Nikon Coolpix P7000
Body/Design and Operation:
If the Coolpix P7000's design looks eerily familiar, that's because it's a near-perfect clone of Canon's recent Powershot G series cameras, and very different in layout to its immediate predecessor the P6000. Its body is liberally peppered with control points: buttons and dials cover its top and rear, making almost all key shooting parameters accessible without the need to dive into the menu system. We can't think of a more purposeful looking camera at this level except Canon's Powershot G12, or perhaps the Samsung TL500 / EX1.
Unusually for a modern digital compact (but again, like the Canon G series), the P7000 features an optical viewfinder in addition to its 3inch LCD screen. It also has socket for an external microphone, and a flash hotshoe which allows any of Nikon's current range of Speedlight flashguns to be attached with full i-TTL compatibility. To the right of the hotshoe is the exposure mode dial, and next to that, the P7000's on/off switch, shutter release and collar-type zoom control. On the far right is the Av/Tv button, which can be customized to access a range of different functions, and a large exposure compensation dial.
Looking at the camera from the rear, at the top left you can see the flash activation button, and to the right of the LCD screen a display mode button, image review, and 'menu.' To the right of the 4-way controller is the delete button, and on the cardinal points of the controller itself are direct access points for macro/normal AF, self-timer, flash modes and AF area modes.
The controller also rotates, allowing you to scroll through menu options, change shooting settings or flick through images in playback mode. This dial works in collaboration with the smaller dial towards the top right of the P7000's rear. At the extreme top-right is an AE-L/AF-L button, with a small rubber accent which serves as a thumbrest beside it.
The P7000 is a solid camera that feels great in the hand. However, it is considerably less 'compact' than either the Canon S95 or Panasonic LX5. Most of the key shooting settings can be accessed using dedicated control points, and the twin control dials make for almost DLSR-like ergonomics, which certainly encourages manual control over your photography.
There are a couple of annoyances though - the 'Fn' customization options are much less useful than they might appear from a casual glance at the spec sheet (see table below), the uppermost control dial is uncomfortably close to the raised frame of the LCD screen, and we're not enamored of the optical viewfinder which is small and inaccurate.
Unfortunately, the P7000's serious, (mostly) capable ergonomics are badly let down by its operational speed. Of the three cameras in this test it is by far the slowest in operation, and we frequently had the impression that it was lagging behind us, sometimes by a considerable margin. For example, returning to shooting mode from viewing the menu or a captured image takes between 2 and 3 seconds. And if you choose to shoot in RAW mode, the camera locks up for between 5-7 seconds (depending on the speed of the card used) while its writing the .NRW file, and won't even return to live view to allow you to frame the next shot.
Switch to playback with the vertical histogram display mode selected and the P7000 really struggles. If you scroll left/right 10 times in quick succession, the camera takes almost 14 seconds to complete the action - i.e. to scroll through 10 images. If you scroll left/right again before it has caught up with itself, it will respond once it has finished dealing with the original command. The overall effect is disorienting, and alarmingly reminiscent of far older, early digital cameras.
Sadly these are not isolated examples, and its speed deficiencies make the P7000 a lot less attractive as a 'serious' enthusiast's compact camera than first appearances might suggest. For more information about the P7000's operational speed, turn to the 'Nikon P7000: Performance' page of this test.