Nikon COOLPIX P600 review


The Nikon COOLPIX P600 is a new super-zoom with a massive 60x optical range squeezed into a compact bridge-style body. The only compact model with a longer range is the 63x Sony H400.

The new model closely follows the style and layout of earlier P series COOLPIX models like the 42x P520 and its successor the P530, with a flip out vari-angle 3 inch LCD screen and a 201k dot electronic viewfinder. The P600 and P530 share a new 16.1 Megapixel CCD sensor, a step down in resolution from the 18.1 Megapixel P520.

The COOLPIX P600 offers a wide range of video modes with a best quality 1080p25/30 mode and a choice of high speed and slow motion modes. Other improvements include built-in Wifi (but alas no GPS), a button for toggling between the screen and viewfinder and a new scene modes for bird and lunar photography. Aside from the Wifi though the real story here, and the one that will sell the COOLPIX P600, is the big 60x zoom.

Compared to Sony HX400V

Externally, the Nikon COOLPIX P600 and Sony HX400V bear a superficial resemblance – they’re both bridge super-zooms after all – but the COOLPIX P600 is smaller and lighter. You could easily mistake the HX400V for a DSLR, but not the P600. And though it’s smaller, it packs a bigger punch – in the form of its 60x optical zoom. With an equivalent range of 24-1440mm it starts at the same wide-angle as the HX400V but outreaches it at the telephoto end of the range – 1440mm compared with 1200mm. Against that, the HX400V has a slightly brighter maximum aperture – f2.8 compared with f3.3, but it’s a small advantage and it really only makes a difference at the wide angle lens settings. At 1200mm the P600 is actually brighter – f6 compared with f6.3 on the HX400V. One other differentiating factor is the zoom itself. Both mdels have a zoom rocker on the shutter release, but the P600 also has one on the side of the lens barrel, where the HX400V has a zoom ring on the barrel that can be re-assigned to focussing.

Beyond the lens, the HX400V’s sensor produces higher resolution 20.4 Megapixel images than those from the 16.1 Megapixel COOLPIX P600. But despite packing more photosites onto the same physical sized sensor, the HX400V actually did better in my High ISO noise tests. The HX400V can also take advantage of various composite modes that provide it with Multi Frame Noise Reduction, HDR and other features. Interestingly though, the P600 came out on top in my outdoor quality tests – albeit by a narrow margin.

Both models are equipped with a 3 inch LCD screen with the same resolution, but the Sony HX400V’s flips up or down, where the COOLPIX P600’s is side-hinged and can face in any direction including forwards for self-shooting and in portrait orientation. Like the Screen, the electronic viewfinders are pretty evenly matched, but the HX400V has an eye sensor to automatically switch from one to the other.

Both models offer the full range of PASM exposure modes in addition to scene detect auto and both offer a range of effects modes, but the HX400V has more of them and they are more versatile. What’s more, unlike the P600’s effects, the HX400V’s Picture effects can be applied from the menu in most shooting modes. Both models offer a pretty good panorama mode.

With 1080p/50/60 HD video, a dedicated movie position on the mode dial and the ability to use PASM exposure modes for movie shooting, the Sony HX400V is a better choice for shooting video than the COOLPIX P600. In it’s favour, the COOLPIX P600 does offer a wide range of movie modes including 1080p30, 1080p24, 1080i50, and 1080i60. It also offers the edit-friendly iFrame codec in addition to two high speed modes and can take low resoution stills during movie recording.

Both models have built-in Wifi, but the HX400V also offers GPS and NFC tap-to-connect as well as the ability to download and install apps for added features and functions. The HX400V also sports a hotshoe which supports accessories beyond flashguns, including an external microphone; there’s also an optional cabled-release.

On price, the HX400V is a little more expensive, though in regions where the HX400, without the GPS, is sold, you find the two pretty closely matched. As always, it comes down to which model you feel is the best fit personally but, broadly speaking, the HX400V is a more fully featured model with better customisation options, greater connectivity and more versatile movie shooting. Meanwhile, the COOLPIX P600 has a longer zoom, is more compact and lightweight and has a more versatile flip-out screen.

See my Sony Cyber-shot HX400V review for more details.

Nikon COOLPIX P600 final verdict

It would be easy to accuse the COOLPIX P600 of being a one trick pony, beyond the massive 60x zoom does it really have much to offer over last years COOLPIX P520? To look at it on paper, you might not think so, but in use its attractions become more apparent. There’s the Wifi, these days a must have on any camera and arguably an overdue introduction on Nikon super-zooms. Another easy to dismiss improvement is the display toggle button – it really makes a huge difference to this camera’s handling. Lastly, while the P600’s high ISO noise performance may not be up to the mark of the Sony HX400V, it’s a big improvement on the 18 Megapixel sensor of the earlier models.

The new video and scene modes may not appeal to everyone, and the slow operation of the menu system, video lag and sluggish menu is irksome. But these are fairly minor shortcomings, they won’t dissuade anyone with their sights set on that long, long telephoto, the main, but not the only reason the COOLPIX P600 wins a Cameralabs Recommended award.

Good points
60x optical zoom.
Compact, lightweight body.
Built-in Wifi.
1080p25/300 HD video.
Slow and fast movie modes.

Bad points
Low resolution electronic viewfinder.
No built-in GPS.
Video recording lag.
No RAW mode.
Minimal accessories compared to Sony HX.

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