Looking at the Nikon P900

Pay attention; there’s a questionnaire at the end of the post.

The majority of people do not click on the images I put up in my posts. If they did, a new window or tab opens up showing the images at a higher resolution (size). Very few people go to my SmugMug site to look at the full-size version of the photos. 

Why do I mention this? Because I’m looking to make a decision between spending $600 on a Nikon P900 and spending $1,400 on a Nikon 200-500mm lens for them times when I want to get in closer on a subject. 

Before covering the details on the P900 and the 200-500mm lens, take a look at this:

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Pride of America ship – 3.5 miles away shot with the D7000 and the Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 lens.

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Pride of America ship – 3.5 miles away shot with the D7000 and the Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 lens CROPPED to something that still will not resolve the name.

Now, take a look at this:

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Pride of America ship – 3.5 miles away shot with the D7000 and the Nikon 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6 lens.

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Pride of America ship – 3.5 miles away shot with the D7000 and the Nikon 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6 lens CROPPED to where I can at least make out the name.

Now, here is a shot taken at about the same time with a Nikon P900 camera.

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P900 – handheld – 1798mm optical zoom

The P900 will do a digital zoom on top of that (essentially the same as cropping the optical image, only done in the camera).

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P900 – handheld – 6400mm digital zoom

Here is a shot of the Old Kona Airport from about 4.5 miles away . . . 

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P900 – handheld – 2400mm digital zoom

Now, I will grant you these photos will not win any awards or even draw any accolades.

Some say the only usefulness for them is if you want to see something very far away, as in “Is that Elvis? I can’t believe it! It looks like Elvis! . . . lemme snap a photo . . . crap! It’s Keanu Reeves; never mind.”

But, not every shot has to be four miles away . . . 

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P900 – handheld – 2000mm optical zoom

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P900 – handheld – 2000mm optical zoom

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P900 – handheld – 550mm optical zoom

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P900 – handheld – 650mm optical zoom

There are two things to understand here . . . one is that these are “snapshots”. I took no great care in shooting these; I shot them the same as if I were using my D7000.

Two, I’m unfamiliar with the p900 and I was playing around with various settings. 

I would venture to say these are probably “good enough” for the blog. While these look pretty good at a width of 1280pixels (what you get if you click on the photos), a couple of these are good enough for SmugMug. Meaning, at their native 4600 x 3500 resolution, they look almost good enough to satisfy me. 

However, most of the photos are not to my satisfaction when looked at their native resolution and at a 100% crop . . . something that only one or two people ever do. 

BUT . . . often, the photos coming out of the Nikon — especially when I’m just walking around shooting — are not good enough in my eyes for anything other than showing them in a blog post. 

Consider these two photos:

200mm optical zoom with my Nikon

200mm optical zoom with my Nikon

Crop of the above photo

Crop of the above photo

Those are a mess when looking at them at their native resolution. The reasons are varied, handheld and lots of humidity and rising heat and haze (vog) being the main contributors to degradation at the pixel level. 

Now, these next ones are the same scene a minute apart or so from the Nikon shots. None of these are crops; they are resized versions of the full-size shots. 

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P900 at 200mm optical zoom

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P900 at 700mm optical zoom

Here is a series of just the P900 shot a little earlier in the day:

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That last shot is at 1800mm optical zoom.

Now, if I look at the original size and examine the individual pixels at 100% . . . well, I would not be happy. But neither would I be happy with the Nikon shots. Basically, when I pixel-view anything, I’m usually unhappy. 

See, here’s my dilemma — and this is a bit hard to follow, so bear with me here: I can either keep the P900 and have one camera with a fixed 24mm-2000mm lens for them times when I’m just sightseeing, OR I order the 200-500mm lens and add it to the 70-200mm lens and the 17-50mm lens, and the 10-20mm lens and the 105mm macro lens I normally carry around with me when sightseeing. 

I should mention that the 200-500mm lens with the camera weights about 7-pounds. The lens itself extends to 17-inches. And, it costs more than twice as much as the P900.

