Nikon P1000 . . . should I buy one?

Note: just to be clear, the title is a rhetorical question; I’m not asking anyone to answer it. I’m actually asking myself and sorting out the answer in the writing below. 

Lectorem monuit est: while this might be of passing interest to “wannabe photographers” such as myself, this won’t have much appeal to either amateur using itsy-bitsy cameras — or phone cameras — or serious photographers using multi-$K cameras and lenses. 

So, they’ve announced the Nikon P1000. It’s the replacement to the P900 I own. Sorry; not a replacement; it’s an upgrade to the P900.

With the exception of a few things, I’ve been fairly happy with the P900. I mean, I can’t really complain about the photo quality because it’s more than sufficient for the stuff I present on the blog.  

Most of the time, it’s pretty good even at the pixel level (although usually not as good as my Nikon D7000 and dedicated lenses). Here’s a couple of P900 galleries for your perusal (HERE and HERE) dating from last year. 

It showed itself capable to hold its own during last year’s Alaska cruise (for example, HERE and HERE and more posts to come will feature mostly P900 photos). So much so that I don’t plan to bring my Nikon D7000 and associated lenses with me on my next planned vacation; I’m planning to rely entirely on the Note 8 and P900 for my travel photography and video needs. This excursion to Volcano National Park (now closed) convinced me of the viability of the camera for documenting travels.

This is a previously unpublished photo from The Place of Refuge

So will I buy the P1000? What does it gain me? 

Well, there are some plusses and minuses (ain’t life always like that?) and it makes the decision not as easy as one might think.

First, there’s the cost. At $1,000 it’s 66% more expensive than the P900 (the P900 still sells for $600). In case anyone isn’t sure, that’s a minus. I can offset that cost by selling the P900 and a couple of Nikon lenses I’m unlikely to use again. 

The P1000 does shoot in RAW but they haven’t increased the size of the sensor so I’m not sure how much use it will be as a practical consideration. Meaning, you can output the RAW file so that you can edit it directly but I’m unsure how much better that would be from letting the internal processor handle the conversion to JPG. There are some advantages but probably not as much as if the sensor was larger.

Of course, the sensor is small because they wanted to increase the zoom. It went from 83x (2000mm equivalent zoom) to 125x (3000mm equivalent zoom). 

That sounds impressive but — with a couple of exceptions — the long zoom gives diminishing returns. I cover that in THIS post. Basically, while it’s impressive that you have a monster zoom, the practical applications are restricted by the stuff we breathe, the sun heating up the ground and the resultant atmospheric distortion, and whatever impurities are floating around.

Take, for instance, this shot taken from a Hilo restaurant . . . 

That’s Mauna Kea in the distance, adorned by the observatories some of the locals would like to see blown up. 

The peak is 29 miles from where I snapped the photo . . . and this next shot is me using the P900 83x zoom (2000mm equivalent) to “bring them closer” . . .

“That don’t look too bad!” you say. 

No, Bob, it doesn’t. But, click on the photo and see it twice as large . . . not exactly tack-sharp, is it? And that’s on a relatively cool day January day. On a hot day, the atmospheric distortion is much worse. 

But, even if it’s a decent day, what do I gain from the additional 51% additional zoom? I don’t think the photo would be much better. On the other hand, I imagine any moon photo would be that much better. 

The photo would be 51% larger . . . whether that can resolve more detail, I don’t know . . . 

. . . because there’s another aspect of the 125x zoom . . . at the 3000mm equivalent zoom, you’re shooting at f/8. For them not into photography, that means you need a fair amount of light. 

On the other hand . . . let’s say you’re not shooting at something 30 miles away . . . let’s say you’re shooting at something 30 feet away. Well, then, that might work out a bit better. I think the P1000 would serve birdwatchers well . . . 

It would even serve turtle-watchers well since there’s a minimum distance requirement when turtles are resting on the beach.

Realistically, I could get as good a shot or better with my D7000 and either of my big lenses, so the P900’s advantage has got to do more with the versatility (24mm-2000mm) and the ability to shoot something outside the range of my current lenses. 

