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My personal camera evolution that led to the Nikon P1000 Superzoom

Posted 9/16/2021

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in photography.  My parents had all kinds of cameras.  Manual cameras, reflex and Instamatics.  While everyone took still pictures, back in the mid 70s they went one step further and purchased a Canon 514XL Super 8mm movie cameras that featured sound recording.  We even had the boom mic. option.  For the time, that was pretty cool.  There was nothing like it.  I loved reading the manual and playing with the settings.  At family functions, I became the official “filmer”. 

Around the same time I was given an old Kodak Brownie Holiday as a hand-me-down gift.  Made of brown Bakelite, it was indestructible.  I would load up the 127 film, snap pictures and waited patiently for the pictures to come back from processing.  Half the pictures were ready for the waste bin.
In grammar school I saw my first video camera close up as we shot a play with an early version helical video camera and recorder.  As I think back, that was a pretty progressive time and would be an important influence in my future career.
By the late 70’s as my friends bought the Instamatic or Pocket 110 cameras, I joined the camera club at school so I could develop my own pictures using the school’s Olympus 35mm camera.  That 35mm film camera was like nothing I’ve used before.  I learned about the Exposure Triangle: aperture, ISO and shutter speed.  I took and processed hundreds of blurry or improperly exposed pictures.  Little by little, each shot got progressively better.
In high school we were also given access to a shoulder mounted helical video camera and record combo.  We went around the city to shoot public utility buildings as part of a civics course.  This exposure further cemented my interest in video recording - but my roots were with still photography.
Little did I know that my interest in photography and its creative aspect would continue to guide my career path.  In high school I thought about being a professional photographer or broadcast cameraman but for college I chose instead to study electronics.  While in college, one of my courses was a broadcast maintenance overview.  An instructor noted that I seemed more interested in playing with the equipment than fixing them.  I changed schools and shifted my major to broadcasting.
After college graduation, I worked in radio for a few years.  While there I occasionally took part in a few “promotional shoots” using 35mm cameras.  I left radio and moved into television broadcasting.  In this environment I was exposed to a broader range of leading-edge professional equipment.  The equipment and technology at the time was out of the realm of the average consumer but that would change by the mid-80’s when consumer video cameras were out in full force.
At the time, consumers were presented with two distinctly different formats.  Would it be Beta or VHS?  While there’s no dispute that Beta was a far better format, VHS was at the top of the marketing heap and outsold Beta in every market.  Eventually the consumer Beta format was discontinued but lived on for another decade in the professional and broadcast environment.  
Not to be outdone, evolution progressed and Super VHS was introduced featuring higher luminance and resolution levels.  I quickly went out and spent a small fortune in a Panasonic SVHS camera system.  It was considered “portable” - the carrying case was suitcase size!
While the video market was emerging, the still camera market at the time was stagnating.  The big 35mm film cameras hadn’t changed much in the past decade.  Quantity supplanted quality.  Simple disposable 110 film cameras or Polaroid Instants were cheap and everywhere.  Disposal cameras were commonplace and convenient.
Since I was regularly exposed to some pretty high-end video equipment, getting a “Wow” factor reaction from me requires something quite special.  It happened in the mid-90s when our graphics department purchased a new Sony Mavica filmless “digital” camera.  This camera was quite expensive but could take digital pictures that you could instantly see on a computer screen.  Imagine that!  The storage medium was a standard 3.5-inch high capacity (1.4M) computer floppy disk. You could take the floppy right out of the camera and stick it into the nearest computer.  What a novelty!  With extra floppy disks, you could take a seemingly endless amount of pictures and simply delete the ones you no longer wanted.  You could get about a half dozen “high quality” shots and dozens of lower resolution shots. This was comparable to existing film cameras.  With the right printer, you could even print the pictures you wanted onto photographic quality paper.  This was incredible!  By today’s standards, the .3 Megapixel picture produced was VGA quality 640x480 at best.
It would be a few more years before digital cameras would be in the mainstream.  Eventually I pulled the trigger and bought my first digital camera.  It was a Kodak DC4800 that had 10 times the resolution of the Sony Mavica I’d seen years earlier.  The DC4800 was pretty “leading edge” at the time.
Here’s a review from DP Review in 2000 of the Kodak DC4800
Technical evolution in digital cameras resulted in the ability to shoot relatively high quality video.  Within a few years my Panasonic SVHS camera was obsolete and was retired for good.  I was still a believer that dedicated physical video formats would coexist with digital still cameras.  I was convinced that the new MiniDV format was hard to beat so I invested in a Panasonic widescreen 16x9 MinDV video recorder.  This was before HD cameras were readily available.  I was a big fan of Panasonic products.  Sadly, the MiniDV  format was soon replaced with similarly spec’d. video cameras that featured hard drive or memory card recording.

