Thanks to a generous offer from my friend, artist and fellow bird-lover Tim Achor-Hoc I was able to spend a few hours casually birding with the Nikon Coolpix P-1000. The camera has some impressive features but it’s real undeniable superpower is its 3000mm zoom. Yes, that’s not a typo! I haven’t researched to find out the magical math or the focal length equivalents that come into play with its small sensor, but what I can tell you is that if you manage to get the bird in frame (there are some helpful features that assist you in doing so successfully) you can take some impressively sharp photos of far away birds. VERY far away birds. Here are a few I took on the D&H Rail Trail and in my back yard.
I seriously love and hate this camera. Without doing a proper review, especially since I never took it off Birding mode—yes, there is a specific mode built into the camera—here are a few things that made my heart flutter, or nearly induced a stroke:
LOVE: The zoom. This camera is ALL about the zoom. That’s it. And in some ways, that’s enough. With it I was able to photograph birds as though I was viewing through a spotting scope. It was great! HATE: It’s almost impossible to keep the bird in frame when fully zoomed, Remember, the camera is zoomed to an insane distance so any vibration, like breathing, changes the framing. I had a tendency to tilt the camera, which is very lightweight, downward when I pressed the shutter release. It took a while to train myself NOT do do this. In fact for a few shots I purposely focused, then tilted the camera up slightly knowing I’d likely be tilting it back down as I pressed the shutter release. It’s that sensitive.
LOVE: Birding Mode. HATE: Birding Mode. If I ever get my hands on Tim’s or my own? P-1000, I’m going to create a custom setting that mimics Birding Mode within one of the standard settings, like Shutter Priority. While in Birding Mode you can snap away at birds and capture crisp portraits of any bird that cooperates, you just can’t do it while shooting RAW. Only JPG. This is not a deal breaker for most people but it’s kind of a sticking point for me.
LOVE: Did I mention the zoom? HATE: That you can’t zoom manually. You have to a hold a button and let the lens extend at a pace that would come in second to snail. If the creature you’re shooting is not also a snail, Give up. I wound up leaving the lens fully extended almost the entire time. You will not (happily) use this camera to capture birds in flight. Not even if zoomed out and in spray and pray mode.
HATE: I could not figure out how to change the ISO. Yes, it’s a Nikon and I’m still a Canon gal but I haven’t used a camera in the last umpteen years where setting the ISO wasn’t obvious and easy to change.
LOVE: The ability to photograph timid birds without having to be near them. Did I mention the zoom?
HATE: The file write time to the SD card seems painfully slow. And you can’t do anything with the machine until it’s done. This is especially noticeable and paralyzing in continuous shooting (burst) mode.
And then there were things that made me go MEH: The file size. 16MGs. On the small side but I don’t understand what it takes to capture larger files so I’ll accept there’s some good reason why the file can’t be larger. That said, 16MG is plenty large enough to document avian sightings, to share online, and to print maybe up to 11 x14 inches? The camera’s big but light. And compared to the ten pounds I lug around with my 5DMarkIV and a 150-600mm Sigma sport, the Coolpix P-1000 feather light.
I don’t want to like this camera as much as I do since were I to shell out the $1,000.00 to own one, it would replace nothing. It would be a specialty camera that I’d use for birding only and only in certain circumstances. Namely glam shots. I’d never rely on it as my only choice if I was stalking the rare One-Eyed Blue-Toed Flying Fishbird. So it will be another thing to carry.
There is so much I hate about this camera. But I still want one. For documenting birds it will be a great addition to my gear bag. Did I mention the zoom? And I didn’t even play with video…
UPDATE: April 9, 2021. Don’t judge me. I bought one. It will be here
Wednesday TUESDAY! I fully expect to hate—to be enraged by—the camera’s hypersensitivity and inability to pick up a bird in flight while fully zoomed in. But I will also love being able to pick off an American Redstart on the other side of the yard without it getting even of whiff of me. I also expect to use the video on the bluebirds. You can bet I will share my experience.