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Nikon Coolpix P600 Superzoom camera

There are plenty of options when it comes to taking those all important bird photographs - and superzoom compact cameras are one of them. The superzoom I used to have before it  gave up the ghost during a trip to Thailand was a Fujifilm Finepix HS10 (24-720mm). In January 2015 I purchased a Nikon Coolpix superzoom - I am still trying out this camera but initial impressions have been very impressive indeed - it has produced good record shots of birds in poor light and has also proved very useful for landscapes, nocturnal photography and more. It seems that camera technology has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years. One of the most notable improvements has been the quality of pictures taken using high ISO values.  Digiscoping, digibinning and DSLR photography are covered elsewhere on this website (see the links below).

Superzoom camera
Nikon Coolpix P600

Superzoom cameras are quite a contender for bird photography and a number of serious birders use only such cameras for securing high quality documentation. The results they achieve are impressive and more than good enough for the purpose of identifying and documenting birds they find - the main motive for many, if not most, birders.

The main advantages of these cameras are:
1) They are relatively small and light compared to the equipment required for digiscoping and for DSLR + telephoto lens.
2) They are relatively cheap
3) As the name suggests, they have a wide range of zoom meaning that one can take landscapes and all kinds of other photographs. They can in other words also be used by normal people with normal photographic requirements - not just by birders needing that all-important record shot.

Whooper Swans at approx 150m range
Uncropped image of Whooper swans at more than 150m range - image has just been resized for web publication.

This picture was taken with a Nikon Coolpix at Heggeriset in Engerdal, Hedmark, eastern Norway in January 2015

Whooper Swans at approx 150m range
Above, moderately cropped version of the same image as above showing two of the swans

Whooper Swans at approx 150m range
A further crop of the same image to iluustrate just one of the swans - this camera obviously does the job of documentation very well indeed.

Distant Whooper Swans
Here is a landscape shot taken on a cloudy February day at Herdlevær in Øygarden - if one looks very hard indeed two white dots are visible - thess dots are the swans in the image below.

Whooper Swans zoomed in
Zooming in (but not all the way) from the same position two Whoopers are clearly visible and eminently identifiable

The only real disadvantage I have found is that these cameras suffer from the same problem as other compact cameras - shutter lag. Obviously this makes things like flight photography something of a challenge.

Otherwise the quality of the pictures is not quite as good as a DSLR - but for the size and price the images are quite acceptable and more than fit for purpose unless one is trying for very high resolution images suitable for publication at any level.

Other photography links

Digiscoping v DSLR
Bird photography - why bother?
Superzooms for Birding
Nocturnal Bird Photography

Second camera / "normal" photography
The main use I have had for my superzoom is as a second camera - enabling me to take photographs of things other than close-ups of birds without having to change lenses on my main camera. Changing lenses in the field is not always something that is easy to do and each lens change is just another chance to let dust and water into the camera so I try to avoid this as much as possible.
Northern Lights, near Bergen, Norway, January 2015

Using manual settings to give the longest possible exposure time I managed to take this picture of the Northern Lights from my balcony at Nautnes, near Bergen, Norway.

Oslo seafront, January 2015
View of the "seafront" in downtown Oslo - on a bright January day

Needless to say there were also some birds in this shot. Zooming in to the edge of ice gave the following result:

Gulls on the ice, zoomed in

On my very first trip out with the Nikon Coolpix I took a walk near the opera house in downtown Oslo and with the same camera could take both normal "tourist" pictures and shots of resting gulls.....

Backup camera
Another good reason for taking a superzoom along on a holiday or other trip is that you then have a back-up camera in case something goes wrong with your main camera -  the timing behind me buying my superzoom was for just this reason.

Lapland longspur
Male Snow Bunting, near Rong, Øygarden, February 2015. I had forgotten my "proper" camera back in the car. The superzoom worked very well indeed as a backup camera on this occasion.

As the above picture indicates - the superzoom can take good documentation pictures.

Although I in no way consider myself an expert with this particular superzoom yet there are is one considerable advantage of the Nikon Coolpix over the Fujifilm I had previously and that is that this camera  is easy to charge with a charger that also works for my telephone and will charge via my laptop. Moreover, it also seems to have a longer battery life.

I have only done some limited side-by-side comparisons between the Coolpix and my DSLR and 400m telephoto lens. In the meantime my initial impression is that the results are a fair improvement to my previous compact superzoom.

Glaucous Gull, original uncropped with DSLR Glaucous Gull, Cropped from DSLR image
Uncropped image using DSLR and 400mm telephoto lens Glaucous Gull cropped from DSLR image to the left
Landscape view with Coolpix (fully zoomed out) Cropped from Coolpix fully zoomed in
Landscape view taken with Coolpix - the gull flock is not even visible in this downsized-for-web image Glaucous Gull cropped from fully zoomed-in image from the Coolpix - taken from exactly the same place as image on the left. Some lack of contrast compared to DSLR but results are excellent.

The next photographs were taken on a very dull and wet day with the owl sitting inside a pine tree - in other words a rather dark and challenging subject. 

Long-eared Owl, superzoom camera Long-eared Owl, DSLR + 400mm telephoto
Above and below: Long-eared Owl photographed with Nikon Coolpix. No tripod used and automatic settingss gave a shutter speed of 1/30 at an ISO of 800.

I suspect the "lightness" of this image may be due to rain on the lens.

Top picture is just resized, bottom picture cropped
Near Oslo, March 2015
Above and below: Long-eared Owl photographed with a DSLR and a 400mm lens. Again, no tripod used. In order to get shutter speeds that can work with a hand held camera under such conditions the ISO was turned up to 2000 and the resultant shutter speed was 1/200.

Top picture is just resized, bottom picture cropped out of the image above.
Long-eared Owl, Superzoom Long-eared Owl, DSLR + 400mm telephoto lens

This camera has produced results over and above expectations and is a clear improvement on my last superzoom. It delivers impressive results is definitely worth some serious consideration as an only camera for birders wanting to take documentation pictures of their sightings. It is also well worth having as a second camera even if you already have a digiscoping setup or a DSLR and a telephoto lens.

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