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Nikon Coolpix P3 Operation

The Nikon Coolpix P3's exposure control lacks only a full Manual mode and a Shutter Priority mode. But the P3 avoids external control buttons, packing frequently used options on either the Mode dial or the Multi-selector and relying on the easy-to-navigate user interface for the others. Flash mode, Self-Timer mode, Macro mode, Zoom, Record mode, Wireless transfer, White balance, ISO, Image quality and size settings, and an Erase function are all accessible via external controls. The Mode dial on the top of the camera selects the main operating mode and sets White Balance, ISO and Image quality and size options, while the multi-directional Arrow pad on the back panel navigates through on-screen menus, in addition to accessing camera features like Macro, Self-Timer, Flash, and Exposure Compensation directly. The LCD menu system is fairly short, with user-friendly icons in Scene mode. Operating the Nikon P3 is straightforward, but the manual is helpful for reference.

Record Mode LCD Display: In Record mode, the Coolpix P3's LCD reports limited status information, including camera modes, the resolution/quality setting, number of available images, current aperture and shutter speed, ISO, and status indicators for noise reduction and the various exposure adjustments that are available. (Contrast, Saturation, Sharpening). Half-pressing the Shutter button displays a green dot when focus is achieved, as well as green brackets indicating which focus point has been selected (if focus is not achieved, both the dot and brackets show red). The display mode can be changed from the Setup Menu, letting you choose between a viewfinder display of the subject by itself, with overlaid status information, or with an overlaid grid as an aid to orienting the camera to your subject. The information overlay can also be made to automatically disappear after a few seconds of inactivity. Pressing the +/- control on the 5-way navigator pad brings up a display showing a live histogram, exposure compensation setting, and aperture and/or shutter speed settings, depending on the exposure mode.

Playback Mode LCD Display: In Playback mode, the Nikon Coolpix P3's LCD reports the image series number, resolution/quality setting, file name and folder it's stored in on the memory card, and the date and time of image capture, among other things. It also displays a transfer icon if the image is one that's been selected for quick download with Nikon's host software, as well as an icon indicating that you can record an audio note to accompany the image. The information overlay obeys the same setting on the setup menu that governs it in Record mode, and a Slide Show option also lets you see the images sequentially, with no information overlay. Pressing the zoom lever toward the wide-angle end progressively zooms out to a 4-, 9-, or 16-image thumbnail view of photos stored on the card. Pressing the zoom control in the telephoto direction zooms in as much as 10x on the subject, handy for checking image details and focus.


Nikon Coolpix P3 Modes and Menus

Auto Record Mode: Activated by turning the Mode dial to the Auto position (green camera icon), this mode places the camera in point-and-shoot mode, controlling both aperture and shutter speed, as well as most other exposure features. Pressing the Menu button only displays a warning that no menu is available.

Shooting Menu: Activated by turning the Nikon Coolpix P3's Mode dial to either the Programed Auto (P) or Aperture Priority (A) mode, the Shooting menu offers the following options on three screens:

Scene Exposure Mode: The word "Scene" indicates this mode on the Nikon Coolpix P3's Mode dial. Sixteen preset scene modes are accessed by pressing the Menu button: Playback Mode: Pressing the Playback button on the Nikon Coolpix P3's back panel instantly enters Playback mode. Here, you can review captured images and movies, erase, enlarge, copy, and protect images, and also set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button offers two screens with the following options: Setup Mode: The following three screens of Setup menus automatically appear whenever the Nikon Coolpix P3's Mode dial is turned to the "Setup" position: