The Nikon Coolpix P900 is a bridge camera which features the current market leading zoom ratio of 83x optical zoom. That gives you an equivalent of 24 – 2000mm in 35mm terms.Nikon has included a Dual Detect Optical VR system, which should give a 5-stop advantage. The P900 features a 1/2.3 inch 16 million pixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which is the same as the sensor found in the Nikon P610. Other features include a 3-inch, 921k dot articulating screen, an electronic viewfinder and built-in Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC.
Design and features
Despite appearances, the P900’s design and shooting options lean more toward an average point-and-shoot than a dSLR or even most other bridge cameras. If you like a lot of direct controls for settings, you’ll be disappointed. There’s a single programmable function button just behind the shutter release; its default is changing continuous-shooting modes, but it can be set for ISO, white balance, metering, AF area mode, color mode or image size.You do get a 921K-dot-resolution 3-inch Vari-angle display and 0.5cm (0.2-inch) electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a proximity sensor so that it will automatically switch from the LCD to the EVF when you bring it up to your eye. There’s no hot shoe for a flash or an external mic jack for video. There is a rocker switch on the lens barrel for controlling the lens. It can be used to zoom in and out or for manual focus with peaking.Shooting modes cover everything from full auto to full manual, but the manual and semimanual modes have shutter speed limits on them depending on the ISO and aperture settings you use. For example, to shoot at its top shutter speed of 1/4,000 second at the wide end of the lens, the aperture has to be f8 (the smallest aperture available, by the way). To use its longest shutter speed of 15 seconds, the sensitivity must be set to ISO 100.The P900 also has Wi-Fi with NFC, so you can view and transfer photos and video clips to your smartphone or tablet, or use one to remotely control the camera. The remote controls are limited to zooming in and out and the shutter release, and it only does stills, no video. But considering the self-timer has to be set every single time you use it, the app is a workaround. GPS is also built in for geotagging shots and finding points of interest you might want pictures of when travelling.
I expected the long zoom lens to offer a good user experience with a reach that no other bridge camera can capture currently. But while the 83x zoom is the headliner here, close-up shots were excellent. The autofocus grabbed objects close to the camera very well. Where a lot of cameras claim a good macro in their specs, this one seems to really live up to the claim for focusing as close as .4 inches from the front of the camera at the widest angle.As well as having a pretty good focus range, the autofocus speed is excellent as well. In our test shots, manual focus single images were taken about a second or so apart. With the autofocus on, the time between shots was still only about 1.3 seconds apart.The Nikon P900 has a very wide selection of modes—enough to please both the advanced user and the casual shooter, including a slot to save your favorite settings. The scene auto selector is a fancy auto mode that will choose the scene mode for you, but there’s a good variety to choose from to match pretty much any scenario. Along with the typical options like sports and portraits, there’s a mode for birding, which is good to see on a super zoom camera.
The P900 uses a small 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, significantly smaller than what you’d get in a mirrorless compact or dSLR or higher-end compacts. A big sensor typically translates into better image quality, so don’t expect the quality of a dSLR just because the P900 looks like one.That being said, the P900’s photos are good. They definitely benefit from some post-shoot editing to help with color, sharpness and contrast. Pixel peepers won’t like what they see when viewing the P900’s images at full size. Up to ISO 200 you get a fair amount of fine detail so that enlarging and cropping in is possible, particularly with close-up shots.Shots toward the end of the zoom range lack detail regardless of ISO setting, though. I’ve included several samples in the slideshow below so you can see that, while subjects can look good at smaller sizes, once you start to blow things up you lose a lot of detail.Video quality is good as long as you have a lot of light; with low-contrast subjects the camera will struggle to focus when zooming all the way in.There is no mic jack, but the stereo mics on top of the camera does well enough. If you zoom in and out while recording, the mics will pick up sound from the lens movement that you’ll hear in quiet scenes. You might also hear the autofocus system clicking away if it’s hunting for focus.
There’s no doubt that the Nikon P900 has the best zoom on the market currently. And while that zoom isn’t as sharp at the end, the P900 will outperform similar cameras at the same zoom lengths—and then go in quite a bit closer if needed. The P900 is extremely versatile, with macro shots being just as easy as telephoto snaps.Noise reduction and the sharpness at the end of the lens could be tweaked some, but the Nikon P900 is truly an amazing camera considering everything that has been packed into a small-ish camera.Really, the P900 will work well for anyone that simply needs to get up close. It’s a good option for taking pictures of wildlife or little league without a professional’s budget. Decent speed makes it an option for sports as well. That big zoom is best when the lighting is good, though. Don’t expect to take it to concerts and sit in the back without a tripod. While the engineering of the 83x zoom with a .4 inch macro in such a small camera is pretty amazing, the technology hasn’t reached the point where handheld shots in limited light and a 83x zoom aren’t subject to blur.