While it reached market in the United States in March of 2011, Nikon's compact Coolpix P300 digital has only just now reached us for a review. Once upon a time Nikon chose to segment its compact digital market with letter designations for various groups of cameras: P stood for "performance," S for "style," etc. While the letter designations remain in Nikon's compact lineup, they have not marketed these distinctions as aggressively as they have in the past. However, a quick look at some of the technical details of the P300 should leave no doubt that Nikon was going for performance with the introduction of this camera.
First and foremost, the P300 features a 24 to 100mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide end of that zoom - the fastest lens on any Nikon Coolpix camera, ever. At the telephoto end of the f/4.9 maximum aperture, while not blazing fast, it's as speedy as most competitors. The camera also features full 1080p HD video, and its 12.2 megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor offers the promise of improved lowlight noise performance over more conventional designs of similar size and resolution.
The EXPEED C2 processing engine is the latest generation of Coolpix technology and the camera offers full manual controls in addition to the obligatory auto and scene shooting options. ISO sensitivity range is 160 to 3200, and the 3.0-inch LCD monitor gives you a good look at things for image composition, capture or review. There's a smile timer that can automatically release the shutter when your subject smiles, face priority autofocus and blink warning that can alert you when the subject may have blinked (and you can consider taking another shot). Throw in optical vibration reduction (VR) and the P300 is beginning to look like a camera that Nikon is not holding much back on in the performance arena.
The P300 packs approximately 90MB of internal memory, and the camera can make use of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media. Nikon includes a camera strap, rechargeable lithium ion battery and AC charging adapter, USB and A/V cables, CD-ROM software and a printed basic user's manual with each camera.
On paper the P300's technical specifications suggest a camera designed to appeal to both entry-level consumers as well as more advanced users. Let's see if the printed words translate into true performance out in the field.
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