Nikon P340 Review -- First Impressions
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 02/06/2014
Last year, Nikon launched the Coolpix P330, an enthusiast compact camera that cleverly took one step back to go two steps forward. By reducing the resolution of its already larger-than-average image sensor, the Coolpix P330 aimed to boost image quality. This year, the 12.2-megapixel Nikon P340 follows in that camera's footsteps -- and it retains most of what made its predecessor an interesting option for enthusiast photographers.
Compared to its predecessor, which was a pretty significant update, the changes in the Nikon P340 are more modest. It retains the earlier camera's lens barrel control ring, but adds click-stops that make adjustments a more tactile experience. The P340 also drops its predecessor's built-in GPS receiver in favor of in-camera Wi-Fi, a function which needed an external accessory in last year's model. And Nikon has also made firmware tweaks, extended battery life by some 10%, and made the P340 a touch lighter than its predecessor.
If the P330 appealed to you, chances are that the Nikon P340 will have even more appeal. It's a shame to lose the built-in GPS receiver, always a boon for making your image libraries searchable by location with no fuss, but the Wi-Fi radio arguably has broader demand. With its inclusion, Nikon acknowledges that it's not just consumers who use social networks. These days, we're all connected. We carry smartphones wherever we go, and enthusiasts, too, want to get their shots on Facebook. They just shoot more artistic shots and fewer selfies.
The Nikon P340's lens offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from a generous 24mm-equivalent wide-angle to a modest 120mm-equivalent telephoto. Maximum aperture is a bright f/1.8 at wide angle, but sadly still plunges to a decidedly dim f/5.6 by the time you reach the telephoto end. The optical formula of the lens includes seven elements in six groups. The P340's aperture diaphragm has seven blades. Lens-shift type Vibration Reduction is included, a useful feature which will help fight blur from camera shake.
The zoom range might be rather limited compared to many cameras, but the P340 tries to make up for this with what Nikon calls Dynamic Fine Zoom. Essentially, it's a more intelligent variation on digital zoom, and when enabled will take you out to a moderate 240mm-equivalent. Like any digital zoom, though, all it can really do is make educated guesses, and thus fine detail is bound to suffer. Consumers opting for the P340 will likely take advantage of the function, but enthusiasts will know that as good -- if not better -- a job of interpolation can be done on your computer once you get back to home or office.
A contrast-detection autofocus system with face-priority, subject-tracking and target-finding functions is employed, and the closest focusing distance is just 0.8 inches (2cm) at the wide-angle position.
Behind the lens sits a 1/1.7-inch, 12.2-megapixel, backside illuminated CMOS image sensor. Together with the unbranded image processor, this allows the Nikon P340 to shoot at an impressively swift rate of 10 frames per second, and to do so for a full second. Sensitivities range from ISO 80 to 3200 equivalents ordinarily, and can be extended as high as ISO 6400 equivalent in Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, or Manual modes. Switch to the monochrome-only High ISO mode, and you can extend this still further to ISO 12,800 equivalent.
As you'd expect on a camera catering to enthusiasts, the Coolpix P340 offers the ability to shoot with a raw file format, as an alternative to compressed JPEG images. It also provides a choice of matrix, center-weighted or spot metering, +/-2.0EV exposure compensation in 1/3EV steps, exposure bracketing, and eight white balance modes including preset manual. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds, although the actual range available drive mode and ISO sensitivity. There's no external flash connectivity, but a built-in popup flash has a range of 21 feet at wide angle or a little over eight feet at telephoto, using Auto ISO sensitivity.
Although it is primarily aimed at enthusiasts, beginners and amateurs will find a selection of 19 hand-holding Scene modes, including a Scene Auto Selector function that takes the guesswork out of deciding which scene type is appropriate.
You'll be framing and reviewing your images and movies on a fixed-position LCD monitor, as there's no electronic or optical viewfinder on this model, nor any monitor articulation. Just like in the P330, the LCD monitor used is a 3.0-inch, anti-reflective type with a high resolution of 921,000 dots.
As well as stills, the Nikon P340 is a video capture device, capable of recording at up to Full HD (1080p/i; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution with a rate of 60 fields or 30 frames per second. You can also shoot at a reduced rate of 15 or 12.5 frames per second for accelerated playback, or drop the resolution to VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution for frame rates as high as 120fps and slow-motion playback. Videos use H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, and include LPCM stereo audio.
The Nikon P340 draws power from an EN-EL12 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, said to yield around 220 shots on a charge. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 High Speed data, NTSC / PAL standard-definition composite video, and Type-D Micro HDMI high-def video. Images and movies are stored on SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards, or on 56MB of built-in storage.
Available from March 2014, the Nikon Coolpix P340 ships in just one enthusiast-friendly body color: black. List pricing is set at around US$380, exactly the same point at which its predecessor first shipped.