Nikon Coolpix P300: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (430)
Editor's Rating
6.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • 0
    • Total Score:
    • 6.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
The 1080 HD video image quality of the P300 is fairly good for a compact point-and-shoot. Maximum clip length is 4GB or 29 minutes; actual playback and recording times may vary depending on the particular shooting mode chosen, but in no event will exceed the 4GB/29 minute ceiling. Nikon recommends a class 6 or higher memory card for video capture. Zoom is available during video capture, but the camera will record zooming noises along with handling and stabilization noises (if enabled) and wind noise. Sound is recorded in stereo. Tracking of moving subjects with the camera set for full-time autofocus was fairly good.

Download Sample Video

Video capture may be initiated by one touch of the dedicated video capture button from any shooting mode; there is an approximately 2 second blackout of the monitor before video capture commences. Because the camera is equipped with a CMOS sensor the possibility of rolling shutter effect exists. The user’s manual reports that subjects moving rapidly across the screen during video capture may appear skewed; rapid panning of the camera may also result in the entire image frame being skewed. In practice, rolling shutter effect appeared to be fairly well controlled in the P300 – there is some present with extremely fast panning, but overall this defect seems relatively benign.

Image Quality
Default still image quality out of the P300 is good for a compact point-and-shoot, with fairly accurate color and generally pleasant sharpness. That’s a good thing with regard to sharpness, because as we’ve already seen the P300 has no internal modifications available in this arena. The View NX2 software provided with the camera has image sharpening tools included, but it’s always nice to be able to have the images coming out of the camera as close as possible to the finished product. If you find the default images lacking in sharpness or contrast, one in-camera fix might be to shoot your images in landscape mode. Here are two shots at the beach – the first in auto mode and the second in landscape. The contrast, saturation and sharpening all look better to me in the landscape shot (but your mileage may vary).

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Auto

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Landscape

The P300 lacks a formal color palette that is typically found in compact digitals with manual shooting modes. Here’s a look at the default color mode, landscape scene mode, and the high key and monochrome options from the special effects mode in the scene menu.

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Default
Nikon P300 Sample Image
Landscape
Nikon P300 Sample Image
High Key
Nikon P300 Sample Image
Monochrome

The P300’s backlight shooting mode offers users four ways to capture images: you can use flash to illuminate the front side of the subject for a single capture or set any of three levels of high dynamic range for multiple captures which the camera then combines into a single shot. Here’s the flash shot along with HDR levels 1, 2, and 3 (three being the strongest).

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Flash
Nikon P300 Sample Image
HDR 1
Nikon P300 Sample Image
HDR 2
Nikon P300 Sample Image
HDR 3

The P300 also has Nikon’s D – Lighting tool in its playback menu, but in this case D – Lighting consists of a single automated setting. The supplied View NX2 software offers a slider adjustment for D – Lighting and a much wider range of adjustment. Here’s an original shot of the rotunda at the nearby Mission San Luis Ray along with in camera and View NX2 D – Lighting versions.

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Original
Nikon P300 Sample Image
In-camera D-Lighting
Nikon P300 Sample Image
View NX2 D-Lighting

Auto white balance was used to capture all the images in this review and did a pretty good job in most lighting conditions. The P300 shot a little warm under incandescent lighting but was more accurate than most compact digitals I’ve reviewed in this regard. In addition to auto there are preset manual (custom), daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy and flash options when shooting in manual modes only.

Nikon P300 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Matrix metering is the default exposure calculation setting for the P300 and was used for all the images found in this review. Matrix did an overall good job in most lighting conditions but at times would lose highlights in high contrast situations. A center-weighted metering option is also available for the manual shooting modes.

While the cameras we used to compare with the P300 with regards to shutter lag, focus acquisition time and continuous shooting rates were the Canon S95, Olympus XZ-1, and Samsung TL500, it may not be a fair comparison when we move on to the subject of ISO noise performance. The P300 lists for $330 while the other three all go for $400 or more; furthermore, the comparable cameras all sport large sensors in the 1/1.7 or 1/1.63 inch size range (and 10 megapixel resolution) while the P300 crams 12 megapixels on a much smaller 1/2.3 inch sensor. But whether the P300 is a direct competitor for those other cameras or not, it appears that the backside illuminated sensor is doing a fairly decent job of noise performance considering its resolution.

ISO 160 and 200 sensitivities are virtually impossible to tell apart; 400 ISO is close enough to 200 in performance that it takes some concerted pixel peeping to pick up a bit of noise beginning to surface. ISO 800 is fairly easily distinguishable from 400 as noise levels increase a bit and fine details begin to be lost, but overall this sensitivity looks to be still fairly usable for large prints.

Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 160
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 160, 100% crop
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 200
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 400
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 800
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Nikon P300 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

There is a definite noise increase in the jump from 800 to 1600 ISO and fine details continue to suffer as a consequence, but for small images and Internet activity, 1600 is a viable sensitivity if necessary. Finally, the jump to 3200 ISO brings with it a healthy increase of noise, a healthy decrease in fine details and the strong impression that it is best left for those situations where you have to capture the image; and 3200 is the only way to do it. Considering the large sensors and reduced resolution of the comparable cameras, I think the P300 holds its own at 160 and 200 ISO, matches up fairly well at 400 and isn’t too far off at 800 before falling behind in the higher sensitivities.

Nikon P300 Sample Image Nikon P300 Sample Image
Nikon P300 Sample Image Nikon P300 Sample Image
Nikon P300 Sample Image Nikon P300 Sample Image


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.