Our First Take
Editor's Note: We've since gotten the Nikon P600 into our test labs for a complete performance review. You can read our final conclusions by heading over to our full Nikon P600 digital camera review.
Camera shoppers looking for a compact point-and-shoot with plenty of zoom have a new option coming soon from Nikon. The DSLR-shaped Coolpix P600 (MSRP $499.95) is the first Nikon superzoom to feature 60x optical zoom, putting it up there with the likes of the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 in terms of reach.
While we liked what we saw from the Coolpix giant—improved handling, good controls, and WiFi—Panasonic and Canon have long battled it out for best image quality in the superzoom department. Nikon's new 60x lens would have to come with great performance to win our hearts in 2014.
Design & Usability
Plenty of grip
The first thing that struck us when we picked up the P600 was how well-designed the grip on this camera is. It's ergonomically shaped and coated in a super tacky rubber, the same type that we called "aggressively textured" on the Nikon P520.
Even though the P600 is predominantly plastic in construction, we were impressed with how rigid it is. There's very little flex in the body, and moving parts like the articulated LCD screen have a satisfying, secure feeling about them.
Hands-on shooters will love the well-placed control dial. Instead of relying on a secondary wheel around the d-pad, this dial looks like it was placed for easy operation with your thumb. The mode dial makes jumping between the available PASM shooting modes a snap.
A whopping amount of zoom
For a while, it looked like 45x was as high as superzooms could go. The Canon SX50 was the first to 50x, while, like Chuck Yeager, the Panasonic FZ70 went all the way to 60x, almost to prove a point. Nikon's Coolpix P600 doesn't reach any further, yet its 60x optical zoom (4.3-258mm, 24-1440mm full-frame equivalent) capability is still pretty impressive all things considered.
Based around a 16.1-megapixel 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor, the P600 features a camcorder-style, 3-inch articulated LCD and an electronic viewfinder for good measure. While the LCD panel is a reasonably dense 921k-dot resolution, we were seriously disappointed to read the EVF's specifications. The panel in use here is a measly 201k-dot unit, which is a little behind the times in our opinion.
Built-in WiFi means you don't have to tote around one of Nikon's add-on modules like you would have with last year's P520 superzoom. Let's hope this is what 2014 holds for Nikon's offerings. Its resistance to making WiFi internal allowed the competition to pass by with superior connectivity options.
Will this be the camera that dethrones Canon's SX50?
Getting down to brass tacks, this Nikon superzoom really has one major competitor—Canon's PowerShot SX50. Since it came out, it's been the best superzoom, offering more than enough zoom without sacrificing image quality too much. In the superzoom market, we've noticed that while other companies have pushed the envelope on zoom ratio, the SX50 still turns out superior image quality.
But there were a lot of things we liked about the Nikon's predecessor. Will a new sensor and extra zoom give the Coolpix P600 a fighting chance? We'll have to test it in our labs to know for sure.