Overall image quality is very good. The little P300 is capable of producing images with a good degree of punch, strong contrast and pleasing colour. The lens is able to deliver impressive levels of sharpness, with good levels of detail too.
Be warned in advance though, that while the f/1.8 lens is certainly fast, you won’t be able to use it to produce the kind of out-of-focus ‘bokeh’ effect that DSLRs are able to produce when used with a fast lens set to a large aperture. Yes, you will be able to throw backgrounds out of focus, but not to the same extremes. See the examples on the Sample Images: General Images page for some real-world examples of what can be achieved from f/1.8.
Still, while the out-of-focus blur isn’t quite as pronounced as we’d hoped it might be, the P300’s lens remains capable of producing sharp edges while delivering good levels of detail too, especially when the camera is being used on its base ISO or close to it. Benefitting from lens-based image stabilisation, it’s possible to use the zoom at its maximum telephoto extension and get sharp handheld shots at lower shutter speeds than would otherwise be possible.
The lens also does a good job of keeping chromatic aberrations to a minimum and while there is some evidence of purple fringing on high-contrast borders, it’s not so pronounced as to be regularly troublesome.
Used in Matrix mode, metering process accurate, although when faced with a high-contrast scene there is a tendency for the camera to preserve shadow detail at the expense of blown highlights. You can, of course, move the camera around and use the camera in single-point AF point to find a compromise meter reading, or apply some compensation exposure, however as with the vast majority of small-sensor compact cameras the dynamic range isn’t all that high, so you can expect to have to make a choice between shadows or highlights when faced with a high-contrast scene.
One thing we rather like about the EV Compensation control is how it also allows you to change the Hue and Vividness settings. This basically allows you to inject a bit more vibrancy into muted subjects and flat-light days, or deliberately change the colour temperature. Used on a neutral setting we found the P300 to deliver pleasingly accurate colour that, while erring towards vibrant side of neutral, doesn’t over-egg things to become vivid, at least not without prior prompting.
We found the P300 to perform fairly well in low-light situations where high ISO settings were required. While images shot at the maximum setting of ISO 3200 show a marked deterioration in quality, with soft edges, mushy detail and diluted colour, the mid-to-high ISO settings of 400 to 1600 perform quite well, keeping images relatively sharp while maintaining true colour
The P300 is a likeable and highly stylish premium compact that’s easy to use and capable of producing good results. While the 4.2x zoom range is a bit limited we do like the f/1.8 lens, even if it can’t produce the kind of defocused ‘bokeh’ to rival DSLR lenses. In addition, the P300’s low-light, high-speed and multiple-exposure shooting modes all have their uses and are capable of good results when used with due care. That said, it does lose points for not being able to record lossless Raw images. Ideally, we’d liked to have seen smoother and more precise zoom controls too, along with a wider choice of aspect ratios. Overall though, if you’re on the lookout for a stylish compact with DSLR-like control and some interesting shooting features, the P300 deserves to be on your shortlist.
Nikon Coolpix P300 0 bids$49.99 View Item