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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P3


Nikon Coolpix P3 VR Wi-Fi Review

Review Date: March 22, 2006

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P3


The Nikon Coolpix P3 is relatively light and compact. It is compact enough to be carried in a large trousers pocket or handbag. As most compact digital cameras do now, the Nikon P3 also uses the Secure Digital (SD) memory card.

The Nikon P3 is attractive in its metallic silver (plastic and metal composite) body with chrome accents. The one thing that you could always count on Nikon compact digital cameras to have was a secure handgrip. Well, that's gone. The P3 now has only the raised "Nikon" lettering to provide some friction. Of course, with so many compact and ultra-compact digital cameras with equally slippery bodies, we've grown accustomed to that, but I still mourn the passing of the "Nikon handgrip." On the plus side, the retracted lens is flush with the body and the camera easily slips into a trousers pocket.

Startup and shot to shot time is only average at about 3 sec. There is no practical shutter lag. Autofocus is fast and precise.

- Colours: overall metallic silver with chrome accents
- Looks: rounded corners, lens flushed with body when retracted
- Comfortable
- Lots of controls
- Medium Compact: fits in a large pants pocket, coat pocket or small handbag
- Dimensions: 92 x 61 x 31mm /
3.6 x 2.4 x 1.2 in.
- Weight: 170g / 5.6 oz.
- Takes 1 Li-ion battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh
- Average startup speed with lens extending about 27 mm (1.1 in.) and LCD turning on in about 2-3 sec.
- Shot to shot time about 2-3 sec.
- No practical shutter lag.

The Terminal compartment is on the left side of the camera (viewed from the front) with a small squarish rubber cover.


Nikon Coolpix P3 Top View

The top of the camera has (from right to left) the Power OFF/ON Switch, the Shutter Release Button, the Mode Dial, and the VR button. All the other controls are found on the back.

Each press of the VR button cycles it OFF, VR (Normal, for normal shooting conditions and when panning) and VR-Active (for severe camera shake). You should turn it OFF when the camera is placed on a tripod.

The Mode Dial is in a peculiar place, smack in the middle of the top, but is quite easily reachable by the thumb. Besides the Auto mode (Green camera symbol), it has P (Programmed Auto), A (Aperture-Priority), SCENE (Scene Modes), Movie, SETUP, Image Quality, ISO, White Balance, and Wireless Transfer.

I'm sure some of you will question the placement of Image Quality, ISO and WB on the Mode Dial. After all, you don't really want to change shooting mode to select one of those settings. But the good news is that you don't really have to use them there on the Mode Dial: I find that accessing them thru the Menu icons to be as quick and easy -- and without having to change your shooting mode. I am very glad that Playback/Review is not on the Mode Dial but is a dedicated button on the back of the camera.

As Nikon digital cameras are well known for, there is a Scene Mode for almost everything you want to do. For example, the Panorama Assist scene mode allows you to take a number of panoramic shots and line them up precisely on screen by overlaying the semi-transparent previous image on screen. This is one of the best Panorama implementation I've seen.

You can record movies (with sound) at 640x480 at 30fps, limited only by the size of your memory card (according to Nikon, some SD cards may not allow recording until the card is full). In Movie mode, you can only select VR (Normal) and 2x digital zoom (though you can adjust optical zoom before starting to record). You have a choice of Single AF (default, focus locks once movie recording starts) or Full-time AF (camera continuously adjusts focus during movie recording, though focusing sound may also get recorded).

Nikon Coolpix P3 Back View

All other controls are found on the back of the camera. The left side of the camera (viewed from the back) is the Wi-Fi component at the top and the speaker at the bottom. The extra large 2.5-in. 150,000 pixels resolution LCD is clear and bright. The thumb rests on the Zoom lever, and all controls are within thumb reach. The Zoom has only 8 steps from wide-angle and telephoto, which is not quite enough and makes precise framing difficult.

If you have to go to the menu, you don't need to scroll page after page to find the menu item. A Menu icons feature condenses 3 pages of menu text into 1 convenient page of icons.

In the Nikon P3, exposure compensation is set by simply pressing the RIGHT ARROW key on the Multi Selector. If you always wondered how much exposure compensation to dial in, well wonder no more, because a live histogram simultaneously displays with the exposure compensation settigns so you can now dial in your exposure compensation until the histogram looks right to you.

The Playback function has its own dedicated button, which makes it very convenient to switch between the Record and Playback modes with a press of the button (unfortunatey, you cannot switch back to Shooting Mode by pressing the shutter release button). If you just want to view your pics without turning the camera on, simply press and hold the Playback button for about 1-2 sec. and the lens will not extend; when you're done, press the Power button to turn the camera off.

When in Playback mode, the Delete button will delete the displayed picture; to Delete All, you need to access the Menu.

On the bottom of the camera is the tripod socket, which is plastic and placed far left almost to the edge of the camera. I found it quite difficult to screw the camera onto a tripod because of the plastic thread. On the plus side, the tripod socket is far from the battery compartment, so you can change battery and card while the camera is mounted on a tripod.

On the right side of the bottom is the Battery and SD Card Compartment. There is a small latch to secure the battery from falling should the battery door accidentally open.

