Nikon Coolpix P310 Review
The Nikon Coopix P310 is a digital camera designed to deliver high-quality images while remaining compact and giving controls for advanced users. It is built around a larger-than-average 16 megapixels CMOS sensor with an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 3200, expandable to 6400. This sensor is capable of 7 FPS continuous shooting at full-resolution and 1080p HD video capture. It is paired with a rarely seen ultra-bright F/1.8 ultra-wide angle lens, equivalent to 24-100mm.
This model is aimed at advanced users seeking efficient manual controls and is one of the smallest digital cameras to feature dual control-dials. There is also a traditional mode dial with positions for P, S, A M exposure modes. A small customizable Function button and user-mode round-off usability features of the P310.
The high-speed CMOS sensor in the Coolpix P310 is used to provided plenty of high-speed features including Sweeping Panorama, Multi-Frame Noise-Reduction, Pre-Shooting Cache and high-speed shooting in both still and video modes, reaching up to 120 FPS.
Nikon Coolpix P310 Key Features
- 16 Megapixels CMOS sensor
- Stabilized 4.2X ultra-wide-angle optical zoom, equivalent to 24-100mm in 35mm terms
- Ultra-bright F/1.8 maximum aperture at wide angle, down to F/4.9 at telephoto
- Standard ISO Sensitivity from 100 to 3200
- Maximum ISO expandable to 6400
- Shutter-speeds from 1/2000s to 8s
- White-balance: Automatic, 5 presetsDaylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash and custom
- Matrix and center-weighed metering
- Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual exposure modes
- Exposure compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps
- Flash compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps
- Bracketing, 3 frames, up to 1 EV steps
- Single (AF-S) and Continuous (AF-C) focus
- Automatic, Manual, Center, Tracking and Face-Priority focus-point selection
- 7 Steps adjustable Sharpness and Contrast
- 3 Color modes with 7 Saturation levels
- B&W mode with optional filter and adjustable toning effects
- 3" LCD 920K Pixels, 100% coverage
- 7 FPS Continuous drive, up to 5 frames
- 60 FPS Ultra-High speed drive at 1 MP
- 120 FPS Ultra-High speed drive at 0.3 MP
- 2, 10s and Smile self-timers
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Full HD video recording
- 1920x1080 @ 15 FPS Slow-speed video
- 1280x720 @ 60 FPS High-speed video
- 640x480 @ 120 FPS High-speed video
- Built-in stereo microphone
- Dual contrrol-dials
- Customizable Function button
- Easy (Sweep) & Assist Panorama modes
- Hand-Held & Tripod Night Landscape modes
- Built-in popup flash 6.5 (W) - 2.5m (T) range
- Auto, Redeye, Off, On and Slow-Sync flash with mechanical release
- Lithium-Ion battery, charged in-camera
- SDXC memory support
NOTE Due to external similarities between the P310 and P300
Nikon Coolpix P300, the first two pages of their respective reviews are largely identical. For performance and conclusions, go skip ahead to page 3.
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Nikon P310 is defined by a combination of size and features. This is an advanced camera, yet it is much smaller than most cameras with manual controls. The P310 is therefore more likely to be taken places where the weight and visibility of a larger camera is problem. The P310 is so small that it barely exceeds the thickness of an ultra-compact and should easily fit in most jacket pockets.
The 4.2X optical zoom lens has a range from 24mm to 100mm in 35mm-equivalent terms. The ultra-wide-end is suitable for landscape, interiors and architecture. The telephoto-end is somewhat short but perfectly usable for portraits. Anything which requires more distance such as typical street photography is going to be severely limited. The extremely bright F/1.8 aperture lets the P310 shoot with less light, at lower ISO and with less motion blur than most of its peers, something which is very useful for indoor and social photography. Do note that the maximum aperture closes down to F/4.9 at the long end. The 16 megapixels sensor permits sharp prints up to 18x24", at least at ISO sensitivities where noise is low.
The Nikon P310 is reasonably suited for creative photography. Manual controls provide complete control over exposure within the limits of the camera. Specifically, the top 1/2000s shutter-speed is fast enough to freeze most action while the slowest one of 8s works for typical night photography. It is important to know that 8s is only possible at ISO 100 and by ISO 200 the slowest speed drops to 4s, It then drops to 2s at ISO 800 and by one more stop for each additional ISO stop until 3200.
