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Nikon is a relative newcomer to the small, high-quality compact camera market. Although for the past couple of years the Coolpix P300 and P310 offered excellent build quality and a similar user experience to competitive models like the Canon PowerShot S110, neither featured a raw capture mode, and both used comparatively small 1/2.3" sensor rather than the 1/1.7" sensors commonly found in their high-end peers.

The Nikon Coolpix P330 changes this dynamic, offering both raw mode and a larger, lower-resolution sensor (almost certainly the same 12MP one found in the Coolpix P7700), without sacrificing what was good about its predecessors - a compact form factor, relatively fast lens, good build quality, and a useful zoom range. As such it represents Nikon's most serious attempt to offer a real competitor to the Canon PowerShot S110 and its popular predecessors the S100 and S95. At an MSRP of $379, the P330 is competitive on price, too.

Nikon Coolpix P330: Key Specifications

  • 12.2MP BSI-CMOS sensor
  • Raw Mode (.NRW)
  • 24-120mm (equivalent) F1.8-5.6 optically-stabilized zoom lens
  • ISO 80-3200 (up to ISO 12,800 in manual mode)
  • Maximum 10fps shooting (for 10 frames)
  • Full HD, 1080/60i/30p movie recording
  • 3" 921k-dot rear LCD screen
  • 23 Scene modes including 3D
  • Built-in GPS
  • Approx 200 shots per charge (CIPA)

The Coolpix P330's lens is the fastest in the current Coolpix lineup, offering a maximum aperture of F1.8 at the wide end, just like its predecessor the P310. Don't get too excited though, because like Canon's PowerShot S110, the P330's lens gets pretty slow, pretty quickly as you zoom in. At the 120mm telephoto setting, its maximum aperture is F5.6. Not bad, and wide enough to give a hint of subject/background separation for portraiture, but not exactly 'fast'. Unfortunately, if you want a camera with a big sensor that still fits into your shirt pocket, this is the sacrifice that you have to make. Users of rivals such as Sony's Cyber-shot RX100 will be all too familiar with the compromise.

The P330 might look like an iterative upgrade to the P310, but the new camera has a larger 1/1.7" sensor, inherited from the P7700, and offers a raw capture mode. Both features should make the new camera more attractive to enthusiasts, and bring it into line with what now seems its most obvious competitor, the Canon PowerShot S110.
Here's how the P330's sensor compares to other cameras in terms of size (illustration to scale, but not actual size).

As you can see, 1/1.7" is a meaningful size increase over 1/2.3", but both are still considerable smaller than the CX-format that Sony uses in its Cyber-shot RX100, not to mention Micro Four Thirds and APS-C.
This graph (click for a larger version) shows the P330's aperture range expressed in terms of equivalent aperture for depth-of-field purposes. Because of the size of its sensor, the P330's aperture range of F1.8-5.6 is roughly equivalent to F8-22 when it comes to ability to offer background blur. This might not sound impressive, but it a fraction better than Canon PowerShot S110's lens in this respect.

In other regards, the P330 is basically what we'd expect of a camera in this class, at this point in time. Full manual exposure control is available, and PASM modes can be accessed from the exposure mode dial on the camera's top plate. The P330 has two command dials - one on the top, for operation with the thumb of the right hand, and one on the rear, comprising the 4-way controller.

As well as PASM modes, the P330 also offers a range of Scene modes for JPEG capture, and in common with most of its peers, GPS is built-in, too. The camera is also compatible with Nikon's WU-1a Wi-Fi adapter.

Compared to Coolpix P310 - key differences

  • 5.1-25.5mm (24-120mm equivalent) F1.8-5.6 lens (compared to F1.8-4.9, 24-100mm)
  • 12MP 1/1.7" BSI-CMOS sensor (compared to 16MP 1/2.3" CMOS)
  • .NRW raw capture (not available in P310)
  • 10fps max framerate, for 10 frames (compared to 7fps for 5 frames)
  • Built-in GPS unit (not available in P310)
  • Compatible with WU-1a Wi-Fi unit (not possible with P310)
  • Approx 200 shots per charge (CIPA - compared to 230 shots)
The P330 (left) is exactly the same size as the P310, which is pretty impressive, given the increased dimensions of its sensor. The two cameras are in fact, pretty much twins. From the front, the only difference (beyond labeling) is the texture of the vertical rubber micro-grip - the P330's grip has a checkerboard pattern texture, which makes it slightly 'grippier'.
It's the same story on the back of the camera, where the P330 is - again - exactly the same as its predecessor in terms of control layout. Both cameras feature the same 921k dot 3" rear LCD, with a 4-way controller and integrated dial in a control cluster to the right of the display.