Photography / Hands-on Review

The Nikon P900: The New King of the Superzooms

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Make no mistake: the Nikon COOLPIX P900 is a photo-taking telescope that you hold in your hand. The superzoom point-and-shoot camera has been around for years, albeit under the radar, as the point-and-shoot market has been waged in a war against two competing genres of cameras. On one end: the smartphone camera. On the other: the entry-level DSLR camera with its lower and lower price point. If the point-and-shoot is going to survive this war, it is the superzoom camera that will save it. Put simply, there is no smartphone or DSLR on the planet that can reasonably be as versatile as the superzoom point-and-shoot camera, and the COOLPIX P900 has just raised that game.

For the past few years, the superzoom standard bearers have been outfitted with impressive lenses that bring a 50-65x optical zoom to the digital sensor, giving them a 35mm equivalent focal length ranging from 20mm on the wide end to an eye-watering 1400mm-ish telephoto range.

"THE" Zoom

Are you sitting down? The new Nikon COOLPIX P900 features an 83x optical zoom lens that ranges from a 35mm-equivalent 24mm to 2000mm zoom range. No, that is not a typographical error. It is a 2000mm lens. Two with three zeroes following it.

35mm equivalent: 2000mm; 1/800, f/6.5; ISO 100

Let us put 2000mm in perspective.

Sports photographers with the huge lenses on the sidelines are usually outfitted with lenses ranging from 200mm to 600mm. Yes, that photo of your favorite gridiron player's helmet from across the field was likely shot with a lens that has less than 25% of the zoom power of the P900.

I have a Leica 77 Televid APO spotting scope—basically a telescope. When I attach a full-frame camera to the Leica, it is the 35mm equivalent of a 1,000mm lens. With an APS-C camera attached, I enjoy a 1,500mm equivalent view. With that field of view, the orbiting moon nearly fills the frame.

Do a search on the Internet for a 2000mm lens for a DSLR camera and you might find the famous Nikon Reflex-NIKKOR 2000mm mirror lens. Got a Nikon DSLR or SLR? 2000mm is possible—if you want to carry around a lens that weighs almost 40 pounds and costs, on the used market, upwards of $35,000.

The traditional downside of many point-and-shoot lenses is that the maximum apertures were relatively small and, especially as you zoomed in, the amount of light entering the lens was insufficient for photography in all but the brightest environments. The P900 has a pro-level aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end and an incredibly respectable f/6.5 at the extreme telephoto range. That Leica spotting scope I mentioned—f/11. The Reflex-NIKKOR—f/11, as well.

 

35mm equivalent focal length (left to right): 24mm, 70mm, 350mm, 2000mm

The farther you zoom in with a camera, the more that any movement imparted by your shaking hands is magnified. Camera shake is difficult to counteract at mortal focal lengths. When it comes to superzooms, a tiny bit of shake not only leaves you with a blurry image, it might mean you miss your target all together! To counter this shake on the COOLPIX P900, Nikon has strengthened its Vibration Reduction system to give shooters five-stop compensation with its Dual Detect Optical VR system.

Oh, before we move on to the controls, if 2000mm with the 83x zoom is insufficient for you, Nikon gives you a Dynamic Fine Zoom that digitally brings you to 4,000mm (166x zoom). Still need to zoom further? You may want to become an astronomer and book time at an observatory, or shop for a large telescope at B&H Photo.

The P900 features a 166x digital zoom for a 35mm equivalent focal length of 4000mm.

Design

In the land of point-and-shoot cameras, the superzooms are certainly the largest of the bunch. If you are looking for a camera to slip into a pocket or pocketbook, the superzoom is likely not what you seek. The COOLPIX P900, blaming its massive zoom range, is the largest of this genre, as it nears DSLR proportions. Frown if you must, but remember your other option for 2000mm with Nikon weighs about 40 pounds. The P900 weighs 2 pounds.

