I’ve been using the Nikon P100 camera for about a year now. For many years I’d used Fuji cameras and had been very happy with them, but fancied something with a bit more power in the zoom department. I had a good look around and the Nikon seemed to fit the bill, with a 10.3 megapixel resolution and a 26X optical zoom.
I’ve never gone the whole hog of having an SLR camera. Most of my outdoor photography is done while walking, and SLR cameras mean more weight, with lenses and the like. Bridge cameras, the halfway house between SLR and compact have always suited me better. In addition this camera is equipped with HD video recording, which gives excellent results, far better than standard footage.
The camera itself has a fairly standard layout as far as bridge cameras go, with the faux SLR shape and controls. A viewfinder sits above a 8.5cm screen (8cm X 5cm), with a button to toggle between viewfinder of large screen. To the side of the screen sits the instant record button for video, along with a toggle selection paddle switch for operating the flash, macro, exposure and timer. On top is the on/off button, zoom and mode controls. As I say, so far, so standard. However, pull back on the screen and it comes away from the main body and can be tilted up or down. This is great for taking very low shots where you don’t want to lie in a puddle for example, or to gain height to see over an obstacle such as a wall. It is however a large screen, and does need a screen protector.
Most modes are similar to other cameras, portrait, landscape, sunset, etc. This camera does have one which I gave found very useful which is Panorama Assist, which you can use when you wish to take multiple photos to create a panorama. By selecting this the camera retains the same settings on all photos in the sequence, so that light levels between exposures remain constant, helping give an even effect across the picture. It also stores all the photos in the sequence in their own folder which makes them easier to find when you actually want to work with them. To complement this feature panorama creating software is supplied, and it is very easy to use.
The camera is powered by a dedicated Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. One of the things that worried me before buying this camera was the fact that I couldn’t simply pop in a pack of replacement AA batteries when required. However I immediately bought a few replacement batteries and carry them instead. You can get around 200+ photos from one charged battery, and as they are considerably smaller and lighter than AA batteries they are a great improvement.
Photos are stored on a standard SD card, unlike the Fuji which used it’s own brand of card. The battery and SD card are housed in the ‘grip’ section, and both are straightforward affairs. This, however was to be the cause of my first problem with the camera. Within only a few weeks of getting it the SD card refused to lock into place, the mechanism having broken. This saw the camera returned for repair. On getting it back I noticed that photos now had a pinkish tinge to them, some great photos from Traprain Law came out as garish monstrosities. Back it went again. A few months later and it became apparent that it was again faulty, a shadow appearing in the top right corner of the photos and problems with the focusing in some modes. By this time it was apparent that the camera was a complete lemon, and it was replaced by Nikon for a new model. Since then I’ve had no problems, but it has made me wary of it.
Picture quality is good and once you have become acquainted with it it’s easy to use. On full optical zoom a tripod or beanbag is very useful, even though the camera has anti shake stabilisation built in. The ability to zoom in to such a degree can certainly add a new dimension to days on the hills, far off birds becoming identifiable, and closer shots of deer and other animals become much more achievable.
It does have its weak points. The design of the camera is such that if switched on with the lens cap in place it shows an error message. Whatever sensor detects the lens cap also would detect a filter and would assume the lens cap was on, so it cannot be used with filters, which is quite a severe drawback. The other problem is that I feel it is not rugged enough for Scottish weather. The large screen would appear to be an area of concern, and would be easily scratched. Were the screen recessed this would help retain a screen protector, but it’s smooth lines ensure that any stick on protector is liable to catching on straps and coming off. The zoom lens is the other problem area. On the Fuji camera I have previously owned the zoom mechanism was protected and internal. Rain or snow I could rely on it. On this the sectional zoom is fully exposed and moisture ingress is a worry.
With the lens having no hood over it it is very susceptible to rain and I’ve lost count of the number of shots which have been ruined with rain on the lens. In fact I had to come up with a Heath-Robinson solution of a yoghurt pot cover to allow it to be used in the wet! It looks utterly stupid, but does work to an extent. Should I wish to take a shot when it is raining I’ve found myself using the camera on my GPS instead, especially for general snap shots.
When I bought it it cost £349, it’s now available for around for between £250 and £300, far less if you are willing to go to Ebay. One point I did learn from my lemon experience is that Nikon are fussy about repairs under warranty. If you buy a product from a UK (or foreign) retailer and they have sourced the camera from abroad, Nikon UK are not bound to repair it, and your guarantee may be worthless. Buy from a reputable UK dealer and you should have no problems with getting a repair carried out.