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Nikon Coolpix P310 Digital Camera Review

nikon20120827aa.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Ferguson


It can safely be said without any reservation that the Nikon Coolpix P310 is a point-and-shoot compact camera with a little more class and capability than many of its immediate competitors.

Whist not supporting RAW file capture, the P310 does offer users greater manual control over their picture taking whilst still including a selection of automatic and creative features that remain popular with compact camera users.

It offers a good level of portability, automated scene modes, special effect options, one-touch HD movie record and point-and-shoot ease-of-use.

 

Appearance & Functionality


The P310 is quite a compact little unit measuring approximately 10.3 x 5.8 x 3.2cm (with lens retracted) making it fit nicely in hand.

 

It's obviously deliberate boxy design is complemented by a nice weightiness of around 200g – not too heavy nor too light/flimsy – and its overall design aesthetic harks back to cameras of old whilst maintaining a cool sense of modern edge.

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Some 11 buttons and controls are spaced out on its body along with a four-way directional pad that doubles as a control wheel for setting aperture when in manual mode and cycling through internal menu options when not.

A rarely seen second dedicated control wheel (for manual control of shutter speed etc.) sits on the camera’s top right-hand edge where in other Nikon compacts the mode dial typically rests. As a result the P310 mode dial is actually situated closer to the centre of the top edge where it proves slightly trickier to get a grip of, initially at least.

A rubberised thumb grip on the P310’s back pairs with a single rubbery grip strip on its front (onto which you rest your middle finger) to help establish a somewhat better hold and, combined with the internal lens-shift Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, helps reduce the number of images possibly spoiled by blur/camera shake from unintentional user movement. 

The P310 has a snappy built-in flash that must be manually raised in order to be utilised and thus manually tucked away when no longer required.

A customisable Function button makes for a nice addition and can be utilised to call upon a number of different functions including single and multi shot, interval timer shooting and pre -shooting cache, which triggers the shutter upon semi-depression and saves up to 20 frames once it has been released.

This dedicated function button coupled with the inclusion of a second dedicated commander wheel are obvious signifiers of the P310’s ability to offer much more manual control than other competing compacts..

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality

 

Whilst unable to shoot RAW files the P310 will produce image files around the 5MB mark when on its fine JPEG setting and thus shooting at the full 16-megapixels.

The unit hosts a 24-100mm equivalent double-tiered 4.2x optical zoom lens and what it could be accused of lacking in the zoom department it more than makes up for with its bright f1.8 aperture that helps gives this little unit some serious low-light fighting ability (in the compact camera realm at least.)

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Best results will be achieved at the widest angle however (24mm) as the variable aperture decreases to f4.9 when full zoom is utilised.

That’s not to take away the shine of the f1.8 aperture however as it really does help produce some very pleasing results, particularly in lower lighting conditions that may otherwise be poorly handled with lesser equipped compact cameras.

Unfortunately, despite the bright available lens aperture, noise and loss of detail as a result of higher ISOs is still an issue with the P310 – as it is with countless compact cameras – meaning visible noise and a gradual decline in image quality occurs from around the 800 ISO mark onwards.

This is predominantly a result of its small CMOS sensor size (1/2.3-inch) which, while helping to make the unit more affordable, does mean image quality overall isn’t as good as it could have been had a larger and more advanced sensor been employed.

In saying that the P310 exposes images quite well and reproduces colour with a consistent level of accuracy (between ISOs 125-800 at least) and this - combined with its bright lens, speedy performance and generally quite good image quality – make it an impressive compact unit overall.

 

View test images on our Facebook page

 

LCD Screen / Viewfindernikon20120827ad.jpg


The 3-inch 921,00-dot LCD screen on the P310 offers a clear, bright picture with a sharp display of detail and it automatically brightens in low light conditions for greater visibility.

The LCD is everything it should be in a compact camera for this size and price. It’s nothing new or unexpected but fortunately is good quality and pleasant to both shoot with and review upon.

 

 

 

Video


Speaking of expected, you’d be hard pressed to find a recently released compact camera without HD movie mode (1920x1280p) and thus the P310 offers it too.

Zoom function is available whilst shooting moving images but its mechanics can be heard during playback - although it’s not as distracting as the loss of focus that generally occurs whilst utilising zoom when recording.

For best results it’s advised you set the P310’s autofocus function to full time though note this may also produce slightly audible operation noises.

