Friday 10 April 2015

Nikon P900 Review Test #1

April 2015 Locarno Beach Vancouver,  Boundary Bay and Hope Airport

The skimpy starter guide that comes with P900 suggests the camera should be used with a monopod or tripod. Despite that, all these shots were taken handheld using proper holding technique. By proper holding technique I mean holding the camera tightly, tucking the elbows into the rib cage and holding your breath when depressing the shutter. Don't expect sharp images if the camera is held away from the body, just the action of depressing the shutter will cause enough movement to compromise a shot especially when zoomed out beyond 1000mm. One of the features I like most is the electronic viewfinder, is quite usable and makes photographing birds way easier than other bridge cameras I have used. More importantly the VR or vibration control on this camera also works very well.
Below is a rare (for BC) Loggerhead Shrike taken handheld in dullish lighting conditions. I am very happy how it turned out.
For birders who want to document their precious discoveries I believe that with a little practice this camera will fit their needs, especially those who already have a scope to lug around.
For more Loggerhead Shrike pictures see previous blog.

Loggerhead Shrike

The P900 is fun to use. I have already used it successfully to document scenics, wildlife and I didn't have to change lens, carry a heavy tripod or worry about neck or shoulder fatigue.
This is not a camera for those shooting stock or for those want to make large prints. However if your purpose is to have a handy tool to identify birds or post on a blog or ©Flickr then I can say this might just be the answer.
The shots below was taken at the camera's 357mm zoom position which when translated to 35mm equivalent equals an amazing 2000mm. When the camera is turned on it opens at 24mm F2.8 but when zoomed out to 2000mm the lens is F6.5, about the same as the Tamron 150mm-600mm. That's way longer than any of the lenses you see many bird photographers carrying around. Granted the chip is way smaller and the light gathering capabilities will fall way short at the beginning and end of the day. However the times when there is decent light the camera works admirably.

All these images except the Pied Grebe were taken with the optical zoom. The grebe shot was taken with the digital zoom which I have turned off for most situations.

I took the above picture with the camera resting on a bean bag. The camera may have focused at the bottom of the moon which is as you can see is tack sharp. I also sharpened the file in post processing.
Afterwards I realized the autofocus was set to face detect mode. I have now changed it to single focus  area mode so I can decide where the camera focuses.

Clouds Patterns Boundary Bay.
This is shot at 24mm with the exposure taken off the left hand side of the frame. This is done on the P900 by depressing the shutter button halfway down re-composing and then shooting. This rendered the dramatic scene as exactly as I had seen it.

Palm Warbler
For those of you who photographed the Kits Palm Warbler you'll know how flighty it was, rarely staying still for a moment. I shot two bursts in the Birding Photography mode. It allows up to ten frames a second. 
Note: If the subject doesn't move then you will get ten identical shots so it is best used for moving subjects like s bird flying. As you can see the camera doesn't handle highlights that well so a little exposure tinkering may have to be done. This can be quickly done with + and - buttons on the back of the camera. To be fair it was getting toward late morning and the light was getting a little harsh.

Mountain Bluebird
The Mountain Bluebird at Locarno Beach was a little different from the Palm Warbler. It was quite approachable and tended to come to predictable perches. This shot is again quite usable for blog or forposting on websites. I think an 8x10 print would be just fine. For a $700 camera that can't be bad.

English Bay Ship.
I had to zoom out to get this ship in the picture. I shot a small plane flying overhead and could see the pilot in the cockpit.

Using the lens at 24mm made this image a snap. 
Again handheld, I could have used the macro function but I wanted to include the sky for colour contrast so I used the 24mm wide angle. 

Shapes and Patterns
The P900 dealt with this backlit scene very easily. I didn't need to add any exposure and shot this from about ten feet away and zoomed into 2000mm to frame the shot.

Pied Grebe photographed with digital zoom mode. 
This low resolution picture here demonstrates not so much the photographic potential of the camera but it as a great tool for identification purposes.

This pied Grebe was so far away binoculars were needed to ID the bird. Beyond the 2000mm optical reach is an extended digital zoom. I am not too sure how long that is but someone out there might let me know.

