If you are going to photograph wildlife, a fast camera can be crucial. If the animals, such as birds, are far away, you need a lot of zoom. Otherwise, the animal becomes just a blurry dot in the center of the image.
This is where the ultra zoom cameras come in. They differ mainly from the super zoom cameras, in that they have significantly more than 20 and 30 x zoom. Like for example. Sony RX10 IV and Panasonic Lumix FZ2000.
Nikon has two such cameras with ultrazoom. Coolpix P1000 with 125 x zoom (!), And this one, Coolpix P950 with 83 x zoom. Apart from the zoom, they are almost identical, but the P950 is smaller, lighter and cheaper. The larger P1000 has a zoom ring on the front of the lens, but otherwise the differences are small.
If you do not need 3000mm telephoto, and manage with a 24-2000mm zoom instead, the P950 is a better choice. Like the P1000, this camera also has a small (1 / 2.3 ”) 16 megapixel image chip, with 4K / 30p video recording, raw file recording, seven frames / s shooting rate, and pre-programmed settings for moon and bird photography, on the program wheel on top of the camera .
None of them are weatherproof, as the Sony RX10 IV is, and in fact the Nikon camera is best suited as a holiday camera for those who want to photograph wild animals during the holidays.
The size is reminiscent of an SLR camera with an adult zoom, but there is no ultra-zoom for SLRs, and if it did, it would be a huge lens with a lot of expensive glass.
The Nikon camera is a bargain in that sense. Handy to use and conveniently equipped with everything in one and the same camera. The enormous range an 83x zoom provides also presents some challenges. The camera can be difficult to keep still, hence the programs for moon and bird photography, but the built-in 5.5-step image stabilizer also helps with stability.
Note that the choice of moon and bird photography programs is limited to certain focal lengths, and jpeg shooting only.
The user experience
You can use the built-in electronic viewfinder, which is much larger and clearer than usual for a compact camera with such a small image area. In the absence of a zoom ring, use the zoom button on the side of the camera, or around the shutter button.
There is also a wheel on the side for manual focus, and a convenient zoom back button. It is handy when you need a wider section to see more of the area around the subject, and believe me, with 83 x zoom it is widely used. Press it to zoom out and release when you have ‘aimed’ at the subject again.
Nikon also offers a collapsible optical sight with LED marking in the center – DF-M1 Dot Sight – which is placed over the retractable flash in the flash shoe, and which will make it easier to aim the subject at a long distance.
It is not only at longer distances that the Nikon camera can excel. It also has a macro setting down to 1 cm, so that you can also get close to the small motifs.
Since the camera is relatively light and the handle has plenty of room for fingers, the Nikon camera fits well in the hand. It can be easily operated with gloves on, and spectacle wearers can use the large viewfinder without any problems.
The camera lacks a touch screen, it would make the choice of focus point much easier. Especially on video recording, and a zoom ring is preferable to a button. Host sealing will probably be missed by some, but it is not common in this price range. The brightness of f2.8-6.5, is very good for a 24-2000mm zoom, but the camera has some challenges when it comes to speed.
The firing rate of seven frames / s is sufficient for bird photography, if the shutter speed is only short enough. It’s a little worse that the following focus does not always hang with even sailing seagulls, not to mention the rapid movements of birds in flight. It is easier to get sharp images of the moon, but with such low shutter speeds as you get then, it does not hold with image stabilizer.
The image quality
Cameras with such small image chips often have a challenge with image noise at high ISO values. Which you often need when photographing the moon. The photographer can set the ISO value himself, or let the camera take care of it. Then one must be careful not to touch 1600 ISO, otherwise the noise level will be of the grainy variety.
The light metering and white balance are well controlled, and the sharpness of the images is good, to a certain point. Or should we say focal length. The zoom is clearly best from 24 to 100 / 200mm, but the sharpness gradually decreases with increasing focal length. Part of this is because it is almost impossible to keep a camera still at 2000mm, and at such long focal lengths the image stabilizer does not compensate well enough for the movements.
The color reproduction, contrast and dynamics are as expected from a camera in this class, but neither the control over image noise nor the image dynamics reaches the quality you get from the Sony RX10 IV or Panasonic FZ2000.
Nor does the video quality of 4K, which is admittedly miles ahead of the quality in 1080 HD, but never as sharp as from the larger 1-inch image chips.
The compromises seem to be in line when you want both in a bag and a sack. You have to be willing to make some compromises to get as much zoom as the Coolpix P950 can offer. 83 x zoom is not an everyday occurrence, and offers some optical challenges, which Nikon has only partially succeeded in addressing here. The image quality is, as expected from a camera of this type, good, but no more. The firing rate is acceptable, but the buffer limits the number of shots you can take in series, and at the most extreme focal lengths, autofocus does not always follow. But you world so close you get to the wildlife with such a camera.