August 20, 2012, 7:12 PM — The Nikon Coolpix P310 is without peer at its price ($300 as of August 15, 2012). It's a premium compact camera priced more like your average point-and-shoot, with a fast F1.8 lens, manual exposure controls, very good image quality, and a pocket-size body. The Coolpix P310 offers the best bang for the buck you'll find in the premium-compact class, just as long as you don't need a long-zoom lens or a RAW mode.
Performance, Image Quality, and Video Quality
In PCWorld Labs jury evaluations for image quality, the Nikon Coolpix P310 largely lived up to its "premium compact" branding. It may not have the best overall image quality in the premium point-and-shoot realm, but it is among the best cameras we've tested this year.
The P310 earned scores of Very Good in three of the four testing categories (exposure quality, sharpness, and lack of distortion), and a Good score for color accuracy. Unlike most other cameras these days, the Coolpix P310 takes an understated approach to color reproduction; you don't see the punchy, oversaturated colors that you do in other cameras' pictures. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though skin tones do look a bit on the pale side.
The Coolpix P310's scores in our video tests weren't as impressive. In our bright-light tests it produced noticeably less contrast, sharpness, and detail than some of the better video-capable point-and-shoot cameras. In our low-light tests, the P310's 1080p/30-fps test clips looked so dark that we had a hard time picking up what was happening in front of the lens. Overall, the Coolpix P310 earned a score of Fair for video capture; we rated its audio pickup as Good.
With a rating of 230 shots per charge in CIPA's standardized tests, the Coolpix P310's rechargeable lithium ion battery ranked at the high end of our Fair range for battery life.
Shooting Modes and Features
These days most cameras in this price range are loaded with bells and whistles such as in-camera GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities. Instead, the Nikon Coolpix P310 is somewhat refreshing in its straightforward features, which Nikon is aiming solely at traditional photography.