Nikon Coolpix P310
Category: Compact Camera
Conclusion - Pros:
- Affordable price compared to other advanced compact camera
- Good build quality
- Fast, f/1.8 lens (but only a wide angle)
- PASM shooting modes
- Effective optical image stabilization
- Good image quality at low ISOs
- Generally responsive performance
- Continuous shooting up to 7fps (but only for 5 frames)
- Sharp, 921k dot, 3-inch LCD screen
Conclusion - Cons:
- No RAW option
- Small sensor means it doesn't offer the image quality increase of other advanced compacts
- Flash unusable for closest macro capabilities (0.8 inches/2cm) due to overexposure and shadow cast by lens
- Image quality drops off above ISO 400, noise levels very high by ISO 3200
- Noise reduction cannot be disabled
The Nikon Coolpix P310 is a hard camera to categorise. In terms of its size and operational ergonomics it's up against the Canon PowerShot S100, the Fujifilm X10, Olympus XZ-1 and Sony Cyber-shot RX100. But while it looks the same, and in many ways works the same as these cameras and costs less, it has the smallest sensor of the bunch and can't shoot in Raw mode. From one perspective - that of a serious enthusiast - this is somewhat limiting. Viewed from the perspective of the average point-and-shoot upgrader though, the P310 is a small, pocketable camera with improved ergonomics, that offers full manual control over exposure and gives decent if not exceptional image quality in a wide variety of shooting conditions. Customizable controls and adjustable shooting parameters are good to see in a camera of this price, too.
Importantly, the P310 offers a relatively fast lens, with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide end. This won't get you any meaningful control over depth of field, but it does mean that you might not have to reach for the higher ISO settings (or flash) as often as you might with a compact with a slower lens. Other than some missteps in tracking AF mode and occasional AF delays under low light, the P310 is generally very responsive and has multiple AF options to compensate for variety of conditions. We can't believe that the P310's 7fps burst mode will get that much use in everyday shooting but still - nice to have.
As far as image quality is concerned, the P310 is perfectly capable but not outstanding. Clipping can be an issue in scenes with a wide tonal range, and while in good light at its lowest ISO settings we've been very happy with detail reproduction above ISO 400 noise and the effects of noise-reduction start to become noticeable. Sharpness is best in the center of the image, as we'd expect, and there is some fall-off towards the outer edges at the telephoto end of the zoom. Wide angle shots fare better, with most images showing good edge-to-edge sharpness.
Ultimately, the P310 offers an improved feature set compared to a regular point-and-shoot - offering something for snapshooters who want to learn more about photography through the camera's manual modes. However, the image quality limitations mean DSLR users might want to look at its more expensive peers if they want a pocket camera.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
Photographers that want control over exposure and operation in a portable, affordable body, but don't mind JPEG-only shooting
Not so good for
Anyone that wants to go that little step further in terms of image quality
The Nikon Coolpix P310 is a hard camera to categorize, offering the sort of manual control and customization options that we'd associate with more expensive models, but with a small sensor and no Raw shooting option. Ultimately, it's a good-looking, pocketable camera that has a lot to offer, but falls short of its (more expensive) high-end rivals when it comes to critical image quality.
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