updated 08:55 pm EST, Tue February 8, 2011
Nikon Coolpix P300 and P500 official
Nikon on Tuesday evening rolled out a pair of high-end Coolpix cameras to challenge once-safe Canon territory. The P300 is its direct challenger to the Canon S95 or S4500 IS and packs a 4.2X (24-100mm) lens with a very wide f1.8 aperture. Mated to a 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, it's both much more suitable in low light than a usual compact and much faster; the shallow depth of field also helps with macros.
Photographers accordingly get full manual control as well as modes tuned to the light sensitivity. Night portrait and landscape modes, as well as backlight HDR, combine multiple shots and manipulate exposure, shutter speed or both differently to get the right subjects in proper view and with full dynamic range. Nikon is much more aggressive in video and shoots 1080p with autofocusing and optical zoom in the live shot.
The P500 is targeted at gaining the crown for the longest-ranged compact camera and shoots at an unprecedented 36X (22.5-810mm). Although it doesn't have as open an aperture as the P300, it too has a CMOS sensor (12.1 megapixels) and has a second zoom control on the lens barrel to minimize shake near the end of the zoom range. Most controls and the 1080p video are similar, but action photography is a focus with a quick shortcut to continuous shooting. A sweeping panorama mode simplifies creating landscapes.
Behind, the LCD tilts but doesn't swivel.
Either P-series Coolpix will be available in March, with the P500 being the most expensive at $500 and the P300 competing aggressively on price with Canon at $330.