Zooming in on Manhattan with the Nikon P900 Camera
I primarily take pictures and record videos with the Nikon COOLPIX P1000. The P1000 is currently the king of one piece zoom cameras with a 125X zoom which is the 35mm equivalent of a 3000mm focal length lens. But before I bought the P1000, I was shooting with its predecessor, the Nikon COOLPIX P900. The P900 was the king of one piece zoom cameras before the P1000 was available with its 83x zoom which is the 35MM equivalent of a 2000mm lens. Even after the P1000 was released, it's still a formidable zoom camera. If Nikon had not come out with the P1000 then I'd still be happily shooting with the P900.
Back in October 2018, my Nikon P900 and I were in northeastern New Jersey looking for a good view of New York City. More specifically, we were looking for a good view of the buildings in Manhattan. But Manhattan is huge, so how do you get a good view of all those buildings? If you're too close then you'll get good pictures of a few buildings, but you won't be able to photograph all of the buildings. And if you're too far away than you can get good pictures of all of Manhattan, but you won't be able to make out any real detail of any one building.
It's one of those situations where being close would be too close and being far would be too far. I hate when that happens. Of course, the easy answer to this shooting location conundrum is to fly your private jet down the eastern coast of New Jersey and point your camera out the window. Problem solved! But if you're private jet is in the shop and you have a super zoom camera, then you can get some great pictures and videos of the buildings in Manhattan from the Eagle Rock Observation Deck in West Orange New Jersey.
The Observation Deck is on the Eagle Rock Reservation, which is about thirteen miles west of Manhattan as the crow flies - or in our case, as the lens zooms. It has sweeping views of the western side of New York City as well as lots of other sights in that area.
Upon seeing the shark in the movie "Jaws", Chief Brody remarked, "You're gonna need a bigger boat". And if you want good pictures of the buildings in Manhattan from the Eagle Rock Observation Desk then you're gonna need a bigger zoom! The camera on your cell phone is not going to cut it on this photo shoot. If you take a picture of the Empire State Building from the observation deck with your cell phone, you'll be pointing to the little dot on the screen when you show your picture of the building to your friends.
The massive zoom on the Nikon P900 is definitely the " bigger boat" that Chief Brody envisioned. But you can also get great shots with a camera that has slightly smaller numbers on the side of the lens. My old Fujifilm FinePix S9400W with its 50X / 1200mm (35mm equivalent) zoom, would frame some great pictures. I would think that 500mm to 1000mm would yield excellent results, although I suppose it depends on the kind of shot that you're after. Check out the incremental zoom level pictures below to see how many millimeters you'll need to get the shot that you want.
In addition to the amazing views, the Eagle Rock Observation Deck is also home to an outdoor 911 Memorial. Given the view, the memorial is especially moving. In one area of the memorial, steel beams from the Twin Towers are positioned in such a way as to frame a view of Ground Zero in the background. If you make the trek to the Eagle Rock Observation Deck for the view, I highly recommend that you take some time to view the 911 Memorial.
OK, let's get zooming. Our first subject is the One World Trade Center building in Lower Manhattan, which as of the date of this article is the sixth tallest building in world at a height of one thousand, seven hundred and seventy-six feet tall. That's "1776" feet tall which is why this building was originally called the Freedom Tower. Do you see what they did there? You can read more about One World Trade Center on its Wikipedia page. According to Google Maps, this building is 13.3 miles or 21.4 kilometers from the Eagle Rock Observation Deck.
At the P900's widest angle lens setting of 24mm (35mm equivalent), you can make out the One World Trade Center building, but only because it's the tallest thing in Manhattan. This wide angle shot puts midtown Manhattan, lower Manhattan and even Newark, NJ in the frame.
Zooming in at 80mm (35mm equivalent) or 3Xs, we're starting to frame Lower Manhattan and you can make out the 408 feet tall spire on top of the building.
At 320mm (35mm equivalent) or 13Xs, you start to notice that One World Trade Center just might be the subject of the photo. Although at this focal length, you also get a nice picture of most of the buildings on the west side of lower Manhattan. If I wasn't fixated on One World Trade Center and pointed the camera a little to the south then I could have snapped a good shot of lower Manhattan.
