Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hands-on review: Nikon Coolpix P330

Hands-on review: Nikon Coolpix P330

Hands-on review: Nikon Coolpix P330


More and more premium compact cameras are emerging into a market which is generally otherwise in decline. Boosted by a range of advanced specifications, these kind of cameras appeal to experienced users, or those looking for a backup compact for everyday usage.

The Nikon Coolpix P330 occupies the same space as the Canon PowerShot S110 - it's not the company's top of the line compact camera, but it does have distinct advantages over the higher end Nikon P7700.

First off, there's the N ikon P330's small size, which still manages to house a 12 million pixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor. This is joined by an Expeed C2 processor and Nikon's second generation vibration reduction system to prevent the effects of camera shake.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Full manual control is available here, as well as semi-automatic shooting modes, such as aperture priority and shutter priority. Full automatic shooting is also included, along with scene modes. Raw format shooting is a possibility, too.

Although Wi-Fi isn't built in, the Nikon P330 is compatible with Nikon's Wu-1a wireless transmitter if you wish to transform it into an internet-enabled device. GPS functionality is included, however, giving you the option to add geotag location data to your images, or to have the camera notify you of nearby points of interest when shooting.

A 5x optical zoom lens boasts an f/1.8 maximum aperture (at the wide end). In 35mm terms, you've got the equivalent of 24-120mm. Constructed from HRI glass, it features a seven-blade iris diaphragm, which should help to produce nice background blur.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

An ND filter is integrated to help expand exposure control in bright conditions. A 10x digital zoom is also available, expanding the reach to up to 240mm in 35mm equivalent terms.

At the back of the camera is a 3-inch, 921k-dot LCD screen, although it isn't touch-sensitive. There's also no viewfinder, and with no hotshoe or port to receive one, you'll have to rely on the screen for composition.

That Expeed C2 processor he lps to facilitate both Full HD video recording and ISO capabilities from 100-3200. This is manually extendable up to ISO 12800, when using the Hi2 setting. HD video recording can be achieved at 60, 50, 30 or 25fps.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Nikon has worked to improve the focusing on this premium compact camera, with a 99-point autofocus system on the Nikon P330. There's also subject tracking AF for shooting moving subjects. Speaking of speed, shooting at up to 10fps for up to 10 full resolution shots, or 30 full resolution shots at 1fps is available.

Along with the bright lens and high sensitivity capability, the Nikon P330 comes complete with an inbuilt flash.

Creative options include the ability to shoot 360 or 180-degree panoramas, 3D shooting mode and a monochrome shooting.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

There aren't any digital filters that can be used while shooting, but the retouch menu does enable you to enhance your photos post-capture. If you desire, you can add selective colour and cross screen effects at this point. There's also the ability to perform quick retouches and process raw files in the camera.

In the premium compact camera market, the Nikon Coolpix P330 goes head to head with the likes of the high-end Canon PowerShot S110, but arguably also the Panasonic LX7 and the Olympus XZ-2.

With a full price of £349.99 / AU$ 449.95 / US$ 379.95, it's also in the same price bracket as the excellen t, 20x zoom-toting Panasonic TZ40/ZS30, the retro-styled 12MP Pentax MX-1 and the Wi-Fi-connecting, app-brandishing Samsung Galaxy Camera. So as we said, this section of the market is booming. Will the Nikon P330 be able to compete? Let's see how it does.

Build quality and handling

Those looking for a compact camera boasting some excellent specifications that still fits snugly into a pocket will be pleased with the size and weight of the Nikon P330. It's significantly svelter than the Nikon P770 while remaining weighty enough to give it a nice quality feel.

Although the camera is prett y flat, and there's no pronounced thumb grip, a small strip of rubber on the front of the camera and a rubberised thumb rest on the back of the Nikon P330 helps to give purchase, especially when shooting one-handed.

Owing to size restraints, there are fewer direct access buttons and dials on the Nikon Coolpix P330 than on the Nikon Coolpix P770, but there still remains a good amount of direct control for those looking for it.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

A fairly large dial sits just below the shutter release on the top plate of the camera. This is used for altering shutter speed when using the camera in fully manual mode, while in other modes it has no function - which seems a bit of a waste.

Aperture (or shutter speed if you're shooting in shutter priority mode) is altered via the scrolling dial placed around the OK button at the back of the camera.

For quickly changing between the various modes available on the camera, a dedicated dial can be found on the top plate. Here you'll find fully automatic mode, scene mode, P/A/S/M, and handily, one space for a user defined group of settings - which is handy if you often shoot in one type of scenario (for example low light).

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

The scrolling dial at the back of the camera doubles up as a four-way control pad, giving access to exposure compensation, drive mode self-timer, flash modes and autofocus functions, such as macro focusing.

In a slightly unusual position is a function button, which is found next to the lens. This can be easily reached by a finger when gripping the camera in the usual manner. From here you can access commonly used settings such as ISO, white balance and met ering. The function of the button can be set via the button itself - making it almost akin to a quick menu, albeit a more convoluted way of using one than on other models.

