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Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix
Nikon Coolpix P3 VR Wi-Fi
Date: March 22, 2006
HANDLING & FEEL
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
||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
|SPEED OF OPERATION
||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.
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
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).
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.
BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise, starting with
Zoom: 8 steps from wide-angle to
MENU: 1 page of icons or 3 pages
||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
||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,
- Metering (Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot,
Spot AF area)
- Continuous (Single, Continuous, Multi-shot
16, Ultra HS, 5 shot buffer, Intvl timer
- 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,
- 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
- 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,
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
APERTURE PRIORITY CHANGE
- Press RIGHT ARROW key to bring up the
live Histogram and exposure compensation
- Use LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys to change
- Camera will automatically select appropriate
- 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
- ... and starts the images transfer.
- 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.