The detail of One World Trade Center is starting to become visible in the shot below at 1000mm (35mm equivalent) which is a zoom level of about 42Xs. You can also see a helicopter flying over the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
And here's the building at the P900's full zoom magnification of 83Xs or the 35MM equivalent of a 2000mm telephoto lens. And that's an optical zoom - no digital trickery needed to get in this close. For a one piece "compact" camera, that is pretty darn impressive. Based on the size of the helicopter in the shot, I think we'd be able to see a person standing on the roof if someone was there. They would probably look like a blob on the screen, but to be able to detect a person at 13.3 miles is amazing to me. Be sure to click on the picture below to see it in full size.
Before we move on to pictures of other sights that we can zoom in on from this location, I cannot contain the urge to mention that the observation deck at the Eagle Rock Reservation isn't really a "deck" which suggests to me some type of viewing platform. It's actually more of an outdoor scenic overlook. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, not being a confined platform is a good thing in that there is plenty of room for people to gawk at the scenic vista. I was there on a weekday at noon and didn't feel busy at all. Also, the viewing area is close to the parking lot with no steps which means that the area is accessible to more people.
The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is about six and a half miles south of Lower Manhattan and about 17 miles (27.4 km) from today's shooting location. Fun fact: the name of the bridge was spelled wrong for 58 years. When the original government paperwork was submitted in 1960, the name was missing a "z". OK, I thought that fact was fun. You can learn more about the bridge on its Wikipedia page.
If you bring a regular camera with a 24mm lens, you will get a picture of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that looks something like this:
Wait - where's the bridge? While the bridges towers are 693 feet tall, at this distance they are only twenty pixels tall (yes, I counted them). So, if someone were to present this as a picture of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, then the correct response would be, "No it isn't"!
By the way, notice in the picture above that there is a black area with some writing on it. That's a part of the 911 Memorial which lists the names of those who were lost on September 11, 2001 and are a part of Eagle Rock Reservation's 911 Memorial.
So, we can see that a 24mm lens will not produce a picture of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge from the observation deck. But if you bring the Nikon COOLPIX P900 superzoom camera and use all of its 2000mm (35mm equivalent) lens then you get a picture like this:
Now that's a picture of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge from the Eagle Rock Observation Deck! And the clarity of the picture isn't bad considering that we're looking through 17 miles of atmosphere.
There are lots of things to see with your superzoom camera while you're perched atop the Watchung Mountains at the observation deck. I saw great views of the Empire State Building and a pretty good view of the Statue of Liberty. You can see video clips of them both in my video below.
You can also get great shots of downtown Newark, NJ which is about six miles away. I didn't focus on Newark during my visit to the scenic overlook, but I did catch some of the buildings with this 500mm (35mm equivalent) shot of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
You may have also noticed that there are a lot of airplanes in these pictures so this could be a good, location for plane spotters. Most of these planes seemed to be taking off from Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) on the day that I was there. But like most photo opportunities at Eagle Rock Reservation, plane spotters will need a camera with a fairly long lens to get good shots of the planes. The helicopters traveling over New York City are another story. I don't think you could get a good picture of those even with the 83X zoom on the Nikon P900. I think it would even be tough to get good pictures using the Nikon P1000's 125X zoom. But of course, I will try it with my P1000 the next time I'm there :)
By the way, the only adjustment that I made to the pictures in this article was to straighten the image as I am notoriously bad at taking a level picture of anything. And, of course, I added the One Lens Two watermark to the images. Other than that, you see exactly what came out of the camera.
I enjoyed my time at the Eagle Rock Observation Deck and hope to go back again one day. The next time I visit, I think I might go in the evening to capture the lights of the big city. My tip for this location is to bring something to cut the wind noise if you plan to record video. The scenic overlook - I mean observation deck - is an open area on the side of a mountain so it can get very windy up there. It was windy the day I was there so I couldn't use much of the audio in the video below. And a windy day in and around the winter months can be very cold. I'm from Phoenix, so I was freezing when I was there in October!
Watch the Video
Click on the picture below to watch my video of Manhattan and other sights in the area from the Eagle Rock Observation Deck in West Orange, NJ. You'll see photos and video clips of One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building and other buildings in lower Manhattan and midtown Manhattan. You'll also see the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks in the area. And in case you're not familiar with New York City Area, we'll do a fly-in in from space!
Note that the video clips in the video were stabilized in my video editing software. That's why you see the black border around some of the video clips. But other than that (and adding the One Lens Two watermark), the videos and photos shown are exactly as they came out of the camera.
Thanks for reading this article and I hope that you have a chance to visit the Eagle Rick Observation Deck with your favorite zoom camera!
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