Although Nikon’s Coolpix P310 camera may resemble Canon’s PowerShot S compact models, there is one significant difference – the Coolpix P310 cannot shoot raw images.
However, it does have other attractive options for the photographer who demands a high-quality compact camera.
The Nikon Coolpix P310, which replaces the P300, has a 16.2-million-pixel backlit CMOS sensor rather than the 12.2-million-pixel CMOS unit of the P300. The new sensor should improve performance in low light.
Unlike the Canon PowerShot S100, which uses a 12.1-million-pixel, 1/1.7in (approx 7.6×5.7mm) sensor, the P310 has a smaller, more conventional 1/2.3in (approx 6.7×4.55mm) unit.
Sensitivity has been increased, with the P310 having a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-3200 and an extended high setting of ISO 6400, which is 1EV over that of the P300. However, the camera’s key feature is a 4.3mm-17.9mm f/1.8-4.9, 4.2x lens, which is the equivalent of a 24-100mm lens on a 35mm or full-frame camera. Having an f/1.8 maximum aperture helps the camera’s performance in low light, but does little to provide the implied shallow depth of field due to the comparatively small size of the sensor.
There is a full complement of exposure modes, including aperture and shutter priority and manual exposure, as well as scene modes, including a backlit option that creates an in-camera HDR image. A customisable user settings mode is also available via the camera’s program dial.
Other new features include the addition of an interval-shooting timer that is useful for time-lapse photography, a pre-shooting continuous mode and 3D shooting.
Build and handling
The Nikon Coolpix P310’s small and reasonably slim build is akin to that of the Canon PowerShot S100, and smaller than the Olympus XZ-1, so it is small enough to fit into a coat or trouser pocket.
The P310’s button array is fairly standard, with a program dial on the top-plate, along with the shutter, zoom control and a control dial. The control dial on the top-plate is used, along with a dial on the rear of the camera, to change the aperture, shutter speed and exposure values. There is a dedicated button to access the EV compensation. One addition is the function (Fn) button, which is on the front of the body and is easily accessible. I set this to allow ISO sensitivity to be changed. Overall, the camera handles well, with an easy-to-use menu system.
Evaluative metering generally produces bright, well-exposed images, which, when combined with the standard or vivid colour settings, make for great pictures that need little editing before printing or displaying.
Edge details are sharp, although the default noise reduction does blur surface texture, even at ISO 400. I would recommend turning down the noise reduction to its low setting to increase the detail at the expense of introducing some luminance and colour noise. With no raw-shooting option, it is important to get the noise reduction and sharpening settings correctly set in-camera.
The lens focuses steadily, without being exceptionally fast. Optically, it is sharp in the centre, but there is a little fall-off in sharpness at the edges. I found that the 24-100mm 35mm-equivalent focal length worked well, offering a good range for landscapes, travel and portraiture.
One of the only issues with the image quality is that there is severe purple fringing on high-contrast edges of an image. This can cause issues if you are photographing landscapes with a treeline against an overcast sky. It is odd that the P310 does not have an automatic lens correction feature to remove this purple fringing.
Image: Colour and images have a good level of contrast
The Nikon Coolpix P310 is a good compact camera, but it does have a few issues. The purple fringing is of most concern, and while the inability to shoot raw isn’t an issue in itself, its presence would allow greater control of noise.
However, the P310 has a lot of advanced features for a camera with a street price of around £230, which is around £100 cheaper than the Canon PowerShot S100.