One of my other hobbies and interests as you likely know by following this blog is that I enjoy photography.
Of course since horses have been a lifelong passion of mine, ever since I was little girl and first read Black Beauty, it made sense that when I first started up with photography after I bought my first horse, I wanted to take photos of…. yes you guessed it… horses.
I can remember taking my Dad’s 35mm camera to the barn with me, and having literally no clue how to use it. So at the time (circa 2000ish) I got a point and shoot Sony Cybershot (I still have it!!).
Around 2007 I got a Nikon D80 and discovered the world of difference with DSLR cameras and why they are the best thing on the planet for taking photos. Thus, photography addiction was born.
I ended up purchasing a Nikon D7100 a few years ago because just 1 camera body isn’t enough when you have 7 different lenses. When photographing horses professionally didn’t pan out (thanks a lot Horse Illustrated for turning down my many many many submissions), I switched to wildlife photography – birds and bugs.
For the last 8 years or so, I spent as much of my time as possible hiking and discovering the amazing world we live in, and it’s been great. I’ve spotted over 100 species of birds, most of which I never heard of before I started getting into photography, and found many different beetles, spiders, and other insects that all made willing models.
Well… there is absolutely no question that even a low end DSLR is a fantastic camera. However, regular “day to day” shooting with a DSLR and small army of lenses does have its disadvantages….
As my life has been changing and growing over the last 2 years, my equine pursuits have just about ended, and I also spend more time exploring the world on a larger scale – travelling. And as a hobbyist who just wants “nice photos” for memories, travelling with a $1000 lens that weighs 3 pounds and a camera and extra short range lens just doesn’t make sense at all. Anything can happen to large, fragile, expensive glass equipment when going on an airplane.
Back in 2015, Nikon released what they called a “Super Zoom” camera – the P900. It appealed to me then, but I never really gave it a second thought because I had my wonderful almost-pro grade lenses for wildlife and horses and bugs. But I revisited the notion of the P900 again in 2017 and again in 2018.
Finally, just last week, I purchased it. I figured 5 years of debating over getting it was enough.
(Stock image. I was being lazy, oh the irony…)
So, right now, I’m just getting to know the P900, so I’ll share my initial thoughts. It’s winter here and I have not had much time after work before it gets dark to get out and use it too much but I did spend about a total of an hour so far bonding with this little piece of machinery marvel.
This is considered a “bridge” camera. That means it’s better than a “pocket” point and shoot, but not as good as a DSLR.
As far as advantages for a hobbyist level person such as myself, it has plenty – it costs literally less than some of my lenses alone for starters – $600 from most reputable camera stores. The lens is all-in-one and can cover a range of selifes to the moon. This camera is specifically known for it’s stunning close-ups of the moon. Yes. Close ups of the moon. And no, I have not gone outside yet in freezing temperatures to give that a try. I don’t do much astrophotography anyway. Some other advantages/fun features is that it has a very nice swivel out and around LCD screen which most DSLRs certainly do not have, and if you like shooting in the pre-programmed modes, it has a ton of them. It shoots great video in HD if that’s your thing. Personally I’ve never once used my D7100 for video. Besides all that – the whole thing weighs about 3 pounds so it is easy to carry, compact, and travelling with it will not be a problem.
As far as disadvantages for an experienced hobbyist stepping down from a DSLR, it has plenty. It isn’t really fair to compare a camera like this to a DSLR, so I will try to do it fairly. The P900 cannot shoot RAW. Bummer. Also, that 2000mm (equivalent) zoom that is capable of taking close ups of the moon doesn’t work out so well taking photos of …. oh…. a bird… or just about anything else.
The performance of the camera at 2000mm really fails. The digital viewfinder is a nice touch but the reality of using it in the field is that it is slow and laggy and the max zoom, the shutter is slow. I found a hawk sitting in a tree about maybe 100 feet from me and tried taking some max zoom photos of it, and they did not come out at all how I hoped.
But to be fair – at that range, even with my 500mm lens mounted on my D7100, I would have had to crop the image to get a “close up” and would have ended up with the same blurry image with chromatic aberration.
So far with objects at a closer range (even birds) my images are nice. Just like any shooting situation, you need good light to make for good images. I rarely ever shoot with my ISO higher than 800, since the majority of my subjects are birds in well lit situations. However, indoor trials of the P900 have been wonderful. It takes some mighty fine photos!
I have been messing around with the various AF modes, and I think I’ve found one that seems to work better for birds than the others. I’ve also begun to discover that due to the slow/skipping/lagging behaviour of the viewfinder (at max zoom!) it is almost easier to jut use the LCD to take photos, which is something I’m definitely not used to doing.
Overall, I like the camera just fine and I’m mentally getting used to stepping down from a 12 year run of DSLR shooting. I will be sure to make more blog posts (with actual photos) on the P900 as a I get out using it more and get to know it a little better.
I plan to take it out to a major wildlife refuge not too far from home when it gets warmer- which is where I do most of my shooting anymore. And in November there is a trip planned to Key West that will be an all important moment in my life. My fiancee and I will become Husband and Wife!!! Yay!!!! (And it’ll be good shooting for the P900)