The Statue of Liberty, from Battery Park, at the 35mm equivalent of 24mm and 2000mm.

The P900 feels lighter than it looks. In the world of point-and-shoots, this is a good thing. It does not have the metallic heft that many love to find when they pick up a camera, but this thing is designed to travel with you without weighing you down.

The design is sharp and, to an outsider, you can tell that this camera is all about the lens. With a 67mm diameter objective lens, the glass dominates the design. The P900 is a big lens with an ergonomic handgrip on one side and a pop-up flash affixed to the top. From every angle aside from the rear, this camera is 80% lens. Zoom in and it looks like the P900 more than doubles in length.

The rear LCD screen measures 3.0" diagonally and features 921k-dot resolution. It is fully articulated and can flip out, rotate, and face forward. Articulated screens are something that, if you have been shooting SLR and DSLR cameras for years, you probably never missed. Once you use one on a point-and-shoot, mirrorless, or new DSLR camera, you will wonder how you ever got along without it.

A hand appears inside the crown of the Statue.

35mm equivalent: 2000mm; 1/1000, f/6.5; ISO 100

The COOLPIX P900 also has a 921k-dot electronic viewfinder with diopter adjustment for eye-level shooting and composing. For a DSLR user, this EVF features a pretty tiny screen, but it is more than sufficient for taking photos with the P900. The EVF is activated by a sensor when you bring your eye to the camera.

Controls

The P900 is outfitted with controls familiar to both Nikon COOLPIX and DSLR shooters. Very familiar to the consumer DSLR crowd, the camera features the same "PSAM mode control dial" that rides atop most of Nikon's DSLR cameras. This dial means that the P900 shooter quickly has access to shutter and aperture-priority shooting modes, as well as full manual exposure control. Many point-and-shoot cameras offer the same level of control to shooters, but the PSAM dial interface makes these options readily available; not always the case on other point-and-shoot cameras.

Because this camera is all about zoom, there are two separate zoom controls to keep shooters happy. The first is the common spring-loaded zoom ring surrounding the shutter release. The second is on the left side of the lens barrel where your thumb naturally falls when holding the camera in the shooting position. Alongside the lens-mounted zoom controls is the fashionable, and very useful, "snap-back zoom" button that zooms out quickly to help you regain your subject, if you lost it at the extreme zoom. Re-target and release the button to zoom back in. At 2000mm, it is not difficult to lose your subject.

Electronic Extras

Like many of today's cameras, the COOLPIX P900 features Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities to share your photos on the go with a compatible smartphone or tablet. The Nikon snapbridge mobile app will also control your camera from a remote position.

35mm equivalent: 2000mm; 1/1000, f/6.5; ISO 100

Embedded GPS geo-tags your images and allows you to access Nikon's Points of Interest system to find popular shooting sites.

For action shooters, the 16MP camera features 7-frame-per-second shooting. If that is not fast enough, the P900 will gladly shoot you a full-HD 1920 x 1080 movie at 60 frames per second.

I won't bore you with all the other details, but the COOLPIX P900 is packed with all the shooting, exposure, and scene modes that ship standard with many of today's point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras.

Shooting and Image Quality

To test the COOLPIX P900, I headed to the Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor, to see what kind of images I could get.

 

35mm equivalent focal length (left to right): 24mm, 115mm, 450mm, 2000mm

Will a lens that covers everything from wide angle to telescope-telephoto feature the world's best optical performance? No. If someone could crack that code, we would all be shooting superzoom cameras but, with the versatility that extreme zoom lenses offer, come optical compromises.

But let me follow up by saying, "Wow!"

I walked around the Statue of Liberty and started taking photos. I zoomed in, and in, and in, and in. Have you seen those wonderful close-up photos of Lady Liberty in the glossy New York photo books or tourist guides, the ones taken from aerial platforms or with giant lenses (or giant crops) from the ground? With the Nikon COOLPIX P900, you no longer have to be envious of those vantage points. I was standing on the ground and getting even closer to the face of the statue than probably anyone has since there was scaffolding around her head.

