I have a Nikon P900 and I am somehow disappointed by the zoom level. It is obviously better than my other camera (Panasonic FZ-50, comparison done by making photos of the moon), but still... (please keep reading)

Before I actually bought the P900, I "studied" the information on the net a lot (I was reluctant to part with the money), including the videos of the zoom capabilities of the camera.

One example very clear in my mind is the video going on like this:

  • there is the sea / ocean, and on the right some forest-y hill, extending at least 1 km ahead;
  • the camera starts zooming in, and after a good amount of zooming, it becomes obvious that on the top of the hill at the far end there are the ruins of some castle;
  • after even more zooming, the yard of the former castle becomes visible, and the people inside;
  • at the maximum zoom (in the video), one can almost recognize the people visiting the ruins, if those people are already acquaintances;

That is something that I would like to have but...

What I did recently was to take a photo of a person, located about 200 meters away. I expected to be able to zoom strictly on the face easily (with that video in mind), but... instead I had not only the face, but also the surrounding area - I estimate a radius of at least 2 meters, maybe 3 or 4.

So my dilemma is... is the zoom of my camera OK, or is the camera missing some optical elements? On the outside, it really looks like a P900, and the zoom is definitely better than FZ-50 (as I already said).

However, compared to the video I described (and several other videos advertising the zooming capabilities of P900), my camera seems like a bad joke.

Which is the truth? That my camera is "funny"? Or that the videos on the net are not made with P900?

My only other guess would be that the zoom level is better when using the video recording then when using the photo camera, but it sounds like against the laws of physics, to me.

Note: I am mostly a point-and-shoot kind of photographer, using Auto or Program. I am trying to learn more, but I am not advancing fast. I am aware that a compact camera is not enough for many things which are possible with a DSLR.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I was just looking at the P900 User Manual. Is the additional 4X Digital Zoom mode enabled? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2020 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ The videos on the web are probably cropped after using the maximum optical zoom. The camera offers another 4x as digital zoom, which really means just croppng to the center of the frame. When you look at photos on the web you won't miss the extra pixels. I have disabled the digital zoom in my P900 but routinely crop more tightly than that in post. I shoot mostly birds and post to iNaturalist. One can crop at least 5x and still have a "good shot". \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2021 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have my second P900 (battery contacts failed on the first) and love it. I mostly shoot birds and the reach is wonderful. I think you should consider this a point and shoot camera. It has all the controls of a DSLR but none really work. The manual focus is switches to run the motor and I haven't gotten it accurate enough to count. The aperture priority is silly because the minimum aperture is f/9.5 because any smaller would kill you with diffraction. The shutter priority is silly because there isn't enough aperture range. This camera is about the reach, which is wonderful. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2021 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


Your "tight head shot" at 200 m is expecting unreasonable results from the zoom specifications. The Nikon P900 zooms up to 357 mm focal length, on a 1/2.3 inch sensor (considered to average about 6.17x4.55 mm sensor WxH). The 16:9 Field of View at 200 meters calculates to be 3.45x1.94 meters, which sounds like what you see. Inaccuracy estimating the 200 meter distance would cause this to vary, but I think it is OK.


Your camera sports an imaging chip that measures 4.55mm height by 6.17mm length. The corner to corner (diagonal) measure of this chip is 7.66mm. This camera has a zoom lens with a variable focal length. The range of the focal length change is 4.3mm thru 357mm.

This camera sports a miniature sensor as compared to a 35mm film camera. The 35mm camera sovereign for about 100 years. Because of it's popularity, it is customary to describe the view as seen by your camera, stacked up against the view as seen using a 35mm camera. This is an equivalency that may or may not be of benefit to you (gray hairs like this).

This equivalency is called a magnification factor or betters “crop factor”. The crop factor is derived by dividing the two camera’s diagonal measure. For your camera, this value is 5.6. Thus your lens 4.3mm thru 357 delivers the equivalent of a 35mm film camera with a zoom lens focal length range 24 thru 2000mm, this is a formidable zoom range.

We size lens to cameras based on the diagonal of the imaging chip. In this case, your camera has a diagonal measure of 7.66mm. If your camera is set to zoom focal length of 7.66, equivalent to about 43mm, the view delivered will be about the same as the unaided human eye.

If you zoom to a longer focal length, you will be in the telephoto realm. If you set the lens to a shorter than 4.3mm (equivalent to 25mm) or shorter, your camera is operating in wide-angle territory.

Suppose you zoom to 45mm (equivalent to 250mm, you have magnified the “normal view 10X alike looking through 10 power binoculars. If you zoom to the maximum focal length of 357mm equivalent to 2000mm, the view will be approximately the same as viewing through a 2000 ÷ 43 = about 45X power telescope.

Stated differently, a bird 100 yards distance, at maximum zoom, images as if you were positioned 2.2 yards distant. In metric terms, a bird 100 meters distance images as if it were only 2.2 meters distance.

You zoom lens is remarkable in that it is remarkable as to its zoom range. Be happy, it’s all good!


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