As cameras get more mainstream, users demand more features, and they would rather go and buy a DSLR for that purpose. Today, it’s possible to add a whole bunch of features and controls into a small format camera. Nikon has done just that with their P300 point and shoot camera. Priced under Rs. 20,000, it’s way cheaper than any DSLR would be.

Features
The Nikon P300 uses a 12.2 MP CMOS sensor, which is quite different from other point and shoot cameras. Most P&S cameras today use CCD sensors. The sensor size isn’t much different from other P&S cameras, though. The 4.2x optical lens has a range of 4.3 – 17.9 mm. One of the star features of the cameras is the 1080p video recording capability. At lower resolutions, the camera is also capable of shooting videos with 120 fps frame rates, which can be great fun to play with. The P300 has a 3-inch high resolution screen to offer, which looks good while previewing images, as well as while shooting them.

A compact design and a solid build for a portable camera

A compact design and a solid build for a portable camera

The controls of the P300 are really simple to use and anyone new to the camera can get used to it in no time at all. The P300 has two dials which are particularly useful while using the manual shooting mode. In this mode, the user has complete control of all the features of the camera including the aperture size and shutter speed. Each of the two dials is dedicated to the feature.

While many camera manufacturers put a dial with a whole bunch of scene modes, the P300 has a single scene mode. Within this mode, the user can choose from a whole bunch of presets to shoot. While the P300 offers several manual controls to the user, don’t expect a camera such as this to have all the features and controls found on a prosumer or a full-flegded DSLR. It’s evident from the limited light metering and focus selection modes. The lack of a user controlled manual focus mode is also an evidence of this.

Easy-to-use controls that require little time to get used to

Easy-to-use controls that require little time to get used to

Design and Build Quality
The Nikon P300 is a compact camera but it’s not as sleek or as compact as say, a Canon IXUS camera. The entire body has a matte finish and is made of plastic. It’s heavy and feels sturdy as well. There are two dials on the camera and the primary dial is small and somewhat cheap in feel. A lot of rough use and the dial is bound to get a little loose. The dial can be used as a navigation pad as well. The second dial that’s positioned at the top of the camera is way more sturdier. There’s a small grip at the back which makes holding the camera with one hand possible. Altering the settings using a single hand might not be practical though. The mode selection dial lies at the top and is the hardest of all dials to rotate.

Mode selection dial at the top

Mode selection dial at the top

The flash unit is neatly tucked into the body of the camera and it can only be raised by pushing on a small slider on one side of the camera. Most cameras these days have an autorelease function, so manually enabling the flash can be cumbersome when you’re trying to click photos in the dark in a hurry. Button placement is good and isn’t way different from other point and shoot cameras. The dedicated video recording button is a nice touch. The large 3-inch display also neatly blends in with the rear of the camera’s body. One of the neat things is that camera can be charged directly by connecting the adapter to it, so there isn’t a need to remove the battery and place it in its charger.
Performance
The Nikon P300 is a fast camera when it comes to focussing and shooting photographs. Previews can be a little slow at times and the camera gets sluggish when you click a long sequence of shot using the burst mode.

Outdoor images were dull

Outdoor images were dull

The image quality in outdoor shots is average to put it mildly. We tried different ISO settings and in images shot at ISO sensitivity of 160, a fair amount of colour fringing was noticed. We tried this setting in the Programmed auto mode. In addition to the fringing the images also appeared to have a fair amount of grain. The colours did not seem natural and the images looked dark even after using the Auto shooting mode. Photos shot with the macro mode are good. The camera allows you to get really close to the object and there’s decent detail visible in the image. The flash works surprisingly well for its size. It manages to light up a completely dark room. 

Macro images were crisp

Macro images were crisp

We shot a test video with 1080p resolution. Video quality is decent and the camera auto-focuses well and the change between bright-lit and dark areas is quickly compensated for by the camera.

4.2x optical zoom should be sufficient for most purposes

4.2x optical zoom should be sufficient for most purposes

Verdict
The Nikon P300 is a complete camera with a whole bunch of features but the performance of the camera isn’t flawless. It’s good for video recording and although it offers a whole bunch of features to the user, it’s still no prosumer camera. If you’re not particular about image quality, and are more interested in video recording and the features that it has, you might find this P300 useful. Its MRP price tag of Rs. 19,950 also makes it tough to recommend.

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