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise, starting with Zoom lever)

Zoom: 8 steps from wide-angle to telephoto


MENU: 1 page of icons or 3 pages of text

- Multi Selector: Flash, Exposure Compensation (with Live Histogram), Macro (also Infinity, Focusing Limit), Selftimer (10 or 3 sec.), OK (in the middle)

Delete (only selected picture; Delete All is only possible thru the Menu)

- Playback (needs to press Playback again to return to Shooting mode; when camera is off, press Playback for approx. 1 sec. to turn camera on in Playback mode only, i.e. lens will not extend)

Though Macro is a Scene Mode (Close Up), it can also be selected by pressing the DOWN ARROW key and selecting MACRO.


Select INFINITY to set focus to infinity; useful when shooting thru windows, and when subject is from 5m to infinity

- For even faster AF, select FOCUS LIMIT to reduce autofocusing time by limiting the focusing range from 2m to infinity; camera focuses faster than using AF; available in P and A modes
- Exposure compensation is directly accessible by using the RIGHT ARROW key. Once it displays, use UP and DOWN ARROW keys to dial in a value. A Live Histogram also displays.
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen (lower left area) until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)

LCD & Menus

There is no viewfinder but a 2.5 in. LCD monitor with a clear and very usable display. The 150,000 pixels resolution is quite good with a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display. You can manually adjust the LCD monitor's brightness in SETUP. The LCD monitor gains up only slightly in low-light but not in extreme low-light. There is an effective AF-assist Illuminator to help achieve focus in low-light. You can also display a framing grid (SETUP - Monitor settings - Photo info - Framing grid) of horizontal and vertical lines.

MENU 1 of 3

- White Balance (Auto, Preset, Direct sunlight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Shade, Flash)
- Metering (Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot, Spot AF area)
- Continuous (Single, Continuous, Multi-shot 16, Ultra HS, 5 shot buffer, Intvl timer shooting)
- BSS (On, Off)
- Auto bracketing (AEB, WB Bracketing)

MENU 2 of 3

- Image adjustment (Auto, Normal, More contrast, Less contrast)
- Image sharpening (Auto, High, Normal, Low, Off)
- Saturation control (-2 to +2)
- Sensitivity (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
- Image quality (Fine, Normal, Basic)

MENU 3 of 3

- Image size (3264x2448, 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1024x768, 640x480, 3264x2176)
- AF area mode (Auto, Manual, Center)
- Auto-focus mode (Single AF, Full-time AF)
- Fixed aperture (Off, On)
- Noise reduction (Off, On)


- All 15 Menu options summarized on a single page of icons
- Notice on all Menu screens, ? Help (Tele button) will display a short help description

SETUP 1 of 3

- Menus (Text, Icons)
- Welcome screen (Disable welcome, Nikon, Animation, Select an image)
- Date (Date, Time zone)
- Monitor settings (Photo info, Brightness)
- Date imprint (Off, Date, Date and time, Date counter)

SETUP 2 of 3

- Shot confirmation (Off, On)
- AF assit (Off, Auto)
- Sound settings (Button sound, Shutter sound, Start-up sound)
- Auto off (30s, 1m, 5m, 30m)
- Format card (Quick format, Format)

SETUP 3 of 3

- Language (see Language screen below)
- Interface: USB (PTP, Mass storage), Video mode (NTSC, PAL)
- Auto transfer (Off, On)
- Reset all
- Firmware version



- 20 different languages


- All 15 Set-up options summarized on a single page of icons


- Clockwise from top left: Programmed Auto mode, Macro ON, Flash OFF, using SD Card, ISO 50, VR (Normal), space for 251 images left, aperture F2.7, shutter speed 1/2, Image Quality Fine, Image Size 8M, Preset WB, Noise Reduction ON
- Note: When Framing grid is selected, screen info displays for only about 4-5 sec., then you need to slightly depress the shutter release button to display info again


- RIGHT ARROW key displays a live Histogram and allows you to dial in an exposure compensation


- 16 Scene Modes: Portrait (Face AF), Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Landscape, Panorama Assist, Night Landscape, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Back Light, Close Up, Museum, Copy, Sports


- A = Aperture Priority Mode


- Press RIGHT ARROW key to bring up the live Histogram and exposure compensation settings
- Use LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys to change aperture
- Camera will automatically select appropriate shutter speed


- Movie options
- Auto-focus mode


- TV movie 640
- Small size 320
- Smaller size 160
- Time-lapse movie


It was easy to install the wireless software on my Wi-Fi equipped laptop. Once this is accomplished, all you have to do to transfer images from the camera to PC is rotate the Mode Dial to Wireless Transfer (the blue symbol), turn on the camera, and press OK. The feeling of euphoria that you get from realizing that you do not need to use any cables anymore cannot be quite easily described!


- When you first install the wireless software, you need to name a profile. We gave it the name PHOTOXELS and it automatically created PHOTOXELS_PRT for wireless printing (using the optional US $69 PD-10 Printer Adapter)
- To transfer wirelessly from camera to PC, we select PHOTOXELS, and press OK


- Select Easy Transfer

Connecting to the network

- It automatically connects to our Wi-Fi enabled laptop...

Transferring images

- ... and starts the images transfer.

Transfer completed

- Once transfer is completed, the connection is terminated and Picture Project loads on your PC to display the transferred images.

The Nikon Coolpix P3 is an attractive camera with good handling (that could be improved with a handgrip) and lots of practical features. VR technology and wireless transfer that actually works without hassle set it on a class apart from its many competitors.

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