Now, it sounds as if I am talking myself into owning a P900, and that is a fair charge . . . except that I am not. I’m willing to lug around 25-30-pounds of equipment for a significant improvement in the quality of photos I get. 

BUT . . . “significant improvement” is a bit difficult to define. Plus, despite (some) people liking the shots I take, they mostly look good at blog-resolution. The “art” shots I take are usually the only ones that will offer up amazing details because they are shot under controlled conditions. (for example HERE)

In contrast, THESE shots suffer when viewed at full resolution. Not full-on crap-suck, but neither are they very clean, meaning you would not want to crop them too tightly.

This afternoon I took the P900 to one of the surfing beaches. It was late in the afternoon and I was shooting against the sun. Here’s what I got:

P900 - 600mm optical zoom

P900 – 600mm optical zoom

P900 - 600mm optical zoom

P900 – 600mm optical zoom

I could tweak these a bit more. This last one kind of looks better like this: 

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Maybe; I don’t know. But the point is that those are not bad photos for the subject matter. Some people might want to go in tighter, but I’m reasonably happy with that handheld shot.

Here is a shot at not as happy with. I tried a couple of treatments, but you can’t fix blur all that much:

P900 - 18mm zoom (handheld)

P900 – 1800mm zoom (handheld)

20170112_dscn0187_1-processed-2To give you an idea how far away she was, this next shot is at roughly 2.5x (125mm). Again, two slightly different treatments.

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Here’s another action shot . . . 

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P900 – 240mm zoom

Here are some wider shots . . . 

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P900 – 60mm zoom

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P900 – 30mm zoom

I’m including this next shot (at 124mm zoom) because it looks like a ghoul is holding up the tree in the center of the photo.

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Here are a few things I do not like about the P900:

No RAW option: this thing shoots only JPGs. That’s not a big deal as long as I can control a bit the processing the camera does. Still, “real” photographers shoot RAW and this would be a step back for me. National Geographic is never going to hire a guy who shoots JPGs using a Point-and-Shoot camera with a fixed lens. 

Electronic viewfinder: It’s a bit difficult to see through, but my main objection is that you are not seeing a direct image; there is a lag introduced between the time you see something and when the photo is actually captured. With a DLSR, you press the button and the lag is very, very small. Practically speaking, I see something and pressing the shutter release gets me what I see. Here, pressing the shutter gets me what the camera sees roughly 0.2 to 0.3 seconds after I saw it — that’s enough to miss a shot. On top of that, it’s difficult to acquire the target at the high zooms, something I don’t have problems with even with the 80-400mm lens (note: I missed s hot of a hawk because I could not “find” it with the camera at almost full zoom. Even if I backed off and found it, the mere fact of zooming back in moved the camera enough to make me loose it). The D7000 has a nice big bright viewfinder. Not so here, and it’s difficult to use the viewfinder with glasses on. The beach photos above were taken with me holding the camera at belt-level and looking at the screen. 

It’s a light camera: the reviewers call it “heavy” but they must be wimps. Because it is light, it’s difficult to control and at the longest zooms, even the smallest of movements give you big swings. This makes it easy to lose your place and your subject. (see video below)

Can’t control focus point: the camera tries to decide what it should focus on and that causes problems when something else is in the frame with the subject, especially if the something else is closer. I would prefer a dedicated spot focus I could control. 

Manual Focus: you can set the camera to manual focus but the focusing is done not by a ring on the lens, but by a wheel on the body. That makes it awkward for me to change focus and keeping the camera steady. I presume if I keep it I will eventually get used to it.  

You can read a field report by someone with more cred HERE.

So, here’s a brief survey:

The plan is to go for a drive this weekend and try a wide variety of shots to see how it does. For them who be worried, I am keeping all my Nikon Gear and that will be my preferred camera for a lot of shooting situations. I’m only considering the P900 for them times when photography is a secondary thing to just looking around.  

