The Bottom Line
There’s no hiding the key feature that we’ll showcase in this Nikon Coolpix P900 review — an almost unbelievable 83X optical zoom lens. At the time of this writing, the 83X zoom lens is the largest one available in the fixed lens camera market, making the P900 a candidate for one of the best ultra zoom cameras.
And there’s no hiding this feature because it makes the Coolpix P900 a camera that’s larger than even some of the best DSLR cameras on the market. This model weighs almost 2 pounds and measures about 5x5x5 inches with the zoom lens retracted. When the optical zoom is fully extended, the camera measures about 8.5 inches in depth.
So if you need a huge zoom lens, Nikon definitely delivers with the P900. But as with many ultra zoom cameras, sometimes that huge zoom lens can be a detriment. You may have a tough time holding the Coolpix P900 steady when the zoom lens is extended, just because the camera is so heavy and awkward to hand hold with the large zoom lens.
And Nikon only gave this model a 1/2.3-inch image sensor and 16 megapixels of resolution, which will limit your ability to create photos that will result in large and sharp prints. Still, versus other large zoom cameras, the Nikon P900 is a decent performer.
Then there’s the $500-plus price point for the P900. You might be able to find an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless ILC at that price, which will result in far greater image quality. So only those who are sure they need the 83X optical zoom lens will be able to justify the high price tag for this model.
- Resolution: 16.0 megapixels
- Optical zoom: 83X (24-2000mm equivalent)
- LCD: 3.0-inch, 921,000 pixels (tiltable)
- Maximum image size: 4608 x 3456 pixels
- Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 4.1 x 5.5 inches
- Weight: 1 pound, 15.8 ounces (with battery and memory card)
- Image sensor: 1/2.3-inch
- Movie mode: HD 1080p
- Huge optical zoom lens at 83X
- Reasonably good performance speeds even when optical zoom lens is fully extended
- Offers electronic viewfinder
- Articulated LCD screen
- Numerous manual control features
- Small image sensor limits image quality results
- Images aren’t quite as sharp as they should be
- Maximum ISO is limited to 6400
- Extremely heavy and large camera
- Price point is high, approaching that of entry-level mirrorless ILCs
When you think about spending more than $500 for a digital camera, you expect to receive very good image quality. Unfortunately, this is one area where the Nikon P900 lags behind its price point peers, which can include low-end DSLRs.
The 1/2.3-inch image sensor in the Coolpix P900 is as small in physical size as what you’ll find in a digital camera. Models that cost less than $200 or $150 often have 1/2.3-inch image sensors. Because the physical size of image sensors plays such a key role in determining image quality, having such a small sensor in the P900 makes it tough to justify its high price tag.
The image quality for the Coolpix P900 might be even worse, other than the fact Nikon gave the camera a very strong optical image stabilization system, which is an extremely important feature to find in an ultra zoom camera. It’s difficult to hand hold a heavy camera steady without a good image stabilization system. Even with such a good IS system, you’ll want to purchase a tripod with this model for best image quality.
Most ultra zoom cameras operate slower than other types of cameras, especially when the zoom lens is fully extended. You can expect to have problems with shutter lag and shot to shot delays, meaning such cameras don’t have great response times.
The Nikon Coolpix P900 isn’t a fast performer either, but it does offer faster response times that what you’ll find with most ultra zoom cameras. In fact, the P900 has very little shutter lag when the zoom lens is not extended, which is impressive for this type of fixed lens camera.
Start-up is very fast with this model too, as you should be able to record your first photo a little more than 1 second after pressing the power button. And you can move through the entire 83X zoom range of this camera in about 3.5 seconds, which is an impressive level of speed for the zoom motor.
Battery performance is good with the P900, offering 300 to 400 shots per charge. However, if you choose to use the camera’s built-in GPS or Wi-Fi connectivity, you will receive less battery life.
Nikon gave the P900 quite a few desirable design elements. The inclusion of an electronic viewfinder is great to find in an ultra zoom camera, as it can be easier to hand hold the camera steady when it’s pressed against your face, versus trying to hold it and look at the LCD screen.
If you choose to frame photos using the LCD screen instead of the handy viewfinder, Nikon gave the Coolpix P900 a sharp and bright display screen. And the LCD is articulated, meaning it’s easy to use this model when attached to a tripod by tilting the LCD to match the angle you need. You can even swivel the display screen 180 degrees to allow for selfies.
A mode dial on the top of the camera allows you to work quickly to pick the shooting mode you want. The P900 offers a range of shooting modes, including full manual control, fully automatic, and everything in between.
There’s a popup flash unit, which is a key design feature for an ultra zoom camera, as it allows the flash unit to gain a good angle to the scene, even when the zoom lens is fully extended. However, Nikon didn’t give the Coolpix P900 a hot shoe to allow for adding an external flash unit.