Nikon P3 Review

 
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Nikon Coolpix P3 Optics


Lens

Zoom
A typical 3.5x optical zoom range, with good performance despite the typical soft corners seen in compact digicams.

36mm
126mm
4x Digital Zoom

The Nikon Coolpix P3 zooms over the equivalent of a 36-126mm range, which is fairly typical for its class. Overall performance is quite good, with good detail and sharpness at wide angle. The 4x Precision Digital zoom takes it out to 14x total, with the typical loss of resolution associated with Digital Zoom, although the CPP3 arguably does a better than average job.

Macro
A very small macro area with excellent detail and resolution, a Coolpix hallmark. Closest focusing distance is 1.6 inches. Too close for the flash, though.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

Like most Nikon Coolpix digicams, the P3's macro setting performed unusually well, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.34 x 1.01 inches (34 x 26 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both excellent, with great definition even in the tiny particles of dust on the top edges of the coins. Corner softness is fairly minimal as well. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode, the Nikon P3 shows less than most.) At 1.6 inches from the subject, the onboard flash isn't very useful, so plan on illuminating Macro shots with available light or external flash.

Distortion
About average barrel distortion, no pincushion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto). The Nikon Coolpix P3's 0.79% barrel distortion at wide angle is about average among the cameras we've tested, and not terribly obvious in most images. At the telephoto end, the P3 shows no measurable distortion at all though.

Barrel distortion at 36mm is 0.79%
Distortion at 126mm is 0.00%

Chromatic aberration
Moderate at wide angle, but small effect on images at edges, none at telephoto.

Wide: high, top left @ 200% Wide: high, top right @ 200%
Tele: low, top left @200% Tele: low, top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is low to moderate at wide angle with the Nikon Coolpix P3, showing about 5-6 pixels of faint coloration on either side of the target lines, but decreases to very low levels at telephoto focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
While the extreme corners of the frame show significant softening, the effect quickly diminishes as you move toward the center.

Wide: soft lower right corner. Wide: sharp at the center.
Tele: soft lower left corner. Tele: sharp at the center.

The Coolpix P3 produced soft corners in a few shots, the upper right corner having the most visible effect. A slight crop, however, would eliminate the worst of the blurring because the rest of the image generally is sharp. Overall, the Coolpix P3's sharpness was better than most cameras we test, particularly compact models.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Excellent accuracy from the LCD monitor.

36mm eq., LCD monitor 126mm eq., LCD monitor

The Coolpix P3's LCD monitor showed almost exactly 100% accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto focal lengths.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix P3 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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