Nikon Coolpix P950 Review

Nikon Coolpix P950 Review
Review

Price when reviewed

£799

$96.95
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Our Verdict

The Nikon Coolpix P950's main selling point is its huge zoom range and provided you have a steady hand or a tripod, you can get tightly composed shots of far-distant subjects. There probably aren't that many occasions when you need a 2000mm lens, but it could fun to take away on holiday or on a day trip to a wildlife park. It's also good to see a decent viewfinder and a vari-angel screen, but it's a shame there's no touch-control. In good light the P950 is capable of producing attractive images but if the sensitivity (ISO) needs to go above ISO 1600 the results lack detail.

For

  • 83x zoom range
  • Good quality electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor
  • Can shoot raw files as well as Jpegs

Against

  • Moderately high ISO results are disappointing
  • Bulky
  • 83x zoom range is overkill in many situations
What is the Nikon Coolpix P950?

The Nikon Coolpix P950 is a superzoom bridge camera and the successor to the P900. That means it has a fixed lens which spans a huge focal length range, in this case equivalent to 24-2000mm. This makes it attractive to anyone looking to shoot distant subjects such as wildlife, sport and the moon.

Although it has the same sensor and lens as the P900, the Nikon P950 adds a few requested features such as as raw file recording, a better viewfinder, a larger screen, 4K video recording and an external mic port.

Specification

  • Camera type: Superzoom bridge
  • Date announced: 7th January 2020
  • Sensor: 16.0Mp 1/2.3-inch type BSI CMOS
  • Lens: 4.3-357mm f/2.8-6.5 (83x zoom equivalent to 24–2000mm)
  • Stabilisation: Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED with eye sensor
  • Screen: Vari-angle 3.2-inch 921,000-dot LCD
  • Max video resolution: 4K at 30p footage, Full HD (1080p) at up to 60p
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth and SnapBridge, HDMI (clean output), mic
  • Dimensions: 140.2 x 109.6 x 149.8mm
  • Weight: 1050g
Features

Inside the Nikon P950 is a 1/2.3-inch type backside-illuminated CMOS sensor with 16.0 million effective pixels. This is physically smaller than the sensor you find in most interchangeable lens cameras, but it means that the 4.2-357mm lens has an effective focal length of 24-2000mm.

That’s an 83x zoom and the sort of focal length range that most interchangeable-lens photographers can only dream about.

However, if you want greater reach, the P950 has a digital zoom function that takes it to the equivalent of 8000mm (333x zoom). Alternatively, there’s the Nikon Coolpix P1000 which has a 125x optical zoom.

Helpfully, there’s lens-base stabilisation (VR) available for use when shooting still images and both lens and electronic (digital) stabilisation for video shooting.

While the P950 uses the same sensor and lens combination as the P900, it adds raw file support. That means that in addition to Jpegs, photographers can capture raw files. That’s useful because raw files contain more data and give greater scope for editing images to get exactly what you want.

It’s worth noting that the digital zoom doesn’t work if you’re shooting raw files, the camera needs to be set to record Jpegs only.

Video

Whereas the P900’s video capability peaks at Full HD, the P950 can shoot 4K video at 25/30p. Plus there’s a 3.5mm mic port to connect an external microphone and the ability to output a clean feed via HDMI.

Full HD footage can be recorded at up to 60p.

Further good news is that Nikon’s SnapBridge system is built in to transfer images quickly to a paired smartphone.

Nikon Coolpix P950 review
Build and Handling

Even with stabilisation, holding the equivalent of a 2000mm lens steady isn’t easy. Fortunately, Nikon has given the Coolpix P950 a hefty grip akin to the sort you get on a DSLR or large mirrorless camera.

In fact, from some angles, the P950 doesn’t look great deal smaller than the full-frame Nikon D780.

While the P950’s grip is chunky and comfortable, the rest of the camera feels a bit plasticky.

Read our Nikon D780 review

Controls

The Nikon P950 has an uncomplicated control arrangement and a straightforward menu.

A large dial on the top of the camera lets you set the exposure mode and there are two dials for adjusting the exposure settings in manual mode.

There’s also a dial on the side of the camera which is customisable, but by default adjusts exposure compensation. I found this works well so I stuck with the default arrangement.

As well as the switch around the shutter button, there’s a toggle switch on the lens barrel for adjusting the zoom setting. The zoom is a little slower with the side switch- which can be useful when you’re finessing the composition.

Just in front of the dial there’s a button which when pressed causes the lens to zoom out to its widest setting and indicate the image framing with a white box. As soon as the button is released, the lens zooms back into the original focal length. That’s really useful when you’re shooting at 2000mm as it’s easy to loose your subject.

Screen and Viewfinder

Like the P900, the Coolpix P950 has a vari-angle 921-,000-dot screen on its rear. However, at 3.2-inches across its diagonal, it’s a bigger unit. Disappointingly, it’s not touch-sensitive.

Despite keeping the resolution the same while increasing its size, the P950’s screen gives a good preview of the scene. It’s also handy to be able to angle it to give a clear view whether you’re shooting upright or landscape format images.

It’s just a shame that it’s not touch-sensitive.

