Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Nikon COOLPIX P2
- Wireless, brilliant pictures, great functions
- Wireless technology difficult to set up, aging build
If you can get the wireless technology working easily, this is a brilliant purchase. Definitely on our watch list.
Price$ 449.00 (AUD)
"Really, that thing has Wi-Fi?"; that seemed to be the phrase of the day around the office when we whipped out Nikon's Coolpix P2 and begun our testing procedure. The rather blocky, almost archaic design of this model belies the powerful technology housed within. The P2 is 802.11b/g compatible, bringing wireless transmission into a digital camera framework, and the resulting flexibility goes far beyond what we've seen most wired cameras.
Imagine being able to walk along the street, snapping shots, and knowing they are being safely transported to the laptop you're carrying in your bag; or being able to fire off shots around the house that are instantly sent to the printer before you even leave the room. The P2's wireless technology makes situations like this a reality. There are a bundle of wireless transmission options, including direct to printer or direct to computer right after shooting. You can also eliminate the need to sit down and plug the camera in manually, by simply doing a file dump to your hard disk at any time. You can even mark shots that particularly catch your fancy, and filter those out before transferring. That isn't to say you have to use the wireless connection; the P2 also comes with a USB cable, for those of us who can't quite let go.
It's a good thing the cable is included though, because the wireless technology isn't all chocolates and roses. It was a mammoth struggle to get everything set up. Nikon sent us a wireless ready laptop, pre-configured with the correct software and profiles to use the P2, and still we had problems. We could get the camera to connect to the computer, but when we tried to select a mode with which to transfer files, the camera gave us an error. We had intermittent periods of functionality, but for the most part we were trying in vain to utilise the technology properly.
Even ignoring the wireless potential of the P2 though, it really holds itself up as an above average model. The picture quality is fantastic for a 5.1 megapixel model. Images were as sharp as any we'd seen from this price range, with crisp edges and no blurring, even in areas that most similar models fail. We did spot a little purple fringing in bright, outdoors situations, but for the most part it did not pose a problem.
Colour representation was almost as good, with deep, accurate reds and cool greens. Blue was the one colour that appeared to be flawed, often coming up underexposed even in situations where the other colours were perfect. To make things even better, image noise is virtually non-existent on this model. Even the lowest of our low light shots couldn't manage to produce more than the smallest element of fuzz over the pictures. We did have a small problem with the autofocus in low light; it sometimes seemed to not operate properly, but only a handful of our shots were affected by this and we couldn't replicate it at will.
Unfortunately, the P2's speed could not quite live up to its picture quality. Shutter lag was a very respectable .8 of a second, but it took over 3 seconds to power up, and anywhere from 2 to 4 seconds to write pictures to the memory. Over time this adds up to a slower than average shooting experience.
The design is the other area where this model falls down. For such a technologically impressive product, the style and look of the camera are extremely out-dated. It feels ripped right out of three years ago. The body is almost entirely brushed silver plastic and feels considerably flimsier than competing models. It is quite small, but not small enough to be considered ultra-compact. The biggest part of the body is the grip on the right-hand side that juts out sharply from the face of the camera. It has a hollow feel, and generally detracts from the design rather than making it more comfortable to hold.
The button layout is equally outdated, utilising a basic function wheel and directional pad combination. The function wheel controls everything, from white balance, to ISO and movie shooting. It even operates the wireless menu. Despite being an older layout, we found the P2 comfortable to hold and easy to use, it just took a little getting used to after the multitude of modern cameras with switches and buttons in place of wheels.
To complement the crystal clear images, this model also comes with a gargantuan set of features. Despite being what we'd consider a compact model, the P2 sports both aperture and program priority modes, which give that little bit of extra control. Aperture can be set from 2.7 to 7.6, and shutter speed adjusts accordingly. As well as these advanced modes, there are the more basic white balance, ISO and exposure settings, as well as 16 preset scene modes and image adjustment tools (sharpness, saturation etc). Nikon's traditional Best Shot mode is back, which takes multiple shots then picks the best one, and there are a mass of continuous shootings modes. The number of features present on the P2 is stunning, and combined with the quality of the pictures, it really is an attractive package.
Unfortunately battery life was a little below par, thanks no doubt to the wireless connectivity. We tested the battery life in a real-world setup, taking a lot of shots and mixing in a single video with some wireless connectivity. We managed 187 shots, with a healthy dose of wireless play to back it up (largely because it took so long to get the connectivity working!), which is a little below average, but understandable.
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