DPInterface Nikon Coolpix P1 Review
Brad Soo - January 1st, 2006

The Nikon Coolpix P1, along with the 5 megapixel Coolpix P2, are Nikon's first WiFi digital cameras. Besides being WiFi enabled, the Nikon Coolpix P1 also features an 8 megapixel sensor, 3.5x optical zoom, a 2.5 inch LCD and aperture control.

Size and Weight

The Nikon Coolpix P1 and P2 share equal dimensions and weight. Compared to other WiFi cameras, they're about average:

99.0 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm (130 g) - Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH
91.0 x 60.0 x 39.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P1/P2
103.0 x 63.0 x 26.0 mm (225 g) - Kodak EasyShare One

Open up the Box

Here is what's included with the Nikon Coolpix P1:

  • Rechargeable EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Wrist strap
  • User's manual
  • CD-ROM (PictureProject)

Storage and Power

The Coolpix P1 supports both Secure Digital and MultiMedia Cards; I would recommend using the former (SD cards) for performance reasons. Instead of including a memory card, the Coolpix P1 has 32 MB of internal memory. I would recommend getting at least a 512 MB card (a 1 GB card would be better though). The Coolpix P1 doesn't seem to utilize the advantage of high-speed cards.

With Nikon's EN-EL8 li-ion battery, you can get about 180 shots out of the Coolpix P1 (CIPA Standard); you'd probably want to get an extra battery pack too. The Nikon Coolpix P1 displays an icon which shows relatively how much juice remains.

 

Extras

While the Coolpix P1 doesn't support conversion lenses or external flash units, there may be some accessories of interest:

  • Camera case
  • Wireless print adapter
  • AC adapter

Camera Tour

The Nikon Coolpix P1 is available in black or...

...silver.

The Nikon Coolpix P1 features a 3.5x optical zoom lens having a focal length of 35 mm - 126 mm (35 mm equivalent) and aperture value of f2.7 - f5.2. It's a little "slow" on the telephoto end.

Above the lens is the Coolpix P1's AF-assist beam and microphone. For those who don't know, AF-assist beam helps the camera focus in low-light by emitting a beam of light. Then there's a sticker on the P1's grip displaying its highlight features.

Speaking of the grip, it's a little small and my index finger keeps having a hard climbing up to the shutter button. Of course, this is purely subjective but I think the shutter button should be on the grip.

Okay, on with the tour... That flash looks big and powerful but in reality, its range is 50 cm - 2.6 m at wide-angle and 50 cm - 1.3 m at telephoto; pretty weak considering the flash is so big looking.

The Nikon Coolpix P1 features a large 2.5 inch LCD which is becoming standard on most cameras nowadays. Sure it's big but it lacks resolution by having only 110,000 pixels. Visibility is just so-so outdoors and a little dark in low-light.

All the buttons of the Coolpix P1 are located on the right. I'll talk about each button from the top and going down. The zoom controller moves the lens when shooting and magnifies photos in playback. The telephoto button brings up more information in most of the menus.

The MENU button, well, brings up the menu. Next is the 5-way controller:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, off, on, slow-sync, rear sync)
  • Down - Focus setting (Auto, infinity, far focus, macro)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 10 seconds or 3 seconds)
  • Right - Exposure compensation (-2 till +2 in 1/3 increments)

The OK button acts as a confirm button and also a "start transfer" button

The playback button sets the Coolpix P1 from shooting to playback mode or starts the camera up in playback without having to extend the lens. Finally, there's the delete button which deletes photos (single erase) in playback mode or delete the last photo taken when in shooting mode.

On the top of the Nikon Coolpix P1, there's a speaker, shutter button, power button and mode dial. Here's what the mode dial does (Going clockwise from the little green camera):

  • Auto - Point and shoot. All settings cannot be changed; essentially, you just frame and press the shutter button
  • Programmed auto - Most settings are unlocked (Such as white balance) but the camera still chooses shutter speed and aperture value. You can, however, select a shutter speed/aperture combination to suit your preference (Be it high depth-of-field or to freeze action)
  • Aperture priority - Select an aperture from f2.7 to f7.6 at wide-angle or f5.2 to f7.3 at telephoto and the P1 selects a shutter speed to match it.
  • Scene mode (16 in total) - Portrait with face priority AF, portrait, party/indoor, night portrait, landscape, night landscape, sunset, dusk/dawn, fireworks, backlight, close up, panorama assist, beach/snow, museum, copy, sports
  • Movie - More on this in a minute
  • Set Up - Self explanatory
  • Image quality/size - Change image quality/size without having to go through the menus
  • ISO - Change ISO speed without having to go through the menus
  • WB - Change white balance without having to go through the menus
  • Wireless - Transfer images without a mess of cables

On the P1's bottom is a tripod mount and battery/memory card slots covered by a plastic door which doesn't feel very durable.

Shooting

Though the Nikon Coolpix P1 has 8 effective megapixels, you can choose one out of 7 image sizes plus one 3:2 photo mode along with 3 different choices of image quality.

