What's new and how it compares

Let's get straight to the point: the biggest selling point of the Nikon Coolpix P1000 is its 24-3000mm equivalent F2.8-8 lens. That kind of range is, in almost most cases, way more than necessary. In fact, It's sometimes hard to find something that far away to take a picture of. At over 1.4kg (3.2lbs), it's not the kind of camera you want to carry around day-to-day. But having that range is part of the appeal of the camera: it's just fun to use.

Key takeaways:

  • The 24-3000mm equivalent lens on the P1000 provides, by far, more reach than any camera on the market. It has has a minimum focus distance of 1cm (0.4") at wide-angle and 7m (23ft) at telephoto.
  • The long lens has trade-offs, including size, weight and a slow maximum aperture near its telephoto end.
  • The 1/2.3" sensor on the P1000 is much smaller than the 1" sensors on other enthusiast long zooms.
  • Dedicated Moon and Bird modes address the two biggest use cases for the P1000.
  • Battery life is the lowest of any camera in the enthusiast long zoom class.
24mm equiv.
(arrow points to subject location)
3000mm equiv.

As a silly exercise, here's the kind of kit you'd need to reach that kind of focal length using an interchangeable lens camera. Using the Nikon D5600 (which has a sensor 13x larger than the P1000's) as our body, let's see how many lenses it will take to approach the P1000's range:

Product Focal range
(equiv.)
Weight Price
D5600 body - 465g $700
DX 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 VR II lens 27-300mm 565g $650
200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens 300-750mm 2300g $1,400
600mm F4E FL ED VR lens 900mm 3810g $12,300
800mm F5.6E FL ED VR lens
w/1.25x teleconverter
1200-1500mm 4725g $16,300
Grand total 27-1500mm 11.9kg
(26lbs)
$31,350

Is this a sensible comparison? Probably not, but it does illustrate several points. First, there's no way you'll ever approach 3000mm equiv. with an interchangeable lens camera. Second, despite its 1.4kg/3.2lb mass, the P1000 is a lightweight compared to a DSLR and any of the longer tele-zooms.

24mm equiv. 3000mm equiv.

The trade-offs

As you might imagine, having that kind of zoom range comes with a lot of trade-offs, and we're not just talking about the size of the camera. The two most important are related to aperture and atmospheric distortion.

The chart below illustrates how the combination of a slow equivalent maximum aperture (as you approach the telephoto end of the lens) and small sensor can affect image quality. You can read more about equivalence here).

There are two groups of cameras in the chart: those with 1" sensors and fast lenses, like the Sony RX10 III, and those with 1/2.3" sensors and slower lenses, which include the P1000 and P900. With its high maximum aperture range of F16-F45, diffraction is an issue almost immediately. The effect of this is a gradual softening of the image as the aperture closes down. Nikon can counteract this with sharpening, but only to a certain extent.

The slow maximum aperture range also affects how the camera will perform in low light, as it will have to increase the ISO in order to compensate for less light reaching the sensor. Less light hitting the sensor = more noise.

An unavoidable trade-off that comes with long lenses of any type is thermal atmospheric distortion, commonly called 'heat haze'. Whether you're using the P1000 or a $15,000 full-frame lens, you'll see this effect at longer focal length, especially on warm days. Even in cool conditions, moisture and pollution in the air can both take a large bite out of contrast and image sharpness, too.

The effect of 'heat haze' isn't that noticeable in this 590px-wide image, but at 100% you can't miss it. ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F5.6 | 1400mm equiv.
Photo by Jeff Keller

What makes these issues more noticeable on the P1000 is that the equivalent aperture is already quite high, meaning that there's already a lot of diffraction (which takes the form of softening) occurring, and its noise reduction system turns that haze distortion into mush. Bottom line: keep your expectations in check.

Moon mode

Two areas that Nikon has emphasized in its marketing of the P1000 is lunar and bird photography. In fact, they have dedicated shooting modes for both of those use cases.

Moon mode offers a number of features not found in other shooting modes. First, the camera sets the focus distance to infinity and activates the three second self-timer. Guidelines displayed on the LCD/EVF outline the part of the frame covered by the lens at 1000mm (this is adjustable). Pressing the 'OK' button will immediately zoom to that focal length (you can continue to zoom if you'd like). An option to change the hue of the image is also close at hand.

Taken in moon mode. ISO 360 | 1/150 sec | F8 | 3000mm equiv.
Photo by Jeff Keller

Note that you cannot shoot Raw in moon mode, though you can take lovely photos of the moon in the shooting modes that do offer that feature.

Bird mode

Bird mode isn't that different from Moon mode, except that it shows framing for 500mm equiv. (again, this is adjustable) and offers continuous shooting. Note that while the camera can fire away at 7 fps, it can only do so for 7 shots. Raw is not an option here, either.

Not taken in bird mode but it's still a bird. Converted to taste from Raw.
ISO 180 | 1/640 sec | F5 | 500mm equiv.
Photo by Jeff Keller

Dot Sight

Nikon released its DF-M1 Dot Sight at the same time as the P1000. The sight attaches to the camera's hot shoe and allows bird and wildlife photographers to track a subject while having the camera away from their eye. The sight offers the dials necessary to adjust the position of the reticule and also lets you adjust its size, color (red or green) and intensity.

The DF-M1 sells for about $175.

Compared to...

There really isn't any camera that comes close to the Coolpix P1000 in terms of zoom range. If you're don't need 3000mm worth of zoom, there are some other models to consider.

Nikon P1000 Nikon P900 Canon SX70 Panasonic FZ1000 Sony RX10 III
MSRP $999 $599 $549 $799 $1299
Sensor 16MP 1/2.3" 16MP 1/2.3" 20MP 1/2.3" 20MP 1" 20MP 1"
Focal range (equiv.) 24-3000mm 24-2000mm 21-1365mm 24-400mm 24-600mm
Max aperture F2.8 - F8 F2.8 - F6.5 F3.4 - F6.5 F2.8 - F4 F2.4 - F4
LCD design Fully articulating Fully articulating Fully articulating Fully articulating Tilting
EVF 2.36M-dot OLED 921k-dot LCD 922k-dot LCD 2.36M-dot OLED 2.36M-dot OLED
Raw support Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Top burst rate (buffer) 7 fps
(7 Raw/JPEG)
7 fps
(7 JPEG)
10 fps 7 fps (9 JPEG, 14 Raw) 14 fps (44 JPEG/29 Raw)
Video UHD 4K/30p 1080/60p UHD 4K/30p UHD 4K/30p UHD 4K/30p
Mic input Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth Yes No Yes No No
Built-in GPS No Yes No No No
Battery life
(CIPA)
250 shots 360 shots 325 shots 360 shots 420 shots
Weather-sealed No No No No Yes
Dimensions
(W x H x D)
146 x 119 x 181mm 140 x 103 x 137mm 127 x 91 x 117mm 137 x 99 x 131mm 133 x 94 x 127mm
Weight 1415 g 899 g 608 g 831 g 1051 g

The incredible zoom range of the P1000 has already been established: nothing else comes close. Nikon's own Coolpix P900 comes in second for zoom power, though spec-wise it's behind the times. While it doesn't have nearly as much reach, the Sony RX10 III must not be ignored, as it has a larger sensor, faster lens, quicker burst rate (and larger buffer,) weather-sealing and long battery life. That said, it's also $300 more and lacks a touchscreen.

The Panasonic FZ1000 is no slouch either, with a 1" sensor, fast lens (that stops at 400mm, though) and 4K video capture. We threw the new Canon PowerShot SX70 HS in there as an example of a small-sensor superzoom camera with a more common focal range.