The EVF is good but, as I mentioned, the screen does not really fill the viewfinder. This was not distracting and the EVF resolution is great. However, when pointed toward the sun, I found myself wishing I had a third hand to shade my shooting eye as the rubber eyecup wasn't sufficiently deep to allow me to see the viewfinder clearly in the bright sun. Had I been wearing a ball cap, I may not have noticed this.

Also, at 2000mm (and beyond with the digital zoom), the image stabilization sometimes trumps your compositional eye, as the exact image you were looking to grab might have shifted because you moved the camera when depressing the shutter release. At those zoom ranges, even a small bit of movement might move you completely off target. Luckily, digital is "free," so if VR made me miss, I would just recompose and shoot again until I got what I wanted. You can definitely tell how hard the VR is working while shooting at extreme telephoto; and working it is.

35mm equivalent: 555mm; 1/1600, f/5.0; ISO 100

As I was shooting, I was getting excited with the images I was seeing in the EVF. The Lady was looking great through the eyes of the P900. I was really enjoying the creative freedom of the extreme zoom. However, I was tempering my enthusiasm by constantly reminding myself that the quality cannot be all that good, right? I mean, this is not only a superzoom camera, it’s the new class leader with respectable-wide to insanity-telephoto. How can it be the master of anything?

Well, I got home, popped the SD card out and uploaded the images onto my computer for viewing.

Again, “Wow.” Seriously. I am very impressed with the optical quality of the images at all focal lengths. When I did 100% zooms into the 2000mm shots, I was looking at the rivets on the Lady's crown. Were they tack sharp? No, but they were pretty darn close. Consider that I was shooting at telescope-like focal lengths, handheld, on a windy day in freezing temperatures and you cannot help but be impressed by how the images came out. I doubt I could have gotten a sharper image with a DSLR in those conditions. And, with a DSLR, forget about zooming anywhere near that range.

You can see the images for yourself, illustrating this review. These photos are straight out of the camera. No post-processing at all. Great color. Great resolution. Impressive sharpness. What more could you ask from a two-pound point-and-shoot camera with big lens?

Final Thoughts

As you can see from these photos, the P900 really shines at extreme telephoto lengths. However, for family snapshots and portraits, I found the camera’s image quality was also superb. This camera really is an all-around workhorse that can meet a lot of demands.

The COOLPIX P900 was obviously designed to zoom boldly where no camera had zoomed before. It did its job flawlessly. It is designed as a travel companion that gets you shots that no other camera can get you. However, I found something even better inside the P900 that Nikon's marketing teams will likely overlook: the P900, because of its zoom prowess, allowed me to use that lens to take some really creative abstracts of the Statue of Liberty and later, on a walk through Manhattan, of the new World Trade Center and other buildings in the Financial District. With seemingly unlimited zooming, I was able to tightly frame areas in a way that no one else walking around New York Harbor today was able to do. In my opinion, this abstract and artistic exploration really elevated the COOLPIX P900 from a super-versatile travel zoom with amazing range to something that promotes creativity and art.

In the point-and-shoot's battle for survival against the camera phone and the DSLR, the point-and-shoot forces may have just received the weapon it needed to win the war and preserve the survival of the point-and-shoot camera genre.

Obligatory superzoom moon shot

35mm equivalent: 2000mm; 1/500, f/8.0; ISO 400

Items discussed in article

Discussion 216

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Hola

Es maravillosa esta cámara pero todavia no me decido entre la P900 y la Lumix FZ3300....consejo?

Hoping to go Iceland or Norway next tear to photograph the northern lights, will my p900 be up to the job? 

Hi Carole!

Yes, the camera should be good for that. You wont be zooming in much...wide angle is the way to go for the auroras. Be sure to use a tripod and get familiar with the manual exposure settings on the camera.

