The P300 has some interesting hardware and features, but the lack of user adjustments for sharpness and contrast on a camera featuring fully manual shooting modes was a bit of a surprise. Were there any other surprises in store once the shooting began?
The P300 starts fairly promptly if you disable the welcome screen – approximately 1.75 seconds to present a focus point with the first shot taken in about 2.5 seconds. Leave the welcome screen enabled and the focus point doesn’t appear for over 5 seconds. Single shot to shot times ran approximate 1.75 seconds. Continuous shooting produced seven images in one second, but the camera took almost 6 seconds to write images to the card – a 16GB class 10 (30 MB per second) SDHC. The camera monitor goes blank during continuous shooting which means that tracking a fast moving subject which is largely filling the frame can become problematic even in so brief a time as one second.
Shutter lag and autofocus acquisition times both seemed reasonably quick in the field but returned frankly disappointing figures in the studio. Shutter lag measured out at 0.05 seconds and AF acquisition at 0.43 seconds. AF acquisition time slows noticeably in dim light, even with the AF assist lamp. In good conditions the P300 seems quicker than these figures suggest.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Canon PowerShot S95||0.02|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon PowerShot S95||0.36|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||0.43|
|Nikon Coolpix P300||7||6.9 fps|
|Olympus X-Z1||∞||2.0 fps|
|Samsung TL500||∞||1.5 fps|
|Canon PowerShot S95||∞||0.9 fps|
With ISO sensitivity set to auto the P300 flash range is listed as approximately 21 feet at wide-angle and a bit over 8 feet at telephoto. Flash recycle times varied from almost 3 seconds to about 4.25 seconds.
Battery life for the P300 is listed as 240 shots, and as delivered from the factory the battery must be charged in the camera. Charging time for a fully depleted battery is four hours and the camera is unavailable for image processing or any other functions during this time.
An MH-65 external battery charger is available from Nikon for about $38 and along with a few spare batteries is a wise investment for folks planning to take their P300 on all day shooting sessions. The camera’s battery level indicator tends to indicate a full charge for much of the battery’s life, then drops rapidly.
The P300 lens displays a bit of barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom, but looks fairly distortion-free at telephoto. Here’s that barrel cropping up in a couple of shots with straight lines near the edges of the frame.
There is chromic aberration (purple fringing) to be found in some high contrast boundary areas at both ends of the zoom, with the wide end displaying this defect to a larger degree. In severe cases and with close scrutiny enlargements of as little as 100% may show the defect at the wide end; 200 to 300% enlargements are generally necessary to bring the problem to light with telephoto shots.
Edges and corners of the frame appear a bit soft at wide-angle; the telephoto end is far less soft at the edges and corners and fairly uniformly sharp across the frame. The camera can focus as close as 1.2-inches in Macro Mode with the lens set for wide angle.