Even DSLR owners don’t want to take a bulky camera and all the accessories out with them on every casual shooting expedition. Sometimes, it would be nice to have a something more compact but which still had most of the features and quality you’re used to.
The Nikon COOLPIX P300 fits neatly into that niche of so-called ‘prosumer’ compact digital cameras that is a serious cut above the point-’n'-snap brigade, while stopping just short of offering the features of a full DSLR. As such, it places itself in straight competition with the Canon PowerShot S95, the Panasonic Lumix LX5 and the Olympus XZ-1 – and there are several features that make the P300 stand out from these rivals.
Smaller sensor but Full HD
For a start, the P300 uses a smaller 12.2-megapixel 1/2.3in backlit CMOS sensor, as opposed to the 10-megapixel CCD sensor favoured by the others. It sports a wide-angle 24-100mm F/1.8-4.9 lens with a more powerful optical zoom (4.2x), and it’s extremely comfortable and firm in the hand thanks to a sensible control array that makes space for two rubberised grips at front and back.
The other area in which the P300 outshines the opposition is in providing Full (1080p) HD video recording with stereo sound, along with slow or fast motion speeds up to 120 frames per second (fps). All movie footage can be played back directly on a high-def television via the camera’s HDMI output, and the optical zoom and filters can all be used during video recording. The P300 also has the highest resolution (921,000-pixel) 3in LCD preview screen of this group, so you can check out all your shots in exquisite detail.
Lacking in RAW appeal
So far, so good. But while the camera dose boast a manually operated pop-up flash, high-speed continuous shooting of 8fps (although only seven frames can be managed in one burst), an extra wheel for varying shutter speed and Vibration Reduction, there are a couple of notable omissions. The most surprising of these is its inability to capture RAW footage, which any DSLR owner would almost certainly regard as vital. There’s no hotshoe for an external flash, either, nor manual focus nor an on-screen quick menu to allow you immediate access to the most frequently used settings.
The quality and clarity of the imagery is generally impressive so long as you don’t go above ISO 400 – one of the perils of a smaller sensor – but ultimately the P300 cannot match its rivals with the larger sensors in this department. Zoom action is smooth, though, and there are several HDR settings as well as a Creative Slider for instant retouching plus a range of special effects.
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- Full HD video recording with stereo sound.
- Lack of RAW capability.
The Nikon COOLPIX P300 manages to outperform its rivals in the 'prosumer' class when it comes to providing Full HD movies, longer zoom and faster continuous shooting, but its lack of RAW format capability and use of a smaller sensor might hold some semi-pros back.