Enjoy this article from our Gabe Biderman: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/8-questions-about-photographing-aurora-gabe-biderman

Thanks for reading! Sorry for the delay...we were on break!

Ok,Bought a p900 to capture pics of eagles on the river. I can get the 2000mm zoom, I believe I should be able to fill up the view finder with the eagles head . it never happens , what am I doing wrong to not be able reach the 4000- 8000 zoom?---------

Hi ejp,

How much the head fills the frame depends on how close you are to the eagle...not the camera.

If you keep zooming past the 2000mm optical zoom, you will enter the digital zoom range that lets you go to 4000mm. However, this is virtually the same as cropping the image at 2000mm, so you really arent gaining anything by using digital zoom. I wouldn't suggest using it.

If the eagle isn't filling the frame at 2000mm, you need to move closer!

Thanks for reading and thanks for the question!

First day out with my P900 WOW

I know! Right?

I like almost everything about this camera except that it doesn't record RAW image data. Is there an chance this may soon be corrected?

Hey Joe,

I would hope that someday a similar camera would shoot raw files, but I haven't heard of anything working towards that on the P900.

Thanks for asking! Our fingers are crossed here, but we aren't holding our collective breaths!

Hi Todd,

Just wanted you to know that we just purchased the P900 and Vortex tripod from B&H a few moments ago.

 We will share the portraits of the drivers of the UFOs with you.

Cheers and thanks,

Paul and Juliana

Paul,

I cant wait for the photos! Thanks for shopping at B&H! I hope you enjoy the P900!

Please let us know your experience with it!

Cheers!

Hi Todd:

   Great review!  I have a P600 and my wife a P610.  We both love to take nature shots, many of which are in macro mode.  GIven enough time and a patient subject things generally work out well.  However, in macro mode, the autofocus in the 600 series doesn't perform well.   It has a tendency to focus on the lightest part of the subject rather than the center of the frame.  Has Nikon done anything to improve the autofocus in macro mode in the P900?

Thanks much,

Peary

Hey Peary,

I cannot answer that question as I have never done macro photography with the P600 or P610. Perhaps another reader can answer this...or you might see if anyone is doing macro work on the web with the P900 and pick their brains.

I will say that I didn't have any real issues with the P900 auto focus while I was using it. Not sure if that helps or not!

Sorry I am not more assistance. Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for the reivew. I was wondering whether it is good for indoor photography and your below point made me decide to buy.

"However, for family snapshots and portraits, I found the camera’s image quality was also superb. This camera really is an all-around workhorse that can meet a lot of demands."

I have a doubt, is it possible to change the lens for this camera? If so could you please give example.

Regards,

Aananth

Hello Aananth,

You are welcome!

The camera should be fine for casual indoor use with its built-in flash and image stabilization.

It is not possible to change lenses on this camera.

Thanks for stopping by!

Lies. This article is lies. The p900 lens has a focal length of 357mm. The field of view is equivalent to 2000mm. What that means is, a typical dslr with a 300mm lens is comparable to the p900, if you zoom in.

Hi Peter,

From the 3rd paragraph of the article: "The new Nikon COOLPIX P900 features an 83x optical zoom lens that ranges from a 35mm-equivalent 24mm to 2000mm zoom range."

Yes, technically you could zoom in to any photograph to simulate a 135 format 2000mm equivalent angle of view.

Thanks for reading.

No, its NOT.

If you have a 300mm lens on a camera with cropfactor 1.6 then 300mm x 1.6 = 480mm equivalent in 35mm format. And P900 has a cropfactor 5.6 so it will be 357mm x 5.6 = 1999.2 mm in 35 mm format. 

Hi Dan,

Yep, this is why we state "35mm-equivalent" in the article.

Thanks for reading!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/science/trappist-1-exoplanets-nasa.html

This from today's New York Times, my former employer..

#fakenews #failingnewyorktimes...

#justkidding!

