The Nikon Coolpix P300 is a 12.2MP point and shoot camera with a 4.2x zoom lens (24-100mm equivalent). The P300 captures HD video and the bright, f/1.8 max aperture helps deliver in low-light scenes.
To see whether the P300 fits your compact shooter needs, read on.
Nikon P300 Key Features
- 12.2MP CMOS Sensor
- 4.2x Optical Zoom Lens (24-100mm equivalent)
- 1080p HD Video
- 3-inch LCD at 921k-dot Resolution
- ISO 160-3200
- Built-in Image Stabilization
- Full Manual Control Available
- SDXC Compatible
Shooting with the Nikon P300
The Nikon P300 was a blast for me to use. It’s a perfect size for carrying in your pocket and there is excellent access to the camera’s controls. I carried it around Vegas at NAB 2011 and used it for quick shots when I didn’t want to break out my 5D Mark II.
Experienced photographers will be able to enjoy the more advanced controls that are available on the P300. That said, there are plenty of basic settings on the P300 that give novice shooters a place to start – and then plenty of room to grow.
The mode dial is the hub for controlling the P300’s main functions. The “green camera mode” or “full auto” is where most casual photographers will live with the P300; however, a flick of the thumb on the mode dial gets you access to DSLR-like controls in the PASM shooting modes.
On the back of the camera, you get quick access to common shooting settings like flash, exposure compensation, drive mode, and focus modes. Unfortunately, Nikon saw fit to leave out quick access to other common settings that enthusiasts use – like ISO and white balance. As a result, you have to dig into the menu a little too frequently in some shooting environments.
Nikon P300 Image Quality
For a compact camera, the P300 delivers solid image quality. However, like most compact cameras with their tiny image sensors, the noise and saturation really starts to degrade the overall image quality when you push the camera’s sensitivity above the ISO 800 setting.
That said, if you are planning on using the Nikon P300 for typical compact camera uses (e.g., 4 x 6 prints and online photo sharing), then you will be able to get usable photos throughout the ISO range – up to ISO 3200. Likewise, if you are aiming for larger prints, then you want to make sure your scene has enough light to keep the ISO below the ISO 800 setting.
The biggest oversight in the Nikon P300 for me was the failure to include RAW image capture. If the P300 could capture RAW files, it would be at or near the top of the compact camera offerings today. It’s a fast and easy camera to use, and would be a near-perfect pocket camera for serious photographers if it offered RAW image capture like the Canon S95. As it stands, the JPEGs are certainly good enough; however, once you get those images into an editing application, the limitation of the P300 becomes a little more apparent.
As noted above, I carried the P300 around NAB for week and I finally found a use for the tiny image size setting of 640 x 480 pixels. I used this setting while live-blogging the Apple Final Cut Pro X event, which allowed me to upload the images immediately from the SD card without the need to crop or otherwise reduce the image size. I had always scoffed at such image size settings on digital cameras; however, I’m glad it was there on the P300 the one time that I needed to use it.
Below are a handful of sample images that I captured with the Nikon P300. I’ve processed these a bit according to my own personal tastes.
Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
ISO 160 – f/4.5 – 1/1250s
(Original Size 640 x 480) ISO 400 – f/3.3 – 1/40s
Nikon P300 Accessories
Nikon EN-EL12 Battery – The P300 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Memory cards – The P300 uses SD-format memory cards, including the new SDXC format. Nikon recommends using a Class 6 or higher rated SD card for capturing HD video on the P300. Lexar’s Platinum 16GB SDHC card is a great fit for both its size and speed in the Nikon P300. It’s also very affordable.
Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the P300. They’re cheap and big time saver. Kingston makes a good card reader for about $12.
The Nikon P300, while not quite perfect, delivers a lot of bang for your buck – shooting 1080p video and solid images up to ISO 800. The controls are a bit of mixed bag as they give enthusiasts a serious level of control over their exposures; however, they are forced to dig into the menu system for some common settings (e.g., ISO and white balance).
Otherwise, the P300 is a fast and capable camera in a comfortable compact design. While it may have a leg up over the Canon S95 in a couple of areas, the ability to capture RAW images puts the S95 over the top of the Nikon P300 for me. If RAW processing isn’t a big deal for your compact camera wish list, the Nikon P300 is a solid choice. It’s also $100 less than Canon’s S95, which is a serious consideration for cameras in this range.
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