Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The New Nikon P610 Superzoom Bridge Camera for Birding and Wildlife - First Impressions

Nikon Coolpix P610
As an early buyer of the first superzoom bridge camera, the Nikon Coolpix P510, I was keen to buy a replacement with a better digital viewfinder and a longer zoom. Of all those now available I chose the newly-released P610 and it arrived as soon as Wex had stocks.

I should say I chose it over the also new P900 which has an even longer maximum focal length (2000mm in full-frame 35 mm terms). However, the P900 at 899 g is much heavier than the P610 (at 565 g virtually the same weight as the P510). For tropical trips I am usually carrying 10 x 42 binoculars and a camcorder as well, so weight is important to me.

My first impressions are very favourable. Nikon seems to have listened to what birders want. For example there is a dedicated Bird-watching setting in the Scene dial setting. This setting is held after turning away from it to Auto, Programmed, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority or Manual modes so that when returning to Scene the Bird-watching setting appears there without having to turn the dial to select it afresh.

In the Bird-watching setting, there is a small centre-dot focus point and the shutter is silent.

One key difference is the increased maximum focal length (24-1440 in 35 mm terms). A major improvement compared with the P510 is the viewfinder resolution (921k vs 201) and there is eye detector to flip automatically between screen and EVF. The build is far less plasticky with a more robust feel. The Fn button is useful and I have set it to change the vibration reduction function quickly if the camera is mounted on my Trekpod or tripod. The speed of focus, although still based on contrast detection as would be expected, seems faster. One very useful feature has been added. It can sometimes prove difficult to find the target with the lens fully extended. In front of the telephoto/wide lever on the lens barrel is a button; when this is pressed the lens zooms to a shorter focal length so that the target can be found, and when it is released the zoom returns to its previous telephoto setting.

There are lots of other features, either new or improved. I am pretty sure this camera will prove a hit for birders and other wild-life watchers. The built-in GPS is very useful. I may well use the time-lapse function and the wireless link with my iPhone to fire the shutter without shake. The video seems to be of higher quality than that from the P510.

So far, I have only two minus marks. The first is that only an in-camera charger is supplied—useless when travelling so I quickly ordered an external charger and spare batteries from Amazon. There is no raw output which is a shame. However, early indications are that the jpegs are not overly rendered either in terms of contrast, saturation or over-sharpening. In Aperture (soon to be the late lamented) or Nik software I was able to increase sharpness without producing the artificial edge look.

I have only managed a few test shots—still and video on and off the tripod—because the weather has been so poor. But thus far I am very pleased but will report on it when it has seen proper action for the first time—in India next month. In the meantime, I think Nikon have a winner in the Coolpix P610