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Nikon Coolpix P300 review

Nikon's new compact boasts full manual control and a fast f/1.8 lens

Nikon Coolpix P300
Nikon's new high-end compact boasts a 12.2MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor.

Nikon P300 Review: Performance

If the Nikon P300 had nothing else to fall back on other than the quality of images produced, we would still predict it to become a popular seller. The P300's images exhibited bright and accurate colours, crisp and well-defined details, with scenes arguably well metered and correctly exposed.

What is more, the Nikon P300 delivered some of the clearest images at higher ISOs from a compact camera that we have seen for some time, generating vivid colour, reduced noise and smooth tonal gradations even at ISO 1600.

This was probably possible thanks to its fast-aperture lens, back-illuminated CMOS image sensor and VR image stabilization function.

If we were being overly critical, we could argue that in auto and a handful of scene modes the Nikon P300 favoured the highlights and showed a small leniency to underexposing. But this was nothing terribly noticeable and is nothing that can't be tweaked using the exposure compensation function.

The Nikon camera's white balance performed admirably, delivering solid colour replication – again if we were pushed for criticism we could claim the colours, in particular greens, are a tad more vivacious than reality but nothing that would prove distortional. What's more, setting the manual preset white balance is one of the most accurate and simplest to use on a device of the Nikon P300 price point.

Possibly thanks to the back-lit CMOS sensor and EXPEED C2 processor we found the Nikon P300 produced higher contrast than expected, which was particularly obvious in the dedicated high-contrast monochrome mode which truly generates striking results, much more so than the unit's black and white copy mode.

The P300's AF is on point, turning in well-focused images that illustrate sharply defined subjects. In particular, the macro setting delivered extremely pleasing captures, exhibiting superb definition even at the widest aperture thanks to the superb lens which failed to produce common errors such as chromatic aberrations or vignetting, and only generated very mild purple fringing in extreme high-contrast scenarios.

In fact the lens, performed fantastically well throughout the focal range and even delivered sharp resolution at full optical zoom – and at full digital zoom capacity the results were of a higher standard than most of its rivals, with only marginal softening of edges and some pixilation distortion in darker areas while colour, exposure and contrast remained accurate.