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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

 

USER'S EXPERIENCE

Monday, March 13, 2006 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Coolpix P3 VR Wi-Fi
  • No Memory Card included, but 23MB of internal memory [Nikon sent me a 256MB SD memory card for the review]
  • Wrist Strap
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 and Battery Charger MH-61 with Power Cable
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • English and French Instruction Manuals: Quick Start Guide; Nikon Guide to Digital Photography
  • Software CDs: PictureProject 1.6; Wireless Camera Setup Utility 1.1
  • Optional Printer Adapter for wireless printing

The Nikon Coolpix P3 is quite a camera, with a very effective Vibration Reduction (VR) technology (Nikon speak for Image Stabilization) and no-hassle Wi-Fi wireless transfer of your images from camera to PC. Though it does not offer total exposure flexibility, it does give more experienced photographers Programmed Auto and Aperture-Priority modes. Add to that already very attractive mix Manual AF area frame and corresponding Spot AF area metering, AF-assist Illuminator, auto exposure bracketing and auto WB bracketing, Best Shot Selector, and many other practical features, and you have a very performing digital camera in a compact body.

As is becoming more and more common now with digital cameras, the Nikon P3 includes approx. 23MB of internal flash memory, and so a SD memory card is not included in the box. At the 8M Fine image mode, 23MB can store about 6 images. A 256MB SD card will hold about 62 8M Fine images, and a 1GB SD Card will hold about 251 8M Fine images. At 640x480 30fps, you'll be able to store approx. 16 sec. of movie in the 23MB Internal Memory, approx. 2 min 53 sec. on a 256MB SD Card, or 11 min 36 sec. on a 1GB SD Card. A memory card is a one time buy, and I would recommend a 1GB SD Card or as large a memory card as you can afford.

Included in the box are a Li-ion battery EN-EL5 that can take approx. 200 pictures (CIPA Standard) and a battery charger MH-61 that will recharge a new or fully exhausted battery in about 2 hours. The battery charger is the type with a power cord.

Surprisigly, startup speed is only average, at about 2-3 sec. This may not be a concern for most people unless you are into candid shots and street photography and need the camera to wake up in an instant. More importantly, there is no practical shutter lag, so once the camera is tuned on, you won't miss anything. AF is fast and precise, and in low-light the AF-assist Illuminator helps achieve focus effectively. The only time this fails is when you are trying to take close ups in low-light: the AF-assist Illuminator is simply placed too high in relation to the lens and its light misses a subject that is too close to the lens.

Note that the shutter speed range is billed to be from 8-1/2,000 sec. Our QuickFact Sheet has it right: 2-1/2,000 sec., with a 4 sec. and a 8 sec. slow shutter speed only available when using Fireworks and Night Landscape scene modes. Since when you are in any scene mode, you cannot specify any other settings such as ISO, WB, etc., it is important for more advanced photographers who may need slow shutter speeds to know that the shutter speed range is really from 2-1/2,000 sec., and shutter speed from 2 to 8 sec. are not available in any mode.

This is for those who like to use their camera on a tripod: the plastic tripod socket is placed far to the edge of the camera body and, like all plastic tripod socket threads, does not seem tough enough for frequent tripod use, so use with caution. Because it is far to the edge, I found it possible to open the battery door and change battery and card with the camera on a tripod.

A framing grid can be displayed on screen, and this is quickly becoming a norm in many digital cameras. I find this grid of horizontal and vertical lines very helpful in framing and composition but wish the lines were not that thick and intrusive

Most of the important settings are accessed thru control buttons. When you do have to go into the Menu to access other functions, the Menu icons view summarizes three pages of items into one convenient page.

Nikon PictureProject 1.6

Nikon PictureProject 1.6

The Nikon PictureProject software is now version 1.6. PictureProject is quite good, allowing the usual basic image editing: you can remove red-eye and edit the photo as to brightness, color booster (for people or nature), sharpness, straighten, photo effects (B&W, Sepia) and D-Lighting.

D-Lighting increases brightness (Low, Normal or High level) to the dark areas of your image. D-Lighting can be applied in camera, but you cannot decide on which level to choose (the camera decides for you) and, like digital zoom, it is really a post-processing action so you don't have to commit yourself to a particular level in camera (though a copy of the image is made, which takes memory card space). Since you can apply D-Lighting at any time, what I recommend is to apply D-Lighting to an image in PictureProject (unless you are printing directly from camera to printer).

Wi-Fi Wireless Transfer

To transfer images from the camera to my laptop running Windows XP SP2, you can either connect the USB cable as usual -- or, tada! -- use the built-in Wi-Fi IEEE802.11b/g wireless transfer technology, assuming your PC does have Wi-Fi capability (as most laptops do nowadays). Installation is a snap and transfer is also quite painless. I find that using the Wi-Fi technology in the Nikon P3 to be liberating! No hunting for where I stored the cable and no fumbling around to plug it in the right way. It's pretty simple and it works great!

As if that were not enough, you can also opt to send pictures from the camera directly to your PC as soon as the picture is taken! First set the P3 to Wireless Transfer Mode on the Mode Dial, and connect to your PC. Once connection is established (it takes about 17 sec. on my laptop), select Shoot & Transfer on the camera Wireless Menu, then just compose and shoot.

After each shot, the image is immediately transferred to the PC (takes about 13 sec. on my laptop), and if you have PictureProject up (does not even need to be up for wireless transfer to work, only your blinking Hard Drive indicator hints at any activity), the new image will show. No images are stored in your camera, so if you are at home and run out of memory space, no need to worry.

There is a distance limit, of course, and the specs says it is up to 30m (depending on environment). In my house, with walls and other obstructions, I counted "20 steps", or about 13m -- that's the laptop sitting on my office desk, and I walked past, 1, 2 and entered into the 3rd bedroom and snapped a shot. If I went further than that or went downstairs and snapped a shot, the wireless symbol turns red to indicate I'm out of range. The symbol turns green when the camera is within wireless range. As the specs say, depending on the environment, you may get better mileage.

The cool factor does not stop there. With PictureProject up and running a slide show, each picture transferred gets added real-time into the slide show! I haven't tried the following but you might probably be able to hook up your Wi-Fi enabled laptop to a projector, load up PictureProject and set a slide show running. Then go take candid pictures of the guests (say, you're at a wedding reception, office get-together or other party). As each picture is taken, it is immediately transferred to PictureProject and theoretically should then appear on the big screen for all to see! Talk about impressing your CEO -- why, you might even get promoted (tongue in cheek for those who know which TV ad I am referring to). If you try this out, let me know how it turns out.

Using the optional Printer Adapter, you can also print wirelessly. Just make sure that your printer is PictBridge-enabled and will accept the USB cable.

Note that the Nikon P4 is identical to the P3 but lacks Wi-Fi capability. Is the US $50 difference between the two cameras worth it? Absolutely, if you have a Wi-Fi enabled PC (a Wi-Fi router is very affordable nowadays).

Continuous shooting is at 1.8fps for the first 5 shots, then it slows down to about one frame every 2.5 sec. Other continuous shooting modes include Last 5, Ultra HS (100 shots of 640x480 at 30fps) and interval timer.

The VR technology works quite well. VR (Normal) also applies to movies.

The Nikon Coolpix P3 is point-and-shoot easy to use and, if you are an advanced amateur photographer, you now have Aperture-Priority mode to give you more control. Program Shift in Programmed Auto mode also adds more control. The Nikon P3 is just packed-full of practical features like VR that actually help you take better pictures and built-in Wi-Fi technology that increases the enjoyment of using the camera. Don't make a purchase decision before trying out this camera first!

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