Nikon COOLPIX P330 Review - The Nikon COOLPIX P330 accompanies the COOLPIX P7700 at the top of Nikon's advanced compact range, yet sports a smaller body
The Nikon Coolpix P330 offers the same back-illuminated 1/1.7in sensor as the P7700 which outputs 12.2MP images, and matches its elder sibling in offering both Raw shooting and manual exposure control. This is quite a shift over the model’s predecessor, the Nikon P310, which admittedly offered a 16.1MP pixel count, but over a far smaller surface area.
The P330 stores Raw images in Nikon’s .NRW format, rather than the .NEF format common to its DSLRs and CSCs, and is capable of shooting full HD video with stereo sound and optical zooming.
On that subject, the lens begins at a relatively wide 24mm and ends at 120mm, with its f/1.8 aperture at the former end making it potentially better equipped for low-light shooting than some of its peers. The lens also incorporates a VR system for sharper images in suboptimum conditions, which is effective in both stills and video modes.
The back of the P330 is dominated by a 3in LCD screen, which has a high resolution of 921k dots. Some may also be surprised to learn that there’s no wireless connectivity too (the camera can, however, be used with an optional WU-1a wireless accessory), although there is at least a GPS system on board for recording location information.
It’s welcome to see the Nikon P330 sporting an intervalometer, not a feature easily found among compact of this level. With this the user can program the camera to fire at regular intervals, which in turn can be used to create time-lapse movies.
Nikon COOLPIX P330 Review – Design
The Nikon Coolpix P330 offers a reasonable degree of physical control while remaining uncluttered and comfortable to operate. The top plate not only offers a large mode dial but an equally sizeable command dial too. The shutter release button in between these follows them in being generously sized, and has a pleasingly defined halfway point when pressed – not something that can be said for a number of other cameras.
The power button in between these is centered by a bright green light, although the button’s small size and recession into the top plate make it more difficult to key than needs be. Still, the camera redeems itself somewhat by providing an Fn button around the front, which allows a setting to be quickly accessed without the hand needing to be repositioned.
There’s also a slim hump on the front plate which serves as a grip and a large rubber thumb rest on rear, as well as a circular menu pad dial which rotates with a pleasing fluidity. The movie record button is also perfectly positioned next to the thumb rest to make spontaneous recording easy.
Nikon COOLPIX P330 Review – Performance
The Nikon P330 has a slightly slower-than expected start-up time, taking almost two seconds to fully ready itself. The zoom moves rapidly through its focal range, though, which is great if you want to get from one extreme to the other quickly (although it does make it slightly more difficult when fine-tuning focal length for accurate composition).
The AF system finds the subject in good time, with a fine performance at the wideangle end and only a slight slowdown at the telephoto end. In poor light the feed does lose a little of its stability at the telephoto end, although this is to be expected, and is somewhat countered by an effective VR system which allows images to be composed with greater accuracy.
The Nikon P330’s screen itself lacks any touch functionality, but it’s bright and clear. In most situations navigating the menus should present no issue, although when moving down a list of options there is a limit as to how fast you can travel, regardless of whether you’re using button presses or the scroll wheel’s rotation, which can be frustrating.
Nikon COOLPIX P330 Review – Image Quality
There’s plenty to like about images from the Nikon P330. There’s little to fault with the camera’s metering system, as, in most situations, it judges the scene correctly and ends up producing a pleasing image than can be used immediately. This does mean, however, that in some scenes highlight detail will be lost, although this can be remedied with either Nikon’s Active D-lighting function or exposure compensation, if it’s felt necessary.
Dynamic range is about what we would expect from such a compact, with the only serious cases of highlights losing their detail found in the usual kinds of circumstances, such as outside on a sunny day with both bright and dark details. The camera’s occasional overexposure, however, means that it pays to keep an eye on the histogram as you shoot to minimise any loss.
White Balance performance
The camera’s Auto White Balance system exhibits the same intuition as the one inside the Coolpix P7700, although it does have the tendency of lending images a slightly green cast on occasion, which can be noticeable over neutral areas. Some may, therefore, prefer to make a slight adjustment to the camera’s default Auto White Balance or Picture Control (colour) settings in order for images to be captured to their preference without recourse to image editing software.
Control over noise is also generally very good, with a comparison with the Canon PowerShot S110 showing noise levels to be remarkably similar between the two. True, there is some texture resulting from noise reduction even on lower settings, but this is also true of many similar cameras.
Raw files show distortion to be an issue at wideangle settings, although this is corrected well in JPEGs. It would be nice to see better correction over chromatic aberrations, though, as this shows in both Raw and JPEG images.
Nikon COOLPIX P330 Review – Verdict
Much like the Coolpix P7700, the Nikon Coolpix P330 is only really let down by one thing, namely its ability to quickly process Raw images. It’s a particular shame here as much of the P330’s appeal is the provision of Raw capture, although if you only plan on capturing JPEGs then this is obviously less of a concern.
The good news is that, that aside, there’s much to like about the P330, not least of which its image and video quality. It’s also almost £50 cheaper than its nearest rivals, the Canon PowerShot S110 and Olympus XZ-10, despite performing similarly in many areas. Let’s just hope the next iteration will feature a superior processor, as this will really lift it above rival models.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a few of the sample images captured during our test of the Nikon COOLPIX P330. For more, visit the Nikon COOLPIX P330 review sample image gallery.