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Nikon Coolpix P900 review: The camera that’s all zoom

Our Rating :
£449.99 from
Price when reviewed : £449
inc VAT

Technically impressive and capable of good results, but it isn't easy to achieve them


  • Reasonable sharpness over a huge zoom range
  • Wi-Fi and GPS


  • The 2000mm zoom position is unwieldy
  • Too much reliance on menu navigation
  • Odd automatic ISO settings

The Nikon P900 was first announced in 2015 but it still holds the title of the longest zoom range on a consumer camera. Indeed, its 83x zoom range is equivalent to 24-2,000mm on a full frame camera, so it can stretch from wide-angle vistas to pictures of the moon filling the whole frame.

That sounds remarkable and that’s because it is. But how well does the camera perform in the real world and is it worth spending £480 on it in 2019? To see how the Coolpix compares to its closest rivals, scroll down and read on. 

Nikon Coolpix P900 review: What you need to know

That zoom is the headline feature of course, but aside from that, what does the Nikon Coolpix P900 offer? Essentially, the P900 is what’s commonly referred to as a “Bridge” camera in the industry, because it sits in-between traditional compacts and SLRs.

As with other bridge cameras, it has a big zoom – the biggest around, in this case – and although shaped like an SLR, it has only a small 1/2.3in image sensor. That’s the same size as you’ll find in cheap compact cameras and modern smartphones.

Other key specifications include the ability to capture 16-megapixel images and 1080p video, and the camera also has a 3in articulated screen on the rear. It’s also got built in Wi-Fi and NFC for quickly transferring photos to your phone on the go and GPS so that all your snaps are geotagged.

READ NEXT: The best cameras of 2018, from CSCs to SLRs

Nikon Coolpix P900 review: Price and competition

That enormous zoom lens ensures that the P900 stands alone in the bridge camera market. Nothing else is quite like it; nothing even comes close, in fact. It’s worth noting, though, that at £449 inc VAT it’s quite pricey for this type of camera.

The Nikon Coolpix B500, for instance, is less than half the price at £219, yet still produces perfectly acceptable snaps and offers a usable zoom range of 40x. The Panasonic DC-FZ80, meanwhile, costs £120 less yet offers nearly as monstrous a zoom as the P900 at 60x.

Nikon P900 zoom extended

Nikon Coolpix P900 review: How did they make it so big?

Record-breaking specs don’t always produce a well-rounded camera, however. So was this camera conceived through Nikon R&D engineering excellence, or a demand from the marketing department to produce an enormous zoom regardless of quality?

Two things dictate the effective zoom range of a camera: the lens and the sensor onto which it focuses light. The P900 uses a small 1/2.3in sensor, the same as is found in cheap compact cameras. That way, the lens dimensions can also be reduced. The lens actually has a focal length range of 4.3-357mm, but because it’s focusing light onto a much smaller area, it behaves like a 24-2,000mm lens on a full-frame camera.

That’s handy because it keeps the size down – on a full-frame camera, a true 2,000mm lens would be about the size of a small car. However, it also places high demands on the quality of the optics. Achieving sharp focus across the enormous 83x zoom range can’t be easy.

Nikon Coolpix P900 review: Design and layout

It’s still a bulky bit of glass, though, and the P900 as a whole is bigger and heavier than most consumer SLRs. It includes some handy features, such as an articulated screen, built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, but the upmarket features quickly run dry. There’s no RAW support and no hotshoe for flashguns and other accessories.

The electronic viewfinder has a reasonable 921,000-dot resolution, but the view is quite small and the insubstantial surround doesn’t block out sunlight sufficiently. I had to resort to cupping my eye with my left hand while holding the camera with my right. The chunky handgrip means one-handed operation is comfortable but it isn’t ideal for keeping the camera steady – a particularly important concern for telephoto shooting.

There are a reasonable number of buttons, but they’re not assigned to the functions you might expect. There are buttons for self-timer and Wi-Fi but not continuous mode, ISO speed or white balance. A customisable Fn button appears on the top and can be assigned to one of nine functions, but this isn’t enough for a camera that you’d want to use to capture moving subjects such as wildlife and sport.

