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Nikon has taken the wraps off two super-smart cameras in the P range. The Nikon Coolpix P500 superzoom and P300 compact are designed with advanced photographers in mind, the clever beggars.

The P500, pictured above, replaces the Nikon P100 advanced bridge camera at the top of the Coolpix range. The P300 is a new entry to the P series, pitched below the P500 but still aimed at the knowledgable amateur or as a back-up for the pro photographer. The P series challenges Canon's G range, but the P300 looks like an interesting rival to Canon's excellent, high-end IXUS S95, or the Panasonic Lumix LX5.

Both cameras are built around a back-illuminated 12.2-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Backside-illuminated sensors move the sensor circuitry out of the way of the light entering the camera, so that even in low light or extremely bright conditions detail is maximised while image noise is reduced.

The two cameras are very different in size and shape, however. The P300 is a compact camera, while the P500 is a superzoom. The P300 packs a bright f/1.8, 24mm wide angle lens with a 4.2x optical zoom. The P500 trumps that with a giant 36x zoom starting from a massive 22.5mm wide angle, equivalent to a 35mm camera. They both sport 3-inch, 921,000-dot screens round the back, but the P500's screen tilts and folds out. The screen tilts up and down, but not side-to-side, so you can shoot down low or above your head -- but not round corners.

Both cameras include high-end features like manual control, and shutter and aperture priority. The P300 captures up to 8 frames in a one-second burst, or up to 120fps at lower resolution for slow motion movies. The P500 goes up to 240fps.

Proper video is top whack 1080p high definition with stereo sound. You can zoom, autofocus and capture stills while filming. The P500 includes an HDMI connection to attach to your HDTV.

The Nikon Coolpix P500 will cost £400 from 3 March. The P300 follows two weeks later for £300. They come in any colour as long as it's black -- heck, you can see what they look like by clicking through our gallery of official shots above.

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The P500's 36x zoom in action.
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The 3-inch screen folds out so you can hold it at different angles and still see what you're shooting.
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The screen tilts up and down, but not side-to-side.
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The Nikon Coolpix P300 advanced compact.
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The P300's screen.
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The mode dial offers manual control, and shutter and aperture priority.
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Both the P500 and P300 come in black.
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