Veteran users of compact camera will tell you that taking sharp close up shots of subjects without using tripods is as hard as it gets. Due to subtle vibrations from handshakes, photos would often end up being blurry and unusable even after extensive image editing. There are many cameras in the market today that offer "anti-handshake" via optical lens shifting and one of them is the Nikon VR (Vibration Reduction) technology. While Nikon's VR technology has always been available in its DSLR and prosumer series of cameras, it was not until the release of the COOLPIX P3 at PMA 2006 did Nikon finally joined the competition in offering compacts with "anti-handshake" technology. The big question now is naturally to find out just how the COOLPIX P3 would stake up to other compact cameras that have received "anti-handshake" technology several years earlier.
The first thing you need to know about the P3 is that it offers not one but two different VR modes: Active and Normal. The Normal VR mode should suffice in most occasions while Active mode works best when conditions are a bit more topsy-turvy such as trying to capture a cool-looking Mazda RX8 on the road while in motion. In any case, both VR modes compensate "shakes" and unwanted vibrations in a continuous manner to ensure clear and stable shots as much as possible. A dedicated VR button located at the top of the camera makes it easy for users to activate VR mode.
Because the P3 is slightly thicker and thus less aesthetically pleasing as the S6, it is not entirely appropriate to classify it within the same ultra compact camera class as the latter Nikon model. To be fair, there's not much to fault about its size because it is after all loaded with more useful features than the S6.
Like the S6 however, the P3 is also endowed with wireless connectivity, thereby allowing users to conveniently transfer photos wirelessly to any computer with wireless connection, wireless router or access point (in infrastructure mode), and wireless printing. These wireless means of sharing photos are a godsend especially when you are away on vacations and need to offload photos to your notebook to free up storage and for wireless printing via self-help printing kiosks for which the latter are becoming more common these days - just imagine how helpless you would be if you lost the docking cradle, cables or have no other means to store your photos when you have exhausted the storage capacity of your memory card.
Our field-testing concluded the COOLPIX P3 to possess good auto focus quality. Focusing was generally smooth under favorable lighting conditions but telephoto focusing was expectedly rough under poor lightings. Where image quality was concerned, noise (grains) was notable from ISO 200 onwards - thankfully, they appeared more like film grain than unsightly color blotches. The VR modes also worked a treat, giving us at least a 2-stop allowance in aperture and shutter speed. Although night shots returned noticeable softening of edges, they can be easily remedied using any photo editing software, which was just about our only gripe with the COOLPIX P3.
To sum up, the P3 is a pretty handy camera that is well capable of helping you capture precious memories in vivid digital impressions. Of course, the noteworthy points are the VR modes and Wi-Fi connection, which considering its small and highly manageable form for ease of use when on the go means the US$449.95 P3 is definitely worthy of a consideration.