The Nikon Coolpix P600 ($499.95) features an ambitious 60x zoom lens paired with a 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor. It includes a sharp vari-angle rear display, built-in EVF and Wi-Fi, and manual controls, but it’s hampered by slow focusing when using the long-range, picture noise at moderate ISO sensitivities and a few other quirks. Its specifications are promising, but it disappoints in practice; for its asking price, the P600 has to be a better camera. Most photographers can’t live without the zoom power that the P600’s lens offers, and for them we recommend choosing the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, hand-picked by our editorial board.(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) or high-end Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), both with f/2.8 constant aperture lenses. But if you need more reach (for wildlife photography, for example), consider the Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 50x as a better, less expensive alternative.
Design and Features
Like its bridge brothers, the P600 is shaped like a miniature D-SLR. It measures 3.4 x 5 x 4.2 inches (HWD) and weighs a bit at 1.2 pounds. That’s not out of the box for this class; Fuji SL1000 50x($650.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) is 3.4 x 4.8 x 4.8 inches and weighs slightly more, 1.5 pounds. Most cameras in this category are only available in black, but Nikon also offers this in dark red.
The 60x zoom lens covers a field of view of 24-1.440mm (35mm equivalent) with an aperture of f/3.3-6.5. The more you zoom in, the less light is captured, so the camera will go up to a higher ISO to capture a sharp image. The image stabilization system works well in stabilized shots; I was able to get sharp, handheld results in as little as 1/50th of a second when zoomed in, but image stabilization won’t help if you’re trying to freeze motion when photographing birds or fox. There are a few cameras in this class that offer a fixed aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire zoom range — more light than the P600 can capture at any focal length. None of them can zoom anywhere near as far as the P600; they include Panasonic FZ200 (25-600mm), Olympus Stylus 1($626.00 at Adorama)(Opens in a new window) (28-300mm) and Sony RX10 (24-200mm).
It’s easy to lose track of your subject when zoomed in, so many cameras now offer so-called framing assist systems. It’s usually a button that expands the lens’ field of view, allowing you to reproject your subject and then automatically return to the previous zoom position. You can configure Snap Back Focus on the P600 (this is an alternative function of the zoom lever on the left side of the lens), but it works a little differently. Pressing the lever down will pull the lens back, but you’ll need to push it up to return to the original zoom position. If you happen to touch another control on the camera before doing so, you are forced to manually re-adjust the lens to its previous focus.
Nikon has put some photography controls on the P600, taking advantage of its bulky body. There’s a mode dial on the top plate, along with a standard zoom and shutter button, a programmable Fn button, and a power button. The EVF/LCD toggle button, Display controls, movie button and control wheel run along the top rear, right side of the EVF. Below the thumb rest there is a flat command dial with an OK button in the middle and four direction controls. They adjust flash settings, exposure compensation, macro focus modes, and the self-timer. You’ll also find playback and delete controls as well as a menu button on the rear.
The rear LCD has a vari-angle design; it is mounted on a hinge and can be rotated away from the camera and around so you can view it from the front, above or below. It’s a 3-inch panel with 921k-dot resolution, so there’s nothing to complain about in terms of its quality. The P600 has an eye-level EVF; which is a good thing for a camera like this, as keeping the camera in front of you will help you get more stable handheld shots at telephoto distances. The EVF is small on the side, but it’s very sharp thanks to the 201k-dot resolution.
Compared to others, Nikon has been slow to integrate Wi-Fi into its cameras. The P600 has it, so you can copy images to your iOS or Android device using the free Wireless Mobile Utility app. The implementation is the same as the Coolpix S9700(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), a pocketable compact camera with a 30x lens, but the P600 lacks the GPS capabilities of the S9700. In addition to being able to stream directly to your device, the P600 also supports wireless remote control. Its capabilities are limited; you can adjust the zoom, trigger the self-timer, and trigger the shutter, but that’s it — there’s no way to select focus points or access more advanced shooting controls via the remote. You also can’t post directly from the P600 to social media, as you can with the Samsung WB350F($147.99 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window).
