Nikon Coolpix P610 Review

April 6, 2015 | Jack Baker | |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

Considering that, at the heart of the Nikon Coolpix P610, is a 1/2.3” sensor that’s exactly the same size as you’ll find in most basic compact cameras, the P610’s image quality is impressively high. Colours are vibrant without looking oversaturated, whilst detail is well resolved in close to medium-distance subjects. Shoot something farther away like a landscape and fine detail in grass or trees can look slightly smudged, but this is an issue that’s pretty much inevitable with a small sensor camera.

The P610’s lens is also a fine performer. Distortion is non-existent throughout the entire focal length range, and though chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is apparent on some high-contrast boundaries, it’s only usually visible towards the corners of frame and is rarely distracting. Lens sharpness is also good, with very little drop-off in corner clarity.

We’ve got few complaints about the sensor’s dynamic range either. Combined with the generally accurate exposure metering, highlight detail is rarely overexposed, yet the camera still maintains a good amount of shadow detail. Only at ISO800 does dynamic range take a noticeable turn for the worst, with shadows becoming murkier and some highlights blowing out.

In less contrasty environments, the Nikon Coolpix P610 produces pleasing shots at higher sensor sensitivities. ISO400 images display very little grain and there’s excellent sharpness. ISO800 shots are only slightly noisier and a bit softer, and even ISO1600 results will stand up to reasonably close scrutiny. However, at ISO3200 the P610 starts to struggle, with dynamic range now severely reduced. Grain and colour speckling noise is well controlled, but only thanks to aggressive noise reduction processing that smears a considerable amount of fine detail. ISO6400 is best avoided, and it usually can be thanks to the camera’s excellent Vibration Reduction system allowing shutter speeds up to four stops slower than with the system disabled.

If the P610 could shoot raw images, this would solve any problems with overzealous noise reduction. However, it’s easy to forget that even when ultrazoom bridge cameras can capture raw files, their small, pixel-packed sensors tend to generate a lot of grain and colour speckling at higher ISO settings. This noise alone is enough to obliterate most fine details, to a point that the raw file may yield little or no more detail than the equivalent, pre-processed JPEG image. Likewise, JPEG compression can noticeably restrict the dynamic range that larger sensors are capable of, but the differences are less pronounced when comparing images captured on the tiny 1/2.3” sensors used in most bridge cameras.

Noise

The Nikon Coolpix P610 has a sensitivity range of ISO100 to ISO6400 at full resolution. Noise levels are fairly low up to ISO1600, but grain is clearly visible at ISO3200, whilst detail and dynamic range also rather limited at and beyond this sensitivity.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
iso6400.jpg  

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix P610’s 60x zoom lens covers a huge focal length range equivalent to 24-1440mm when converted into a 35mm camera format. This can be increased with the aid of Dynamic Fine Zoom to 120x, however this does come at the expense of image quality, plus it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use this feature when so much optical zoom is available.

24mm

1440mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops - the right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images from the Nikon Coolpix P610 are slightly soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can alternatively change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

There are two quality settings at full resolution – fine and normal – resulting in image sizes of approximated 6.5MB and 3.5MB respectively. The P610 will not capture raw files.

Fine (6.5Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (3.5Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

Given the range of the zoom lens, the Nikon Coolpix P610 shows remarkably little purple fringing, with limited effects in areas of high contrast as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Macro

A 1cm minimum wide-angle macro focussing ability means you can practically rest the front of the lens against your subject and still focus. However, get any closer than around 10cm and it’s highly likely that the camera will cast an obvious shadow over your subject.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix P610 are Auto; Auto with red-eye reduction; Fill flash; Slow sync, and; Rear-curtain sync. Closing the pop-up flash disables it and the camera can’t self-eject it again, so there’s no worry that the flash will fire when you’re not expecting it.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (1440mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (1440mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The camera successfully avoids red-eye even without using red-eye reduction, although shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m reveals it produces some wide-angle vignetting.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Night Landscape

There’s an option on the mode dial called Night Landscape, which supposedly uses optimal settings to capture night-time vistas. We shot three photos of the same scene. The first uses the Night Landscape mode, the second is recorded using standard Auto mode, and the third is captured in shutter priority mode to force a 1-second exposure time.

In Night Landscape mode, the camera favours higher ISO sensitivities to ensure your shots stay sharp, though the extra image noise does obscure more detail than when using standard Auto mode. The clearest results come when using shutter priority mode, as the 1-second exposure time and wide aperture mean this shot is captured at just ISO250. However, this trick does necessitate a tripod or stable surface on which to rest the camera.

Night Landscape

Night Auto

night_landscape_mode.jpg night_auto_mode.jpg
   

Night Shutter Priority

 
night_shutter_priority_mode.jpg  

Vibration Reduction

Optical image stabilisation is essential on a camera with this much optical zoom, and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction system works a treat on the P610. It allows the camera to use shutter speeds up to four stops slower than normal and also helps avoid the need for high sensor sensitivities. In good light we were easily able to shoot at full optical zoom with no evidence of camera shake.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/8th sec / 330mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Filter Effects

The Nikon Coolpix P610 includes eight filter effects to help spice up a drab shot. These are previewed in real time and recorded at full resolution. Available effects are: Soft; Nostalgic sepia; High-contrast monochrome; High key, Low key, Selective color; High ISO monochrome, and; Cross process.

Soft

Nostalgic Sepia
filter_effects_01.jpg filter_effects_02.jpg
   

High Contrast Monochrome

High Key

filter_effects_03.jpg filter_effects_04.jpg
   

Low Key

Selective Color
filter_effects_05.jpg filter_effects_06.jpg
   

High ISO Monochrome

Cross Process

filter_effects_07.jpg filter_effects_08.jpg

Panorama

The Nikon Coolpix P610’s panorama mode (hidden away in the ‘Scene’ setting on the mode dial), enables you to take 180-degree or 360-degree pans. Results are generally free from any stitching anomalies and are fairly detailed. However, the final size is a relatively small 4800x920 resolution for half pans, and 9600x920 for full 360-degree rotations. The system also occasionally throws a wobbly at the start of a pan and fails to record.

Panorama - 180°
panorama1.jpg
 
Panorama - 360°
panorama2.jpg