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If you're a keen photographer looking for a high-spec semi-pro compact camera, your choices are rather limited. The leader in this sector of the market is the impressive 14.7-megapixel Canon PowerShot G10 (£350, review coming soon), but there are a few others. There's the Ricoh GR Digital II (£399), or the Panasonic Lumix LX3 (£300, review next week), but that's about it. Up until now Nikon's only model in the semi-pro area was the 10-megapixel CoolPix P5100 (£220), a nice enough camera but no real competition for the G10. However Nikon has just launched the P6000, a 13.5-megapixel, 4x zoom semi-pro compact that is an altogether more serious proposition.
At £370, the P6000 is extremely expensive, even for a semi-pro camera, especially considering that you can get an entry-level DSLR for under £300, but then it has features that you simply won't find anywhere else. Its photographic features are impressive enough, with a high quality f/2.7-5.9 lens with a focal length range equivalent to 28-112mm, a 1/1.7-inch 13.5-megapixel sensor and optical lens shift image stabilisation. It has a 2.7-inch 230k wide-view monitor and an optical viewfinder, external flash hot shoe, Raw and Raw + JPEG modes and of course a full range of manual exposure options, but its real party piece is its built-in GPS receiver, which adds global position data to your photos, allowing them to be automatically linked to mapping programs such as Google Earth, ideal for the growing hobby of "Geotagging".
The P6000 is certainly an impressive-looking camera. It has an all-aluminium body finished in a semi-matt black. The design is very rectilinear and uncompromising, a rugged-looking black slab festooned with buttons, dials and ports. It is clearly designed to look like a "proper camera", even down to the SLR-like row of buttons on the left of the monitor, and the fact that it has a neck strap rather than a wrist loop. The build quality is superb, and the P6000 certainly feels like it's built to take a few knocks.
Measuring 107 x 65.5 x 42 mm the P6000 is a little larger than the P5100, mostly extra width to accommodate the GPS receiver, and also 40g heavier at 270g fully loaded. However it is a few millimetres smaller and 80g lighter than the Canon G10, and certainly more able to fit into a jacket pocket. The body shape includes a comfortable rubber handgrip and thumbgrip. The camera feels very solid and secure in the hand, and is comfortable to hold and use. Due to the position of some of the controls it is really designed for two-handed use, but shooting one-handed is not a problem.