Performance and Conclusion
Performance and Conclusion
The P600 is somewhat sluggish. It kicks in in a reasonable 2 seconds — which isn’t unusual for a camera with such a long lens — and can focus at wide-angle in about 0.2 seconds, just one beat behind. with other cameras in this class. But when it was fully zoomed in, the average focusing speed we recorded in our tests was 1.7 seconds. And if it has trouble locking onto the subject, usually due to lack of contrast at the selected focus point or dim lighting, that duration can be doubled, and in our field tests, it did. There were more than a few times that the P600 simply dropped focus and delivered a blurry image. The Fujifilm FinePix S1 ($499.95) is a lot faster; it starts in 1.3 seconds, focuses in 0.1 seconds at the widest angle, and in just 0.7 seconds at the 1,200mm telephoto setting. We’re waiting for Adobe to update Lightroom to complete the review of the S1 (it shoots in Raw as well as JPG), but say with confidence it’s a better alternative to the P600, at the same level. price.
The P600 is capable of taking seven shots in a second, but after doing so, it becomes completely unresponsive for the full 30 seconds when the photo is written to the memory card. We used a 95MBps SanDisk card for testing, so slow memory isn’t the culprit here. There’s a low-speed continuous setting that fires continuously at 1fps and doesn’t require such a long timeout after completing a burst of shots. The Fuji S1 is capable of taking 8 consecutive shots at 7.8 fps, and it only takes 4.7 seconds to transfer those photos to the memory card.
I used Imatest(Opens in a new window) to test the sharpness that the P600 can capture. Its lens performs much better than the 1,800 lines per image height we use to mark a photo as sharp; Its central average score is 2,583 lines. Sharpness is evident throughout the range, as you can see from the top crop of a photo taken at maximum zoom with ISO set to 100 and shutter speed at 1/ 250 seconds. The P600 doesn’t capture much light at any angle when compared to the Panasonic FZ200, but its lens resolves more detail; The 12-megapixel FZ200 hit 1,811 lines in the same test.
Imatest also checks the image for noise, which can create unwanted grain and reduce detail. The better camera with the 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor (the type used by the P600) captures images with acceptable noise and detail through ISO 800. The P600 can only keep noise below 1.5 % passed ISO 200; There is a noticeable deterioration in image quality at ISO 400 and fine lines completely blur together at ISO 800. I scrutinized the images from the P600 side-by-side with those from the Fujifilm SL1000 on the NEC. MultiSync PA271W Calibrated ($999.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) display. The SL1000 shows as much detail at ISO 400 as the Nikon at ISO 200, and its images at ISO 1600 are on par with Nikon’s output at ISO 800. The SL1000 has a trick that Nikon can’t match—Support for raw photography. . If you use the camera in Raw mode, you will be able to capture more details in the image.
The P600 records video in QuickTime format at up to 1080i60 or 1080p30 quality. The footage is on par with other compact movies; when shooting at 60i, movement is very smooth and the rolling shutter is only really an issue when zooming in a bit. The camera adjusts the focus properly as the scene changes. It’s possible to zoom in and out when shooting, but the lens makes the weirdest sound I’ve heard doing so. Instead of the typical humming, it adds a range of tones, varying in pitch, almost like a musical beep. It’s not too big, but it’s very distracting and there’s no way to connect an external microphone. You can review footage on your HDTV via the micro HDMI output, and there’s a micro USB port for connecting to a computer. The micro USB port also serves as the connector for the included AC adapter; you will need to charge the battery in the camera. This is only a problem if you choose to buy a second battery, as you won’t be able to charge the power bank while using the camera to take pictures without investing in an external charger.
The Nikon Coolpix P600 has some flaws, but it really lives up to its promise of putting an absurdly long 60x (24-1,440mm) zoom lens into a body that’s smaller than your typical D-SLR. At lower ISOs, its image quality is very good, and there’s nothing to complain about in terms of build quality. The rear LCD is excellent, the EVF gets the job done, and Wi-Fi is available for quick image sharing and remote control. But when the light is a bit dim, image quality degrades quickly, focus slows, and the camera locks for 30 seconds after taking a series of high-speed shots. If you need such a long lens for photography, consider the Fujifilm SL1000 or the S1, both of which are better cameras and are about the same price as the P600. If you can afford a shorter zoom lens, the Panasonic FZ200 has a 24-600mm range at f/2.8 and is currently on sale for less than the P600. It won an Editors’ Choice award when we reviewed it, as well as two f/2.8 zoom lenses with larger image sensors — Olympus Stylus 1 (28-300mm) and Sony RX10 (24) -200mm f/2.8).
(Sample image by Michael Muchmore(Opens in a new window))
The Nikon Coolpix P600 has an amazing 60x zoom range, but focus speed is an issue when zooming.
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