Nikon Coolpix P610 Digital Camera Review
By keeping the Coolpix P610 the same, Nikon keeps a good thing going
By the Numbers
By the numbers, this is a camera that is very much the same as its predecessor—the Nikon Coolpix P600. Though video sees less sensitivity in favor of a higher framerate, just about every other performance metric is identical to the older camera.
Sharpness, noise performance, color accuracy are all pretty much unchanged from last year's model. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it means that the issues that come with the long zoom are still here, and that negatively impacts the picture quality when you zoom out all the way.
As it was last year, we have yet to see a superzoom that really wows with sharpness. The P610 in particular really takes a nosedive in quality after hitting the diffraction limit about halfway through the zoom range.
Much of of this is due to problems with a tiny sensor, but it's made far worse by the fact that the lens doesn't quite set the P610 up for success. The camera's diffraction troubles are caused by the rather narrow maximum aperture, meaning the P610's 60x zoom is a double-edged sword.
Starting out at an average of 2518 line widths per picture height at full wide and dropping to 603 at full zoom, the dropoff in image quality is severe. Additionally, the camera's noise reduction algorithm goes to town on artifacts and blurry areas introduced by the loss in sharpness. The result? Lots of strange edges and blotchiness.
Color and White Balance
As far as color accuracy goes, the P610 is virtually identical to its predecessor, the P600. Posting a ∆C00 (saturation corrected) error of 2.74 and an overall saturation of 116%, you can expect fairly accurate color in your photos.
Perfectionists will notice a little bit of error in yellows and blues, as well as wild oversaturation in reds. Additionally, darker greens will be oversaturated as well.
White balance is always a tricky test, but for the most part the camera does very well. Shots taken in fluorescent lighting and in daylight will have very little if any color temperature error (<100 kelvin), though pictures snapped in incandescent lighting will have an orange glow to them, to the tune of 1000 kelvin errors.
Shot noise is a problem with the P610, but it's not surprising given the sensor we're working with here. Obviously, the amount of noise you encounter will depend heavily on your ISO setting, but there are other problems introduced by the noise reduction algorithm when zoomed out completely.
Noise starts at about 0.8% at base ISO, and ticks up from there on each noise reduction setting. Though image noise never really crosses 2% up to ISO 6400, the noise reduction algorithm does a fair bit of damage to fine detail.
This is made far worse when you zoom out all the way, though hats off to Nikon—this problem should be a lot worse. Basically, what happens is called diffraction limiting, and it starts about halfway through the zoom range. Once these errors start to show up, Nikon's noise reduction algorithm will try to eliminate these variances in expected image, and your photo will look much like an impressionist's painting as a result.
Video quality with the Nikon P610 is about what you'd expect from a point and shoot, but all the same issues come into play if you zoom in. Overall, though, video is passable.
In bright light, the P610 is able to resolve around 550 line pairs per picture height both in horizontal and vertical motion. In low light (60 lux), that number drops, but merely to 400 lw/ph. The camera was also able to maintain a broadcast-quality (50 IRE) image down to 26 lux. Not great, but not horrible for a point and shoot.
In general, clips are smooth and relatively devoid of artifacting and frequency interference. Having the option to shoot 1080p videos in 60fps means that video will appear more smoothly than it would with a lower framerate—like the P600 had.
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