Nikon Coolpix P300 Review

March 29, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix P300 is a new pocket compact camera designed to appeal to the keen enthusiast photographer. The P300's most obvious competitors are the Canon PowerShot S95, Panasonic LX5 and the Olympus XZ-1, but unlike all of those models the P300 has a 35% smaller 1/2.3" Back Side Illuminated CMOS sensor with 12.2 megapixels. The Nikon P300 also features a mechanically-stabilized 4.2x optical zoom with a focal range of 24-100mm and maximum apertures of f/1.8-4.9, sensitivity range of ISO 160 to 3200, PASM shooting modes, full 1080p HD video recording with stereo sound, 7 continuous shots at eight frames per second, and a 3-inch 920,000-dot LCD screen. The Nikon Coolpix P300 is available in black for £299.99 / $329.95.

Ease of Use

The Nikon Coolpix P300 is much smaller and lighter than it's P-series big brother, the P7000, which more closely resembles and competes with the Canon PowerShot G12. Consequently, unlike those two cameras, you can easily carry the P300 around in a trouser or shirt pocket, as it measures 103.0 x 58.3 x 32.0 mm and weighs less than 200g. The P300 is marginally bigger than the Canon PowerShot S95, but quite a bit smaller than the Panasonic Lumix LX5 and the Olympus XZ-1, although all of these models are eminently pocketable.

The P300 has a 4.2x zoom lens with a versatile focal range of 24-100mm, more than wide enough for sweeping landscapes yet still offering enough reach for head and shoulder portraits. The lens has a headline-grabbing maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide-angle setting, but this quickly drops off as you move through the focal range, reaching a disappointingly slow aperture of F/4.9 at 100mm, which prevents nicely blurred backgrounds from being recorded at the longer telephoto settings. Also note that because of the smaller 1/2.3" sensor, the size employed by the vast majority of compacts, the P300 doesn't blur the background as much as the XZ-1 at the same aperture of F/1.8, although it does deliver good results for a "regular" compact. The P300 feels quite solidly constructed yet at the same time lightweight, with a magnesium alloy chassis and similarly high levels of build quality that you find on Nikon's more expensive cameras.

The front of the Nikon Coolpix P300 features the aforementioned 4.2x zoom lens. Nikon have included their VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system to help prevent camera-shake, an increasingly de-facto feature on a lot of high-end compact cameras. Annoyingly there isn't a dedicated button to turn it on and off (it's somewhat buried in the Setup menu). In practice I found that the VR system makes a noticeable difference to the sharpness of the images, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page. You don't notice that the camera is actually doing anything different when anti-shake is turned on, just that you can use slower shutter speeds than normal and still take sharp photos. It didn't seem to adversely affect the battery life either, which is around 240 shots, so I'd advise you to turn it on and then forget about it.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Nikon Coolpix P300
Front Rear

Top-left of the lens is a single bulb which doubles-up as the self timer and the AF assist lamp. Completing the front of the P300 is a small but helpful vertical rubber strip that acts as a handgrip for your right hand, with enough room for two fingers. Used in conjunction with the similarly textured thumb-grip on the rear, it allows you to get a secure grip the camera and be able to confidently use it one-handed.

Maximum resolution JPEGS are stored by the Nikon Coolpix P300 in a couple of seconds. In continuous shooting mode it can capture 8 frames per second when shooting Fine sized JPEGs, albeit only for 7 images, so you can never actually achieve the headline rate in practice in terms of the number of shots that are taken. Disappointingly the P300 doesn't support the RAW file format, something that all of its main competitors offer, and a prosumer feature that frankly we'd expect on this class of camera.

The P300 has a small and neat built-in flash, activated by a switch on the side of the camera, which pops-up above-right of the lens and therefore provides a little more clearance and less chance of unwanted red-eye in your photos. We found that the built-in flash unit was fine for a bit of fill-in, with respectably quick recycle times and adequate range. Also located on top of the P300 are left and right microphones for the stereo sound, then a Shooting mode dial, similar to what you'd find on a consumer-level DSLR. Ranged around this are settings for the Auto, Program Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual, plus the Backlighting, Night Landscape and Scene modes. The action of the dial itself is slightly stiff, meaning that you reach each chosen setting with a definite click and avoid accidentally shooting past the one that you wanted.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Nikon Coolpix P300
Front Side

In the Backlighting mode, the P300 captures three consecutive shots at varying exposures and combines them into a single photo with a broader range of tones. Three different HDR settings are available for selection. When the Night Landscape scene mode is selected, the P300 takes several shots at a fast shutter speed and then combines them to create a single optimized photo, allowing you to shoot after dark without having to use a tripod. The Easy Panorama scene mode allows you to take vertical or horizontal panorama photos simply by moving the camera in the direction of the on-screen guides. Multiple shots are then combined into a single panorama photo. The angle of view can be selected from 180° (normal) and 360° (wide).

