comes close to the P1000’s 125x zoom range of 24-3000mm. Such extreme capabilities, however, cannot be achieved without trade-offs, and those trade-offs must be carefully considered before investing in Nikon’s telephoto titan.
Design: Built like a cardboard tank
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 always generates astonishment: Is that a point-and-shoot camera? What is the length of its lens? What is the weight of it? It’s an eye-catching camera that stands out in a crowded field. At first glance, the P1000 appears to be a pro-level DSLR, and the truth is that it has a lot in common with its interchangeable-lens counterparts.
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000’s body is large and solid, though it feels lighter than one would expect from a device of this size. This is a big camera—some might say too big—but its size can be an advantage over a smaller point-and-shoot in some situations. This camera will feel better in the hands of those with large hands than even some high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
Our fingers never slipped off the textured rubber grip, and the massive lens barrel provided a comfortable second hold for steady shooting.
No other camera comes close to matching its zoom range.
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Although the camera is easy to grip and carry due to its light weight, the lack of heft makes it difficult to use at the camera’s most extreme telephoto ranges. A heavier camera is more stable, whereas a lighter camera is more prone to jitter.
This is true even when the P1000 is mounted on a tripod, and the fact that the tripod mount is on the back of the camera rather than in the middle does not help with stability. Although this is the traditional location for a tripod mount on a camera, large telephoto lenses for DSLRs often come with their own built-in tripod mounts. If the tripod mount was on the lens barrel, the P1000 would be much more stable on a tripod.
The battery on the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 only took a few hours to charge from empty in our tests. Before it needed to be recharged, we took hundreds of photos, filmed timelapses, and recorded a large amount of 4K video footage.
Setup Process: Charge and go
We were able to get the P1000 up and running very quickly. Setup is simply a matter of inserting the memory card and battery into the camera, and then plugging it into an outlet. After a few hours of charging it’s ready to go.
A series of menus guided us through a fairly standard setup process, which included setting the time and date. Our only gripe was that the battery could only be charged internally, which meant leaving the camera plugged in for hours at a time. While having internal charging as an option is convenient, we would have preferred an external battery charging station.
Be aware that without an SD card, the camera will not function—you won’t be able to use it as a digital spotting scope.
Controls: Lots of pro-level features
The controls on the P1000 are plentiful—the entire body is covered in buttons, dials, and switches. This array of physical controls may appear intimidating to a novice photographer, but it will appeal to more experienced camera users. We noticed some differences in the quality of these controls; for example, the dial around the OK button feels flimsy. However, the controls are mostly tactile and satisfying to use.
On the top of the P1000 is a typical mode dial with various manual and automatic modes to choose from. The power button, a programmable function button, and the shutter button with the primary zoom control are all located next to the dial for setting adjustments. We would have preferred a power switch rather than a button, or a better-located power button that is less likely to be accidentally pressed.
Zoom can also be controlled using the lens’s barrel buttons or the ring at the lens’s end. The ring and zoom buttons can both be customized to control various aspects of the camera. When tracking a subject and shooting at long focal ranges, there is also a “snap back” button that allows you to quickly zoom back out.
A number of menu controls, as well as the photo review and movie record buttons, are located to the right of the screen on the back of the camera. The Manual/Autofocus selector switch is particularly noteworthy. This is a particularly useful feature, as switching between manual and autofocus on the P1000 is frequently required.
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Menu System: Intuitive navigation
In the P1000’s simple and intuitive menu system, we had no trouble finding and changing the camera settings. Just keep in mind that the availability of various settings varies greatly depending on which mode you’re in.
Durability: A delicate beast
The camera is not weatherproof or ruggedized, but it feels solidly constructed. In moderately damp weather, it should be fine, but we wouldn’t use it in the rain or in situations where it might get splashed or covered in dust and dirt.
The vari-angle display is also delicate, and you should fold it out with care. You can also turn the display around and snap it back into the socket with the screen facing in, which is a great way to avoid damaging the screen’s surface.
Ports and Connectivity: Plenty to go around
The P1000 has a good number of ports, and we liked the way they’re organized as well as the sturdy rubberized covers that protect them. There’s a mini HDMI port, USB port, headphone jack, and a remote shutter release port on this camera. The remote shutter release and headphone jack ports are in separate compartments, whereas the HDMI and USB ports are in the same compartment.
Many DSLRs lack this design, which combines compartmentalization with excellent port covers. Unfortunately, there is no audio monitoring headphone jack.
You can use a variety of accessories, such as flashes and microphones, with the hot shoe mount.
