Posted by Lee Yuan Sheng in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:42 PM
So that camera I was talking about yesterday? It is official now, and I cannot believe how Nikon manage to muck it up. First, let us talk about the specs of the two P cameras. While both utilise a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor for lower noise levels, they are quite different in form and function. The P500 is a superzoom, packing a 36x 22.5-810mm equivalent f/3.4-5.7 lens, which is stabilised via sensor-shift, a 3" tilting VGA LCD with an EVF of unspecified resolution, and 1080p video at 30 FPS, with the ability to use the optical zoom during recording. It is nice to see that the lens starts at an even wider-than-usual 22.5mm, but the aperture of the lens at the extreme telephoto (f/5.7) means stabilisation or no, you better have some good support and camera technique! Ships in March for US$400.
Now, on to the camera I was looking forward to, the P300, pictured above. It is a compact camera aimed squarely at the S95, it appears, with the above 12 megapixel sensor, and an optically stabilised (the only Coolpix in this batch to do so) 4.2x 24-100mm equivalent lens starting at f/1.8... but ending at f/4.9. It has a 3" VGA LCD, and the ability to shoot 1080p videos while using the optical zoom. Both cameras have new fancy internal software, like that Sony Sweep Panorama, where panoramas are taken by just panning the camera. Ships in March for US$330.
At first glance, this is a serious looking compact. See the large fat unmarked dial behind the zoom lever/shutter release? That is a command dial, like the one on Nikon DSLRs. In fact, this can be considered a two-dial camera, as there is another dial as part of the four-way controller pad at the back. The f/1.8 aperture at the wide end of 24mm equivalent looks good as well, and there is the more expensive-to-implement optical stabilisation.
Nikon, of course, has to muck it up. Firstly the sensor is smaller than the one on the S95, LX5, and all the other premium compacts. Instead of a 1/1.7" sensor, the P300 features the 35% smaller 1/2.3" sensor, which translates to poorer light gathering ability. Oh, and it also has 2 more megapixels than its peers. The f/4.9 aperture at the tele end does not help. Yes, the S95 has the same aperture, but it also has a better sensor to compensate. There is also the issue of the slightly larger cameras like the new Olympus XZ-1 having much larger apertures (f/2.5 in the XZ-1's case) even on the telephoto end.
There is also the not-so-little thing of leaving raw image support out. Yes, the P300 only shoot JPEGs. RAW in small sensor compacts cannot be overlooked; it allows careful noise reduction techniques to be applied to the image, and bypasses the usual heavy-handed camera noise reduction manufacturers would otherwise use in the JPEG conversion process. I cannot believe Nikon would cripple a camera of this class when their competitors are fine with letting their compacts maintain RAW capability.
All-in-all, it is a bit disappointing. Like I said before, Nikon cannot seem to execute Coolpixes right. Nowadays I believe that half the Coolpix team is probably outsourced, hence the divergence in strategy from the DSLR division. Anyway, DPreview has a preview, and after the jump are images of the P500 as well as the back of the P300.
DPReview: Nikon Coolpix P300
Nikon Coolpix P500