Nikon Coolpix A Review

Nikon Coolpix A Review: Nikon Brings Nikon Coolpix A With A Large Image Sensor

Nikon releases the Nikon Coolpix A with a 16.2-megapixel sensor in DX format and a fixed focal length.

The lens captures an angle of view corresponding to that of a 28 millimeter 35 mm lens and is quite fast with an initial aperture of F2.8.

The image converter, in conjunction with the EXPEED 2 image processor, allows a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600, and Nikon also dispenses with a resolution-limiting low-pass filter.

Equipment and operation are based on Nikon’s DSLRs, so the Nikon Coolpix A offers a number of fully automatic functions, but it can also be controlled semi-automatically and manually.

Nikon Coolpix A Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Many in-camera image processing functions including effect filters and raw development
  • Excellent image quality up to ISO 400, good up to ISO 1,600
  • From F5.6, excellent uniform resolution up to the edge of the image
  • Well manufactured, extremely compact housing

Cons

  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis and too close to the battery/memory card compartment
  • Too few direct selection buttons, e.g. for white balance, recording mode, flash function, etc.
  • Missing features like HDR, panorama and image stabilizer
  • Weak internal flash with virtually no edge illumination

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A offers a fixed focal length of 28 millimeters corresponding to 35 mm. [Photo: Nikon]

Precious compact cameras with large sensors shoot out of the ground like mushrooms as an alternative to DSLRs or mirrorless system cameras. Nikon jumped on this bandwagon with the extremely compact Nikon Coolpix A and, like Fujifilm, Leica, Sigma and Ricoh, opted for a fixed focal length lens, which at F2.8 is not particularly fast. In return, the Nikon Coolpix A with 28 millimeters offers more wide-angle than the Fujifilm X100S and Leica X2. We could test the little Nikon extensively with the test software and in practice to understand which is the user experience with this camera.

 

nikon coolpix a

The CMOS sensor of the Nikon Coolpix A in APS-C format has a resolution of 16.2 megapixels. [Photo: Nikon]

High-quality compact cameras, in which image quality is the main focus, are currently in vogue. Even Nikon wouldn’t want to be left behind: The renowned camera manufacturer today announced the Nikon Coolpix A, a compact camera whose image sensor in APS-C format promises photo quality at DSLR level.

A high quality fixed focal length lens should play its part in this promise. The optics have a focal length of 18.5 millimeters, which corresponds to a 28-millimeter lens on a 35 mm camera. According to Nikon, it offers outstanding imaging performance over the entire image field. Image error is corrected so well that a digital correction is not necessary. The lens can be fitted with a filter thread via an adapter, thus allowing the use of optical filters or a lens hood.

Nikon has clearly based the technology and operation of the Nikon Coolpix A on DSLRs from its own company. For example, the 16-megapixel sensor sends its data to the same EXPEED 2 image processing engine used in Nikon’s SLR cameras. Like the recently introduced D7100, the new Nikon Coolpix A also does without a low-pass filter in front of the sensor.

Its purpose is to avoid moiré effects that usually occur infrequently, but it also limits the resolving power. On request, the Nikon Coolpix A records in raw format with a word width of 14 bits.

A three-inch display with a very fine resolution of 921,000 pixels is used for image control. An anti-reflective coating and the display brightness, which can be adjusted in nine levels, are intended to ensure that the monitor is easy to read even under difficult lighting conditions.

nikon coolpix a

The rear screen of the Nikon Coolpix A offers a fine resolution of 921,000 pixels. [Photo: Nikon]

The Nikon Coolpix A offers an intelligent full-automatic mode, a variety of subject programs from “portrait” to “autumn colors”, as well as a program, time and aperture priority mode for dedicated photographers; the exposure can also be controlled manually.

The camera is also equipped with an ISO shoe for connecting an external flash, but also has a small flash integrated. The Nikon Coolpix A records videos in Full HD resolution with a maximum frame rate of 30 full frames per second.

