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Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review

The new Nikon Coolpix P300 is tested to find out how this serious pocket camera performs.

| Nikon Coolpix P300 in Compact Cameras
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Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

The Nikon Coopix P300 is Nikon's latest entry into the serious compact compartment, complimenting the Nikon Coolpix P7000, the P300 is a much more compact camera, featuring a smaller zoom range, and a bright f/2.0 lens. It's most direct competitor is the Canon Powershot S95, however the P300 features a 24mm wider angle 4.2x optical zoom lens, vs the S95's 28mm 3.8x optical zoom lens. The P300 features a normal sized 12 megapixel 1/2.3in CMOS sensor, while the S95 (and other serious compacts) feature a larger 10 megapixel 1/1.7in CCD sensor. One of the main benefits the CMOS sensor brings, is 8fps high speed shooting, and a number of other high speed modes, such as HDR and Panoramic shooting.
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

Nikon Coolpix P300 Features

The Nikon Coolpix P300 is packed full of features and includes a bright f/1.8 wide angle lens equivalent to 24 - 100mm providing a useful 4.2x optical zoom in a compact metal body. The camera also features a high resolution 3in screen, built in lens based image stabilisation, manual controls and HDMI out.

The camera features full HD video recording at 1920x1080 at 30fps with stereo sound and allows the use of optical zoom. As well as this it also features high speed video (upto 120fps at VGA) and high speed 8fps shooting at full resolution.

There are a number of useful shooting modes and scenes including a dedicated Backlighting mode and HDR mode on the dial, a night landscape mode (handheld combines shots till sharp, tripod shoots one shot), and even a pet portrait scene mode in case you want one. The camera features special effects for shooting: soft, nostalgic sepia, high contrast monochrome, high key, low key, as well as the option to adjust saturation, hue, and brightness. Playback photo editing options include: quick retouch, d-lighting, skin softening, filter effects, cross screen, fisheye, miniature effect, and painting.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

Key Features 
  • 12.2 megapixel back illuminated CMOS sensor - 1/2.3inch
  • 4.2x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-100mm, f/1.8 - f/4.9
  • 3inch screen, with 921k pixels
  • Full HD Video (1080p), with stereo sound
  • P/S/A/M modes
  • Lens shift Vibration Reduction (VR) for both still and videos
  • Easy Panorama 360°/180°
  • High speed continuous shooting (8fp, at full resolution)
  • ISO160 - ISO3200
  • 3cm Macro mode
  • High speed video: 120/60fps

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

Nikon Coolpix P300 Handling

The ergonomics, handling and design of the camera are very good, with a well thought out layout and design, although the lens protruding from the camera does make it slightly chunky. The camera has a solid feeling metal body with a good sized thumb grip, and raised rubber grip at the front of the rectangular camera.

The build quality is good, with a useful dial around the OK button, and another command dial where the thumb lands, which helps quickly set manual shutter / aperture settings when in manual mode. The camera has a manual pop-up flash. The covers are easy to open, such as the battery / memory compartment and AV / HDMI covers, and the memory card slot has a nicely recessed thumb hole so you can easily press the memory card to remove when needed. The tripod socket is metal and is near the middle of the camera.

Menus: The camera highlights your selection in bright yellow, and the excellent screen makes it easy to view the options and controls. The menus are colour coded with shooting in green, playback in blue, and setup in orange, although the video menu is simply grey and has a limited number of options. Overall the menu system is easy to use, and well laid out, however some of the modes and options seem hidden, and can easily be overlooked unless you know that they are there, for example after reading the manual.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

Battery Life: The Nikon Coolpix P300 battery life is rated at 240 shots according to CIPA standards. I was able to get over 250 shots from the 1050mAh 3.7v 3.9Wh battery.

Speed: We measured shutter response, and focusing speed at both wide angle and telephoto settings, and other performance and compared it to the nearest competitors. We took 6 shots, and calculated the average speed of the camera. The results can be seen below - the quickest has a * star next to it.

  Nikon P300 Panasonic LX5  Canon S95
Shutter Reponse <0.1 <0.1 <0.1*
Wide - Focus and Shutter Response Average 0.4 0.3* 0.4
Full zoom - Focus and Shutter Response Average 0.5 0.3* 0.45
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.3* 1.8 1.9
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.4 0.9* (2 shots) 2.1
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.6 1.6* (2 shots) 3.0 (2 shots)
Continuous Shooting (at full resolution) 8fps* (7shots) 2.5fps (3 shots) 2fps (~)

The camera has the quickest continuous shooting at an impressive 8fps - beating a number of high end DSLRs. Switch on time to taking the first photo is also the quickest out of these. Shutter reponse is very good, however the other speeds are average, with slightly slow focusing, and middle of the range shot to shot time. 