If you are looking for a camera to take birding I hope this helps you make up your mind. I believe the P900 will with a little practice make your birdwatching an even better experience. Digital photography has changed the way we bird, the P900 is one such advancement.

Note: Apart from being a *Nikon NPS member I have no affiliation with Nikon.

*NPS Nikon Professional Services

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. Un article très très intéressant qui nous en apprend bien plus avec photos à l'appui que beaucoup de "reviews" qui nous noient sous un déluge de contre-vérités. Bravo pour ces informations qui sont très utiles à ceux qui se posent des questions où qui hésitent à faire l'achat. Vos observations m'ont convaincu et je vais faire le pas.

    1. Même si elle peut produire de bonnes impressions 8X10, la P900 est avant tout, une caméra destinée aux amateurs. Ceci dit, lorsqu'utilisée correctement, cette caméra peut produire des images de très bonnes qualités, mais pas des photos de grandeur 20X24.

  2. Am a birder...and moss man ( though will indulge in lichens and liverworts, other weird ground plants).

    Could you give your opinion of its macromode?

    Have done everything til now with a 24x Olympus, now a 30x Sony. Am not brand crazy, but need the machine that can handle both ends of the spectrum.

    Kind regards

    1. I find the macro mode very good for a small sensor camera. The lens can be held within inches of the subject for close-ups or with a tripod pictures can be taken from several feet away, even 20 feet away. Both give different perspectives. It depends on what you are doing with your pictures. If you are just documenting species for fun, web to up to 8x10 then the camera is perfect. If you are making large prints then DSLR is better. If I was going on holiday to visit gardens around the world and I wasn't shooting stock images and just doing slideshows to show at a club or library I would recommend the P900.

  3. Thank you, sire. I did forget one point. The particular macro am after has got to function in reduced light, the yuk end: mosses ..and forest floor stuff— the nature of my beast I have to live with.

    Am willing to go just on your call!

    Really beautiful shots of birds you have to enjoy up there, by the way. Feel fortunate found my way to your page (from the camera review site).

    South-sider (South Pacific)
    Kind regards

    1. This camera may be able to trigger an off camera flash with the right attachment or slave. Ask your camera store for more info.That should give better results. The on camera flash I don't think will give you pleasing shots. You always use a colour balanced flashlight or reflect the light with silver kitchen foil. Good luck.

  4. Hi, My dad is a keen bird photographer and is looking to upgrade his Nikon P600 without going down the DSLR route.
    Zoom is most important to him and as you mentioned these superzoom cameras are great for identification.

    Would you be able to tell me if you ever had a problem with the write speed to the memory card?

    His current camera is very slow writing images to the card (despite using high speed cards).
    When shooting burst shot you have to wait an age for the images to save before you can shoot again, something that can get very frustrating with shooting birds in flight!

    I was hoping the P900 may solve his problem, if its quicker than his current camera.

    1. Don't forget that this is a $600 camera and not equal to a Canon Rebel or Nikon D7200. When it come to write speed it can takes flight shots under the right conditions. In Scene mode you can shoot a burst of 10 flight shots but it does takes long enough that you can't shoot right after the initial burst. However given time to line up the bird you should get the flight sequence with practice and anticipation of the bird's movements.
      Nothing is perfect in the world of cameras and lenses but for 90% of bird photography and up to 8x10 print this camera does a great job. The alternative is to spend $3000-$15.000 on actual birding cameras and lenses.
      To summarize the zoom is awesome, even handheld. The write speed is adequate. The ease of use and build quality is very good. I have had it almost since it came out and I still use it extensively. It is a definite improvement. Also check a later blog about the camera. You'll need an extra battery which can be bought off Amazon. Good luck to you and your father's birding. John

  5. How do p900 perform at night?

  6. I have not used it at night but it does have all the functions for fireworks and night exposure. Obviously you will need a tripod for best results. Thanks for reading, I hope it was helpful.

