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Nikon Coolpix P300 Overview

Posted: 02/08/2011

The highlight of Nikon's Coolpix P300 digital camera is undoubtedly its Nikkor-branded 4.2x optical zoom lens, which features a bright f/1.8 aperture at its generous 24mm-equivalent wide angle position. By the time you zoom in to its modest 100mm-equivalent telephoto, though, the maximum aperture falls to f/4.9. The Nikon P300's lens ordinarily has a minimum focusing distance of one foot (30cm) at wide angle, and two feet (60cm) at telephoto. When switched to macro close-up mode, this falls to just 1.2 inches (3cm) at the wide angle position, however. To help prevent blur from camera shake when shooting in less than ideal lighting conditions, the Nikon P300 includes optical vibration reduction.

Behind this lens, Nikon has placed the Coolpix P300's 1/2.3"-type, backside illuminated CMOS image sensor, which has a total resolution of 12.75 megapixels, of which 12.2 megapixels are effective in creating images. Coupled to Nikon's EXPEED C2 image processor, the P300's sensor can yield ISO-equivalent sensitivities ranging from a low of ISO 160 to a maximum of 3,200 under manual control, or ISO 160 to 1,600 under automatic control. It's also possible to restrict the Auto ISO function to a maximum of ISO 400 or 800, if you want to emphasise low noise levels over faster shutter speeds or smaller apertures.

As well as Program Auto and the usual array of scene modes, the Nikon Coolpix P300 appeals to seasoned photographers who want a little more control over the look of their images, by providing Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes. Exposure variables are adjusted courtesy of a control dial mounted on the P300's top panel. Among the scene mode options are several modes which cleverly combine multiple shots in-camera into a single output image. Advanced Night Portrait mode freezes and correctly exposes your main subject with a flash exposure, then corrects the background exposure with minimal effect on noise levels by averaging it out across several exposures. Night Landscape mode acts similarly, but without the flash exposure, allowing a brighter image without blur from camera shake or the higher noise levels you'd expect from a high ISO shot. Backlight HDR mode uses multiple shots with varied exposure to capture a wider dynamic range than is possible in a single image.

In one concession to modern digicam design that may disappoint more mature photographers, the Nikon Coolpix P300 sadly lacks any form of optical or electronic viewfinder, with all interaction instead taking place at arm's length through its LCD display. The Coolpix P300's LCD has a three inch diagonal, and a higher than average resolution of 921,000 dots, roughly equating to a 640 x 480 pixel VGA array, with each pixel comprising separate red, green, and blue dots.

As well as still images, the Nikon Coolpix P300 can capture high definition 30 frames per second Full HD (1080p) movies at 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, with stereo sound. It's possible to use both autofocus and optical zoom during movie capture. Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the latest SDHC and SDXC types, as well as in a reasonably generous 90MB of internal memory. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 High Speed data, and standard definition composite video output. Power comes courtesy of an EN-EL12 lithium ion battery pack, and the Nikon P300 is rated to CIPA testing standards for 240 shots on a charge. Nikon's ViewNX 2 software is included in the product bundle.

The Nikon Coolpix P300 goes on sale from March 2010, priced at around US$330. The only available body color in the US market will be black.