First impressions of the Nikon P7100 are of a solid and well-built camera, albeit one that’s slightly chunky. At 400g with a battery and card (425g with a neck strap attached) there’s a reassuring but not inconvenient weight about it too. It's too big to fit inside a regular trouser or jean pocket, but it does slip quite comfortably inside most coat and jacket pockets.Eyelets on each shoulder allow for a neck strap to be attached should you wish to carry it this way too.
The sculpted finger grip has been restyled from the more block-like grip of the P7000. Big enough to accommodate two fingers, the asymmetric shape encourages them to sit at an angle across the camera body, resulting in a more comfortable holding position. The grip further benefits from a rubberised finish.
In keeping with the needs of its target user, the P7100 sports a wide range of physical controls that allow for on-the-fly adjustments without the need to wade through the in-camera menu system. As with all enthusiast- and pro-grade Nikon DSLRs, the P7100 sports dual thumbwheels for speedy operation.
There’s also a dedicated EV compensation dial for exposure tuning, with another dial located on the other shoulder that allows equally quick and easy access to regularly accessed settings such as white balance, ISO and bracketing. Rounding things off are two Function buttons (one on the front, one on the top plate), both of which can be set to control or activate a function of your choosing.
Overall, we have to say that the P7100 is a very well laid-out camera. Yes, there are a lot of buttons and, at least initially, this could make the P7100 look a bit daunting to casual photographers. However they all have their uses and, once you're used to them, allow for quick operation of the camera. The buttons are well spaced and easy to reach too, while the in-camera menu is easy enough to navigate. Overall, we have to confess that we rather like the bulky, no-nonsense aesthetics of the P7100 although we do concede that it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
A 3in, 921k-dot, 4:3 backlit LCD monitor adorns the back of the camera. This screen produces an especially bright and sharp image, which makes light work of reviewing images you’ve already taken. Better still,
the screen can be angled up by just over 90-degrees or down by around 45-degrees to facilitate easier low-level or overhead photography. By way of comparison the Canon G12 offers 2.8inch, 460k-dot monitor, although the G12’s side-hinge design does make it more flexible as it allows the screen to be rotated right round for self-portraits and shooting around corners and the like.
If you’d prefer to go down the optical route, then there’s a small optical viewfinder built in to the camera too. While this does add flexibility, particularly for DSLR users who prefer holding a camera to their eye, it is very small and (as is usually the way for optical viewfinders of this type) not particularly accurate either – very much something that should only be used as a general compositional guide rather than a precise framing tool.
In addition to the built-in pop-up flash, the P7100 also sports a hotshoe that accepts flashguns from the Nikon Speedlight range should you require a bit more power than the GN7 @ ISO 100 of the built-in strobe. Wireless data transfer via Eye-Fi SD cards is also supported.
While the P7100 still isn’t a praticularly speedy camera overall, it does show an improvement over its predecessor. Indeed, the general “sluggishness” of the P7000 was something that my predecessor, Cliff Smith, alluded to at some length in his review of it. One of Cliff’s specific criticisms centred on the perceptible delay he encountered when activating the P7000’s menu or leaving the menu system to return to shooting modes. Safe to say that Nikon appears to have sorted this particular problem out as there’s no such delay with the P7100.
Start-up speed – the time it takes from the camera being switched on to having a properly focused image in the bank – comes in at just under three seconds. This still isn’t particularly fast, but should just about prove acceptable in the vast majority of general shooting situations. Single-shot performance has made a slight speed gain over the P7000 too, dropping from around 2.5 seconds between shots to around 2 seconds when shooting JPEGs.
Switching to Raw capture, this rises to approximately 3.3 seconds. Continuous shooting speed also sees an incremental increase, although at 1.2fps it’s hardly about to win any prizes for speed either. If the P7100 has a major weakness, then this is most certainly it.