HandlingLike any expert compact worth its salt, the P7100 has a whole load of different buttons, dials and settings wheels. There are therefore plenty of options for direct access to the main settings you're likely to need. New features in this department include an extra settings thumb wheel placed vertically on the front of the camera body. In total, then, the P7100 has three settings wheels, with the classic click-round wheel around the four-way arrows, a horizontal thumb wheel on the back of the camera and the new thumb wheel on the front face. This over-abundance of settings wheels isn't as useful as it may seem, however, as not a single one of them can be customised. They obviously make the camera easier to handle in M mode, but their actual utility is debatable in other priority modes (PSAM). There are, however, two customisable buttons—Fn1 and Fn2—as well as the U1, U2 and U3 user profiles that allow you to switch from one control configuration to another quickly and easily. Nikon has also had the excellent idea of equipping the P7100 with a little light to let you know when exposure correction is active.
The optical viewfinder is still as disappointing as ever. It's small, not very precise and particularly uncomfortable for anyone who wears glasses. You'll only really want to use it very bright conditions when it's too hard to see what you're doing onscreen.
That said, the LCD is really quite good, with smooth, fluid images even in lower light. It has a decent resolution of 921,000 dots for sharp onscreen images and colour fidelity that isn't too bad either—although we still wouldn't describe it as accurate (the deltaE 94 is 4.4 but colour temperature is a little on the cold side). The screen has a handy tilt function, which means you can flip the display up or down, position it at an angle or push it into a fully horizontal position. A full swivel screen would still have been nicer, as this allows even greater freedom for lining up shots at unusual angles. Note that as an inevitable consequence of the CCD sensor, a smear effect is visible onscreen (bright vertical stripes) when you aim the camera at a light source. This can prove annoying in some situations.
ResponsivenessWhile responsiveness was the Achilles heel of the previous model, slowness isn't quite as much of a problem in the P7100. That said, although this camera starts up more quickly, it still takes well over a second to switch on and pop out its lens. Photo-to-photo turnaround has got faster but, again, it's still not exactly speedy, even with JPeg shots (1.67 seconds). Working in RAW mode (in the .NRW format rather than NEF used in SLRs) slows things down considerably too—taking just under four seconds to save a photo isn't acceptable these days.
The autofocus works very well in good light conditions but tends to slow down when the light starts to fade. All in all, the P7100 zoom lens just isn't fast enough to stand out from the crowd.
In burst mode, the P7100 is nothing out of the ordinary, shooting at around 1.4 fps. In other words, you won't really be able to snap moving subjects (like a running child, for example) and capture the movement in a neatly decomposed series of shots.
Picture QualityThe P7100 has the same 10-Megapixel CCD as the P7000 and, as expected, picture quality is really very similar. Noise is kept in check up to 800 ISO but things quickly go downhill beyond that.
The P7100 lens is pretty good. In fact, our only real criticisms are that it could be faster and that the 28 mm wide-angle can be a little tight, especially for landscape shots. Otherwise, the lens gives sharp results from the middle of the frame to the outer edges—and it does so throughout the whole focal range. All in all, that's a good performance. In fact, the Nikon P7100 lens is easily on par with that of its direct rival, the Canon PowerShot G12, and it's particularly versatile thanks to its great macro mode.
The camera corrects distortion and chromatic aberration effectively (see inset) and JPeg shots are enhanced with image processing to help keep things nice and crisp. In fact, JPeg photos can be printed directly from the camera with no need for post-editing.
VideoDue to the CCD sensor, the video mode is limited to 720p resolution. That said, picture quality is still good and files are encoded to the AVC/H.264 format (in an .MOV container file). It's just a shame that the framerate is limited to 24 fps, as moving subjects don't always look as smooth as they could. The zoom can be used nice and slowly and it's perfectly quiet during video recording. Sound is recorded in stereo but the overall quality is nothing more than average. You can, however, hook a stereo mic up to the mini-jack port.
- Design, handling, build quality
- Picture quality up to 800 ISO
- Good-quality tilt LCD
- Microphone socket
- Good battery life (approx. 340 photos)
- RAW files are slow to save
- Only 720p video
- Zoom lens could be faster
- Viewfinder is small and lacks precision
- Disappointing burst mode for this kind of camera
The Nikon CoolPix P7100 is a decent-quality expert compact. It has been nicely designed, built with quality and has a versatile zoom lens with an excellent macro mode. On the whole, the small-format CCD takes nice pictures but struggles with higher ISO settings—a common problem in expert compacts.