However, there are additional considerations to . . . well, consider when . . . er . . . considering upgrading to the P1000. 

The P1000 is bigger. And, heavier. How much bigger and heavier?

Snapsort Nikon P1000 vs Nikon P900

Compare P1000 versus P900 top

Those images are courtesy of THIS site which includes a whole bunch of comparisons. 

Understand, the P900 is not exactly a small camera. It’s not huge, but it’s not small. The P1000 dwarfs it. At a tad more than a pound heavier, it tops out a shade over three pounds (3.12 lb).

The P900 — at full zoom — is about 9″ long measuring from the back of the camera to the front of the lens. 

The P1000 is 14″. 

If anyone has read my “problems” with the P900 would know that I won’t object to the extra weight . . . provided it’s evenly distributed. The P900 at full extension is “back heavy” which makes it difficult holding focus on something far away, especially if hand-held. I’m hoping the P1000 is a bit better balanced as it will help in holding it steady, but assuming the same design as the P900 means that it will be even more difficult to shoot hand-held at any kind of zoom.  

Let’s talk zoom a moment . . . The P900 has 83x optical zoom (2,000mm equivalent) and a Dynamic Fine zoom of 166x (4,000mm equivalent). I hardly ever used the dynamic zoom but it does do a better job than just shooting the optical range and cropping. 

The P1000 has 125x optical zoom (3,000mm equivalent) and — from the article — “with Nikon’s Dynamic Fine Zoom option, the camera can reach up to 6000mm eq. while standard “digital zoom” will provide up to a whopping 12,000mm equivalent! Note that with both Dynamic Fine Zoom and digital zoom, image quality will be decreased compared to images shots within the optical zoom range; less so with Dynamic Fine Zoom than with standard digital zoom thanks to enhanced image processing.”

With that much zoom, shooting hand-held can be a challenge; like I said, the P900 is back-heavy so difficult to hold the front of the lens steady. 

NOTE: I never hold the front of the lens because that’s a movable piece. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect grabbing the lens while extended might risk damaging the zoom motor and/or function. 

Nikon doesn’t provide full-time VR other than when shooting video. Again, from the article: “Whether or not you shoot with optical zoom or reach into digital zoom range, we are talking about some serious telephoto reach here, and if you shoot handheld — which is likely with this kind of camera — you’ll be glad that there’s some powerful image stabilization on-board. Like the P900, the P1000 offers up to 5 stops of reported shake correction with its Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction system. For still photos, the VR system is purely optical, while for video shooting the camera uses a combination of optical VR and electronic stabilization to help steady your clips.”

That’s why you might read some specs that say there’s no image stabilization in the camera which is both true and false. 

The point I want to make is that the best way I’ve found to shoot at full zoom is to swing out the tilt-screen while holding the camera at waist level by pulling on the strap that’s around my neck. Meaning, I hold the camera with both hands positioned so I can reach the necessary buttons and I “push” the camera down and away from me. The tension helps stabilize the camera without having to hold the front lens. 

Note: I should do a post about the PeakDesign strap and system for attaching the strap to the camera. Because it attached to one of the regular strap eyelets on the top side of the camera and to the base plate at the bottom of the camera, it lets the camera hang lens down which is a lot easier to carry. I also use the clip when primarily walking because it’s a more comfortable carry (I attach it to my belt). Not sure that would be the same for the heavier P1000. 

In part, I use this method because the P900’s electronic viewfinder kind of sucks. It’s good enough at shorter distances but not very good for anything far away as the process of holding the camera to your face while fully extended makes it difficult to hold it steady and that — combined with a fairly dark viewfinder — makes it difficult to hold the subject in the frame. 

In that respect, I’m happy to hear the P1000 has a much larger viewfinder and a slightly larger screen. Again, from the article: “Lastly, the Nikon P1000 features both an electronic viewfinder and a vari-angle LCD screen, much like on the P900. The rear TFT LCD maintains a similar 921K-dot resolution as the P900, but its size has increased slightly from a 3-inch display to a larger 3.2-inch panel. The EVF, however, undergoes a more significant refresh, moving up to a larger, higher resolution OLED panel with 2.3-million dots — a nice change from a 921K-dot-equivalent LCD.”