I know! I read a bunch of articles about this yesterday and watched Miles O'Brien on the PBS Newshour discuss.

Awesome stuff! Thanks for sharing!

Unfortunately, the P900 wasn't able to photograph the exoplanets around Trappist 1...

Wow Todd, that is a super interesting lens...thanks...

what we typically shoot are balls of light in the night sky, so which camera could you recommend for that?    We will get the tripod you recommended, and we always shoot from the same spot, so which cameras would produce the best image in this situation?

Thanks very much for your learned opinion...

Paul and Juliana

PS They are here...

Thanks Paul and Juliana,

Just so you know, that bipod is very expensive and you have to cover his travel!

Do you have a P900? If you want long reach in a portable form factor, there really is no other option—you are getting longer reach in the palm of your hand then you will with that Canon 1200mm behemoth.

Someday, there will likely be a successor to the P900, but right now, that camera is the superzoom to beat in some respects. The advantage to the Canons is that you can shoot raw files and, perhaps, get slightly better image quality at less of a zoom.

Standing by for more follow-ups..

PS. I know. How do you think I got here?

Hi Todd,  do you have any idea when we can expect the p900 upgrade to 100x optical zoom, or the Sx70 100x optical zoom?  We are interested in shooting the UFO's Which regularly appear in our night sky.  We have some incredible shots and video footage with our Canon sx30  at present.

Thanks,

Paul and Juliana

Hello Paul and Juliana,

Great question, but, unfortunately, only Nikon and Canon know the answers to those questions.

For awesome UFO photography, keep an eye out for the next used Canon 1200mm [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/bh-photographic-journey-legendary-canon-ef-1200mm-lens]. It doesn't have the same magnification as the P900, but at f/5.6 you can get some really great shallow depth-of-field effects and great bokeh behind the flying saucers.

Good luck and keep avoiding abduction! Thanks for reading!

hi tod i have a p900 during play with an extenshens of it program i found a (bug)

when you peaked  on to focus on (1x give you grate pic from 4x)

Hi akbar,

I would suggest you email Nikon about the bug you have found.

Thanks for reading!

I'm an amateur who loves my P900.  Learning more about it with every use and reading various forums, etc. as well as taking some photography classes.  The focus of my next class is potrait and commecial photography.  At a somewhat disadvantage as the camera does not have a hotshoe.  Looking for recommendations on an external flash (currently considering teh LumoPro LP180 and Yongnuo YN560-IV).  Appreciate any help!  Thanks.

Hi Anthony,

I could be wrong, but I do not think there is a way to fire an off-camera flash with the P900. I did look through the manual and found nothing. There is a built-in flash.

One thing you could do is buy a bracket that attaches to the bottom of the camera and then mount a continuous lighting solution to the camera like the Luxli Viola LED light.

I hope this helps! Thanks for reading!

The Yongnuo YN560 III works amazing with the built in flash as the master, together with the nikon SG-31R IR Panel panel (needs some diy solution to fixate it in front of the built in flash) you get almost the same functionality as when using a hot shoe flash. 

You could buy an optical trigger.  Then the flash on the camera is used to trigger other flashes.  It is probably not perfect for every situation but works very well in some.

I've had p900 for a year now, LOVE it! Decided to get into photography since I've been ejoying it so much . I asked a photographer I know for some tips she suggested getting a camera that can change lens and shoot raw a dslr. Isnt The one lens that comes with the p900 equal to like 3 different lens I would have to buy uf I purchase a body dslr? P900 compared to Dslr camera's is just as good. Meaning I can do photography with my p900 correct?
Thanks

Hi merylu,

The P900 is a great camera and I am glad you are enjoying it! A DSLR or mirrorless interchangable camera will give you better image quality due to their larger sensors and powerful processors, but there is no practical way to replicate the zoom range of the P900, so you will be shooting with zoom lenses with much much narrower focal length ranges and/or prime lenses that do not zoom.