Despite having continuous modes running from 8 FPS to 120 FPS, this digital camera is unsuitable for action photography since the LCD remains blank or severely lags action in continuous drive mode. This makes it impossible to keep up with action. With an expanded ISO range reaching 6400, low-light handheld shooting is clearly possible.
Capability - What can it do?
The Nikon Coopix P310 has a capable but relatively simple feature set. It has everything one expects from a compact digital camera, plus full manual-controls over exposure, focus and metering modes, including Spot metering.
Beyond the 16 megapixels sensor and 4X stabilized optical zoom, the Nikon Coolpix P310 packs the following features, followed by explanations when required:
- PASM Exposure modes, with Program-Shift in P mode.
- Auto and scene-modes, including several Panorama and Multi-Frame modes.
- AutoTwo types: Normal and Warm., 5 PresetsDaylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash and Custom white-balance.
- Matrix, Center-Weighed and Spot metering.
- AutoSelectable maximum ISO and Shutter-Speed and manually selectable ISO from 100 to 6400.
- Exposure-compensation, -2..+2 stops in 1/3 EV increments.
- Flash-compensation, -2.+2 stops in 1/3 EV increments.
- Single (AF-S) or continuous (AF-C) autofocus modes, available for images and video.
- Auto, 99-Area Manual, Center, Subject-Tracking or Face-Detect autofocus areas.
- Standard, Macro, Manual and Infinity focus modes.
- Single-shot, Continuous (High & Low speed), Pre-Shooting Cache, Ultra-High Speed (120 or 60 FPS), BSS, Multi-shot 16 and Interval Timer continuous modes.
- Self-timers, 2s, 10s or Smile-Detect.
Program mode can be shifted via the top control-dial to give the same exposure with different combinations of apertures and shutter-speeds. There is an automatic Scene-Mode selector and a linear list showing 19 modes. A few of those, such as Night Portrait, have sub-modes. There is also one dedicated position on the mode-dial for Night Landscape which has both a hand-held and tripod version. This rarely seen option is quite thoughtful as the camera needs to expose differently. Hand-held variants use a short burst of images that are blended to perform multi-frame noise-reduction using a fast shutter-speed. Tripod variants simply lowers the ISO and take a single long exposure. This option is also available in Night Portrait mode.
Backlighting mode - which no longer has a dedicated position on the mode-dial - is where the P310 hides its built-in HDR capabilities. There are 3 levels of HDR, all based on a burst of 3 images with different exposures which are blended together. Each level determines how much total dynamic-range is captured and mapped into the resulting JPEG image. The HDR capture in Backlight mode can be turned off, in which case the camera advises to raise the flash to use it as a fill-light.
Panorama mode is the most genuinely useful scene mode. There is an Assist and an Easy version. The Assist one helps line up multiple images taken in any direction to be assembled later by computer. These images are taken with the same exposure settings and stored sequentially in their own folders, making identification of panorama shots immediately obvious. The Easy version has a Normal and Wide variant. In both cases the camera captures a panorama as the user sweeps the camera. The angle-of-view is fixed at 180° for Normal and 360° for Wide.
Automatic White-Balance comes in two options. One does what is usually expected, which is try to make the scene as neutral as possible. The other attempts to preserve the warmth of certain types of lighting, leaving a slight orange cast which some may find appealing for certain subjects. Auto ISO is highly customizable. There are three possible limits, ISO 400, 800 and 1000 which is simply labelled as AUTO. Independently, the lowest desired shutter-speed can be specified between 1s and 1/125s. With a lower-limit specified, the camera raises the ISO until the shutter-speed matches or exceeds the set limit. This is not a hard-limit though and the camera still chooses something slower to avoid under-exposure.
Most available drives modes are standard for compact Nikon cameras. For those not familiar, BSS takes a burst of images and saves the sharpest one. Multi-Shot 16 mode combines 16 ultra-low resolution images into a low-resolution one. The normal continuous drive mode shoots up to 5 full-resolution images at 7 FPS. There are also 60 and 120 FPS modes which capture 1 and 0.3 megapixel images, respectively. The display remains off while shooting continuously at full-resolution. In high-speed mode, the display shows shots post-capture with a significant lag. The Smile-Detect timer takes a picture when the camera detects that someone is smiling.
Nikon P310 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|16 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-6400|
|4.2X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-4s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|7 FPS Drive, 5 Images||Custom white-balance|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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