Nikon Coolpix P300 review
The term “enthusiast compact camera” used to boil down to the Canon G-series and Panasonic LX-series cameras. Today there’s much more choice, from the svelte Canon PowerShot S95 to the SLR-quality Sony NEX-3.
The Nikon P300 sits on the bottom rung of this market with its sub-£250 price and 1/2.3in sensor: the size that’s widely used in budget compact cameras. The back-illuminated sensor design means it shouldn’t be as noisy as most budget models, though. The lack of RAW capture is another dent to its enthusiast-orientated aspirations, but various other features mean this camera deserves to be taken seriously.
The highlight is the lens with its bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, capturing four times as much light as the f/3.5 lenses found in cheaper cameras. However, it loses this advantage at the telephoto end of its 24-100mm (equivalent) zoom range, where its f/4.9 maximum aperture is nothing special.
The P300’s ergonomics have their ups and downs too. The 3in 921kpixel screen looks fantastic, a pair of dials allows for efficient manual exposure control, plus the menu is straightforward and its options comprehensive. ISO speed, white balance and continuous modes are accessible only via the menu, though.
The P300 is a quick camera: the start-up time is short, and it’s responsive when capturing a string of shots. The continuous mode speeds along at 8fps, but only for seven frames before needing a six-second breather. Photos are sharp, with the lens delivering superb focus into the corners of frames.
The 1/2.3in sensor can’t match the smooth details delivered by rivals with larger 1/1.7in sensors. The difference was most apparent in bright conditions, where noise reduction smeared subtle textures. It closed the gap a little in low light, though, and photos were good enough to print all the way up to ISO 1600.
The P300 beats its rivals hands down for video, though, with its 1080p AVC files delivering crisper details than the 720p videos from either the Canon PowerShot S95 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. The stereo soundtrack was rich, detailed and only very slightly affected by noise from the zoom and autofocus motors.
Image quality is good rather than excellent then, but it’s important to remember the P300 costs around £100 less than the Panasonic LX5 and Canon’s S95. While these pricier models risk being squeezed out by SLD (single lens, direct view) cameras such as the excellent Sony NEX-3, the P300 carves a niche for itself for those who want high-quality photos and videos but don’t want to stretch much beyond £200.
|Camera megapixel rating||12.0mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||4x|
|Camera maximum resolution||4000 x 3000|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||103 x 32 x 58mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||240 shots|
|Aperture range||f1.8 - f4.9|
|Camera minimum focus distance||0.03m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||24|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||100|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/4,000|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||8s|
|Bulb exposure mode?||no|
|RAW recording mode?||no|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 2EV|
|ISO range||160 - 3200|
|Selectable white balance settings?||yes|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||yes|
|Progam auto mode?||yes|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||yes|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||8.0fps|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|
|Data connector type||proprietary USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||no|
|Software supplied||Nikon ViewNX2|