The P300 has a slightly springy shutter button, with the camera taking about 1/4 second to determine focus and exposure but with no discernible shutter delay thereafter. This is surrounded by a pleasingly tactile zoom lever. The zoom is pretty quick to respond, sound-tracked by a mechanical gnat-like buzz. Just behind the shutter release button is an annoyingly small but clearly marked on/off button, within which a a green LED briefly lights up to signify the power is indeed on. Give it a press and the P300 powers up very quickly in around 1/2 second, the lens barrel extending to maximum wide-angle setting and the rear LCD blinking into life.

Completing the P300's top-plate is a rather clever new feature, a large, unmarked, thumb-operated dial for setting the shutter speed when the shooting mode is set to Shutter Speed Priority or Manual, or alternatively for setting the exposure compensation. We'd have welcomed the ability to customise its use, though - it would be nice to be able to set the aperture this way, for example, as the navigation wheel on the rear that does change this setting has a nice action but isn't as intuitive for anyone who has used a DSLR before. Still, dual controls for setting the aperture and shutter speed is very rare on any compact, so kudos to Nikon for including both on the P300.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Nikon Coolpix P300
Pop-up Flash Top

The rear of the P300 has a 3-inch LCD screen with an impressively high 921,000-dot resolution, providing more than enough detail for you to be able to determine whether you have a sufficiently crisp image. To the right is a tiny flash recycling lamp and underneath a one-touch movie recording button.

The Nikon Coolpix P300 can record full 1080p, 1920x1080 pixel HD movies at 30fps with stereo sound and full use of the optical zoom. It also offers a 720p mode at 1280x720 pixels (30 fps) and VGA mode at 640x480 pixels (30 fps). In addition there's a special High Speed mode which records at 15/60/120 fps (no sound) that can be played back in slow motion at 1/4 or 1/2 of the normal playback speed or in fast motion at twice the normal playback speed. The Creative Slider and Special Effects can also be used when shooting movies, and they can be played back on a HDTV via the built-in HDMI connector, although as usual there's no suitable cable supplied in the box. The P300 supports the CEC feature for HDMI which enables playback control using your TV's remote control.

Underneath the movie button is the self-explanatory playback button. Irritatingly there's no external button for controlling the screen display, just a menu option, and there's also no live histogram either (although the OK button does call one up in playback mode). Next is the familiar four-way navigation pad, which allows you to set the flash, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer options, in addition to moving through menus and selecting options, with an 'OK' button at its centre being the means via which changes can be implemented. Surrounding this is a circular wheel, a feature that has been "inspired", shall we say, by some of Nikon's main rivals. As previously mentioned, this is principally used to set the aperture, forming an intuitive partnership with the thumb-controlled dial, as well as performing the more mundane tasks of moving through menus and selecting options.

Nikon Coolpix P300 Nikon Coolpix P300
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The Nikon Coolpix P300's familiar Menu button accesses the usual Nikon menu system, which is clear and easy to navigate. Press this when in any of the shooting modes and there's three menus, Shooting, Movie and Settings, with two menus, Playback and Settings, available when you're reviewing an image. A big oversight is the almost constant need to use the menu system for setting the ISO speed, white balance, metering, AF mode and continuous shooting, with at least 4 button presses required to change these often-used features. The P300 is sorely missing some kind of quick menu system, accessible via an external control, to help speed up its general operation.

In playback mode, pressing the same Menu button affords access to rudimentary image editing, including Nikon's exposure adjusting D-Lighting function, Skin Softening and Filter Effects, image slide shows, and the automatic Quick Retouch. A button to the right features the familiar trashcan icon for deleting images on the fly and completes the rear of the P300.

On the right flank of the camera - still viewing it from the rear - there's a metal eyelet for attaching the supplied shoulder strap and a plastic cover protecting the HDMI port. On the left hand flank is the release button for the pop-up flash. There's a centrally positioned, metal tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. The P300 is powered by a 1050 mAh lithium ion battery, good for around 240 shots, that slots into the base alongside the SD / SDHC / SDXC card slot and the the A/V out / USB port. Note that recharging the P300 is a somewhat convoluted affair, with the battery remaining in camera and requiring the battery cover to be closed.