Unlike other cameras on the market, perhaps most notably the Canon PowerShot S110, the Nikon P330 doesn't feature a ring around the lens for altering any settings, such as aperture. This is a shame, since it's a nice little extra touch on other cameras that really appeals to the enthusiast user.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Nikon has managed to include an inbuilt flash inside the diminutive body of the Nikon P330, which is raised via a small switch at the side of the camera. This feels fairly sturdy, and has a satisfying click when you pu sh it back into place.

The Nikon P330 includes GPS functionality, which is switched off as standard. To activate it, you need to delve into the menu. It's a shame there's no LED light to let you know that it's switched on, which would act as a handy reminder to switch it off when you don't need it to conserve energy.


We've been impressed by the image quality from the current crop of Nikon Coolpix compact cameras, so we had high hopes for the Nikon Coolpix P330 - especially given its size and convenience, we'd love for this to be a high performer too.

Happily, we can say that images from it are great, with bright, punchy colours and bags of detail. When the light is good, images are on a par with other premium compact cameras currently on the market, including those with larger sensors, such as the Sony RX100.

As the light drops, the camera's image stabilisation does struggle a little, and if you're intending to shoot handheld, y ou might find that you need to use higher ISO settings than you might generally prefer.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

That said, image stabilisation at the far end of the 5x optical zoom is good, producing images that are free from blur (in good light). The digital zoom extends the reach of the Nikon P330 up to 10x. Images taken with this activated are reasonable, if not fantastic, offering flexibility should you really need to get closer to the subject.

When examining images at 100%, some image smoothing can be seen, but images viewed at normal printing and web sizes appear to contain a lot of detail, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem for the every day user.

Although there aren't any digital filters on the Nikon P330, those looking to get a little bit more creative can activate Picture Styles in the shooting menu. The good news when using these is that they can be activated while shooting in raw format, which is useful if you want a "clean" image at some point down the line.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

These Picture Styles are more limited than you might find on the Nikon 1 series of compact system cameras (CSCs) or Nikon DSLRs, but you still have the option to shoot monochrome (which also encompasses sepia and cyanotype).

You also have the option to customise Picture Styles, so for instance you might opt for a High Contrast M onochrome setting for dramatic shots.

Autofocusing speeds from the Nikon Coolpix P330, like other premium Coolpix compact cameras, can be a little slower than we'd like to see - occasionally hunting around for a few seconds before locking onto the subject. That said, it's generally accurate, and macro focusing is also very good, enabling you to get very close to the subject for a frame-filling shot.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

The Nikon Coolpix P330 is equipped with a lens boasting a maximum f/1.8 aperture. This means you can get creative with attractive shallow depth of field effects. The drop-off in focus is very pleasing and you really can achieve some beautiful results. Bokeh is also represented nicely, thanks to the lens's seven-blade iris diaphragm.

Images taken at higher sensitivities, such as ISO 800, show a good level of noise control, while also managing to retain some detail. Quality does start to deteriorate at the higher end of the spectrum, such as ISO 3200, but, thanks to the f/1.8 maximum aperture you might find it's rare you need to push the camera as high as this.

Since there's no viewfinder, and no way to attach one to the Nikon P330, you need to rely wholly on the screen for composition. Luckily, the camera's 921,00-dot screen has a good angle of view, helping if you need to shoot from slightly awkward angles. The lack of an articulating or tilting device means that self-portraits or over the head shots aren't quite so simple, though.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

An anti-reflection coating and automatic brightness adjustment do a good job of keeping distracting glare to a minimum, except in the very brightest of sunlight.

Another problem that Nikon premium compacts seem to have is shot-to-shot times. The Nikon Coolpix P330, like the Nikon Coolpix A and the Nikon Coolpix P770, suffers from an unreasonably slow delay between shots, making capturing fairly fast-moving situations pretty difficult, and proving a little frustrating when you want to capture more than one image at a time.

Of course you can always switch to continuous shooting if you're really struggling, but then you may find that the processing time at the end of a burst is also an annoyance.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Nikon Coolpix P330 with the Olympus XZ-2, Canon PowerShot S110 and Nikon P7700.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

These results show that the Nikon Coolpix P330's JPE G files have a very similar signal to noise ratio to those from the Nikon P7700, but show a stronger SNR than those from the Olympus XZ-2 throughout the sensitivity range. The P330's JPEGs show a weaker signal to noise ratio than those from the Canon PowerShot S110 at most sensitivities, although the P330's images creep ahead at ISO 6400.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

This time, the signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conv ersion from raw) from the Nikon Coolpix P330 are the weakest of the group at ISO 80. The P330 creeps ahead of the Nikon P7700 at ISO 100 and 200, before falling behind again for the rest of the sensitivity range. Similarly, the P330 picks up its performance in the mid-to-high sensitivities and shows a greater signal to noise ratio than the Olympus XZ-2 at ISO 800 and above. The P330 shows weaker SNR than the Canon PowerShot S110 at every sensitivity except ISO 3200, where it slightly outperforms it.

