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Advanced Compact Cameras - Highlighting the Nikon CoolPix P7000

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

If you have a DSLR, this is a great second camera. I take mine on all my travels as a backup for my DSLR, should the DSLR get broken, or if I just cannot take it due to it's size. It has DSLR-like features that any DSLR owner would feel comfortable with.

Nikon P7000 Overview

Nikon Coolpix P7000

Specifications
Exposure modes: PSAM
Sensor: 10.1 MegaPixel 1/1.7"
Lens: 28-200mm (35mm) f/2.8-5.6
Movie Mode: HD
ISO range: 100~3200
File Format: RAW, JPG, AVI
Media: SD, SDHC
Optical Viewfinder: Yes
Construction: advanced
Street Price with lens: $400~500


Newer
Alternatives

Suitability for Travel: Rates a 4 out of 5. This is a great travel camera. While it doesn't have nearly the same size sensor as a DSLR, it is DSLR-like in many ways. It in fact could be considered the go-to camera for DSLR owners when they are not carrying their DSLR. I use this camera when I go on excursions off the cruise ship when it is just too cumbersome to carry anything larger.

Overview: The lack of a APS size sensor is about the only thing that keeps this camera from having a perfect score. It is light weight, and has all of the features a serious camera enthusiast would want. But it is also easily used by novice photographers with it's automatic modes. Notable features of this camera include:

  • Larger 1/1.7" sensor. About 50% larger than typical Compact Cameras.
  • Raw file capability.
  • Optical viewfinder with adjustable diopter.
  • Continuous shutter release (OK, it's only 1.5 fps, but it is continuous).
  • Exposure, White Balance, and ISO bracketing.
  • Program, Aperture & Shutter Priority and Manual (PSAM) modes, along with automatic.
  • Manual focus capability.
  • Vibration Reduction.
  • Ability to mount filters with an auxillary tube set.
  • Hot shoe and pop-up flash.
  • Remote IR shutter release using a Nikon ML-L3 remote.
  • fast f/2.8 lens (although it is variable to f/5.6 at the telephoto end).
  • Built-in ND filter (-2 EV).
  • DSLR-like dials and buttons rather than menu selections.
  • Common button functions with Nikon DSLRs - easier to remember.
  • Exposure Compensation dial.
  • Remote Mic capability.


Nikon Coolpix P7000 - Jewel of the Seas
In reality this camera (or the similar Canon G12) could be considered best-of-class in the Compact Camera market. However, they are actually a bit larger than a true compact, and not really "pocket cameras". But they fit nicely in a fairly small camera pouch.

I took the photo to the left while on a Caribbean cruise in early Spring 2011. It went with me everywhere on board the ship, even when I took my DSLR. I use a small Think Tank pouch that fits onto my belt loop nicely.

Alternatives: Alternatives are generally limited to the Canon G12 or perhaps the Olympus XZ-1, which are the only cameras with features comparable to the P7000. However, the Olympus is lacking in an optical viewfinder. An Electronic Viewfinder is available for the Olympus, but combined with the camera, it's pricing is significantly more than either Nikon or Canon.

I cannot stress having an optical viewfinder enough. In bright sunny skies, such as found in the Caribbean, the LCD monitor found on Compact Cameras is all but useless.


The controls on the P7000 are outstanding.
Controls on the Nikon P7000 abound. There are a staggering 18 buttons and dials by my count, including controls for advanced functions such as, AE/AF Lock, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, White Balance, ISO, and a couple of user programmable functions.

And for controls such as the Exposure Compensation and Mode dials, there are associated LEDs that indicate the controls have been changed. For example, you can easily tell if you set the Exposure Compensation as a LED lights whenever it is off the 0 EV setting. This is a very nice feature, one which most DSLRs lack.


 

Accessories

The P7000 can mount auxiliary lenses or filters. While I have a general dislike of auxiliary lenses, the ability to mount a filter is very useful. I often mount a polarizer filter on my P7000 as many cruise ship excursions include a bus ride. Often the only opportunity you have to take photos of the countryside is through a bus window. A polarizer in this instance makes all the difference. I also carry a little disposable packet of glass cleaner to wipe the bus window clean if needed.

Shown here is a set of aftermarket tubes for the P7000 along with a 58mm circular polarizer filter.


Auxiliary tube set and 58mm circular polarizer.

Unless you intend to use Nikon's auxiliary lenses, don't buy the Nikon UR-E22 extension tube. It is overpriced; $50 for a plastic tube, and the threads are non-standard, so you will have difficulty in threading a filter on that tube. Instead, purchase an aftermarket version, such as the Bower tube set. It is a lot less expensive; at around $15 - and are made of metal, and are very nice. You can buy them with either 55mm or 58mm threads.

One advantage of using the aftermarket tubes is they are a 2-piece set, which allows you to zoom the lens. In contrast, the Nikon UR-E22 is a short tube only allowing the lens to be positioned at the extreme wide-angle. With the shorter tube, if you try to zoom out, you will bang the zoom into the back of the filter.


Tube set and polarizer in use on a P7000.

However, if you use the long tube set, the tubes will interfere with the optical viewfinder, and if you use the extreme wide angle, you will get vignetting in the photo. For that reason, the 3rd party tube comes as a two piece set. Use the short tube for wide-angle use and attach the second tube when using the telephoto range.

The only caution is again, you can smack the lens into the back of the filter if you use the short tube and zoom out. You just have to be a bit careful when using the tubes.

The P7000 works as a video camera too. while it's HD mode is 1280x720p / 24fps, and it will do Standard NTSC at 30fps. I am really not that much into video shooting, so it works well enough for me. The P7000 does have a built-in mic with a wind filter, but I prefer an external mic as shown here. This is an Audio-Technica Pro-24 CM stereo mic that can mount to the camera's hot shoe for a nice compact setup. The mic is powered by the P7000. Not all cameras can power external mics, so the mic has provision to be self powered by a LR-44 battery as well. But since the P7000 can power the mic, it's one less battery to worry about.

Nikon P7000 and Audio Technica Pro-24 CM.

Summary: While this camera won't replace a DSLR in terms of image quality, it is a very nice capable little camera, and as a second camera it is a great choice. For the street price of $400 it won't break the budget. Since I purchased this camera, I quit carrying my camcorder as it didn't have an optical viewfinder - which made it exceedingly hard to use in the Caribbean.

Note that as of late Aug 2011, Nikon has replaced the P7000 with the P7100, with delivery expected in Sept 2011.

Accessories: