An impressive zoom and a nice camera
I picked this camera up the week it arrived at the store and was impressed. I wanted to get an all-purpose camera that I could use to shoot video as well as take great pictures. I have always loved a long zoom and this camera would replace an Olympus SP-565 which had a 26mm-520mm (20x) zoom. This Nikon has an even more impressive 22.5mm-810mm (36x) zoom so I was anxious to see how well it would perform. It would be a companion to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 which is much smaller. I use the Panasonic when I need to pocket the camera conveniently and the new Nikon when I want to have more power in the camera.
I was not disappointed at all with the image quality nor the ability to shoot pictures at either end of the telephoto range. I have seen several bad reviews given on image quality of long zoom cameras and I wonder if it is the photographer and not the camera. I never use the "Auto" mode and typically use the "P" mode and set the camera up so I can put the subject in the brackets at the center, press the button halfway to focus, frame the image, and then take the picture. In decent light, I can take perfect pictures at full telephoto. Of course, in poor lighting or with fast moving subjects, it may be harder to get perfect pictures at full zoom, but that is to be expected with any camera with a long zoom. As to the full-wide angle, it is awesome - you can fit a lot in and I have not had problems due to wide-angle distortion. You will be amazed to take one picture at full wide and another at full telephoto. The zoom range is so vast that you will be hard pressed to be able to see the item in the full wide picture. Sure, you can probably take a better picture with an SLR, but you would be spending a lot more money and have to lug around a larger camera. Also, the resolution at 12mp is great. You can crop away a lot of picture and still be left with something that can be printed and still look good.
I also wanted to be able to shoot video and liked the idea of being able to shoot it at 1080p. I am not as serious about video but wanted to be able to shoot a good quality video now and again and the video does look good. I also used the software to extract a frame of the video into a still image, which is useful for a moving subject that you can't seem to be able to capture in the perfect pose. While the video frame is obviously not up to the same resolution as a still image, if you can't get the image otherwise, it is better than nothing and can certainly be printed in small size.
Some secondary features that I liked were the following:
- video can be shot with a separate button, so you do not have to fiddle with changing dials to shoot video, which is nice.
- b&w plus color: often my wife wants a black and white picture, but I also do not want to lose the color one. You can set the camera to take both at once, which is nice so you do not lose either. While you can download the picture and convert it, it is still nice to do it in the camera so you can see if something looks good in b&w while shooting.
- Many aspect ratios: you can shoot full frame 4:3, or also 16:9, 3:2, 1:1. Sometimes it is nice to frame a picture better with a different aspect ratio.
- Panorama modes: I like being able to do both the easy "panorama sweep" or the "panorama assist" which allows you to take several and stitch them later. The Nikon comes with panorama stitching software which is the same program that my Panasonic came with and I know to be good.
- Continuous shooting modes: this camera has a lot of cool continuous shooting modes where you can quickly shoot 5 high resolution images at once, or 50 low resolution ones.
It also has a lot of other features, such as face and smile detection, which I have not used a whole lot but may experiment with later on.
Overall, I would say it is a great value at the price considering how powerful the camera is.
No major problems, but here are some things that I would suggest for improvement:
- I would prefer to remove the battery and place it in a charger instead of leaving the battery in the camera and plugging it in. What if I bought a second battery as a backup and wanted to charge it while still using the camera?
- The lens cap has to be removed before the camera is turned on (unless turning it on in playback mode), otherwise it blocks the lens from extending out a few millimeters.
- Please print the manual for me! Like Olympus, Nikon does not provide a full, printed manual. The full manual is in electronic (.pdf) format only. It would be nice to have one printed and bound for easy access when on the road. I do not want to have to fire up a laptop to read a manual and printing it myself on 8.5x11 paper would be cumbersome to lug with me.
- "A" priority: This one may be on me, or just "par for the course" for non-SLR cameras, but I can't seem to get any noticeable effect in using the A (aperture) priority mode to intentionally add more blur to the background. The range it allows is about f/4 to f/8, which certainly is not as much compared to an SLR. I have tried to shoot images at both ends of the range and can't see any worthwhile difference. However, I tried with other non-SLR cameras that I own and they are no better, so maybe this is to be expected for a camera in this class. Perhaps there is something else I can do to better produce this result, but I have not found it.
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