  7. Hi John ..I'm a tour guide from Costa Rica and I just got the P900 for my birding adventures. Can't wait to get it out there. I have been birding with a sony DSC-HX400V not bad but the quality was not what I wanted for heavy tropical birding...Let's see if this nikon does better I think it will is a great camera I got some shots already and they look good. Handheld zooming as you say is not a problem with the proper technic.....thanks again for your review and come to Costa Rica. Best regards Gil Calvo

  8. Hi Gil,
    I hope you are enjoying your P900. I have lots of fun with it, it almost replaces my binoculars and I can take picture of birds for ID purposes without needing a scope. Personally I use it handheld but will soon experiment with a tripod and for video. It works best when the bird isn't to far way and there is decent light so I am not too sure if you photographing in low light under the canopy. I would love to see some of your bird with the camera.
    As for visiting Costa Rica it would be a dream. Go through my website to give me a link to your tours.
    Thanks for reading.

  9. What head should I use on the P900 for bird flight, Fluid or Gimbal?

  10. Because the camera is so light I hand hold for flight shots using the Bird Watching mode which you can set in the menu. You will get much better results that way. For static subjects either video to gimbal but as the camera shoots excellent video so I would choose a small video head. Thanks for reading.

  11. what about normal photo party ...festival...with coolpix 900..?

    1. Yes, very good. Not the same quality as DSLR but great for holidays, making digital photo albums and family. It has a very good menu for all kinds of events like fireworks, parties, outdoor concert, birdwatching etc. It's a bit bulky or bigger than a small pocket camera. I have lots of friends who have them and like them. Wide angle to super zoom is very good too. Thanks for reading

  12. Replies
    1. Hi,
      Not the same type of camera. The D5300 is much better quality for reproduction but you have to have more than one lens and sometimes the P900 is easier to travel with. If you make lots of 8x10 or bigger then D5300 but if you want smaller prints, web etc the P900 is a very nice camera and good for creativity. The long lens works very well for birds and far off subject which the D5300 won't do unless you have a telephoto like 80-400. Good luck. Thanks for reading.

  13. Hi John... I am a Canon owner through & through but I have been offered a P900 from someone who does not use it at all. I have 2 Canon bridge SX's, a 50HS & a 60HS amongst my arsenal of DSLR's. I find that the 60 does zoom a little further but the clarity on the 50 is far sharper. With that said, I'm sure that with a 83x optical superzoom that something 'would have' to be compromised. After all we are always short of something when purchasing a digital camera or lens for that matter. All the best...

    1. I agree, the SX50HS is the best for clarity and the zoom length, and the portability outweighs the size of the P900. The P900 is my substitute for a spotting scope when I am out with birders or for fun family shots. Sorry to hear that you are on the 'darkside' but the great equalizer is getting out into the field. Thanks for reading the blog.

  14. Thank you so much I had almost made up my mind now I am sure, thanks again.

  15. Merci, Merci, Merci!
    J'avais besoin de te lire pour faire ma décision. Je vais définitivement acheter le P900. J'ai vu tes images et ça m'a convaincu. :)

  16. Good Morning
    Since it has been over a year since your review of the Nikon P900 are you still using it and have you changed your opinion on it?

    Best wishes

    1. I have not used it as much as I did. I primarily use for ID purposes instead of a scope. I found long distant shots weren't up to my standard. However it still has a place in my camera bag. I might suggest you look at the new compact Nikon is bringing out. I might be compromise in reach but better file quality. It is also twice the price. Th video is very good. Inhope that helps.

  17. Thank you for the great review and pictures! I really feel pulled to the P900 but I think it's because that huge zoom sounds so cool and it'd be a lot of fun to play with. But then I think that after the fun wears off and I've taken as many pictures of the moon as can be taken, am I going to be left with a semi-pricey bridge camera that doesn't give me really great quality pictures or pictures that I can enlarge. I'm leaning now toward the COOLPIX B700 or maybe even dropping down to the COOLPIX A900. Still good zooms and I think better quality. Any thoughts on those?

  18. You're right it's a fun camera but not a DSLR. Yes, the shine can wear off after a while but as I have mentioned before it beats having a scope which is heavy. Plus the scope doesn't have video. It's not a camera to make enlargements, you would be better off with a D7200 or one of the 3 or 5 series nikons. Sorry I am not familiar with the cameras you mentioned. Everything is trade off when birding, heavy lens and tripod versus handheld. Buy for whatever your favourite subject matter is rather than buy then look a favourite subject matter. I also use an iphone alot. Hope that helps.