Nikon Coolpix P2
At a Glance
You'd be forgiven for confusing the Nikon Coolpix P2 with the Coolpix P1. Apart from the different paint job and smaller image sensor, the P2 is identical to its cousin.
It's a lot cheaper, though. While the 8-megapixel P1 is available for around $500, the 5.1-megapixel P2 sells for $400 (as of 2/6/06). Otherwise, everything else is the same: You get a 3.5X optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD, a 110,000-pixel sensor, and the same image-processing chip.
Like the P1, the P2 also includes an 802.11b/g wireless adapter that allows you to wirelessly transfer images to a PC. Although we had trouble with this feature in the P1, I found it problem-free in the P2. To connect the P2 to a wireless network, you have to install and run the Nikon Wireless Camera Setup Utility, which is a pretty simple process. (You need to use this approach each time you connect to a new network, however--you can't connect to a new network through the camera's interface.) You can then wirelessly transfer images to the included Nikon Picture Project photo management software. The wireless setup utility also allows you to arrange wireless printing, so you can output images over the network to any connected printer; once configured, the printing process can be done straight from the camera instead of through a PC.
But while the wireless image transfer is a nice feature to have, I found that the quality of the P2's images was not so appealing. They weren't particularly bad; they just weren't that good when examined alongside the images of other similarly priced cameras. The colors were acceptable (if a little dark) and the images were reasonably sharp. As the P2 is a point-and-shoot camera, its lack of a full manual mode is not surprising. You do get some control, though, via an aperture priority mode (no shutter priority) and both white balance and exposure bracketing.
The P2 lasted a disappointing 201 shots in our battery tests, compared with the average of 278 for recently tested point-and-shoot models.
The P2's case feels well built and robust, yet at 1.5 inches thick it's a little too chunky to comfortably fit in a pocket. But the P2 is a pretty simple camera to shoot with. It fits well in the hand, with a handle on the right providing a good, solid grip. Its shutter control falls naturally where you would place your index finger, while the zoom buttons fall under the thumb.
A dial on the top allows you to switch between modes, as well as adjust ISO and white balance settings. This design feature is a good thing, because otherwise those settings are buried in menus. Accessing the ISO through the on-screen menu took 14 button presses, which isn't conducive to quick shooting.
Eleven different scene modes are included--you access them by putting the mode dial into the Scene position and pressing the menu button--and they cover the usual range of shooting situations, such as portrait and night. One interesting mode, copy, shoots in black-and-white at high contrast for photographing text on a white background. It would likely prove useful if you are on a spy mission and need to shoot secret documents.
Despite the P2's wireless connectivity and some advanced controls, this camera's unexceptional image quality and limited battery life fail to justify its price.