Review: Nikon P300 Blends Retro Simplicity & Modern Quality

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The P300 has traded in the slimline compact frame for a boxier retro feel that sets it apart from other compacts.

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The P300 joins Nikon’s high-end P series of compacts within the CoolPix range with a 12.2 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor behind a 24mm wide lens.

While the level up P500 offers 36x zoom for telephoto coverage, the P300 only reaches 4.2x zoom, so it’s best utilised for portraits and wide landscape shots rather than macros or fine details. Unlike the P500, this camera can be taken around in your pocket while still taking very detailed shots with luminous colour.

The f/1.8 aperture makes for fast exposures, though you’ll want to manually configure aperture and shutter settings when you’re shooting at night, otherwise P300 is prone to taking blurry night shots.

Otherwise, shots in the dark come out beautifully detailed with vibrant colour, with or without the flash. A dedicated night landscape mode on the main function wheel automatically sets the camera up for enhanced shots in low light.

Tested outdoors at night and in low-lit evening settings, colours came out rich while edges remained sharp and pronounced. Photos taken from far at a live music gig suffered from the lack of zoom, though the detail from afar was still sharp with colour once again standing out against deep background blacks.

 
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During the day, edges are visibly distinct above some of the competing cameras, with lines retaining prominence rather that coming off blurry around the sides. Scene selection and individual controls for settings like aperture and shutter make this camera customisable, but the beauty is that it doesn’t need any tweaking for most shots.

Design is the big issue with this camera. The P300 in a black finish has a stylishly simple, hard-edged look that mimics older cameras (up to the detail of the film-scroll wheel on the top right hand corner that here doubles as a secondary menu scroll wheel). It’s a funky design, though it minimises comfort compared to round-edged compacts and the sharp corners and edges make it more uncomfortable in the pocket.

The flash comes out with the manual click of a latch button on the left side of the camera – good for when you don’t want auto-flash to ruin your shot, but a bit of a nuisance if you’re banking on auto-flash to lighten up shots in the automatic shooting mode.

Another nitpick is with the tiny on/off button that is awkwardly place near the main function wheel and the shutter button. Depressing the button all the way down tends to take a little more effort than it should with the fiddly button.

Nikon’s P300 is a highly recommended compact camera that delivers stunning quality on a small device. It does still suffer some big faults like a tendency to take blurry shots in dark settings and its odd shape for a compact, but the pros vastly outweigh cons. The P300 is currently on sale and retails at $499.

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