In general, the P600 is a fairly fast ultra-zoom P&S digicam. Off-to-first picture capture is about two seconds. Ultra-zoom lenses don’t move all that fast, and that’s fine for video clips where users want slower, more controlled zooming. But if you are trying to track a fast-moving subject like a skateboarder, the P600 can seem a bit slow. Still, the newest Coolpix is a competent picture taker that is capable of producing consistently very good to excellent still images, and high quality HD video. The P600’s performance was dependably competitive similar ultra-zoom cameras from other manufacturers that I’ve reviewed.
The P600 features a TTL Contrast Detection AF system that is reliably quick to acquire the subject, and locks focus. It’s an obvious improvement over the P510, which had the slowest of any of the major manufacturer ultra-zooms at the time of its launch.
The P600’s multi-mode pop-up flash sits directly above the zoom, in the classic maximum red-eye configuration. The flash is very small and a bit weak, but it provides an adequate selection of artificial lighting options, including Auto, off, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill flash, Slow synch, and Rear curtain synch
Consistently capturing sharply-focused pictures with a point-and-shoot camera, especially one that sports an incredibly long zoom, offers some unique optical engineering challenges. The P600 uses a Hybrid VR system, which reduces the risk of blurred images with faster shutter speeds in addition to standard image stabilization techniques.
The P600 draws its power from a Nikon EN-EL23 lithium-ion battery, which Nikon claims is good for about 330 exposures at full charge. I do a lot of shoot, review, delete, and re-shoot, so I don’t usually keep track of exposures. But in my testing, I only had to charge the battery twice after shooting lots of stills and about a dozen video clips, so I’d have to guess that Nikon’s power duration claims are fairly accurate. The battery is charged in-camera and requires about two hours for a full charge from standard house current. The camera can also be charged via USB, and it saves images and video to SD, SDHC or SDXC memory media.
At the end of the day, everything comes down to the P600’s f3.3 – f5.6/24mm-1440mm (equivalent) zoom. Without it, the P600 is just another P&S digicam. That 60X zoom consists of 16 elements in 11 groups, with one super ED and four regular ED elements. The aperture diaphragm has six blades, which should provide slightly better bokeh than most of the P600’s competitors. Minimum focusing distance in Macro Mode is 0.2 inches
When the P600 is powered up, that long lens automatically telescopes out of the lens housing, and vice versa when the camera is shut down. Nikon provides a pinch-clip lens cap with the camera.
Center sharpness is excellent, but at the wide-angle end of the zoom corners are slightly soft. I didn’t notice any vignetting, but barrel distortion is well above average. Pincusion distortion, on the other hand, is well corrected. Contrast is balanced, but a little flat, while colors are hue accurate, though visibly oversaturated. Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but some minor color fringing is present in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds. Zooming is smooth, but fairly slow when compared to cameras with shorter zooms. Interestingly, there is much less motor noise than I expected.
The Nikon P600 will make birders, backyard wildlife shooters, astronomy fans, and anyone else who likes to bring far-away detail up close and personal very happy. If you shoot a lot of architecture, or if you use buildings as backgrounds, the P600 probably isn’t the best camera for your needs.
The P600 captures HD video at 1920x1080p resolution and at an amazing variety of frame rates, all with stereo audio. The 60x zoom can be used during filming. The camera also provides an HDMI out so that users can watch their HD video clips on their HDTVs. Videos generated by the P600 are excellent, with highly saturated colors and balanced contrast.
I did notice some lag after pushing the start/stop video button, though. When users press the start/stop control to start recording, the P600’s LCD/EVF goes dark for about a second before video capture actually begins, which defeats the benefit of having an instant start/stop button in the first place.
The Nikon Coolpix P600 utilizes a 16-megapixel 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor to capture images. Like most P&S digicams, image files produced by the P600 are optimized for bold, bright colors and slightly flat contrast. Recorded hues are accurate but noticeably more intense than in real life. The bottom line is that the P600’s color interpolation, while a bit more intense than neutral, is consistently and dependably hue accurate. When I reviewed the images I shot with this camera, the colors I saw on my monitor were very close to the colors I saw when first I shot the pictures.
Outdoors, in good light, the P600 dependably captures excellent images in all shooting modes. Indoors, the camera performs with a little less dexterity than most of the competition due to its slow maximum aperture and the complexity of that 60X zoom’s optical design. The further you zoom indoors, the worse the image will become.
The P600’s Auto White Balance mode is dependably accurate over a wide range of lighting conditions. In fact, Nikon’s P&S white balance system is the best I’ve seen to date. Image sharpness is noticeably better than average for cameras in this class, except at the short end of that incredible zoom, of course. The P600 not only has the longest zoom lens in the world, it also consistently produces the sharpest telephoto images I’ve ever seen from an ultra-zoom digicam.