Ambarin Afsar comes away quite pleased with the performance of the brightest performer on the block, the Nikon COOLPIX P310.
These days, the market is being flooded by more and more compacts that have manual control. As a DSLR user myself, I do not always want the bulk of a DSLR, and a lightweight compact that has an advanced feature group, sets me free.
Canon started off the idea of fast-lens compact cameras with the S90. In a similar vein, Fujifilm has the X10 and Sony has recently swept off the market with the RX100. Nikon has a less expensive option, the P310. Since the sensor size of the P310 is 1/2.3 inches and thus smaller than the above cameras, it offers less control over DOF and potentially poorer image quality at high ISOs in low light. And so, we try to find the chinks in the P310’s armour.
The P310’s sensor has been upped to 16MP from its predecessor, the P300’s 12MP. The P310 features a fast f/1.8-f/4.9 lens that offers a focal length of 24–100mm, in 35mm parlance. The lens is faster than its more expensive rival, the S100’s f/2-f/5.9 lens. In order to allow a compact size and to make such a wide aperture available, the optical zoom of the P310 has been limited to 4.5x.
As with the P300, the P310 also features the P, S, A, M modes and a User mode. It also includes a nifty little Function (Fn) button on the front of the camera that provides access to burst shooting settings—a 5fps burst mode at full 16MP resolution, a 120fps high speed mode at 640 x 480 pixels, and a 60fps mode at 1MP resolution. However, the camera cannot shoot RAW.
The Fn button also provides access to a precapture buffer that starts taking 3MP images once you half-press the shutter release, an interval timer that you can use for time lapse photography, and a unique Multi-shot 16 mode that creates a single mosaic of shots captured at high speed. You can access 20 scene modes by spinning the mode dial. Besides the usual Portrait, Landscape, Fireworks mode, the P310 also has a 3D capture mode and two options for panoramas. The Night Landscape mode, which employs exposure bracketing and image stacking. The results are quite pleasing, but the camera takes quite a bit of time to write the final image.
The P310 features 1080p HD video and allows AF readjustment during shooting. You can also lock exposure settings and trim video clips within the camera.
The P310 is a compact, box-like thing that feels extremely sturdy. The front includes a handgrip and the Fn button, and while the button allows access to many things, its placement makes you forget that it is there. The top right of the camera features the shutter-release, the mode dial and a second, unlabelled dial that only controls shutterspeed in the manual mode. To the top left is the flash that can be popped up using a recessed button.
The back of the camera features a 3-inch 921k dot LCD screen that is quite bright. This is superior to a lot of cameras in this price range and was of great help while shooting in harsh sunlight. The menu is exhaustive and is identical to the one found in Nikon’s DSLRs—you have access to colour modes, WB, AF area modes, Active D-lighting and much more.
The lens is sharp and extremely fast at the wide end, making the camera a joy to shoot with. The colour rendition is vibrant, rich and basically, is very reminiscent of traditional Nikon colour reproduction.
Surprisingly, there is major purple fringing at both, the wide and tele ends which can potentially mar your shots. Low light image quality is quite good, and shots are usable till ISO 1600. After that, things go a little downhill with colour smearing. But, you have the option of controlling aggressive noise reduction and sharpening artefacts by keeping NR at low. One of the minor flaws of the camera is the delay between shot to shot.
Priced at Rs. 16,950, the camera is the only camera in its price bracket to feature a fast lens, besides having complete manual control. But, if you want RAW capabilities, a larger sensor and bigger zoom, then you will need to look at more expensive options.
Full manual control, f/1.8 lens, but no RAW, Full HD video shooting
Sharp, great colour rendition, inefficient shot-to-shot time, lot of fringing 30/35
Sturdy build overall, buttons feel a little flimsy
Great menu and button layout, Fn button
Warranty & Support
Widest service network in the country
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Who should buy it? People who want a fast low light shooting option with full manual control.
Why? The f/1.8 lens is sheer joy to shoot with at the wide end. From colour reproduction to good image quality, the camera features everything except a RAW mode. So, if RAW shooting is not a priority for you, this is a great buy.