The above shot was hand-held during a cloudy/voggy day and standing on shore about 250 yards from the surfer. It’s not bad, but because I’m shooting at a high zoom (450mm eq.) I’m at f/5.0 and 1/500sec. at ISO 100.

This is one of the concerns with the P900 — it’s f/2.8 at the shorter zooms, but the f-value climbs pretty quickly as you increase the zoom. It sounds like the P1000 will be as bad if not worse. 

That’s at about 90mm eq. zoom and it’s still at f/4.0. 

Now, truthfully, I can’t — and won’t — complain about either of those photos. Sure, there’s not worth getting down to pixel-level to look at the details, but they’re more than OK for the blog (or, at least, this blog). 

And, it’s not like I can’t take decent photos with this camera throughout the zoom range . . . 

Again, perhaps not at the pixel level, but those as good as what I’ve posted that was taken with my D7000 and dedicated lenses. 

So, here I sit . . . September will come around pretty quick (when the P1000 ships). I don’t know when the camera will actually be available through Costco (90-days return policy) but I’m thinking about getting it. 

Despite the extra money and bulk, it’s an intriguing camera. A lot will hinge on the usefulness of shooting RAW (I have high hopes for it) and how it handles subjects that right now give me trouble with the P900 like action shots (shutter lag) and noise at anything over ISO 400). 

There’s another thing I don’t like about the P900 . . . the battery life. Two things with it; it’s not impressive and when it goes, it goes pretty quick. It’s why I carry four extra batteries when I leave home for a driving trip. At least one fully charged battery in the camera and one in my pocket if I go for a walk.

The P900 is rated at 360 shots per fully charged battery but that’s affected by things like shooting video and having the GPS active. By the way, the P1000 — despite being larger — has done away with the GPS receiver. There are after-market devices you can buy and I suspect Nikon did away with the GPS both because of the battery drain and because the P1000 — unlike the P900 — has a dedicated hot shoe for an external flash (in addition to the internal flash) or other peripherals. 

The P1000 — despite having a larger battery — is rated at 250 shots per fully-charged battery. I can see me needing at least four other batteries if not more. 

That’s because one of the main reasons for buying the P900 was its video capabilities as opposed to the D7000 (can’t really shoot video with the D7000 without mounting it on a tripod). Well, the P1000 will shoot at 4K resolution. Not that I have a 4K resolution-capable TV or monitor, but it’s nice having the capability going forward. 

In consideration of all of the above, I’m looking forward to reading “honest” reviews. Right now, aside from discussions about the stated technical details, the only hands-on reviews have been from Nikon. Their photos, comments from photographers who work or have contracts with Nikon, and lots of obviously staged shoots. 

I’m anxious to see some of the sites I follow give real-world usage reviews of the camera. Even then — as I did with the p900 — the proof will be me handling and using the camera and getting used to its idiosyncrasies. 

I have the advantage of having read many reviews before buying the P900 and subsequently handling the camera myself and judging which reviewer came close to matching my experience and opinion with/of the camera. I say this because few photographers regarded the P900 as anything more than a curiosity aimed at poor hapless wanna-be photographers (apparently, since I like the camera, that includes me). I saw it as a viable replacement for the higher-end gear I own. Not for everything, but for the majority of stuff I do. 

Besides, it’s only fitting that a wannabe writer should use a camera for wannabe photographers. 

From what I’ve read so far, I think the Nikon P1000 would fit me fine despite the larger size and some misgivings about the small sensor and the lack of increase resolution over the P900. In part, I’m hoping newer sensor and software technology will result in better output than what I’m getting from the P900. Not that I’m spitting on the P900. After all, I just might end up keeping it. 

Here are some Nikon P1000-related links for the interested reader:

Posts I linked above (plus a few more) having to do with my P900 experience:

OK, I think that’s enough. I mean, there’s more, but no one is going to read through even all that, let alone anything else I link.  

Here’s the gallery of the above photos. I didn’t bother with a SmugMug gallery as there are plenty of P900 photos in many of my SmugMug galleries. 

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


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