You also get Wi-Fi image transfer, which is useful for editing and sharing photos while on the go. This is done with the free Snapbridge app, and it’s a simple and quick way to transfer photos.
Photo Quality: A mixed bag
In ideal lighting conditions, the P1000 can capture excellent images, but it struggles in low light. We discovered that image quality quickly degrades after ISO 400, and we would avoid shooting at ISO 800 if at all possible. Images taken at the maximum ISO of 6400 are mushy and noisy. There is very little noise at ISO 400 and below, and images are sharp and detailed.
Nikon clearly recognized that low light would be a problem for this camera, so they included a remarkably powerful flash to combat sensitivity issues. It has a satisfying spring-loaded mechanism and is bright enough to light subjects even at telephoto distances. It does a respectable job for a built-in flash.
After ISO 400, image quality quickly degrades.
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A highly effective image stabilization feature, which does an admirable job of minimizing vibrations at extreme zoom ranges, also helps with low-light shooting. However, at 3000mm, this stabilization is ineffective in compensating for shakes and judders exacerbated by the wide focal range.
Like many superzoom cameras, the COOLPIX P1000 produces the best images at short focal ranges. You’ll only be able to use the maximum 2.8 aperture at the widest angles, after which it will gradually narrow. Up to 1500mm, image quality and brightness are good, and the camera can still achieve an aperture of f/5. Above 1500mm, the photo quality quickly degrades, and the aperture shrinks to f/6, f/7, and finally f/8 at its maximum 3000mm, which is extremely dark.
JPEG quality is comparable to that of a point-and-shoot camera. It will appeal to casual photographers, but more experienced photographers will want to take advantage of the RAW image’s post-processing flexibility. You can always capture both JPEG and RAW files at the same time if you’re in doubt.
Video Quality: Surprisingly competent
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 offers a variety of resolution and framerate options, including crisp and beautiful 4K video. You can also shoot at up to 60 frames per second in 1080p or lower resolution, though this is as good as it gets in terms of slow motion.
This camera is well equipped for basic video recording. We found that the 4K footage compares favorably to that of professional interchangeable-lens cameras.
Notably, when shooting in 4K rather than 1080p, there is no extra crop, which is a frustrating issue with many other cameras (especially those from Canon). The P1000 also has a great external microphone port, though there is no headphone port for monitoring audio, as we previously mentioned.
Autofocus: Fine, except when its not
When it comes to focusing in low light, the P1000 is as slow as a snail, and it frequently refuses to focus at all.
In our testing, we also discovered that the camera has trouble distinguishing subject from background, as evidenced by the fact that when we tried to photograph a bird against the sky, it frequently focused on the sky. There is, thankfully, a dedicated manual/autofocus switch. The smooth, satisfying mechanism and useful “focus peaking” feature make autofocusing with the adjustment ring on the lens barrel simple and accurate.
The camera detects areas of the photo that are in focus and highlights them on the screen with focus peaking. This allows you to see what’s in focus while manually focusing, which makes the process much easier and more precise.
Additionally, the lens barrel’s secondary zoom buttons can be programmed to control fine focus instead. You can use the main adjustment ring to make large, sweeping manual-focus adjustments, and then use these buttons to make micro adjustments.
Display/LVF: The mediocre and the amazing
The display on the P1000, as previously stated, is extremely flimsy. It does, however, get bonus points for being vari-angle, and with a resolution of 921,000 dots, it’s perfectly clear and usable.
The LVF (Live Viewfinder) is a completely different story—large, it’s comfortable, and crystal clear, with 2.36 million dots. This is one of the best LVFs we’ve seen on a point-and-shoot camera, and it even competes with those found on high-end interchangeable lens cameras.
When your eye is brought up to the LVF, a sensor detects it, and we found this to be a very effective system for switching between the screen and the live view display. However, as with most sensors of this type, it can be accidentally triggered while using the vari-angle display, which is annoying. The good news is that this feature can be toggled to turn on either the LVF or the display.
Astrophotography: Over the moon
Pointing the P1000 at the night sky and capturing the wonders of the cosmos that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye is one of the most exciting things you can do with it. With a focal length of 3000mm, it’s easy to capture recognizable images of other planets—rings Saturn’s and Jupiter’s cloud formations and moons are particularly impressive.
The P1000 also has astrophotography-specific modes, including a moon-photography mode on the command dial. While the P1000 takes excellent moon photos, we wouldn’t recommend using this special mode because all it does is allow you to choose between different color casts for the moon. For most astrophotography, we recommend using manual mode instead.