Meanwhile here are a few movies I shot. Again, they are handheld and lack any finesse since I was trying to learn how to use the camera. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Finally, if you interpret anything on this blog as me asking or wanting pity, encouragement, or advice to better my life, know my subtle mix of irony, sarcasm, and humor is blowing right by you.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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32 Responses to Looking at the Nikon P900

  1. Natty Kish says:

    Wow Good photos !!

    Like

  2. Eddy Winko says:

    The best camera is the one you have with you! I think I heard someone say once.
    I wouldn’t buy either, the first option would feed me and the family for 6 months, the second for a whole year and if you only outlet for your pictures is your blog then I’ll change my answer to ‘get a new hobby’ and send me the money!

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Yes . . . that’s just as true for knives, guns, and toothpicks.

      As for the feeding thing, you grow your own food, so it’s difficult to make comparisons. Rest assured, however, this would not be coming out of our food money.

      Also, food is a transitory thing . . . it’s enjoyed for a brief period of time and then it literally turns to crap. Yes, some people make extended use of it, but that requires a lifestyle that’s not for everyone.

      The camera equipment I buy stays with me for a long time so one needs to look at the cost amortized over time.

      As for changing hobbies, one can’t put a monetary value on one’s likes, nor should they. True, I get no monetary rewards from my photography but it was never intended to be a money-maker (a difficult business to earn a living on). It’s enough that three people occasionally like one or two of my photos (if only I could be as successful with my writing).

      Think of it like this: I never saw the value in having kids and I still don’t. I mean, I like them and all, but from the point of view of a parent, there is little financial reward to having kids (often, it has a spectacularly opposite effect to wealth-building). Most parents do it for other reasons; reasons that make little to no sense to me. I mean, in the olden days it at least made sense as a homegrown workforce one could command at will. These days, they are mostly a financial drain. Plus, so many of them turn into little shits (even as adults) that even viewed through the rose-colored glasses most parents wear, they are a constant source of worry and frustration. And yet, the world is inundated with mini-vampiric-terrors running around as if they own the place.

      So, sorry . . . no money for you. I’ll stick to my hobbies as they help keep me from turning my considerable focus and determination toward speeding humankind toward their eventual and inevitable demise. I’ve heard it say that’s a good thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Rincewind says:

    I pressed the disposable camera mainly because it ALL depends on the photographer, you can have all the technology you want but still be a bad photographer. It all depends on your vision.

    Like

  4. oneowner says:

    I have been using a little Sony point and shoot that we had laying around and I’ve been very pleased with it. It doesn’t have a super zoom on it and no manual controls but it has some advantages I never thought I would need, the biggest being it’s small size and weight. I found myself using it more often. Regrettably, it shoots jpg only. However, there is a lot of information in the files that can adjusted and tweaked in Lightroom and they do well with the plugins. I like the idea that I can somewhat control the noise through software if I have to. I’ve yet to make a large print from one of the files but I intend to do so soon. I’d also like to get a print made from a phone image as well.
    I like the idea of the P900. But I’m going to guess that you would be unhappy with any focal length higher than 400 mm (equivalent). It’s just not going to be sharp enough for you. But you have it if you absolutely need it. The logic being a bad shot is better than no shot.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I admit, as much as I like having the full gear package with me when I go on dedicated photo excursions, it gets old when I’m just going for a pleasant drive. Plus, I’ve lost shots while trying to swap lenses, and it is true that a mediocre shot is better than no shot.

      As for the quality at the long zooms, it’s not so much the idea of capturing stuff four miles away, although it’s possible, but to capture more detail of something close. There is a point where the crop from a high-quality lens is not as good (or no worse) than a full-size version of a lesser lens/camera combo capturing the same detail. The reason I’m even looking at this is the number of times when I can’t crop enough to get me what I want.

      It’s not a lot of times, but it’s enough to frustrate me. I’ll play around with this for a bit and see what I get.