That concludes our look at the Nikon Coolpix P300's ease-of-use, now let's move on to its image quality...

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix P300's image quality is good for a compact camera with a small image sensor. The Nikon Coolpix P300's dealt fairly well with noise, which becomes obvious at ISO 400 along with some colour loss. The noise, colour desaturation and loss of detail gets progressively worse as you go from ISO 400 to ISO 1600 and finally the unusable 3200 setting.

The Nikon Coolpix P300 handled chromatic aberrations excellently with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The 12.2 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and either require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you should increase the in-camera sharpening level.

The Nikon Coolpix P300's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds, which is fairly good news for night photography enthusiasts. Macro performance is very good, allowing you to focus as close as 3cms away from the subject. Vibration reduction is a very useful feature that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or using the telephoto end of the zoom range. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The backlighting feature increases detail in both the shadows and highlights, although at the expense of some additional noise and loss of fine detail.


The Nikon Coolpix P300 has 6 sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 3200 at full resolution.

ISO 160 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix P300's 4.2x zoom lens provides a focal length of 24-100mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops - the right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are slightly soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can alternatively change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

At full resolution, there are two JPEG quality settings available - Fine and Normal.

Fine (4.03Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (2.26Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix P300 shows little purple fringing, with very limited effects in areas of high contrast as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix P300 allows you to get as close as 3cms to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash card.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix P300 are Auto, Auto with Red-eye reduction, Fill Flash, Manual (Full, 1/2, 1/4 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64), Slow Sync, Rear-curtain Sync and Flash Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m. Some vignetting and barrel distortion is apparent at the 24mm wide-angle setting, irrespective of whether you use the flash or not.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (100mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (100mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Fill Flash or the Auto with Red-eye reduction options caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix P300's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds in the Manual mode, which is good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 8 seconds at ISO 160.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

The Nikon Coolpix P300 has an vibration reduction mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the lens set to the same focal length and ISO speed. The first shot was taken with vibration reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. As you can see, with vibration reduction turned on, the images are definitely sharper than with vibration reduction turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether. Here is a 100% crop of the images to show the results.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
1/10 sec / 24mm
1/6 sec / 100mm


The P300 captures three consecutive shots at varying exposures and combines them into a single photo with a broader range of tones. Three different HDR settings are available for selection.





Special Effects

You can apply six different special effects as you shoot, with a live preview on the LCD screen showing exactly what the final image will look like.



Nostalgic Sepia

High-contrast Monochrome


High Key

Low Key

Filter Effects

You can apply four different filter effects in-camera to photos that you have already taken.

Cross Screen


Miniature Effect


Easy Panorama

Easy Panorama allows you to take vertical or horizontal panorama photos simply by moving the camera in the direction of the on-screen guides. Multiple shots are then combined into a single panorama photo. The angle of view can be selected from 180° (normal) and 360° (wide).

Easy Panorama - 180°
Full-size Image
Easy Panorama - 360°
Full-size Image

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix P300 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 42.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix P300

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix P300

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix P300

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix P300

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix P300

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix P300

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix P300

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Menu


Nikon Coolpix P300

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Bottom of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix P300

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix P300

Battery Compartment


On paper the Nikon Coolpix P300 beats its main rivals in most key areas - more megapixels, bigger LCD screen, faster continuous shooting, higher quality video - but the lack of RAW mode, physically smaller sensor and some questionable design decisions ultimately make it slightly less appealing than the competition.

Just like its big brother, the P7000, the new Nikon Coolpix P300 is something of a flawed gem. While we love the extensive feature list, high-res LCD screen, and the ability to shoot full HD video with stereo sound, use of the optical zoom and creative filter effects, we can't help but be disappointed by the inexplicable inability to shoot in RAW format, one of the must-have features for this class of camera and something that all of the P300's rivals offer.

More serious is the physically smaller sensor, which produces noise-free images at ISO 160-200 but starts to fall apart at ISO 400, getting progressively worse as you go up the range. The fast F/1.8 lens will partly make up for this, allowing you to use a lower ISO speed, but only at the wide-angle focal lengths, with the maximum aperture quickly becoming slower until you hit a disappointing F/4.9 at 100mm telephoto. The P300's overall image quality is pleasing, but simply not as good as its rivals.