As digital cameras progressed further, I was excited to see that optical zoom lenses were now taking center stage.  I liked the computerized aspect of the “Point & Shoot” cameras.  I still had a soft spot for DSLRs but at the time, a good DSLR was out of my price range.  I stumbled upon a new series of P&S cameras that featured an unprecedented 20x optical zoom.  Over the course of a few years, my wife and I added five more point and shoots to our complement.  Our cell phones were evolving to the point they were rivaling our dedicated cameras.  Eventually we were leaving our digital cameras behind.  The MiniDV was left to gather dust.
We did invest in a DSLR.  We own a Nikon D5600 with an assortment of lenses and that camera is still charged up and ready to go.  While it takes great pictures, it’s a pretty mainstream camera.
A few years ago a colleague told me about a new camera from Nikon that was featured in a technology segment of a newscast.  The new Nikon P900 camera featured an unprecedented 83x optical zoom!  The videos shot with this camera could be found online.  They were outstanding.  I can safely say this was another point in my career where I was impressed.  Consider this;  I’ve seen gyro-stabilized news helicopters with with incredible zoom mounts but those camera configurations while impressive, are in the six figure range.  The 83x optical zoom was on an affordable consumer P&S!  
It was a very compelling product but I had plenty of digital cameras sitting around.  I was also playing around with astrophotography and trying various camera mounts to use on my telescope.  I was impressed with the pictures I could take with my cell phone so I focused on using a dedicated mount attached to my telescope’s viewfinder.  The results were impressive enough.  I was able to duplicate what I was seeing and save a digital copy.
While there was nothing like the Nikon P900 in its price point, I read that Canon had patented a 100x SuperZoom lens set up for a possible upcoming P&S release.  The camera was intended to take on the Nikon P900.  I followed the stories closely but the Canon product never materialized.  
Shortly thereafter, I read a press release that Nikon surpassed the 100x magnification level and would soon introduce a 3000mm P&S with a 125x optical zoom!  No way!  This camera would be the most affordable highest zoom rate of any camera on the market.  I was skeptical it would ever happen.
To my surprise, a few months later at a sky viewing website I followed, someone posted similar pictures that I took with my cell phone/telescope set up but they claimed they took them with a pre-release version of the P1000! 

Saturn.  Unprocessed.  Handheld with no tripodSaturn. Unprocessed. Handheld with no tripod
This was the third time I was astounded.  
When the camera finally came to market, it was selling out everywhere.  I guess others heard about this camera which explain why they were selling out.  Sadly it would be months before I could make one my own.  I think it was worth the wait.

With my hands on the camera I found that I too could closely replicate what I was seeing in my telescope.  While the telescope was relegated to night time use, the P1000 could be used anytime.  It features a “Moon” mode, “Bird” mode along with the typical manual, automatic and macro modes.  

Airliner at 41,000 feet.Airliner at 41,000 feet.
I won’t kid you.  This is a huge, bulky and heavy camera.  While it’s marketed as a P&S, it’s more of a bridge or hybrid camera.  The lens set up is unmatched.  The zoom is incredible.  I’ve taken clear pictures of objects miles away.  I captured clear pictures of Jupiter and Saturn.  
I recently made a video on the P1000 and posted it in my YouTube channel.
Even as technology improves, I would be surprised if anyone can surpass the optical zoom of the Nikon P1000.  
I look forward to being wrong.

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