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Nikon Coolpix P1000 review: The most incredible superzoom camera money can buy

Barry Collins
30 Nov 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
999
inc VAT

A 3,000mm-equivalent zoom for under a grand is a stunning deal – though you’ll have to learn to live with some limitations

Pros 
Stunning zoom capabilities
Reasonable price
Impressive photo and video performance in good light
Cons 
Image quality suffers badly in low light
No touchscreen
Laggy viewfinder
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If you’ve ever wanted to shoot for the moon, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is for you: this chunky mirrorless camera comes with a dedicated lunar photography mode. That’s to help you take advantage of its unique selling point, namely an extraordinary 125x optical zoom, which Nikon claims is the equivalent of a 3,000mm lens. That’s amazing for a camera costing less than £1,000 – normally a lens like that would cost you several grand on its own. Is it too good to be true?

Nikon Coolpix P1000: What you need to know

The P1000’s headline feature is that ridiculous zoom lens, which Nikon claims is the world’s biggest. Certainly, we’ve never seen a mirrorless camera that comes close. It comes at the cost of convenience, however: this camera is huge in the hand, with a body size to match that of a professional-grade DSLR. That said, it’s a lot smaller and lighter than a DSLR with a 3,000mm lens attached.

While the zoom range is huge, the P1000’s sensor is fairly restrained. It has a native resolution of 16-megapixels, and can also capture 4K footage at up to 30fps. Or, you can double the frame rate by dropping down to Full HD.

Nikon Coolpix P1000: Price and competition

The COOLPIX 1000 has no direct competition; there really is nothing else out there quite like it. The Panasonic Lumix FZ82 is far cheaper at £250, but its 20-1,200mm-equivalent lens is a lot shorter. The Canon PowerShot SX70 reaches only slightly further, offering a 21-1,365mm-equivalent zoom plus 4K video capabilities for around £500.

In fact the camera that comes closest is Nikon’s own COOLPIX P900 (click here to read our review), which offers a 24-2,000mm equivalent lens and Full HD video. You can pick one up for around £350.

Nikon Coolpix P1000: Image quality

The numbers may look impressive, but a camera is only as good as the pictures it takes. So what kind of quality can you expect from the P1000?

The answer depends greatly on the available light. In bright sunlight you can achieve fantastic, sharp images with plenty of detail, even at the very extreme of the camera’s optical zoom. This is illustrated by our test shots below, taken first with the zoom fully retracted and then with it extended almost to its limit. The cones and water bottles which are barely visible in the first shot – we’ve highlighted them to help you spot them – almost fill the frame when fully zoomed in. You can’t help but let out a little gasp the first time you experience the incredible reach of this lens.

Unfortunately, you’re also likely to experience a gentle nausea. When you move the camera around with the zoom fully extended, even by just a few millimetres, it feels like the electronic viewfinder takes a split second to catch up. It’s uneasily like that feeling you had as a student, the morning after discovering the cheap spirits aisle at the supermarket. Everything’s just a little slower than you’d expect.

This can make handheld shooting tricky. Nikon’s Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction system helps reduce camera shake, but it’s still challenging to accurately compose a shot when you’re dealing with both a massive zoom factor and a slight viewfinder lag. Chopped-off feet and heads are an occupational hazard, and if you’re going birdwatching or want to take action shots, a tripod is strongly recommended.

And as the sun dips towards the horizon, image quality quickly starts to suffer. A big zoom inevitably means a lot less light hitting the sensor, and the P1000 has to crank up the ISO to compensate. As a result, our night shots were full of murky noise, and autofocus also becomes highly erratic in low light. This isn’t a camera for taking out on a night shoot.

Nikon Coolpix P1000: Features and design

At the rear of the P1000 sits a 3.2in, 0.9MP screen. To be honest this isn’t brilliant, and in fact undersells the quality of the images the camera captures. Previews that looked rather soft on the built-in display actually turned out to be impressively sharp when viewed on a full-sized computer screen.

Thankfully, the 2.36MP electronic viewfinder is much more detailed, and it’s comfortably set slightly back from the body of the camera, so those of us with generous hooters don’t end up butting our noses against the screen.

The screen is also articulated, so you can flip it out and use it to frame shots taken over your head at a concert, for example – and with that zoom you should have no problem getting close-ups of the stage. It’s just disappointing that, in this day and age, it’s not a touchscreen. You might forgive that on a £250 entry-level camera, but for a £1,000 camera it’s shameful.

Fancy shooting features and modes are thin on the ground: aside from the regular PASM modes, the only other standouts are modes designed specifically for birdwatchers and for taking close-ups of the moon. That isn’t a problem though: too many cameras come overloaded with dozens of pointless shooting options. And unlike the P900, the P1000 gives you the option of shooting in RAW mode – a great upgrade for those who want to get the best from their shots.

Finally, we’ve nothing but praise for the P1000’s build quality. That 17-element lens is certainly heavy to hold for long periods, but that helps to keep the beast steady when aiming. There are rubberised grips where you want them on the front and under your thumb, and the option to control the zoom with buttons under either hand is thoughtful too.

Nikon Coolpix P1000: Video quality

Video footage from the P1000 isn’t too shabby at all. Our test video, shot in 4K at 30fps, shows plenty of detail, and the colours look natural and well balanced. The autofocus does well to pick out the fast-moving bikes and cars coming down the road and keep them sharp.

The sound from the built-in mic is poor – almost as if you’ve got your ear pressed to a seashell – but you can plug in an external mic and mount it on the hotshoe if vlogging is your thing.

That magnificent zoom can also add an extra dimension to your videos. This Nikon-produced test video shows how it lets you get exceptionally close to wildlife. Some slight wobbles are apparent, though, even on a shot that we suspect must have been taken with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Nikon Coolpix P1000: Verdict

It’s hard not to be gobsmacked by the P1000’s 3,000mm-equivalent lens, especially in light of its (just about) three-figure price. It’s an amazing technical achievement.

It’s certainly not perfect, though. It only attains its full potential in broad daylight, and you’ll have to learn to live with that laggy viewfinder, not to mention the difficulty of holding the thing still when fully zoomed. It’s too big and cumbersome for a day-to-day shooter, and the lack of a touchscreen is also a constant frustration.

Even so, if you’re at all interested in wildlife, sports or any other sort of long-distance photography – undercover police officers, take note – then the COOLPIX P1000 is a camera like no other, and one that it’s impossible not to fall a little bit in love with.

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