The Nikon Coolpix P330 is a compact zoom camera that literally fits in your pocket. It captures photos in RAW as well as JPG, which is unusual for a such a small camera.
Someone asked me recently how many cameras I own and I sheepishly confessed I have four: a Nikon D600 DSLR, which until recently I used for most of my photography; a Fuji X100 which I use occasionally; my old Panasonic G2 which I used in New Zealand when a DSLR was too big and impractical to carry on a bicycle; and my latest acquisition, a Fuji XE-1, my new ‘everyday’ camera, which I used for my Perth Royal Show series of posts. You’d think I have enough toys, but when the opportunity arose to test-drive a loan camera for a few weeks and write a review, I didn’t hesitate. My friend Christina calls me a “gear junkie”. What can I say, I like cameras and taking pictures.
This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive, scientific review. There are plenty of camera reviews that go into technical detail, benchmarks and so on. I prefer to use the camera and write about the experience and the things I think about in my own photography. I’m not a professional photographer or an expert in photography. These are my impressions from using the P330 camera after carrying it around with me for a few weeks.
The P330’s screen is big and bright but I personally prefer to take photographs using a viewfinder rather than the screen. I find it much easier to keep the camera still when taking a picture holding the camera close to my face, rather than out in front of me. I also find easier to avoid throwing shadows over my subject when the camera’s closer to my face – this can be a problem for those of us who like to take pictures of our food. The big dial in the right corner is used for navigating through menus and for adjusting aperture when you select A (aperture priority) or M (manual).
The mode dial includes Auto mode, Scene modes, Night Landscape mode, User configured mode, Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual mode. The front-most dial is both the zoom control and shutter button. The on/off button is quite small and needs a really firm press, but the good thing about that is the camera’s unlikely to switch on by accident in your bag.
There’s a built-in pop-up flash, which I didn’t use – I haven’t used a camera flash for years. There’s not much of a hand grip, but the vertical ridge on the front of the camera, plus the rubber thumb rest on the back makes the camera comfortable to hold one-handed – don’t forget to use that wrist-strap! The 5x zoom lens (24-120mm equivalent) has image stabilisation. At its widest end, it has an aperture of f1.8, but as you zoom in, the lens gets much slower, hitting f5.6 at its 120mm telephoto end.
So here are some shots taken with the Nikon P330. I’ve done what I usually do – I’ve used aperture priority to take photos and I’ve edited them in Lightroom, adjusting exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, vertical alignment and cropping images. I had no problem opening the RAW files and editing them in Lightroom 4.
The first image in this post (above) is of our beautiful naughty baby Truffle enjoying the morning sun. As you can see, the detail in her fur came out nicely.
I enjoyed just walking around taking photos with the Nikon P330. Its small size meant passers-by didn’t give me a second look as I took photos; I probably looked like a tourist. That can be an advantage sometimes.
My impressions of the Nikon Coolpix P330
The not-so good
- You can charge the camera by plugging it into a wall socket or computer via USB; but there’s no separate battery charger unit supplied i.e. you can’t use the camera with a different battery while it’s charging.
- Blurry movement can look cool in certain circumstances (see pictures of Ben & Jerry ice cream van and 140 Wiliam above), but I found it difficult taking good action shots of my family – too many blurry, smeary pictures whenever there was movement.
- When you press the shutter button, it’s slow to save the image and clear the buffer to be ready for your next shot. It’s noticeably slow when just saving as RAW but even slower if saving an image as both JPG and RAW, taking a few seconds to save the shot. This could be a disadvantage in certain situations as you may miss shots while the camera’s ‘busy’.
- Its small size makes it a great camera for carrying around. It will fit easily into a big jacket pocket or a handbag. Portability is where it shines.
- You shouldn’t judge a camera on its looks alone, of course – but this one looks good – smart and simple. The camera I reviewed was stealthy black, but the P330 comes in white too.
- While I missed a viewfinder, I loved the big, bright 921,000-dot screen.
- There are manual controls as well as full auto (program) mode.
- The camera captures pictures in RAW as well as JPG (though this can be slow – as mentioned in the not-so good, above). The RAW files worked well in Lightroom and I had no issues with editing them as I needed.
- In good light, the images are sharp and detailed.
I found the P330 fun to use and I loved how it fitted in my pocket. The relatively slow recovery time between shots could be a problem; while it’s a handy, unobtrusive size, I wouldn’t recommend it for fast-moving subjects, like kids.
At the end of the day, the lack of a viewfinder is a deal-breaker for me, but that’s an entirely personal preference. I wouldn’t expect a viewfinder in such a compact camera – but that’s why my ‘small’ camera of choice is a not-quite-as compact mirrorless system camera that includes a viewfinder.
But if you’re not fussed about a viewfinder or having a speed demon of a camera – and you just want something that’s really compact and easy to carry around, the Nikon Coolpix 330 is worth a look.
If you want to take pictures for quick sharing on the internet though, you’ll still be reaching for your mobile phone. The P330 is compatible with the Nikon WU-1a wireless unit; I tested one of those out too but the Nikon app I downloaded to my iPhone to use with the unit seemed buggy and the connection kept dropping out, making the process of transferring one photo to my phone a frustrating exercise – I got it to work once out of multiple attempts and didn’t have the patience to use it again after that.
If this camera was a little faster and had wi-fi that worked well, it would really be a pocket dynamo.
- 12.2 megapixels
- Optical zoom 5x (24-120mm equivalent) with optical stabilisation
- 3-inch 921,000-dot LCD screen – note: not a touch-screen
- Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery – approximately 200 shots per charge
- Uses SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards
- Lens aperture range f1.8 to 5.6
- Built-in GPS
- JPG and RAW
- Takes full HD 1080 video (I didn’t test it – I am not currently using any of my cameras for video)
- Auto and manual controls
- Built-in pop-up flash
- 12 month manufacturer’s warranty
Pricing for this camera varies, but you should definitely look for it well under AU$500.
$369.95 at Ted’s
$369 at Leederville Cameras (Perth)
$445 (sale price $372 at time of writing) at JB Hi-Fi