Nikon P1000 Review for Safari, Wildlife and Bird Photography

Nikon P1000 Review for Safari, Wildlife and Bird Photography

Looking for a BIG zoom for that next African Safari look no further than the Nikon P1000. With an unbelievable 3000mm equivalent zoom, no other bridge camera or very few DSLR lenses comes anywhere close to this range. But does it deliver an all-round performance for wildlife photography?

I need to thank Nikon for the use of their review unit to conduct this review. Due to the popularity of the P1000 review unit and the tight schedule, I did one of my favourite local fynbos birding tours. My first impressions of the camera when it arrived was "It is BIG." This is a large camera by any comparison. The sheer size of this camera rules it out for use in various cases. 

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But why another review? Firstly the lack of wildlife photography reviews always has me guessing how cameras will perform in the field. Secondly, many of the photographers who reviewed the P1000 mounted it on a tripod I wanted to see how it performs handheld. I reviewed this camera on a short purposive photography hike at Helderberg Nature reserve. No filters nor any corrections were done in post-production on any of the photos shot with the P1000. As I took them I reduced their size and uploaded them.

iso 100 62mm (347) f8 1/125

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Nikon P1000 for hiking

With my little helpers (My kids) in tow, I venture onto the low slopes of the mountain to try to get some cape sugarbird photos. Due to the sheer weight at 1.4kg of this camera, I found myself getting tired of using it after a while. The size of the camera made taking it on a camera strap awkward, and I ended up carrying it by hand most of the morning, adding to the discomfort. The sheer size and weight caused discomfort. 

My Assistants iso 100 13.5mm (76) f3.5 1/100

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If you were out on a local photoshoot with only the purpose of taking great photos, this camera would be an option. But going for a hike with a camera in tow this one is not for you. The camera is made of plastic with very little protection against the elements. You will need to be very careful in the way you carry it as not to get it damaged. Unless you are on a short walk photoshoot, this camera is not for hiking, instead, look at the P900.

Nikon P1000 compared to the P900

Before you go straight out and buy the P900 you have to realize the P900 is an older model and requires some updates to get up to speed. I have been using the Nikon P900 for quite a couple of years, and it has performed well. The 2000 zoom was unheard of when it was released, and I did not have much need for more.

Leopard P900 iso 400 357mm (1999) f6.5 1/250

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This photo in the Kruger National Park is one such case where an extra 1000 would have helped. The Leopard was photographed at the full 2000 zoom and was almost not visible to the naked eye. The tricky backlight made it challenging to adjust the metering. Besides this photo, I can not think of any other time I wanted more zoom. Similarly, I did not find myself using up the full 3000 zoom much on my birding walk and I had to force myself to find use cases. 

Technological improvements to the P1000 include the viewfinder that has seen a drastic improvement. The P900 at 921k dots was just not up to par. The P1000 at 2359 dots provides impressive performance. The slightly larger LCD screen also provides a somewhat better view after taking the shot. Both the cameras have a very small 16mp CMOS 1/2.3' sensor which delivers the crop factor to get such big zooms so low light photography is not ideal.

Common Moorhen iso 100 306mm (1713) f6.3 1/800

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Nikon has fixed some of the P900 issues reviewers highlighted, with the P1000 release. P1000 provides a flash shoe, and the camera now offers RAW as well as 4K. The P1000 is marked as the replacement for the P900, a decision I hope will be reversed as in my opinion, these cameras are not even in the same class. I would love to see a release of a P910 that fixes some of the original release issues.

Nikon P1000 for safari and wildlife photography

Many of the drawbacks mentioned fall away when using this camera for a safari or vehicle-based wildlife photography. The size and weight do not provide such a significant disadvantage. Self-drive safari's such as in the Kruger National Park forces you to stay on the road and take your shot of the wildlife at a distance. The 3000 zoom gets you well in the range of almost anything you can see with the naked eye.

Female Sunbird iso 180 467mm (2615) f8 1/500

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The cost of the Nikon P1000 is also not exceptionally high if you compare it to camera lenses at less than a third of it's reach. One lens with a third of this camera's zoom will be more expensive, providing a use case even for pro photographers. As parks restrict your access during evening times, much of your photography will be done during the very light part of the day.

Male Sugarbird iso 360 90mm (504) f5 1/250

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Game drives at night may cause an issue for this camera, but at a distance, it will for any camera. To take good photos at night, you may require private tours and custom setups. I guess at which time you should already own the right equipment making this review moot.

Now let's discuss the fact that all reviews suggest you need a tripod. Although at the 3000 zoom this camera is hard to keep still, any camera would be. You can use this camera very comfortably up to the max zoom without a tripod. In good light, I was able to take photos of birds quite comfortable in a standing position. A bean bag on the car window or safari vehicle may be able to provide you with a little extra stability.

Egyptian Goose iso 110 252mm (1411) f5.6 1/500

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Nikon P1000 for bird photography

The overall birding performance was very good, and the number of shots I was able to get at high zoom was exceptional. The range that the camera provides you gets you to the bird in a broad range of circumstances. Framing your image and working on composition right at the time of taking the photo reduces the amount of post cropping.

Cape Sugarbird iso 400 135mm (756) f5.6 1/125

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The camera worked well for passive birds, but seem to struggle with active birds. To be able to get the shot and the correct zoom for the active bird takes a bit of time, and by then you may have lost the chance. It may be the operator though and how new I was to the operating system. Some practice may improve my performance with the device.

Masked Weaver iso 800 395mm (2212) f7.1 1/40

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At low light, the camera struggled as expected, especially at high zoom ranges where lower light reaches the sensor. The autofocus struggled to find focus at sunset, and the images were not comparable to pictures taken by an SLR camera.

Male Sunbird iso 220 198mm (1108) f8 1/500

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Should you purchase the Nikon P1000

My overall take out from the review is that this is not a very good all-round camera due to its size, but rather an exceptional zoom camera. The camera works well for passive birds will get you right up close but not in a hiking situation; it is too big. If you have the cash and want a camera for your game drive or a trip to the local National park to photograph wildlife up close, this is an exceptional camera.

Overall Positive and Negatives

Negatives:

  • This camera is too big, Nikon, please fix the issues with the P900 and bring out a P910.
  • The camera lacks environmental protection and will get damaged easily.
  • The low light performance will not be suitable due to the small sensor.
  • Speed of the zoom due to the broad range of available magnifications may cause you to lose the shot

Positives:

  • Extensive range of zoom options for the price.
  • Maximum zoom at 3000 will get any animal you can see with the naked eye in a zoomed position.
  • The latest technology, including 4k and RAW support.
Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student
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