JPEG dynamic range

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

JPEG results for dynamic range are closer together than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Nikon Coolpix P330's JPEG images showing similar dynamic range to those from the Canon PowerShot S110 and Nikon P7700 at ISO 80-400, after which point the other cameras' images overtake it. Conversely, the P330's JPEGS show weaker dynamic range than the Olympus XZ-2's at the lower sensitivities, but after ISO 1600 they produce very similar scores.

Raw dynamic range

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon Coolpix P330 show the greatest dynamic range of the group at ISO 80, if only barely. At ISO 100-800, the P330's raw images show significantly less dynamic range than those from the Olympus XZ-2 and Canon PowerShot S110, before this changes again at ISO 1600 and above, putting the P330's raw images ahead again. The P330's raw images show very similar dynamic range to those of the Nikon P7700 at ISO 100, 200, 1600 a nd 3200, with the P7700 surging ahead in the mid range.

Sample images

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Colours from the Nikon P330 are represented well, even when in difficult lighting conditions. Here the automatic white balance has done a good job of dealing with a mixed lighting condition (artificial and daylight).

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

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The Nikon Coolpix P330 can struggle with image stabilisa tion in lower light conditions, so you might need to consider pushing the sensitivity up, or investing in a tripod.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Matrix metering generally does a good job in most conditions. In this shot, we can see that the Nikon P330 has performed well even with a subject with quite strong contrast. Colours have also been presented nicely.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

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Monochrome shooting is available under Picture Styles. You can also customise the option, for instance by increasing the contrast such as in this shot.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

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Cyanotype images are also available under Picture Styles in the Monochrome setting.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

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Sepia is the third type of monochrome setting available in Picture Styles. Unlike Nikon DSLRs and CSCs, there are fewer creative option s to choose from in Picture Styles. They are, however, all available to shoot in raw format, which is handy if you decide you'd prefer an "unedited" image later down the line.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Macro focusing enables you to get very close to the subject to capture frame-filling and detail-rich subjects. Depth of field has been restricted in this image by using an f/1.8 aperture. Focus drop-off and bokeh is attractive.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Nikon P330 is equipped with a 5x optical zoom. The widest angle of the lens is equivalent to 24mm in 35mm terms and allows for a broad angle of view to be captured.

Nikon Coolpix P330 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

At the telephoto end of the zoom, the equivalent focal length is 120mm, which is reasonably flexible for a premium compact camera. Image stabilisation at the far end of the zoom is good, especially in good light.


Those looking for a premium compact camera to stuff into a jeans pocket while still retaining high image quality and plenty of manual control will find plenty to like in the Nikon Coolpix P330.

Ima ges from it are fantastic, and while there isn't quite the amount of creative options we'd like to see (ie digital filters), it's still a good option for those wanting to experiment, or experienced users looking for a decent backup.

Anybody who is torn between this and the Nikon P7700 should bear in mind the extra portability of this compared to the larger model - although it is worth remembering that the Nikon P7700 comes with the advantage of a viewfinder and an articulating screen.

We're a little bit disappointed by the speed of this camera, as it's the main sticking point. If you can get around this, or are infrequently photographing quick moving subjects, then this is more than worthy of consideration.

We'd also like to see a few bonus "extras" elevating this camera slightly. A touchscreen for quickly making adjustments would be a good start, as would Wi-Fi built in without the need to shell out for the optional adaptor. The fact that it has GP S built-in is good, though.

It's also pleasing to see that Nikon has made the decision to include raw format shooting on the P330. Where previously it had reserved that solely for the highest Coolpix model, the company seems to have realised the benefit of offering it in the smaller P330.

We liked

Images are crisp, sharp and display a fantastic amount of colour and lots of detail. When the light is good, you have the potential to capture some really beautiful photographs, making it excellent as a device to always have on you. The f/1.8 aperture lens also goes some way towards helping with that.

We disliked

Once again, we're a little disappointed by the speed of a Nikon premium compact. If the company could work on making shot to shot and autofocusing speeds faster for the next iteration of the P series, we'd be really happy. A touchscreen would have been nice to see too.

Final verdict

This is a camera that's basically an " ;almost there" for Nikon. While image quality is fantastic, we can think of several ways that this camera could be improved to make it even better.

The most notable problem we have is with the speed of the camera, and it would also be great to see other improvements to the usability of the camera, such as a touchscreen or a dial around the lens.

That said, if you want something simple and unobtrusive and are already a Nikon owner, this should certainly be one for consideration.

If, on the other hand, you're happy to shop around different manufacturers, you might want to consider the excellent Canon PowerShot S110, which features a touchscreen, inbuilt Wi-Fi and a dial around the lens for controlling different functions.


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//PART 2