To test real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX W300 and the Nikon COOLPIX W100 using their best quality JPEG settings and at their base 125 ISO sensitivity setting. Both cameras were mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. The sensitivity on the COOLPIX W300 was manually set to 125 ISO and auto mode was selected for the exposure. On the COOLPIX W100 both the ISO and exposure are automatically set and in this case it selected 125 ISO. The COOLPIX W300 selected an exposure of 1/1000 at f4.2 and for the COOLPIX W100 it was 1/2000 at f3.3 – effectively giving the same exposure.
As the COOLPIX W100 has a narrower 30mm equivalent wide-angle, I zoomed the COOLPIX W300 in to match the angle of view. The COOLPIX W100 has a sensor that is physically smaller and has a lower pixel count – 13 Megapixels, compared with 16.4 Megapixels on the COOLPIX W300, so the W100’s crops show a larger area with smaller detail. As usual, the crops below are taken from the areas marked in red above.
The COOLPIX W300 gets off to a bit of a wobbly, or more accurately fuzzy start with a crop from the left edge of the frame that lacks any really sharp edges or finer detail. You can also see a little bit of blue colour fringing along the vertical edge of the drainpipe and the window frame on the right.
This kind of softness at the edges isn’t untypical of lenses in this class of camera though and the next crop from closer to the middle of the frame looks much sharper. Here the lens and sensor are doing a great job of rendering the fine detail in the cathedral stonework. Remember, if you want this kind of detail you’ll need to set the COOLPIX W300 to its best 16 Megapixel starred image mode. If you leave it on the default setting the extra Jpeg compression will give you smaller file sizes, allowing you to fit more photos on a card, but you’ll lose some of this detail.
The third crop, from lower down in the central area of the frame looks just as good, if not better. The edges are nice and sharp, there’s a good level of detail and little evidence of noise. The final crop from the right edge of the frame shows a return to the slightly blurred edges and fuzzy detail that we saw on the opposite side of the frame.
Compared with the crops from the 13 Megapixel COOLPIX W100, those from the COOLPIX W300 are sharper and more detailed overall. It could be argued that the first crop from the COOLPIX W100 looks marginally more detailed than the W300 one, but the W100 has a different set of problems. It’s an interesting comparison because the W100 has a lower pixel count, but it’s sensor is also physically smaller. The result is much noisier crops with a clumpiness that obscures image detail right across the frame.
Overall this is a great result from the COOLPIX W300 outdoors and at its base 125 ISO setting. Scroll down to see how it does indoors in low light at the higher sensitivities.
Nikon COOLPIX W300 JPEG Noise
To examine noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon COOLPIX W300 at each of its ISO sensitivities using its highest quality JPEG setting. The COOLPIX W300 was mounted on a tripod and stabilisation was disabled.
The ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting and Auto was selected for the exposure. At 125 ISO the COOLPIX W300 selected an exposure of 1/6 at f4.2. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked in red above.
Overall, I think these noise crops from the COOLPIX W300 look very good. Inevitably a compact sensor packing in 16 million photosites is going to display some noise, even at the lower sensitivity settings, but the 125 base ISO sensitivity crop from the COOLPIX W300 looks relatively clean. There is some noise texture and it is compromising the fine detail – most visibly in the clock face on the right of the crop – but otherwise this 125 ISO crop looks very good.
The next challenge is how does the sensor cope with the first couple of steps up the sensitivity scale? If it doesn’t do well here, the odds are it will really struggle in the middle and upper end of the sensitivity range. The good news is that the 200 ISO crop from the W300 looks almost as good as 125 ISO. At 400 ISO there’s a visible increase in the noise, but it’s not until you get to 800 ISO that the noise really starts getting in the way of image detail. At 1600 ISO there’s noise texture more or less everywhere, but it’s quite uniform and fine grained and therefore relatively unobtrusive. It’s pretty obvious in this 100 percent crop, but wouldn’t be too much of an issue at smaller sizes.
Even at 3200 you can just about make out the numerals on the clock face, which is quite an achievement. 6400 ISO is, as you’d expect, more noise than image data, but useful all the same for those must have low-light snaps.
So, overall an excellent result from the COOLPIX W300 which manages to keep noise to manageable levels throughout the ISO sensitivity range.