One of the major complaints leveled against the P7000 was its slow auto focus. Coupled with slow shot-to-shot and write to card times, the P7000's exposure process was pretty sluggish. Nikon claims that the new improved P7100 is substantially faster across the board than the P7000 was.
Performance and Image Quality should always be the primary critical criteria when assessing digital camera performance. The G12 was faster in every category than the P7000, but the P7100 is essentially a different camera than its predecessor. AF acquisition times for the P7100 (0.19 seconds) and G12 (0.50 seconds) show the new improved P7100 is a full half a second faster than the G12 in acquiring the target and locking focus. As regarding shutter lag, Nikon says the P7100 is measurably faster (0.200 milliseconds versus 0.310 milliseconds) than the P7000.
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
Nikon Coolpix P7100
Sony Cyber-shot TX100
Canon PowerShot S100
Sony Cyber-shot TX100
Canon PowerShot S100
Nikon Coolpix P7100
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The P7100 is competitive with any camera in its class. When you design a camera with a 7x zoom some operational speed must be sacrificed (particularly at longer focal length settings) because a longer lens will move and focus more slowly than a shorter lens. The P7100 is fast enough to function nicely as a general purpose camera and more than quick enough to capture the decisive moment. Shot-to-shot times (JPEG) are between 1 and 2 seconds.
When the P7100 is powered up - the zoom lens automatically extends from the camera body and when the camera is powered down, the zoom automatically retracts into the camera body and a built in iris-style lens cover closes over it to protect the front element. The P7100's f/2.8-5.6 6.0-46.6mm (28-200mm equivalent) Nikkor zoom makes this P&S digicam almost ideal for a broad variety of photographic applications - including shooting group photos in tight indoor venues, capturing expansive landscapes, snapping colorful travel pictures of exotic locales, nailing not too distant wildlife, shooting youth sports like a pro, and getting in-your-face macro shots of bugs and flowers.
Corners are a bit soft (at maximum aperture) at the wide angle end of the zoom, but they are appreciably sharper with smaller apertures and at the telephoto end of the range. The P7100's f/2.8 maximum aperture is a full stop slower than the f/1.8 maximum aperture of the Samsung TL500 and more than half a stop slower than the f/2.0 maximum aperture of the Canon S100, but it is exactly the same as the G12's f/2.8 maximum aperture - fast enough for almost anything this camera's target audience is likely to shoot outdoors and quick enough for indoor shooting if the ambient light levels are reasonable.
Zoom operation is fast, smooth, and fairly quiet, but this lens exhibits very minor barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range. Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) at the telephoto end of the zoom range is essentially absent. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is visible, especially in high contrast color transition areas, but the P7100 manages it nicely. Bottom line - the P7100's 7x zoom is impressively good - equal (or marginally superior) to the G12's optics.
The P7100's Vibration Reduction (optical image stabilization) system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for involuntary camera movement. Typically, IS systems allow users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three EV (exposure values) slower than would have been possible without Image stabilization. Keeping a lens with a focal length range from wide angle to moderate telephoto steady (without a tripod) poses some impressive challenges, but the P7100's VR system does a dependably good job.
The P7100 features a redesigned TTL Contrast Detection 99-point Auto/Manual selection AF system providing four AF modes: Multi-point AF, 1-point AF (center spot, normal, or wide), Subject tracking AF, and Face detection AF. In all exposure modes, the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which AF point is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. The P7100's Center Spot AF mode is a good choice for traditional landscapes and informal portraits and an even better option for street shooting, because serious photographers don't want the camera deciding which face in the crowd to focus on.
The P7100's pop-up flash, like those found on most P&S digicams provides an adequate range of artificial lighting options including: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill flash, Manual (1/64th power), Slow sync, Rear curtain sync, and Flash exposure compensation at +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV increments. The P7100's tiny built-in flash unit is powerful enough for fairly tight indoor portraits or for fill-flash, but not much else. The P7100 also provides a flash hot shoe which permits any of Nikon's current External Speedlights to be mounted with full i-TTL compatibility.
The P7100 draws its power from a Nikon rechargeable EN-EL14 Li-ion Battery. Nikon claims that a fully charged EN-EL14 is good for 350 exposures or almost three hours of video. Based on my experiences with the camera those numbers seem relatively accurate. The included charger needs about two hours to fully charge the EN-EL14. The Nikon Coolpix P7100 supports SD, SDHC, and the SDXC format memory cards and provides approximately 94MB of internal memory.
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