      Plus, I don’t print much anymore and large files with lots of details are seldom appreciated by readers of the blog. The scene is more what people enjoy as opposed to the ability to zero in on a minute aspect of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. mvschulze says:

    Considering the price and compact, all inclusive package (maybe not all…) AND updated tech features (connectivity, GPS etc) this looks like a surprisingly robust camera for many; and particularity combined with post processing would satisfy, or closely satisfy a lot of my uses….but not all. Like you, I cherish grabbing my bag (s) and heading out for a day (or night) to capture interesting images, which includes the capabilities of dedicated lenses: wide angle, macro, fast, and telephoto, etc. etc. BUT as a second “do almost all of it” traveling, camera….this looks like a lot of potential. M :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • mvschulze says:

      Here’s a reply to my own post: just noting that I never really have all the equipment I wish I had, as we all know of the high costs… but as time goes on, its always nice to THINK of a “faster” lens, or other specific improvement…. My wish list is always active. Life is good!

      M :-)

      Like

      • disperser says:

        I come across a lot of stuff that has me going “I could use that” but then I step back and get someone to slap me and say “you, sir, are not a pro!”

        Still, it’s fun to look at some of the lenses.

        One thing I should have mentioned, the 200-500mm lens can be rented for $76/week (current price). An alternative is to rent the lens for special trips. For the price of the lens, you could do that 20 times before breaking even as far as buying it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • mvschulze says:

          I’ve considered renting on occasion, but I find I often need to do a lot of stuff in quick succession basically by instinct when trying to capture that moment, and if I am not REALLY familiar with the lens/camera…. it doesn’t happen. There are times also when I just grab the stuff and go out, no planning, just on impulse, or weather phenomena, or whatever. And if I were a Pro, my whole unbridled hobbyist outlook would be compromised. With that said, I’ve seen beginners in these posts ascend to the ranks of very successful pro’s, …but it’s just not for me. M :-)

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Renting cameras would seem to offer more of a challenge of unfamiliarity. I’ve rented lenses in the past and I’ve not had any problems with familiarization (lenses being a lot simpler).

          And yes, not looking to turn pro . . . unless offered money for doing basically what I do now.

          Like

    • disperser says:

      Some very highly rated and expensive “pocket” cameras recommended by pros have lenses that are limited in zoom (some have no zoom), and if the majority of my photography was in that area, the decision would different, especially since the P900 is not a small camera (but smaller than my full rig).

      But, yes, you nailed the matter . . . there are times where grabbing the bag full of gear is exactly what I want to do. And there are times when I wish I had a more versatile point-and-shoot that would handle a wider range of photo opportunities. That’s what I’m looking for here and I don’t know if this is it.

      . . . but, I aim to find out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I much preferred the photos of the ship that were clear and detailed, I don’t understand and make no pretence of understanding all that you said about different camera’s. and what the do, and don’t do, It all goes over my head. I’m pretty dense when it comes to photography.
    I suggest you get what you want and bugger what we might suggest; you’re the one who’s going to use the stuff, and you’re the one you have to keep happy.
    Here endeth the lesson for today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Well, I’m an accommodating sort . . . if people really enjoy “exploring” my photos, that comes into play as a consideration.

      The reality is that most people just look at the picture as presented. That much is evident when I present photos from my phone which don’t lend themselves to enlargements or fine details viewing.

      But, yes . . . ultimately I will do what I want. Really, that’s pretty much always the case.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I know nothing, nada, zilch (you get the idea) about cameras…but, whatever camera you use, I always enjoy your photos! :-)

    I always say (related to hobbies especially)…If you got some money you can put toward your hobby and there is something you want to buy…go for it! :-)

    Love the vids! When surfers are surfing well they seem so happy and at peace and so free! I love watching them glide over the waves! :-)

    HUGS!!! :-)

    Like

  8. 1bl0gr3ad3r says:

    Chiming in here, as well. Jpg only, electronic viewfinder, and the blasted lag time in capturing the image wanted when the button was pushed = total frustration. Took a Nikon point & shoot on my 1st/only cruise – to Alaska. Was great for the average touristy shots. But Glacier Bay deserved nothing less than my tripod and appropriate body-lens combos; certainly not the purple Nikon. It was logistics: lightweight, compact, both optical/digital zoom & would not kill me if it fell overboard, was dropped, eaten by airport screeners, etc. My take? Keep the P900 for your fam drives and obvious blog shots. Rent the wonderful 200-500 zoom as needed for special stuff. Or– consider a 2nd body so you could have 2 mounted lens choices at any time. Sharp manual focus to capture exactly what we want at 3×5 to poster size– goal for a lifetime. (I haven’t clicked like on your blog since you don’t really care about that stuff – but happy to change!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      I had my full rig with me for our Alaska Cruise:
      https://dispersertracks.com/tag/alaska-cruise/