In addition to controlling aperture, you can also choose to change:

  • White balance
  • Metering method
  • Bracketing
  • ISO (50, 100, 200, 400)
  • Focus area

The Nikon Coolpix P1 features a 4 cm macro mode which is great for close ups though the placement of the flash means you'd want to turn the flash off.

Also, the Coolpix P1 features several continuous shooting modes. The first two took 9 photos at around 2.1 FPS. "Ultra High Speed" mode takes up to 100 VGA-size photos at 30 FPS while "Multi-shot 16" takes 16 small photos which join up to make one full resolution photo (Ala collage).

Recording

The Nikon Coolpix P1 can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up - That won't take long so there are 2 solutions: Take them at 15 FPS and/or reduce the resolution. There's also sepia mode (QVGA at 5 FPS - Yes FIVE FPS!) and B&W (QVGA at 15 FPS), though I don't see why anyone would use them.

Using the time-lapse movie feature, you can take up to 1800 frames (between 30 seconds to 30 minutes) and make a silent 30 FPS movie. You can also record sound with photos you've taken.

In addition, you can choose the autofocus mode used when recording movies: single (fixed) and continuous (always focusing). I would recommend using single autofocus as the microphone records autofocus sound. If you wish, there's also electronic image stabilization and digital zoom available when recording.

Movie quality was below average and quite noisy.

Performance

The Nikon Coolpix P1 starts up in under 2 seconds (startup screen off) and took about 1.5 seconds to focus. Shot-to-shot speed was so-so, taking about 2.4 seconds (slightly longer if the flash is used). Flash recharge time was an average 6 seconds.

The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the buffer clearing - The camera displays the buffer clearing process (with an hourglass icon) after every shot and things get stuck for a while. The lens took 2 seconds to reach telephoto - not bad considering this is a 3.5x lens. The powering down process was close to instant.

Image Quality

Let's see the Nikon Coolpix P1's image quality as ISO speed increases (I'm trying to find a good subject for image quality tests so for now, please bear with me):


ISO 50 (f2.7, 1/8 sec)


ISO 100 (f2.7, 1/16 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.7, 1/33 sec)


ISO 400 (f3, 1/70 sec)

The ISO 50 crop has not much visible noise but is quite soft. ISO 100 doesn't look very noisy too but is much sharper. It is also here that some chromatic aberration (color fringing) is appearing. At ISO 200, the crop has a fair amount of noise, some fringing and become soft again. Naturally, the ISO 400 crop has even more noise than the previous 3 crops. Although quite sharp, the photo has lost quite a bit of detail. Barrel distortion is not noticeable unless you look really closely (The text and boxes are slanting outwards).

As far as I can see, the Nikon Coolpix P1 is can shoot at high ISO speeds with slightly below average noise and loss of detail. Image quality was overall good though at times, the P1 produced soft images.

The Nikon Coolpix P1's D-Lighting feature makes images brighter without using the flash at the cost of increased noise.

Playback

The Nikon Coolpix P1 can playback still photos and movies with sound (Thanks to the built-in speaker). It can also perform functions such as DPOF print set, slideshow, delete, protect, etc. The "small pic" function creates a VGA-sized (or smaller) copy of a photo which is great for e-mailing or posting on the web while the "copy" function transfers photos between the memory card and internal memory. This makes the internal memory useful as a photo album.

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix P1 has most of the stuff that makes a WiFi digital camera great: 8 megapixels, a 2.5 inch LCD, a slightly longer than average 3.5x optical zoom lens, lots of scene modes and aperture control.

The Nikon Coolpix P1 (and P2), unlike the other 2 WiFi cameras on market from Kodak and Canon, have several protrusions; namely the lens barrel and grip. The Nikon Coolpix P1 (And even the Kodak EasyShare One) are not meant for shirt pockets but maybe a bag or coat pocket.

Despite having a large LCD, the resolution is nearly half of what a screen that size should be. Outdoor and low-light viewing were just average. While both its competitors have no manual controls, the Coolpix P1 has aperture priority.

So what does the P1 lack? Well, the flash is quite weak, that's for sure. Buffer clearing was also a little slow. Image quality was okay but lacked crispiness in some photos. The WiFi concept is quite good (close to the Kodak EasyShare One) but lacked user-friendliness and remote shooting. I also found the WiFi tends to drain the P1's battery quickly.

What's hot:

  • WiFi enabled (Only 3 other cameras have this)
  • Affordable
  • Large 2.5 inch LCD
  • Slightly longer than average 3.5x zoom lens
  • Many scene modes and some controls
  • Aperture control with bracketing feature
  • Shutter speed/aperture combinations
  • VGA 30 FPS movie mode
  • Good image quality

What's not:

  • Average battery life; High power consumption with WiFi on and extra battery pack is expensive
  • Weak flash
  • LCD lacks resolution and visibility in low-light
  • No full manual mode and control over shutter speed
  • Buffer clearing not fast
  • Some soft photos and redeye
  • No remote shooting

Recommended Accessories

~Extra EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery pack
~1 GB Secure Digital card

Other Cameras

Other digital cameras which have WiFi connectivity are the Nikon Coolpix P2, Kodak EasyShare One and Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH.

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