Top-end cameras such as the P7000 are intended to see a lot of heavy use, and the Nikon is designed accordingly. The body shell is very solidly made, although surprisingly it is of a half-metal, half-plastic construction, presumably to save weight. The battery/card hatch has a sturdy metal hinge, and the tripod bush is also metal. The controls are solidly mounted, very clearly labelled, and operate with just the right amount of physical resistance. The P7000 certainly feels a lot more substantial in the hand that the P6000, an impression borne out by its physical dimensions. It measures 114.2 x 77 x 44.8mm and weighs approximately 360g including battery and card. For comparison, the Canon G12 measures 112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm and weighs 401g.
The top and rear panels of the camera's body are awash with buttons and dials, certainly enough to discourage the casual user. For more experienced users though it provides a comprehensive interface offering a good range of creative control. Main shooting modes are selected via the middle of the three dials on the top panel, and include full auto, program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure, as well as a scene mode with 17 scene programs, and three user-defined settings. The right-hand dial controls exposure compensation, while the left dial is used to adjust other settings, including ISO, white balance, image quality, auto-bracketing and the My Menu option. This is somewhat reminiscent of the control interface of the Sony Alpha A100.
Exposure adjustment in manual mode is via a thumbwheel and the rotating bezel around the D-pad. Both controls are responsive and easy to use, and exposure adjustment is accompanied by a nice clear display on the monitor. Aperture values from f/2.8 to f/8 are available, as well as shutter speeds from eight seconds to 1/4000th of a second.
The P7000 offers a good range of tone and appearance adjustments via the picture control menu, which can be accessed via the main menu or via the top left dial. The are four pre-sets, which can be individually adjusted for sharpness, contrast and saturation by three steps in either direction. Noise reduction can also be set to high or low, but this affects all pre-sets. Other creative options include matrix, spot, focus spot or centre-weighting metering. The P7000 has a 256-segment multi-zone lightmeter,
The video recording mode is arguably a little disappointing, but then none of the top-end cameras are really video specialists. The P7000 can shoot at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps with mono audio, and the optical zoom can be used while recording. The sound and picture quality are quite good, but not really up to the standard of the Panasonic LX5.