Nikon Coolpix P7100 Digital Camera Review$499.99
Not too many compacts come with built-in optical viewfinders anymore, but the P7100 is one of the few and proud that does. It's a tunnel-style finder, so it covers about 80% of the lens' actual field of view—not perfect, but that's one of the compromises that comes with the territory in a compact camera. It does zoom along with the lens, which is very helpful, as is the diopter adjustment dial, tucked next to the eyepiece, centered above the LCD on the rear.
The finder's design and implementation are almost indistinguishable from the OVFs on the Canon G12 and its own predecessor, the P7000—but all of them are smaller, dimmer, and cover a narrower field of view than the piece in the Fujifilm X10. Even so, having any kind of eye-level finder—warts and all—can be a huge help in bright, sunny conditions where LCD screens tend to get washed out.
To complement the OVF, Nikon equips the P7100 with a big, high-res, articulating LCD screen. It weighs in at 3 inches, 921,000 pixels, and unlike the fixed monitor on the P7000, it packs a vertical hinge, too. It's bright, displays fairly well in the sun, and feels accurate and responsive to movement in real time.
It's a great screen, challenged only by the Canon G12's tilting and swiveling display, though it's smaller and has a lower resolution.
The P7100 rolls with a pop-up flash, concealed in the top-left corner of the body and unleashed with a dedicated release button, on the rear panel behind the flash. Despite its thin profile, it's a powerful light source; Nikon claims that it's effective out to nearly 30 feet. We didn't test that claim, but even if it can light up objects out to 20 feet, that's impressive.
A large handful of flash modes are available, including auto, forced flash, red-eye correction, manual flash control (selectable from 1/64 power to full power), slow synchro, and rear-curtain synchro. Flash exposure can be adjusted +/- 2 EV steps. All flash options are disabled when the flash is pushed back into the body.
Like the P7000 before it, the P7100 packs a 6.0-42.6mm (28-200mm equivalent), f/2.8-5.6 lens. It's not quite flush with the body when powered off, sticks out about an inch at the wide-angle setting, and extends out to about two inches at the telephoto focal length. An automatic lens cover protects the glass from dust and scratches.
At 7.1x, the P7100's zoom range is the longest on any current high-end compact, matched only by its own predecessor, the P7000. Nikon also makes an optical teleconverter, which attaches to the lens ring and can increase the telephoto reach even further.
The P7100 runs on the Nikon EN-EL14 battery, which juices up in a standalone, wall-mounted charger. We couldn't find a CIPA rating for the battery, but we snapped more than 325 shots for our review in a multitude of shooting scenarios, and never needed to recharge the camera—that's a solid number.
Surprise surprise, like almost every other camera, the P7100 captures to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Cheers for standardization.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
Like most compact cameras today, the P7100 has two main ports: a mini-HDMI connection, and a micro-USB jack, which doubles as an A/V component output. Just about all of the most common reasons for connecting a camera to anything should be covered by these two ports.
In a bit of a surprise move, Nikon also includes a microphone input as well. There's nothing wrong with it, of course, but we wonder how many photographers will end up using it, considering the P7100's somewhat limited video capabilities.
As we mentioned in the zoom section above, the P7100 can accommodate a teleconverter accessory. The plastic ring around the lens comes off (the release button sits to the bottom-right of the lens) and the teleconverter can screw on in its place.
For other accessories, like an external flash or mounted microphone, the P7100 comes with a hot shoe. Most high-end compacts, including the Canon G12 and Fujifilm X10, also have this option.