Nikon has upgraded the electronic viewfinder from a 0.5 cm (0.2-inch) 921,000-dot LCD on the P900 to a 1 cm (0.39-inch) 2,359,000-dot OLED on the P950. That’s an improvement in size, resolution and technology.

It gives a very nice, clear view of the scene and it’s especially useful in bright sunshine or when you’re trying to follow a moving subject.

Read our Nikon Z50 review

Nikon Coolpix P950 review
Performance

When you have a camera with a long zoom range the first thing everyone does is zoom to the furthest point of the lens. And it’s amazing how far you can zoom when the lens goes to 2000mm.

However, it doesn’t take long to realise that even with the stabilisation system on, it’s hard to keep the camera steady enough in your hands. That means that unless you use a tripod, you’re likely to need to take a few shots of each subject to get the composition that you want.

You also become aware of just how much haze there is around distant objects.

Another issue is that it’s hard to keep track of moving subjects when you’ve zoomed in a long way. The snapback button is useful but it adds a delay to the capture process, so it’s not ideal with moving subjects.

I tried to get a few shots of some red kites as they circled above me but I found it impossible to frame them and get them sharp at the longest point of the lens.

I had more success with the moon!

Autofocus

I shot in a range of lighting conditions and I found the P950 gets most stationary subjects sharp quickly. It’s a different story with moving subjects though. I was able to get a few sharp images of my dog, but this isn’t the ideal camera to photograph him when he’s racing around.

I tried using the subject tracking mode on my dog and on red kites but it wasn’t able to keep up with either. Even when my dog was moving quite slowly, the AF point failed to stay with him.

Consequently, the Manual (normal) AF area mode proved to be the most useful. It allows you to target a fairly small area for focusing while still giving you a little scope for a little subject or camera movement.

Provided your subject isn’t wearing spectacles, Face Priority AF area mode is useful in social settings.

Nikon Coolpix P950 Image Quality

In good light when the P950 can be used at low sensitivity (ISO) settings, it produces that look attractive at sizes up to around 10×9-inches (25x20cm), or in some cases as big as 14×10-inches (36x25cm).

However, out of focus areas can look a bit smudged, so it depends upon where the focus point is in the scene.

As the sensitivity rises, Jpegs can become quite painterly. However, the raw files look a bit better. Even at ISO 320 you can see some speckling of luminance noise in raw files at 100% on screen, but they look sharper than the Jpegs.

If possible keep the ISO setting to 1600 or lower. If you’re shooting distant fine details you’ll probably want a lower ISO to get better resolution, so a tripod is advisable.

Shooting at the highest ISO values results in images that look like paintings.

Exposure

Even in manual exposure mode the P950 can preview the exposure and colour of an image before you capture it. That means you can ensure you have the right settings selected before you capture an image.

In most instances the matrix metering setting does a good job of assessing the exposure. However, the exposure compensation control is conveniently placed should you need it. I found the -0.3Ev was usually all the adjustment that I required.

One thing to be aware of when you’re setting the exposure is that the P950 doesn’t have a wide dynamic range. Consequently, images tend to have high contrast with deep shadows and bright highlights.

If you shoot to protect the highlights you’ll find that you can recover a little detail from the shadows, particularly if you shoot raw files.

Colour

Because of its huge zoom range, the P950 is most likely to be used outside and the Auto and Daylight white balance settings are a good choice.

There’s also a small collection of Picture Control modes (Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome) and each can be adjusted to taste.

In the Standard setting the camera tends to produce quite natural colours but in overcast conditions they can look rather drab. Again, shooting raw files can help as these give you the most scope for adjustment.

Video Performance

The Nikon P950’s 4K video footage is okay rather than excellent, it looks a little over-sharpened.

Also, the stabilisation can’t smooth out the bumps, shake and wobble that’s inevitable if you walk with the camera. If you want to shoot run and gun style, you’ll need some other form of stabilisation.

The sound from the internal mic is reasonably good, though an external mic is a sensible addition to your kit if you want decent audio in windy conditions and to eliminate operational sounds.

Flare

Even with the lens hood fitted, if the sun is in the frame or close to the edge of the frame, flare can be a significant problem.

I took care to ensure that the front element of the lens was clean, and clear of water droplets, but there’s flare in quite a few of my images when the sun is at 90-degrees to the lens.

Light seems bounce around inside the lens creating multiple hotspots and lowering contrast. On some occasions you can use it creatively, or reduce it by shading the lens with your hand, but at other times it ruins the image.

Read our guide to the best camera accessories

Nikon P950 review
Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Nikon Coolpix P950

Nikon Coolpix P950 Image Gallery

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Verdict

The Nikon Coolpix P950 is fun and easy to use camera that offers plenty of photographic opportunities. It’s huge zoom range is very appealing but actually a 2000mm lens isn’t very practical for a number of reasons.

However, if you’re keen to get frame-filling shots of the moon or start photographing wildlife, it could be a good introduction.

If you’re able to shoot in good light you are likely to be delighted with the results that the P950 produces, but in dull conditions the results are lacklustre.

Read our guide to the best Nikon cameras

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