Nikon P900 top

There’s one button that’s very welcome, though. It’s located on the lens barrel, beside one of the two zoom controls (the other is around the shutter button). This button momentarily zooms out to help you locate and frame your subject. Release the button and the lens zooms back in again. This is particularly useful when shooting handheld at the long end of the zoom; you can frame someone’s head and shoulders from 50 metres away, but the slightest movement of the camera means the subject will go careering out of the frame.

The camera’s stabilisation is used while framing shots to help with composition, but while it reduced jitters, it’s inevitably tricky for the camera to differentiate between unintentional shake and deliberate but slight movement to compose the shot. As a result, carefully framing subjects at 2,000mm proved difficult, and that was just for static subjects. Tracking moving subjects at 2,000mm or even 1,000mm was completely out of the question.

Nikon Coolpix P900 review: Ergonomics and performance

Various other aspects of the P900’s operation proved frustrating. There’s an eye-level sensor to switch automatically between the viewfinder and LCD screen, but automatic switching is suspended while the temporary-zoom-out button is held down. I was frequently caught out by this while trying to locate a distant subject, first with my eyes and then with the camera’s viewfinder with the help of that button.

The 6.5fps continuous performance is decent enough in itself but it lasts for only seven frames, at which point the camera becomes inoperable for six seconds while it saves those shots. Autofocus performance is reasonable, typically taking around 0.3 seconds between pressing the shutter button and taking a shot. However, when reviewing shots I discovered that it often hadn’t focused on the part of the frame I had hoped for.

Nikon P900 back

The Auto ISO mode behaved quite strangely, too. By default, it avoided using ISO speeds above 800 and instead used shutter speeds as slow as one second. Indoor shots at 1/8sec, ISO 450 means blurry moving subjects. There’s an option to customise the Auto ISO mode by setting the minimum shutter speed, and setting this to 1/30sec meant the ISO speed would rise to 1600 before the shutter speed dropped below 1/30sec, which worked well for indoor shots.

However, the next time I took the camera outdoors to capture telephoto shots, the P900 was shooting at 1/50sec, ISO 100. This led to hopelessly blurry shots due to increased camera shake at telephoto settings. Reverting to the default Auto ISO mode pushed the shutter and ISO speeds back to a more sensible 1/200sec and ISO 400.

The upshot here is that it’s best to shoot in shutter priority mode and adjust settings manually to avoid blurry shots. Some people will prefer to do this, but it shouldn’t be a requirement.

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Sensor resolution16 megapixels
Sensor size1/2.3in
Focal length multiplier5.6x
ViewfinderElectronic (921,000 dots)
Viewfinder magnification (35mm-equivalent), coverage100%
LCD screen3in (921,000 dots)
Orientation sensorYes
Photo file formatsJPEG
Maximum photo resolution4,608×3,456
Photo aspect ratios4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Video compression formatQuickTime (AVC) at up to 28Mbit/s
Video resolutions1080p at 25/30/50/60fps, 720p at 25/30/50/60fps, VGA at 25/30fps
Slow motion video modes720p at 60fps (1/2x), VGA at 120fps (1/4x)
Maximum video clip length (at highest quality)15m 5s
Exposure modesProgram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed range15 to 1/4,000 seconds
ISO speed range100 to 12800
Exposure compensationEV +/-2
White balanceAuto, 5 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Auto-focus modesMulti, flexible spot, face detect, tracking, target finding
Metering modesMulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash modesAuto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modesSingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, interval
Optical stabilisationYes
Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths)83x (24-2000mm)
Maximum aperture (wide-tele)f/2.8-6.5
35mm-equivalent aperturef/16-36
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus (wide)1cm
Closest macro focus (tele)5m
Card slotSDXC
Memory suppliedNone
Battery typeLi-ion
ConnectivityUSB, micro HDMI
WirelessWi-Fi, NFC
Body materialPlastic
AccessoriesUSB cable, neck strap
Dimensions (HxWxD)104x140x153mm
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price including VAT£449
Part codeVNA750E1

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