Pointing the P1000 at the night sky and capturing the wonders of the cosmos is one of the most exciting things you can do with it.
The camera also has a timelapse mode called “Star Trail,” which works well if you have a good tripod, a full battery, and don’t mind leaving your camera outside for several hours. We didn’t find the P1000 to be very good at photographing the entire night sky—simply it’s not sensitive enough. However, it’s difficult to beat for observing large and relatively close-to-Earth celestial bodies.
Wildlife: Built for safaris
The P1000 is clearly aimed at wildlife photographers—when photographing wild animals, the greater the distance between you and your subject, the better. With a 3000mm lens, you can observe wildlife from such a distance that the animals may never notice you are there. While other cameras capture dots on a distant mountain peak, the P1000 brings you up close and personal with the mountain goats.
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Despite having a dedicated mode (with its own place on the main mode dial) for bird photography, the P1000 isn’t the best camera for bird watching. We didn’t notice a significant difference between this mode and regular auto mode. However, the issues with photographing birds exist regardless of the camera mode—birds are extremely fast and unpredictable. To photograph them, you’ll need a fast shutter speed and good autofocus. The shutter speed issue with the P1000 has already been discussed, but the autofocus issue is even worse.
The “snap back” zoom button is useful for tracking birds and other wildlife, though we discovered that it is a little slow for this purpose. It’s a nice feature, but it really needs to be more responsive.
Sports: A ticket to the front row
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is ideal for photographing sporting events. You can zoom in close enough to see the sweat dripping from the quarterback’s face even from the top of the stands.
We could see using this camera to get closer to the game, especially if you’re sitting far back from the field, despite the camera’s poor autofocus and low-light performance.
Macro: Close, but it’s no microscope
The P1000 is surprisingly good at macro photography, though it does have a few flaws. At focal lengths of up to 135mm, it can get as close as 0.4 inches. This is very close, and you can get some excellent photos and video of small subjects. If you want to use autofocus at such close ranges, you’ll have to use the dedicated Macro mode, which can be found in Scene mode.
In Macro mode, you have two options: a single shot and a multi-shot noise reduction mode, which is especially useful for macro photography where unwanted noise is a bigger problem. To take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to mount the camera on a tripod.
We also discovered that the massive front lens element prevents you from getting close enough to obtain good magnification.
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Price: An arm and a leg for that built-in zoom
The P1000 has a starting price of $999 (), which is quite high for a superzoom or other point-and-shoot camera. You could get a budget full-frame mirrorless camera like the Sony a7 or even a Sony a7II on sale for this price. Alternatively, for about the same total price, you could get truly amazing super telephoto images by buying a cheap DSLR like the Canon T3 and a Sigma 150-600mm C lens, or simply buy a cheaper superzoom camera (many competing models are typically available for $500 or less).
With all of this in mind, it’s easy to conclude that the P1000 is grossly overpriced. However, you must keep in mind that this is a one-of-a-kind, world-record-breaking camera. Nothing else compares, so whether it’s worth the high asking price depends on how important those bragging rights are to you.
Nikon COOLPIX P1000 vs. Canon SX70 HS
Many different cameras compete with the P1000 for a variety of reasons, but the Canon SX70 HS comes closest in terms of features and functionality. In many ways, the SX70 outperforms the P1000 while costing nearly half as much: it has better image stabilization, low-light performance, and Canon color science.
The SX70’s screen is also significantly better than the P1000’s. Both cameras have vari-angle displays, but the Canon’s is not only brighter and sharper, but it’s also much better built and feels comparable to Canon’s DSLR and mirrorless camera screens. The Nikon, on the other hand, appears dim and flimsy.
The Nikon has a greater maximum focal range than the Canon, and its large size makes it much more comfortable to hold. The Canon, on the other hand, excels at macro photography, has faster autofocus throughout its zoom range, and is significantly smaller.
Because it lacks the extra crop that Canon has implemented in the SX70, the P1000 easily outperforms the Canon in terms of 4K video recording.
The decision comes down to how important the extra zoom range and video quality provided by the P1000 are to you. Unless you require that or are smitten by the P1000’s considerable “cool factor,” the Canon SX70 is the better buy.
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The Final Word
A Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is similar to owning a sports car in that it’s a cool camera but not very practical. It’s large and expensive, with a steep learning curve and a slew of irritating quirks. But this camera will bring a lot of joy to some people, and if you’re looking for a fun camera with a record-breaking zoom range (and don’t mind the price), the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 might be the camera for you.