One of the first cameras to feature an inbuilt geotagging capability, the P6000 utilises GPS to get location information when you take a picture, and attaches it to your image. When you view the photos later with compatible software, the GPS feature can display where you took certain shots. This is useful for frequent travellers who take plenty of images and have problems identifying them when they get home.
Although the initial set-up process was a little frustrating, the geotagging function was quite intuitive once everything was fixed. The P6000 may ooze with features but its image quality wasn't as impressive as we had hoped.
Nikon's Coolpix P6000 garnered impressive comments about its design. "Serious" and "professional-looking" were the most commonly heard terms, and we agree. Encased in a solemn black chassis, the P6000 exudes a professional aura that is reserved for pro-level point-and-shoots, which is exactly where this camera is positioned.
Top view of the Coolpix P6000. The camera has a hotshoe for attaching an external flash or optional accessories. (Click for larger image)
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Complemented by a textured rubber finish, the grip is assuring to hold and the thumb rest gets the same treatment, which we find really sweetens the whole deal.
The mode and command dial are strategically positioned to facilitate one-handed operation, and we could change settings on the fly. Those who are using a dSLR may be familiar with the button layout. Menus and frequently used functions are accessed from the buttons on the left side of the 2.7-inch LCD.
We may be nitpicking, but we wished Nikon could have implemented a scroll wheel instead of the usual navigation pad. This will make changing exposure settings in manual mode easier because both aperture and shutter speed can be tweaked independently instead of having to press a button to toggle between the two settings.
In all, we were quite satisfied with the design of the P6000. Seldom do we come across a camera which has both aesthetics and functionality.
The onboard GPS trying to update the coordinates. It needs a minimum of three satellite readings before it can confirm your location. (Click for larger image)
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Nikon told us the GPS system is passive, so it may take some time and a few attempts before the shooter can get the coordinates right.
Once we got our location fixed, the next step was to synchronise the camera's time with the satellites so as to match the coordinates with the pictures. As the GPS system isn't constantly connected to the satellites, it can be programmed to capture new coordinates at stipulated time intervals, from 15 seconds to two hours.
To allow shutterbugs to upload images straight to Nikon's myPicturetown online gallery, the shooter has a built-in LAN port. This is, again, one of the firsts for Nikon. Setting up the network profile was a breeze, and all we had to do was to enter our account details, select the images and transfer them to the web gallery. For images that have location coordinates, you can click on the Mapview button to see where you took a picture on Google Maps. We were surprised by its ease of use and found this unorthodox method of uploading images refreshing. Although the shooter does have an IP address, we could not access its contents over the network. It's a small pity this feature was left out because it can make sharing images among several computers easier.
As with most advanced point-and-shoots these days, the P6000 is capable of capturing raw format images. The NRW file could initially be processed only in-camera, and this was quite limiting as there are just options for exposure, white balance, image quality and picture size. However, Nikon has released an upgrade for its ViewNX image-viewing software, and now the program can view and process NRW image files but not edit them. The company told us it will release the NRW codec soon to allow users to manipulate raw files.
How many digital cameras can you think of that have a LAN port? Well, so far it seems like the P6000 is the only one. (Click for larger image)
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To allow greater flexibility when taking pictures, Nikon has incorporated extensive shooting and exposure modes into the P6000. Also, manual focusing is enabled for photographers to fine-tune focusing and this is useful for macro shots.
Last but not least, there are two user-defined modes on the mode dial and we could program and save our most commonly used settings such as ISO, picture size/quality, colour styles and much more. This will be useful for photographers who frequently use a particular setting and want to return to it easily.
The P6000 is equipped with a 4x optical zoom lens which is widest at 28mm. While the shooter may not have as long a reach as Canon's upcoming PowerShot G10 (which has 5x optical zoom), the Nikon is on par with the Canon in the wide-angle department.
One thing we didn't like about the Nikon was that the Lithium-ion battery could be charged only in-camera. There is an optional battery charger, but it doesn't make sense not including a dedicated battery charger for the P6000 when even entry-level units come with this. When plugged into the electrical mains, the camera can be used but that will stop the cells from recharging.
The P6000 performed reasonably well in our lab tests. Start-up time was zippy at 1.5 seconds, and time-to-first-shot clocked in at slightly over two seconds. Shutterlag measured a measly 0.1 second. Overall, the shooter performed almost as fast as we expected it to be.
Under bright daylight, the image quality was decent but could be better. (Click for larger image)
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Autofocus was quick, although it faltered several times when we were trying to take some macro shots. Changing the focusing mode to macro did help, but we wished the camera could be more intuitive in figuring out what we're trying to shoot.
The optical image stabiliser worked very well for us. Shooting handheld at a shutter speed of 1/20 second was not a problem, but we would advise using a tripod if you're taking a long exposure shot.
Battery life is dependent on how long you use the GPS function. We had an instance where we set the camera to gather new coordinates every five minutes, and within a day (and after about 100 shots), the battery was flat. Our advice is to switch off the auto GPS update function when you don't require geotagging.
For a pro-level shooter, the P6000's pictures are only acceptable, but not impressive. The low ISO sensitivity shots were comparable only to mid-range point-and-shoots and, compared with Panasonic's high-end equivalent, the Lumix DMC-LX3, we could see that there is room for improvement in the P6000's image quality.
An ISO comparison table of the different sensitivities of the P6000 at full resolution. (Click for larger image)
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At ISO 100, the image displayed slight hints of grittiness and was not smooth. It was only under bright lighting conditions that the pictures looked clean. A notch up at ISO 200, we detected the noise reduction kicking in, and while the algorithms did remove digital artefacts, they also speckled the image a little bit. Moving on to ISO 400, the speckling was more obvious but we could still tolerate that. However, the image quality at ISO 800 surpassed our limit and we didn't like how the light spots dotted the picture. We don't recommend using sensitivity beyond this setting.
The Nikon has a maximum ISO of 6400, but that would be at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels.
Flash output was well-balanced and there is an option for flash exposure compensation. With it, we could reduce or increase the strobe's power to achieve a more natural-looking image.
At AU$749, the P6000 is in the same price range (and class) as the LX3. Admittedly, it has more features than the Panasonic, but the Nikon suffered most where it mattered, and that is image quality. We expected better picture results from a camera in this class. The P6000 will probably be suitable for the tech-savvy or frequent traveller who needs to identify where they took certain shots. But if image quality is a consideration, you might have to think twice about the P6000.