Nikon Coolpix P340 review: This lightweight camera is perfect for night photography

Jul 03 2014, 14:18 IST
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The add-on Wi-Fi feature and the fast f/1.8 lens will ensure you have a great field day. (IE Photo: Abhimanyu Chakravorty) The add-on Wi-Fi feature and the fast f/1.8 lens will ensure you have a great field day. (IE Photo: Abhimanyu Chakravorty)
SummaryThe add-on Wi-Fi feature and the fast f/1.8 lens will ensure you have a great field day.

The Nikon Coolpix P340 is an absolute delight for enthusiasts who are looking for a pocket-sized travel camera for everyday use. It does outdo many of its competitors on the price front while also offering solid features to lure photographers. There might be barely any difference between the P340 and its predecessor the P330, but with some tweaks such as an added Wi-Fi and a headline-grabbing 24-120mm f/ 1.8-5.6 zoom lens, makes it a great piece of equipment.

We tested the Coolpix and hereís what we found:

DESIGN AND EASE OF USE

The camera proportions donít lie. In pictures as in real life, itís quite compact (103 x 58 x 32mm) and lightweight (194g) enough for you to carry it around in your trouser or shirt pocket without discomfort. But that said, the design is very blocky. When you hold the Coolpix P340, it might feel flimsy but its build quality is almost at par with Nikonís more expensive cameras. Itís solid yet lightweight with a magnesium alloy chassis.

A very nifty feature that might help a lot of users is the small, but helpful rubber grip on the top right corner, big enough for a thumb to fit. I am a stickler for detail even when I upload pictures on Instagram. So I always carry my smartphone along with a compact camera at all times. This I do to minimise/compensate bad shots taken from a smartphone. Thereís only so much a smartphone can do really.

NIKON COOLPIX P340 GALLERY: Once you activate the Vibration Reduction (VR) Mode, the Coolpix takes sharp images without a hassle.

Besides, the camera fires up in 1/2 second and is ready to shoot. The camera grip is also very handy: it allows you to get a secure grip for a great picture even if you use it one-handed. As for instant upload, its Wi-Fi feature will allow you to transfer photos to a smartphone using the Nikon app. This is good news for travel enthusiasts who itch to share photos onto social media without having to return to their dusty desktops to edit and upload them. The camera also has a physical mode dial and front function button which are both great additions. We would have also loved a touchscreen interface. But then that would only jack up the price.

PERFORMANCE

The camera fires up in Ĺ a second which is great. But when you start to switch between settings in the menu, you notice the laziness. A lot of thinking has gone behind this camera no doubt, but the whole menu operation seems to lack the immediacy people would expect from a high-end camera of this sort.

Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express) Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express)

But that isnít the case with the P340ís autofocus system. The autofocus is prompt in choosing the right points and works fast enough to capture moments without missing them. The Coolpix P340 can shoot up to 10 frames per second, but processing takes about two seconds and then you are ready to shoot another ten. For RAW+JPEG images the camera took the same time but larger files required around 30 seconds to process.

WiFi

At a time when all cameras come with an integrated Wi-Fi, itís only natural to incorporate this feature without having second thoughts. The P340 gets thumbs up for the Wi-F feature. But you need to download the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app to use it. Itís a simple app and you donít need to set up passwords. What you need to do however is have an open network to so that itís easier to use a device to connect to the camera. But if youíre worried about security issues, you can set a password for the SSID connection.

Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express) Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express)

The good thing is you can preview your shots within the app on the cameraís SD card on your smart device. The downside is that thereís no direct sharing feature from the app, but then again, you can do that from your smart device.

IMAGE QUALITY

With a 5x zoom lens and a versatile focal range of 24-120mm, the Nikon P340 is great for shooting landscapes at the same time capable of capturing crisp portraits. One thing to remember about the camera is it carries a 12 MP 1/1.7in sensor with an eye-grabbing maximum aperture of f/1.8 at the wide-angle setting.

Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express) Nikon Coolpix P340 (Source: Abhimanyu Chakravorty, Indian Express)

But once you move through the focal range the nicely blurred backgrounds dissipate at F/5.6 at 120mm. It needs to be mentioned though that the 1/1.7-inch sensor does a great job in blurring the background more giving good results overall.

What we also noticed is that thereís relatively less noise across the P340ís ISO 80-800 range. The harsh noise kicks in from 3200 to 6400 and beyond. Shots taken at ISO 80 are the most crisp and rewarding. Wide-angle scenes and macro shots look pretty good too.

Thereís one feature we loved the most: the VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system. You donít always have the luxury of shooting static shots. For those times when youíre on the move or your subject is dynamic, just switch on the VR mode and you will not only prevent excessive camera shake but it will also enable you to use shutter speeds up to four stops slower. Overall, the VR system does make a discernible difference to the sharpness of images without you realising itís actually doing it.

NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Slot the camera into the Night Landscape scene mode, and you can take several shots at fast shutter speed. This greatly increases your chances of getting good, sharp shots in low light without using a tripod.

Besides, the P340 boasts of a maximum shutter speed of 60 seconds, which is good news for night photographers.

VIDEO MODE

The P340 has a dedicated video button on the back panel and records full HD videos that are quite crisp. You also have an option of optical zoom, but we noticed that the camera picked up some noise while using the feature. Also, the sound recording isnít that great. Then again, this camera isnít made specifically to shoot videos. Itís only a plus point if it has one and it does a pretty decent job too.

Here is a video we shot with the Nikon Coolpix P340:

VERDICT

This is a fun, utility camera thatís lightweight, decently priced and delivers impressive still images without any fuss. For people who love sharing pictures on the go, the Wi-Fi option lets you do that. Its competitive 24-120mm f/1.8-5.6 zoom lens with physical control ring is a headline-grabbing feature that puts it in the high-end compact camera segment. Besides, the crucial VR feature is a great value addition that amateur photographer will love. But itís slow menu system is questionable.

Price: Rs 18,950

By Abhimanyu Chakravorty

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