Performance and Image Quality
The P310 is fairly responsive, with fast start-up (although the low profile power button can be a little difficult to depress). Shot-to-shot times aren't bad and slow only a little when the flash is used. Autofocus is generally responsive in good light but the camera is a little prone to hunting in low light/low contrast conditions. In Auto and Target Finding modes, the focus point doesn't always land where you think or hope it will. But multiple AF area settings, including manual AF point selection, face priority, center and a fairly effective subject tracking, provide more effective (and accurate) options.
The P310 offers a number of continuous shooting and, at full resolution, can capture up to 5 images at 7fps, which is only slightly less robust than the 12MP P300's 7 images at 8fps. A slower (about 1fps) full resolution option captures up to about 30 frames, while continuous shooting at 60fps and 120fps is useful for stop motion and animated GIFs. Resolution is reduced to 1 megapixel and VGA (640 x 480), respectively. Nikon has also included its Best Shot Selector feature in the P310, in which mode the camera shoots 10 images and selects the sharpest photo. It works well, especially for portraits where you might miss someone blinking when you press the shutter.
|One of the more useful of the P310's 'SCENE' modes is Panorama, in which the camera automatically creates a 180 or 360-degree panorama as you sweep it across a scene. It works very well, but the output is limited to 560px in height.|
New in the P310 are Pre-shooting Cache and an Interval Timer. The former begins buffering shots when the shutter is depressed, but writes only the last 20 images (at 3 megapixels) to the card once the shutter is released. The latter is ideal for stop motion videos and can be set for 30s, 2 minute, 5 minute or 10 minute intervals.
While the P310 can focus as close as 0.8 inches (2cm) in macro mode, we have found that the flash sometimes blows out the scene rendering images unusable (it also casts a lens shadow). It isn't a constant issue, but has happened enough during my shooting to be annoying, and can be a problem regardless of flash exposure compensation and metering mode. But for portraits and other general scenes, the flash works well.
Also a little disappointing is the P310's performance in Auto mode, where the program line seems heavily biased towards slow shutter speeds. Even when the ISO is automatically boosted to 800 outdoors at dusk, shutter speeds of 1/20th are not uncommon and while the P310's lens-shift vibration reduction works very well under most conditions, most of these shots were blurry. We've seen this behavior from the P7100 and Nikon's 1 System interchangeable lens cameras as well, and it's no less annoying here.
Obviously a maximum aperture of f/1.8 means that in theory, you'll be reaching for those high ISO settings less often than you might need to with a slower lens, but f/1.8 is only available at the lens' widest-angle setting. Zoom the lens out to its full 100mm length and the maximum aperture decreases to f/4.9. Also worth noting is the fact that because of the small sensor size (It's 1/2.3 inch type), even when wide open, the lens doesn't deliver any significant shallow depth-of-field benefit (an f/4.9 aperture with a sensor this small is equivalent in depth of field terms to f/36.8 in full-frame 135mm terms).
Where the P300 offers an ISO range from 160-3200, the P310's native ISO starts at 100 and ends at 3200, expandable to ISO 6400 at Hi 1. At ISO 400, images are perfectly acceptable but start to lose fine detail upon close inspection. This loss progresses as the ISO is raised but most casual shooters will be fine with images up to ISO 800. By ISO 1600, photos should be reserved for snapshot sized prints and the Web. Noise reduction cannot be disabled; the best you can do is set it to Low and without a RAW option, there's not much you can do to offset how noise reduction affects the image. Purple fringing is rare but showed up from time to time in our images around extremely high contrast edges.
Colors from the P310's 'standard' Picture Control preset are accurate and natural looking but not quite as punchy as we'd expect from some competitive cameras (Canons and Sonys, in particular, tend to deliver more saturated colors at default settings). Saturation and contrast can be tweaked though, if you prefer, and a Vivid mode is also on hand.