Despite offering a well-thought-out control system for operating the creative shooting modes, the lack of quick and easy access to many of the camera's most frequently used features, such as ISO speed and white balance, slows down its operation, with at least 4 button presses required just to change the ISO. On a camera predominantly aimed at prosumers, these kind of oversights limit its appeal, and although the Scene Auto Selector, Backlighting and Easy Panorama modes will help the P300 appeal to a less experienced audience, we can't help but feel that Nikon have missed the main target because of a few bad design decisions.

The Nikon Coolpix P300 certainly isn't a bad camera, particularly if you value full HD movies above RAW support, higher-resolution images over out-and-out quality, and you trust the camera to make the right settings for you. We can't think of too many photographers who subscribe to that viewpoint, though, making the P300 better suited to life as an affordable semi-advanced compact, rather than a serious snapper's pocketable DSLR backup.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix P300 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coopix P300 is a small compact digital camera with an all-new design from Nikon. The camera is built around a 12 megapixels high-speed CMOS sensor and a very 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 among the smallest digital cameras to feature dual control-dials. There is also an actual mode dial with positions for P, S, A M exposure modes.
Read the full review » »

The Nikon Coopix P300 is Nikon's latest entry into the serious compact compartment, complimenting the Nikon Coolpix P7000, the P300 is a much more compact camera, featuring a smaller zoom range, and a bright f/2.0 lens. It's most direct competitor is the Canon Powershot S95, however the P300 features a 24mm wider angle 4.2x optical zoom lens, vs the S95's 28mm 3.8x optical zoom lens.
Read the full review » »

This is Nikon's answer to the fast-lens club, made up of cameras that have a wide maximum aperture and are still compact enough to fit in a pocket. Ideal for photographers who want something good to carry around with them when their digital SLR is off-duty, does the P300 have what it takes to compete with the Canon PowerShot S95 and the Panasonic Lumix LX5?
Read the full review »


*1 Based on CIPA industry standard for measuring life of camera batteries. Measured at 23°C; zoom adjusted with each shot,
built-in flash fired with every other shot, image mode set to Normal.
*2 Not compatible with Multi Media Cards (MMC).
*3 Setting is available only for image sizes of 3M (2048 x 1536) or smaller.
*4 Method of noting dimensions and weight is in accordance with CIPA DCG-005-2009 guideline.

Effective pixels 12.2 million pixels
Image sensor Type: 1/2.3-in. type CMOS with active cell array; Color filter array: RGB filter; Total pixels:Approx. 12.75 million pixels; Recording pixels: Approx. 12.00 million pixels (4000 x 3000)
Lens NIKKOR lens with 4.2x optical zoom; Focal length: 4.3-17.9 mm; Aperture: f/1.8-4.9; Lens construction: 7 elements in 6 groups
Focus range (from lens) Normal shooting: approx. 30 cm (1 ft.) to infinity (at wide angle setting), approx. 60 cm (2 ft.) to infinity (at telephoto setting); Macro close-up mode: approx. 3 cm (1.2 in.) to infinity (at wide-angle setting), approx. 30 cm (1 ft.) to infinity (at telephoto setting)
Monitor Size: 7.5 cm (3-in.); Number of dots: Approx. 921k-dot; Type: TFT LCD monitor; (Acrylic) cover: Anti-reflection coating, antifouling and water-repellent coating
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 90 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card*2 (exFAT compatible, UHS not compatible) *2
Vibration Reduction (VR) Lens shift vibration reduction (still image and movies)
ISO sensitivity ISO 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (4000 x 3000), Auto (ISO 160 to 1600), Fixed range auto (ISO 160 to 400, 160 to 800)
Interface Hi-Speed USB/PictBridge
Power Sources Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (1050 mAh), AC Adapter EH-62F (option)
Battery life *1 Approx. 240 shots with EN-EL12 battery
Dimensions (WxHxD) Approx. 103.0 x 58.3 x 32.0 mm/4.0 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. (excluding projections) *4
Weight Approx. 190 g/6.7 oz. (including battery and SD memory card) *4
Movie HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps), HD 720p: 1280 x 720 (30 fps), VGA: 640 x 480 (30 fps); HS movie 15/60/120 fps, no sound)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap AN-CP19, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-69P [NEW], USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16 and ViewNX 2 CD-ROM
Optional accessories Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-69P [NEW], USB Cable UC-E6, AC Adaptor EH-62F, Battery Charger MH-65 and Audio Video Cable EG-CP16


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