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Photographic Tests

Flash

The built in flash on the P7100 performs well in close quarters but can create highlight clipping on reflective surfaces. For distant subjects or bounce flash the P7100's hotshoe will accept any of Nikon's Speedlite Flash guns.
Like its predecessor the P7000 (pictured here), the P7100 has a hotshoe for the addition of an external flashgun. Although all current Speedlights are compatible, the tiny SB-400 (pictured) is probably the most sensible companion for the P7100.

Although the P7100's built-in flash is good enough for most impromptu shooting, adding a hotshoe flash will provide a huge bump in output power as well as give you added flexibility for bounce lighting and remote triggers.

Raw mode

One of the biggest draws for this level of enthusiast compact is the ability to record in raw mode. Shooting in raw mode allows a lot of creative freedom to enhance or correct images after they're taken. Although the P7100's JPEG engine is quite capable of producing images that by default, have a good balance of detail and basic control over noise reduction, shooting in raw mode allows you to fine-tune noise reduction, adjust white balance, make lens corrections and tweak sharpening to a degree that would never be possible from editing a JPEG.

This becomes especially useful when shooting at the higher end of the P7100's ISO range. As you can see in the samples below, the ISO 3200 raw image converted in ACR (with noise reduction and sharpening settings to taste) retains more low-contrast detail than the JPEG on the top. Saturation and color rendition are more accurate as well. This scene was shot using daylight fluorescents to represent the entire spectrum as evenly as possible. The sample images were shot in manual exposure mode with AWB.

JPEG - 1/20s, f/3.5, ISO 3200 100% Crop
Raw - 1/20s, f/3.5, ISO 3200 - ACR 6.6 conversion to 'taste' 100% Crop

There are some trade-offs when shooting in raw mode however. Raw image file sizes are about 5 times larger (around 16MB instead of about 4MB) than JPEG, and shot to shot time increases slightly (becoming ~1 sec slower). Although, with a sufficiently large and fast SD card we would always opt to shoot with raw capture.

Automatic CA/Fringing Correction

All lenses will exhibit some amount of CA and fringing, though the severity depends greatly on lens construction and complexity. Despite the P7100's fairly long zoom range, fringing is not overly apparent in most JPEG images shots except when viewing images at 100%. This is because the P7100 corrects for fringing automatically in JPEG files, and this feature cannot be disabled (which we don't see as much of a problem, because the in-camera correction works just fine).

These crops from the top left side of the scene show the effect of in-camera CA correction versus an uncorrected raw file. This image was shot at 50mm equiv. Although significant purple fringing can be seen in the uncorrected raw file, the P7100's in-camera correction does a good job of removing it.
JPEG (Default in-camera correction) - 100% Crop Raw (Uncorrected) - 100% Crop

If you are shooting in raw however, CA is something you will need to manage in conversion. If you are using Nikon's ViewNX 2 software to manage your raw files then CA will automatically be removed. If you are using 3rd party software like ACR you will need to correct for CA yourself.

Distortion Correction

The Nikon P7100 has the ability to correct for lens distortion in-camera for JPEGs. Unlike CA correction though, distortion correction can be disabled for JPEGs. Distortion is not corrected in raw files though and sadly the supplied NX2 software doens not offer distortion correction, either automatic or manual. So if you are a raw shooter this means that to correct distortion you will need to look to 3rd party editing software.

Off On

This shot was taken at the widest end of the P7100's zoom range where we would expect to see the greatest amount of distortion. And as you can see from the rollover, the effect of lens distortion is easily visible when taking a picture of a flat plane with horizontal lines. Although 'Distortion control' is set to off by default, there is no appreciable detriment to operational or continuous shooting speed when it's enabled, so we can't see any reason not to leave it enabled at all times.

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Comments

WillieG

"several commentators, including ourselves, remarked on its uncanny resemblance to the Canon Powershot G-series."

I've heard this before. All these reviewers must be very young. This camera looks like a rangefinder. It has the distinctive shape of rangefinders since the 50's. The Canon, also, looks like a rangefinder. It could be said the Canon G-Series looks like the Nikon SP from '57. There is little difference in them all.

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