If you are happy with the images from your P900, then keep on shooting it and enjoying it! There is no reason to change unless you are unhappy with the results!

Thanks for reading! Let me know if this answers your question!

How is the digital zoom used on the P900, meaning, how do you access it on the camera?

The 2000mm focus with the telephoto zoom is impressive but how do you use the digital part?

Hey Dan,

Digital zoom is virtually cropping into the digital image. Basically, the optical zoom reaches its limit, and then you zoom in further by "looking closer" at the center of that image. If you have a smartphone and use the zoom, it is the same thing. You aren't really getting closer optically, you are just forcing the camera to look at a smaller section of the image. Digital zoom is not a really good thing as you are basically discarding image to pretend you are zooming in further.

In reality, you can take a photograph at the 2000mm optical zoom range, and then just crop the image after capture...same thing as digital zoom and even advantageous as you won't be fighting crazy camera shake at a 4000mm-equivalent...it is bad enough at 2000mm!

On the P900, and other zooms with digital zoom, you basically can just keep zooming in on a target. The camera will pause at the end of the optical zoom range (and there is usually a digital indicator associated with this) and then it allows you to press on into the digital zoom range.

Let me know if that clears up your query! Thanks for reading!

It has a 357mm focal length. Thus article is lying to you.

Peter, your comment is incorrect and offensive. You should know what your talking about before you talk. Your statement makes you look dumb as a box of rocks. 357 mm X 5.6 crop factor = 2000 mm +/-. 

Hey Frank,

Technically, Mr. mcquillan is correct as the lens has a 357mm focal length lens. The 35mm-equivalent focal length of 2000mm. This is why I use the term "equivalent" throughout the article. Apparently, Mr. mcquillan didn't pick up on this.

Thanks for stopping by!

Great article! The P900 sounds awesome compared to my P510. I purchased the P610 when it came out but found that my zoomed images had a grainy, "painted" appearance to them despite different settings. I didn't keep that camera. Is the P900 mirrorless? Also, does it shoot in RAW? Thank you, Shannon

Hey Shannon,

Yep, the P900 is mirrorless...like all point-and-shoot cameras. Do not confuse it with an interchangable lense mirrorless camera...you cannot change lenses on the P900.

Nope, it does not shoot raw files, unfortunately.

Thanks for stopping by, Shannon!

is this removable lence?

can i attach other lence to it ?
 

Hi akhil,

No, I am sorry the lens is not removable. The P900 is not an interchangeable lens camera.

It does have a 67mm filter thread if you want to add filters or other lens accessories.

Thanks for your question!

Well, its podsible to mount on a telescope with some work?😁 that would be insane....

I'm not sure how that would work, Kristian! But, feel free to give it a try!

I have the P900 and am looking for the best full size tripod to support its weight, especially when zooming. Any recommendations?

Hey Lisa,

The good news is the P900 is very light, so you do not need a super-heavy tripod to hold it securely.

The bad news is that at 2000mm, you will want a very stable tripod when shooting distant objects.

I'd also recommend a panning head for the extreme telephoto of the P900. Check out this Vortex Pro tripod.

Let me know if you have follow-up questions!

Todd Vorenkamp, I own a Nikon P900 and really love it. But I am stuck on one thing. Does the camera have a bulb setting? If so, how do I find it. It's driving me nuts and the manual is of no use on this. Thanks, Ben

Hey Ben,

No, unfortunately the P900 does not have a bulb mode. Kind of a bummer, I know!

Thanks for reading and thanks for helping fellow B&H Explora readers below!

I have the panasonic DMC-FZ70 and I have not been satisfied with the EVF--its difficult to see and focus thru.  How does the P900 EVF compare? anyone?

Hi Alan,

I am unfamiliar with the Panasonic's viewfinder, but I found the P900's adequate. The image in the viewfinder is smaller than I am used to from DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, but it was fine for the P900 even with room for improvement.

Thanks for reading!

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