Timing & Performance
The Coolpix P3 rarely feels sluggish in use, though compared to the best cameras in its class it is far from speedy. Focus speed and (especially) shutter lag are below average, and shot-to-shot times when using anti-red-eye flash are way too long (this is partly due to the P3 removing redeye in software after each shot). Overall for the kind of casual snaps the average person takes the P3 is just fast enough, but the more demanding user will find it feels a little unresponsive when it comes to the important stuff; actually taking pictures. I found no problems using the camera outdoors for landscapes, but I did sometimes feel like I was waiting for something to happen when shooting indoors in low light.
All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3264 x 2448 Fine JPEG image (approx. 3,100 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sandisk Extreme III card.
|Power: Off to Record||With startup animation disabled||2.5|
|Power: Off to Play||Image displayed||3.4|
|Power: Record to Off||All activity ceased||3.4|
|Power: Play to Off||When buffer is empty, lens retracted||~0.7|
|Power: Play to Off||When buffer is empty, lens extended||3.3|
|Record Review||Image displayed||1.2|
|Mode: Play to Record||Lens already extended||1.5|
|Play: Magnify||To full magnification (10x)||2.8|
|Play: Image to Image||Time to display each saved image||1.3 *1|
|Play: Thumbnail view||2 x 2 thumbnails||0.8 *2|
|Zoom from Wide to Tele||36 to 126 mm (3.5 x) full speed||0.9|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Wide angle, single shot focus||~0.6*3|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Telephoto, single shot focus||~0.8 *3|
|Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2)||LCD live view||~0.18|
|Full-press Lag (0->S2)||LCD live view, wide angle||~1.0 *4|
|Off to Shot Taken||LCD live view||~4.9|
|Shot to Shot||Flash off||~ 3.5|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on ( red eye reduction on / off)||7.3 / 4.5|
|*1||Low res previews are loaded in around 0.2 seconds, so you can scroll through images fairly quickly. The time mentioned above is to load the full image.|
|*2||3x3 thumbs take another 0.5 secs, 4x4 thumbs another 0.6 secs.|
|*3||Continuous focus mode is marginally faster. Focus times vary widely from about 0.4 to 0.8 secs (wideangle) and 0.6 to 0.9 secs (telephoto), depending on the brightness and contrast of the scene.|
Continuous drive mode
The P3 has four continuous shooting modes; Continuous, Multi-shot 16, 5-shot buffer, and Ultra-High Speed, two of which operate at a seriously reduced resolution.
The standard Continuous modes averages around 1.7 fps for four shots, dropping to about 0.6 fps indefinitely, unless you wait for the buffer to empty (which takes about 6.0 seconds at 8MP). The 5-shot buffer mode shoots indefinitely at around 0.7 fps until you release the shutter, at which point the last 5 shots taken are saved (or in the case of 8MP / fine mode the last 3 shots).
Multi-shot 16 combines 16 shots (at around 2.0 fps) into a single 8MP file as a 4x4 grid, whilst Ultra HS mode allows you to take up to 100 shots at 30 fps, though only at 0.3MP (640 x 480 pixel) resolution, and with a hefty 23 second recovery whilst the files are written to the card.
All-in-all the continuous shooting performance is nothing special, but is more than adequate for the kind of shooting the intended market is likely to need.
File writing / playback performance
The P3 is not particularly speedy when it comes to reading or writing to the card; a full 8MP / Fine image (3.1 MB) takes around 2.5 seconds to write to the card (~1.2 MB/s), and about 1.3 seconds to display in playback mode, but unless you're attempting to shoot long sequences you'll never notice (buffering takes care of that). The use of low resolution thumbs means scrolling through images is actually pretty fast; you only need to wait for the full image to load if you want to magnify or do anything else with the picture.
Battery life is on the low side of average; approx 200 shots (CIPA standard, VR on) per charge; though this drops drastically if you use the flash more often or transfer images via Wi-Fi. The battery takes around 2 hours to charge from completely flat. The lack of an optical viewfinder means you are always using the LCD screen, so there's not really any way to increase battery life (though not using Active VR mode or continuous focus will help to some degree).