 

Conclusion

 

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In conclusion, it’s fair to say the Coolpix P310 is quite an unassuming little unit: its compact body and understated design initially deny its true capabilities and certainly while the benefit of a bright f1.8 lens may not initially reveal itself to many users in theory alone, they will certainly be able to notice – and one would suggest be quite grateful for – it in practice.

The P310 is peppered with various manual controls that will no doubt please the more proficient photography enthusiasts however its small sensor size does somewhat limit image quality especially when shooting at higher range ISOs above about the 800 mark.

Fortunately however higher ISOs needn’t always be relied upon given the bright maximum aperture of f1.8 – a rare find in cameras of this size and price range.

The P310 looks great, shoots well, supports a really nice mix of manual and automatic features (and effects) and performs fairly consistently right across the board.

It’s a perfect bridging unit for those tired of the complete automation of their old compact camera but who are also not yet ready to tackle the complexities and costs of digital SLR photography.

 

Accessories Used During Testing:

Tamrac Aero 94 / 3394 Camera Bag  

SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s SD Card 

 

Recommended Retailer:

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View / Buy The Nikon Coolpix P310  

 

Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Video quality
4 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4 stars
Value for money 4.5 star
Street Price
$449.95
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 16.1 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
1/2.3-in. type CMOS; total pixels: approx. 16.79 million
Image Sizes 9 sizes / 3 ratios
Lens 4.2x zoom NIKKOR; 4.3-17.9 mm (35mm [135] format angle of view: 24-100 mm); f/1.8-4.9; Digital zoom: up to 2x (35mm [135] format angle of view: Approx. 200 mm)
Lens Mount
-
Resolution Settings: Stills 16M [4608 x 3456]
8M [3264 x 2448]
4M [2272 x 1704]
2M [1600 x 1200]
VGA [640 x 480]
16:9 12M [4608 x 2592]
16:9 2M [1920 x 1080]
3:2 [4608 x 3072]
1:1 [3456 x 3456]
Resolution Settings: Video Audio file format: AAC stereo
Full HD: 1920x1080p / 30fps
HD: 1280x720p / 30fps
iFrame® 540: 960x540 / 30fps
Movie file format: MPEG-4 AVC H.264
Standard TV: 640x480 / 30fps
GPS -
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Aperture-priority auto
Shutter Priority
Shutter-priority auto
Shutter Speeds Electronically controlled mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter

1/2000-1/2 sec: manual at ISO 3200
1/2000-1 sec: manual
1/2000-1 sec: auto (ISO 100 to 1600) (when ISO sensitivity set to Auto)
1/2000-1 sec: manual at 1600
1/2000-2 sec: manual at ISO 800
1/2000-4 sec: manual at ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400
ISO ISO 100-3200
Hi 1 (equivalent to 6400)
Auto (auto gain ISO 100-1600)
Fixed range auto (ISO 100-400, 100-800)
LCD Monitor TFT-LCD with Anti-reflection coating
5-level brightness adjustment
Viewfinder -
Flash TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
[W]: 0.5 to 6.5m (1ft. 8in. to 21ft.) ISO Auto
[T]: 0.5 to 2.5m (1ft. 8in. to 8ft. 2in.) ISO Auto
Hot Shoe No
White Balance Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Manual
Self Timer 2 seconds or 10 seconds
Stills Format/s
JPEG
Video Format/s Movies: MOV (Video: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, Audio: AAC stereo), 3D pictures: MPO, Audio files: WAV
Video Recording Time/s 29 Minutes / 4GB
Storage Type - External SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards
Storage Type - Internal
90MB
Connectivity Hi-Speed USB and HDMI
Power Source Charging AC Adapter EH-69P
Battery Options Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12
Battery Life Approximately 230 Shots
Dimensions 103.0mm (W) x 58.3mm (H) x 32.0mm (D)
Weight 194g (including battery and memory card)
















 


 

 

About Nikon

 

The history of Nikon dates back to 1917 when three of Japan's leading optical manufacturers merged to form a fully integrated optical company. By the end of the century Nikon would have accumulated an immense poll of know-how and experience to become a world leader in not only optics and imaging but also industrial equipment and health and medicine sector.

Today Nikon designs, develops, manufactures and markets a gamut of optical, photographic and optoelectronic products globally. You will find them at work in virtually every corner of the earth. If it has something to do with light, Nikon has something to do with it.

The driving force behind Nikon is technology. Not only in manufacturing and assembling the finest lenses or most comprehensive photography system in the world, but also in making the glass itself. That is why Nikon products have gained worldwide customer satisfaction, and even professional recognition worldwide.

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