Nikon Coolpix P330 packs 117inch 122MP sensor and f18 lens, we go handson

Caution Coolpix P310 owners: Nikon’s latest point-and-shoot announcement may cause you to weep. The P330, as this year’s flavor is to be called, offers a handful of upgrades over its predecessor, which launched in February of 2012. First, there’s a new larger sensor on board, with 1/1.7 of an inch to work with, compared to 1/2.3 of an inch on last year’s flavor. It’ll also snap lower-resolution images, which may sound like a step backwards, but the 12.2-megapixel chip should offer superior image quality, along with a sensitivity range of ISO 80 through 12,800. Also new this year is RAW shooting — a feature that could help position this mid-range model as a companion shooter for advanced amateurs and pros alike, for those occasions where a full-size rig wouldn’t be practical. Finally, there’s a 5x, 24-120mm f/1.8-5.6 optic with lens-based VR, a 3-inch TFT LCD, built-in GPS, 1080/30p and 60i video shooting and WiFi connectivity with the optional ($60) WU-1a module.

In an atypical move, Nikon graciously permitted us to photograph the P330 before its official debut, so we have some hands-on pics and impressions to share. The camera itself looks very similar to the P310 — there’s a nifty mode dial up top, along with a zoom toggle, control dial, power button, stereo mics and a pop-up flash. It’s a solid-feeling compact, though Sony’s RX100 does offer a more premium feel (and shooting experience to boot, but for nearly twice the price). Overall, the P330 is a solid entrant to Nikon’s midrange lineup, but at $380, it’s a fairly significant investment, too. Expect the camera to hit stores later this month in black and white — you, dear reader, can thumb through our hands-on gallery for an up-close look today, though.

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