Nikon Coolpix P600 review

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Nikon P600 belongs to what is called ultra-zoom camera category. It is the successor to the well received P520 model and promises even more: optical zoom is now ramped up to 60x (24-1440mm), it has 16 megapixel back illuminated sensor, Full HD video, articulated LCD and EVF and a bunch of advanced features. I reviewed P520 10 months ago and on a generally well performing camera found some aspects that should be a bit better, like auto focus speed and inability to manually choose between LCD and EVF. Please read on to find out how I liked the Nikon Coolpix P600.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: Advanced ultra-compact
  • Dimensions: 125 x 85 x 107 mm (4.92 x 3.35 x 4.21″)
  • Weight: 565g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm), 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Lens: (60x) 24-1440mm (35mm eq.), F/3.3-6.5
  • Image stabilization: Yes (in the lens)
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash
  • Continuous shooting: 7 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 921,000 dots, articulated
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion EN-EL23
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 30p, 1280 x 720 @ 60p, 640 x 480 @ 120p
  • Connectors: micro USB 2.0, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi built-in

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Build quality is excellent for this camera class. Nikon P600 is built from tightly assembled plastic. Hand grip is very big and covered with non slippery rubber so it fits in my palm perfectly. Combined with the rubber thumb-rest on the back, P520 offers very secure grip. The camera is not very heavy and can be held without fatigue for hours. The design is also quite attractive, at least in my opinion and the camera is available in several colors (depending on the country).

Besides usual controls, P600 has twin control dials which are both operated with the thumb. If you use the camera in manual exposure mode, one will operate shutter speed and the other aperture value. They can also be used for menu navigation (one browses through the options, the other one changes them).

NIKON COOLPIX P600 LENS

Nikon P600 has one of the largest optical zooms on the market. 60X zoom translate to 24-1440mm in 35 mm equivalent. It has optical stabilization and it works fine but there are limits what can be stabilized at 1440mm.

The lens looks relatively sharp considering the immense zoom range, but I would always trade high zoom for even sharper lens with less zoom. Ultimately, it does not matter since the image quality is restricted by the bad sensor, not the lens (more on that later).

Below: comparison of extreme zoom settings on P600:

NIKON P600 AUTO FOCUS

Auto focus is reasonably good on wide angle in good light. The problems start when you use optical zoom. Above 600-700mm AF needs 3-5 seconds in good light and even more (6-7 sec.) in lower light. It is even worse when recording videos, as it falls out of focus somewhere around 800mm and needs 10-15 seconds to find focus (take a look at the video sample with the ducks in the video chapter below). This is a big problem since the point of the camera with 60x optical zoom is to use it. In real life you can shoot only stationary objects at maximum optical zoom since AF cannot match moving ones. I tried to get some nice duck photos for this review but only two of them out of around 20 were acceptable; by the time P600 focused, duck already swam away out of focus.

NIKON COOLPIX P600 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

The most important aspect of any camera is the image quality. If it’s no good, all the bells and whistles on the camera are useless. Sadly, this is the case with the Coolpix P600. The sensor is small (1/2.3″) and has 16 megapixels. Even if it has some quality in it, it’s all ruined by noise reductions. Images are mostly smudged and without any details in them. Dull colors can be tweaked, but there is no cure for destroyed details in images. Dynamic range can also be a problem, especially in sunlight.

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