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The new Nikon CoolPix P7000 fills a slot that's been glaringly open for quite some time—namely, a high performance, point-and-shoot camera designed with the sort of features advanced amateurs and pros seek in a compact camera.
While Canon has been producing its rather successful series of "G" cameras for many years, this slot has remained vacant in Nikon's lineup. If you're a motor head, you might say the CoolPix P7000 is Nikon's "Camaro" answer to Canon's "Mustang."
More than a "me too" camera, the Nikon CoolPix P7000 contains quite a few innovations of its own that serious shooters should find well worth the P7000's fair price of admission. For starters, the P7000 features a large-for-its-class 1/1.7" RGB CCD imaging sensor that packs 10.1 effective megapixels and a 7.1x 6.0-42.6mm (f/2.8–f/5.6) Nikkor zoom that covers the equivalent field of view of a 28–200mm lens.
In addition to close focusing down to 0.8" (2 cm), the P7000's zoom contains dual ED glass elements to suppress chromatic aberration, a lens-shift vibration reduction (VR) system to smooth out the bumps when shooting under low lighting conditions, and a 6-bladed iris diaphragm. For capturing fast-moving subjects there's also a Zoom Memory function that allows you to preset a tele-range focal length so you can quickly shift from wide angle to the predetermined focal length in order to capture the action from start to finish.
As one would expect, the CoolPix P7000 captures stills as JPEGs or as RAW (NRW) files, which can be processed on both Windows and Mac platforms. Image quality gets its boost and ooomph from Nikon's new EXPEED C2 image processor. For video, the P7000 can capture 720p video (1280 x 720 @ 24 fps) with stereo sound, and for those looking to go beyond the camera's built-in audio recording system, there's a 3.5mm mic port for plugging in higher-quality microphones (optional), which can be mounted on the P7000's accessory hot shoe.
A particularly neat feature found in the CoolPix P7000 is a built-in, 3-stop ND (neutral density) filter that allows you to shoot at wider apertures under bright lighting conditions for selective focusing, or slower shutter speeds for blurring moving objects such as flowing water or pedestrian traffic under similarly sunny skies.
For composing stills and video imagery you have a choice of using the camera's optical finder (a rapidly vanishing comodity among point-and-shoot digicams), which displays about 80% of the total viewing area, or a bright 3", 921,000-dot TFT LCD, which displays 100% of the total image area. In addition to five levels of brightness adjustment to best meet your immediate viewing needs, the P7000's LCD also has a Virtual Horizon feature that makes it easy to keep your stills and video clips level to the horizon line.
Among the functional details that should make the CoolPix P7000 appealing to serious shooters are the analog-style dials and camera controls that enable quick exposure adjustments on the fly. Among these are separate control dials for exposure compensation and a Quick Menu dial for ISO, White Balance, Bracketing, Image Quality, Tonal Levels and Personal Settings.
A large dial is centrally located for setting the shooting mode (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter-Priority, and Manual), the Scene mode, Video and Extended Range shooting modes. A separate button activates the camera's Aperture or Shutter-speed bracketing feature.
In the sensitivity department, the CoolPix P7000 has a native ISO speed of 100, which can be extended as high as ISO 12,800.
As mentioned earlier, the CoolPix P7000 has a TTL-enabled accessory hot shoe, with which you can make use of all of the bells and whistles made possible by Nikon SB-series Speedlights.
In addition to approximately 79MB of built-in memory, the Nikon CoolPix P7000 accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion EN-EL14 battery, which according to the spec sheets, is good for about 350 still pix per charge.
To learn more about Nikon's CoolPix P7000, which is available for preorder as of this posting, stay tuned for our upcoming hands-on review.