Nikon P330 Hands-On Preview
by Roger Slavens
The successor to the P310, the new Nikon P330 "Advanced Performance" compact camera gets a slightly longer zoom range, a bigger sensor and -- get this -- nearly four fewer megapixels of resolution, which we actually think is a good thing. Unlike so many "upgraded" pocket cameras that get an increased number of megapixels crammed into their relatively tiny sensors, the Coolpix P330 stands to improve its low-light, high-ISO performance by moving clearly in the opposite direction. Sometimes less is more, and we applaud Nikon for recognizing the pocket camera needs of photographers who can't carry around their DSLRs and Compact System Cameras (CSCs) with them everywhere.
Sensor size over resolution. The Nikon P330 sports a 1/1.7-inch, 12.2-megapixels backside illuminated (BSI) sensor -- as opposed to its predecessor's 1/2.3-inch, 16.1-megapixel BSI sensor. Nikon claims that the bigger sensor plus the reduction in megapixels will reduce noise, increase image vibrancy and improve the camera's overall performance, which includes a 10 frames per second burst mode, up from 7 fps on the Coolpix P310. (Side note for continuous shooting aficionados: the camera boasts a ton of Continuous Shooting modes, including Best Shot Selector, Multi-Shot 16 and Interval Time Shooting.) ISO sensitivity has improved a bit, too, now ranging from ISO 80 to 3,200, plus Hi 1 and Hi 2 modes that are equivalent to IS0 6,400 and 12,800 respectively.
Fastest Coolpix lens. The P330's NIKKOR lens is still a max aperture of f/1.8 wide open at wide angle -- the fastest of any of its Coolpix models -- but its optical zoom length has been increased to 5x (from the 4.2x of the P310), which gives it an equivalent range of 24-120mm. At full 120mm telephoto, the max aperture falls to f/5.6. The lens also features Nikon's lens-shift Vibration Reduction image stabilization to reduce camera shake (and image blur) when shooting in low-light situations.
Tiny but serious. We got our hands on a pre-launch model of the P330, and despite its diminutive size we've got to say it looks and feels like a serious photographic tool. (Full disclosure: we never reviewed the Nikon P310.) Yes, it's very small and definitely pocketable -- measuring 4.1" (w) x 2.3" (h) x 1.3" (d) (103.0 x 58.3 x 32.0mm) and weighing just 7.1 ounces (200g) including battery and SD memory card -- but it's also sturdy and solid to hold and operate. The thumb grip on the back and the finger ridge on the front of the camera were nice touches, helping us keep a steady hold of the camera with our big fingers while we got oriented to the camera's features and functions.
Advanced features. The Nikon P330 proves it's serious by providing full PASM controls with a physical dial topside to give more advanced or learning photographers greater flexibility over their shooting, as well as an fn button on the front of the camera to custom assign a commonly used setting or mode. Moreover, the P330 shoots in RAW, which is pretty much a must for an enthusiast photographer these days. Videos can be recorded in up to Full HD 1080p at 30p/25p/24p or 1080i at 60i/50i with full stereo sound at the simple touch of the dedicated movie button (just to the left of the thumb grip). More than 20 Scene modes add to the P330's creative options, ranging from Panorama to Night Portrait to even 3D (though we didn't get to play with all the modes), as do a bevy of filters and other in-camera editing features.
Display and built-in flash. We found the 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor to be bright and useful -- if otherwise unremarkable -- and the menu system to be sharp and simple to use. While we would've liked to have seen a hot shoe on this camera, the built-in, pop-up flash range reaches up to 21 feet shooting at wide angle, and up to 8 feet, 2 inches at telephoto (ISO AUTO).
WiFi and GPS. The P330 allows users to share images with family and friends, and upload images to social networks -- but there's a catch. You have to purchase Nikon's optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter to do so. The accessory, which costs about US$60 (but has been on backorder at most outlets recently), also pairs with Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app (available for both iOS and Android devices) to transfer your images and videos from the camera to your smartphone or tablet.
Built-in GPS is an added touch that allows photographers the opportunity to geotag their photos with their journeys.
Pricing and Availability. The Nikon Coolpix P330 will start shipping in March 2013 for a suggested retail price of US$379.95, and will be offered in black or white.
Final thoughts. We're excited about the Nikon P330 and what it could do at its price point. But while we were impressed with the camera for the short time we got to play with it, we really need to see what it can do in the IR lab and in the field with our reviewers. Stay tuned!
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