Nikon Coolpix P300 Performance

The Nikon Coolpix P300 produces images that have bright saturated colour, and the screen is excellent for viewing photos with bright colours and clear details. Here are sample photos, click to enlarge.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Silver BMW 3 Series Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Yellow flowers
Silver Car
ISO160, 1/800, f/5.5, 18mm
Yellow Flowers
ISO160, 1/1600, f/4.9, 18mm

ISO and Noise Performance
Nikon Coolpix P300 ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:
ISO160, 1/8, f/4.9, 18mm ISO200, 1/8, f/5.5, 18mm ISO400, 1/15, f/5.5, 18mm
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:
ISO800, 1/30, f/5.5, 18mm ISO1600, 1/60, f/5.5, 18mm ISO3200, 1/160, f/5.5, 18mm

Noise is low at the lower ISO settings ISO160 and ISO200, with noise levels increasing as you increase the ISO setting. ISO400 results are acceptable. After this, at ISO800 and above, noise becomes much more noticeable, and can be seen with coloured pixels all over the image. ISO1600 images could still be used if resized and used for small prints or on the web, but ISO3200 images show large amounts of noise, the loss of colour, and detail.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Wide Angle Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Full optical zoom
ISO160, 1/1250, f/5, 4mm
ISO160, 1/640, f/5.5, 18mm
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Black and White mode Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Water photo
Black and White Mode
ISO160, 1/1600, f/3.2, 4mm
Water shot
ISO160, 1/320, f/4.7, 14mm

The optical zoom provides a useful range with a wider than normal lens, starting at 24mm equivalent compared to the more normal 28mm, and zooms 4.2x to 100mm equivalent.

Some of the creative modes and photographic features are shown below...

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Enhanced colour Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: High contrast Black and White
Vividness set to maximum
ISO160, 1/1250, f/5.5, 18mm
High contrast black and white
ISO160, 1/1000, f/4.9, 18mm
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Normal shot Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Backlighting
Normal shot
ISO160, 1/640, f/5.5, 18mm
Backlighting Mode - Flash On
ISO160, 1/1000, f/5, 15mm

The creative modes can create some artistic shots, and can make some otherwise boring shots more memorable, using the modes available: soft, nostalgic sepia, high contrast monochrome, high key, low key, and there are further effects available in the playback menus.

Panoramic mode 180 (shown) or 360 is available and is simply a case of panning the camera from one side of the scene to another. 

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review:

High speed modes: Shooting at 8fps produces good results, without degrading image quality, or unnecessarily boosting the ISO speed.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Red Kite Sample Photo Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Kites in the Sky
ISO160, 1/500, f/5.5, 18mm
ISO160, 1/1000, f/5.5, 18mm

White Balance
Auto white balance is good in incandescent light, with a warm cast. Preset is excellent with neutral colours. Auto white balance in fluorescent light is similar to the results in incandescent lighting, switching to the preset mode gives the image a magenta cast.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: AWB Tungsten Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Preset Tungsten
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting
ISO160, 1/30, f/3.5, 8mm
Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light
ISO160, 1/30, f/3.5, 8mm
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: AWB Fluorescent Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Preset Fluorescent
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light
ISO160, 1/8, f/3.1, 8mm
Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light
ISO160, 1/8, f/3.1, 8mm

Macro Performance: The camera focuses with the subject just 3cm away from the front of the lens, this enables some great macro shots, with very good detail. 

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Macro Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Portrait Thumb
Macro Flower / Clock
ISO160, 1/80, f/3, 6mm
Portrait with flash*
ISO200, 1/50, f/3.5, 10mm 

The portrait shot came out well, with very little red eye, however the image could have been a little brighter. *Portait photo taken in the Portrait scene mode - this softens detail, and removes red-eye (digitally).

Compared to... 

Nikon Coolpix P300 Canon Powershot S95 Panasonic Lumix LX5
Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Trees Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Canon Powershot S95 Trees Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Panasonic Lumix LX5 Trees
ISO160, 1/1600, f/2.8, 5mm ISO80, 1/250, f/4, 6mm ISO80, 1/400, f/3.5, 5mm

Colours and contrast are the strongest on the Nikon Coolpix P300 and gave the warmest colours, however detail is best on the Panasonic Lumix LX5, closely followed by the Canon Powershot S95.

Video Mode

Nikon Coolpix P300 HD Sample Video.

The video quality is very good recording stereo sound and allowing the use of optical zoom, as well as digital zoom. In the example above, digital zoom is used, and video quality still appears very good. Unfortunately the P300 doesn't feature the same wind noise reduction that the Nikon Coolpix S9100 features.

Value for Money
The Nikon Coolpix P300, from £249, compares well to other serious compact cameras, such as the Panasonic Lumix LX5 (whose price seems to have risen to £349), Canon Powershot S95 (around £299), and the more expensive, and larger Olympus XZ-1 (£399), albeit with the best lens. The other cameras in this category are much larger, and include the Samsung EX1 (£275), Nikon Coolpix P7000 (£325), and Canon Powershot G12 (£357)

Nikon Coolpix P300 Verdict

The Nikon Coolpix P300 offer an interesting alternative to the Canon Powershot S95, and Panasonic Lumix LX5, smaller than the LX5 it fits in your pocket and offers good image quality and high speed shooting at 8fps. Compared to the S95, the P300 is slightly larger, but also offers better battery life (on paper), and slightly brighter lens, with a more wide angle lens (24mm vs 28mm).

The P300 also betters the S95 in the area of ergonomics, by providing a rubber front and back grip while the S95 provides none, and is particularly slippery. And above everything else, the Nikon Coolpix P300 comes in as the newest camera, with the lowest price of the competitors, and is therefore Highly Recommended! 

Nikon Coolpix P300 Digital Camera Review: Highly Recommended - Nikon Coolpix P300
The Nikon Coolpix P300 packs almost every feature imaginable and then prices it less than the competition - making it a veritable bargain!
Nikon Coolpix P300 Pros:
High speed 8fps continuous shooting for 7 shots
Excellent value for money
Grip at front and back
Lens based vibration reduction
Excellent features, including HDR dynamic range and panoramic mode
Excellent 3in screen, high resolution

Nikon Coolpix P300 Cons:
Normal sized sensor, lacks RAW support
Quite chunky with rectangular corners
Lacks orientation sensor (Auto-rotation not built in)


Nikon Coolpix P300: Specification

Price £249
Lens 4.2x optical zoom (f/1.8-4.9, 24-100mm equivalent)
Resolution 12.2 million pixels
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type Back lit CMOS
Max. Image size 12mp 4000 x 3000
Aspect ratio 4:3, 16:9
Monitor 3.0in TFT LCD monitor, 921000 pixels
Shutter speed 1/2000 - 8 seconds
Focusing system Contrast Detect AF
Focusing modes Face priority, auto (9-area automatic selection), center, manual with 99 focus areas, subject tracking, face priority tracking
Focus distance Normal shooting: approx. 30 cm (1 ft.) to infinity (at wide angle setting), approx. 60 cm (2 ft.) to infinity (at telephoto setting); Macro close-up mode: approx. 3 cm (1.2 in.) to infinity (at wide-angle setting), approx. 30 cm (1 ft.) to infinity (at telephoto setting)
File types JPEG DCF, EXIF 2.3, DPOF Compliant, Voice memo: WAV, MOV H.264, MPEG-4 AVC, AAC Stereo
ISO sensitivity ISO160 - 3200
Metering modes Auto exposure, 224-segment matrix, center-weighted.
Exposure compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3EV, Exposure bracketing
Continuous High-speed continuous shooting (8fps) at full resolution: lets you shoot up to 7 continuous shots at eight frames per second.
Image stabilisation Yes - Lens shift vibration reduction (still image and movies)
Movie mode HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps, 1080i), HD 720p: 1280 x 720 (30 fps), VGA: 640 x 480 (30 fps); HS movie 15/60/120 fps, no sound)
Media type Internal memory (approx. 90 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
Interface Hi-Speed USB 2.0, HDMI Mini
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (1050 mAh), AC Adapter EH-62F (option)
Box Contents Camera, Camera Strap AN-CP19, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-69P [NEW], USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16 and ViewNX 2 CD-ROM
Size Approx. 103.0 x 58.3 x 32.0 mm/4.0 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
Weight 190g (including battery and SD memory card)

The Nikon Coolpix P300 costs £254 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Warehouse Express

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Nikon Coolpix P300


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I'm a bit puzzled by the P300's minimum ISO starting at 160. Surely this is a disadvantage, if you want to do any kind of longer exposure shooting in daylight. I'm guessing this is some sort of sensor limitation, but wouldn't a lower sensitivity option give better image quality?
Yes it should in theory. Most other cameras with Backlit CMOS sensors start at 80 or 100 ISO. For some reason all the Nikon Backlit CMOS sensors start at ISO160 (The Nikon Coolpix S8100, S9100, P300, P500). I will ask Nikon why this is the case, thanks for the question.
Well I am still extremely satisfied with what an Olympus XZ-1 is doing to help an old photography nut get over being forced to retire his DSLR outfit. But it strikes me that a P300 could be in my jacket pocket if the XZ-1 had not received such positive reviews. When a designer specifies a good lens there is hope!

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