      I had my tripod with me, but while on the ship I did not use it much since a ship is not a stable platform. I liked a lot of the photos but was disappointed with many, especially the ones during the Tracy Arm crossing where the light was less than optimal ( but also a combination of user and equipment shortcomings).

      The thing with the P900 — and what I am trying to figure out — is whether I can use it as a passable substitute for the full gear.

      For instance, I used to own the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (first generation) and some of the photos I was never happy with were with that lens on the D7000. A great lens on its own, but when I switched from the D200 to the D7000, the higher resolution brought out the shortcomings of that lens. That’s why I switched to the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 and use the 70-200mm f/2.8 for longer shots, but that has me switching lenses more than I want as I notice different scenes.

      The two cameras is an option, but then we’re talking about carrying even more gear.

      At an intellectual level, I know there is no one all-around (reasonably priced) camera and single lens that will give me the quality I want and handle all the situations I might encounter . . . but then I yell out: “Why the heck not!” and go back looking for one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      At one time, I had removed the “like” button, but some of my regular readers wanted to have it so they could let me know they had read the posts even if they didn’t have a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dina says:

    I’m with you. I’m a dedicated Nikon girl. I have complained about my heavy gear, now I have changed my attitude and say it’s part of the game. I’d not go back to shooting jpg, no way. It’s tempting to get the Sony Alpha 7R II (the cost of the lenses is a downfall), but it gets heavy too.
    Have fun, if you can afford to go higher, do it, you’ll love it. Recently I was attending a lecture by a Nikon Nordic Ambassador (Roger Strandli Brendhagen), he’s favourite lens is the 600mm … :-)

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I’ve been happy (or at least complacent) with lugging around 15 pounds of gear when I go anywhere . . . but in this warmer climate, it’s really not fun. Did I mention I hate to sweat?

      Here’s my equipment, in case curiosity strikes:
      https://dispersertracks.com/2012/10/13/dalise-photography-the-equipment/

      As for JPGs I’ve been reluctant to buy into it, but for a long while now I’ve been saving both RAW and JPGs and see little difference in what I can do with them . . . unless I mess up the photo.

      Yes, yes, I know I appear near-perfect, but I do mess up. RAW is for those times, rare as they may be.

      I’ve done a number of posts on the P900 and I decided I will keep it as I’ve been able to coax better photos from it then when it first came out of the box.

      I can afford to go higher but am not convinced it gets me anything more in terms of quality. Granted, were I printing 16″x20″ canvas for museums, I would spend the extra money, but most of my stuff just goes on the blog and my SmugMug account. No one is interested in buying it and few even look at it. For the blog, often photos from my phone are good enough.

      It’s a poser, alright . . . one made more difficult by a little bit of vanity, something I did not know I had. Walking around with the P900 and seeing someone with a proper DSLR and nice lens makes me want to go up to them and say “Hey, just so you know, I got one of them as well; I’m just trying this camera out!”

      Then I remind myself I don’t care what others think for they know not the wonderfulness that is me.

      Like

    • disperser says:

      The 600mm Nikon is $13K and the 800mm tops out over $20K, not to mention that — while I’m incredibly buff — those are both monster lenses. Even the 200-500mm is a sizable lens not easily or casually lugged around.

      But, it is a great lens. Here’s the review of it:
      http://www.dslrbodies.com/lenses/nikon-lens-reviews/nikon-200-500mm-f56-lens.html

      Here are his other reviews:
      http://www.bythom.com/camera-lens-and-accessory.html

      Like

  10. danupondrake says:

    Cool pictures.

    Like

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