An integrated stereo microphone records the sound to the film. According to the manufacturer, the continuous frame rate is 4 fps, and the Nikon Coolpix A can keep up the pace for 26 shots.

Furthermore, Nikon has equipped the elegant compact camera with an interface for the optional WiFi adapter WU-1a or the GPS receiver GP-1. With this optional accessory, you can transfer images directly to a smartphone or tablet, or record the location data of your photos. Nikon also offers an optical viewfinder for the Nikon Coolpix A ISO shoe.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A can optionally be retrofitted with the DF-CP1 optical viewfinder. [Photo: Nikon]

The Nikon Coolpix A is quite compact with its dimensions of 64.3 x 111.0 x 40.3 mm and weighs just under 300 grams when ready for use. The fact that the housing is made of a resistant magnesium-aluminium alloy contributes to this travel-friendly lightweight.

The high-quality compact camera is available since March 2013 in black and titanium-silver and can be found very cheap right now.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The metal housing of the Nikon Coolpix A shines with an excellent workmanship, whereby Nikon focuses on a very straight and simple, but strikingly angular design.

Due to its angular, flat case, the Coolpix can’t necessarily be called a hand flatterer, but with the small grip bridge and the rubberized thumb rest, Nikon at least makes an effort to make the ergonomics bearable.

Although the A can basically be used with one hand and the ring-shaped switch and shutter release can be comfortably operated with the index finger, it is designed for a two-handed position, as both the multifunctional ring on the lens and the buttons on the left of the display can only be operated with the left hand, which is recommended for a more stable camera position anyway, as there is no optical image stabilizer.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A is very compact and only weighs barely 300 grams. [Photo: Nikon]

Thanks to its weight of only 300 grams and compact dimensions, the Coolpix can be easily carried in a jacket or jacket pocket, and even dangling around the neck it hardly causes any neck pain.

The flaps on the left and right side of the housing cover the USB, HDMI and combined remote trigger and GPS connection.

They are made of plastic, but thanks to the metal hinges they look very durable, unless you break them off with force. The same applies to the flap on the underside, which provides access to the lithium-ion battery and memory card.

The Nikon Coolpix A is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC, so nothing stands in the way of large memory cards for extended photo tours or longer films in full HD resolution.

Only the battery with a range of only 230 pictures is a little worry, so you should have a replacement battery available in my opinion.

After all, the camera comes with an external charging cradle that can be used in the US and Europe – but in view of the price of 1,100 dollars (that was the price at market launch many years ago), this is not very convenient.

After all, the market price has now leveled off at around 250 dollars or even well below that. By the way, the metal tripod thread is located outside the optical axis and also quite close to the battery and memory card compartment. Alternatively, the Nikon Coolpix A can also be powered externally by a battery dummy, useful for example when using the built-in interval recording function.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A offers beside a cable remote release connection also a HDMI mini as well as a USB interface. [Photo: Nikon]

Thanks to the APS-C sensor with 16 megapixel resolution, the fixed 18.5 millimetre lens is equivalent to a 28 millimetre 35 mm lens, making the Nikon Coolpix A more suitable for street, landscape and architectural photography than for portraits, not to mention group shots.

When the power is turned on, the lens extends slightly. Although it does not have a filter thread, an optional screw-on attachment allows the use of 46-millimetre filters and the optional lens hood.

With a focusing time of about half a second, the Nikon does not belong to the sprinter category let´s say, but with this speed it is easy to work in the mentioned scene mode world. The shutter release delay of 0.06 seconds also ranks in the solid midfield. Thanks to the central shutter, the Coolpix triggers almost inaudibly up to the fastest shutter speed of 1/2,000 seconds and synchronizes the flash even at this shutter speed.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A is not only available in black, but also in silver. [Photo: Nikon]

The viewfinder is the rear, three-inch (about 7.5 centimeters) screen, which is perfectly embedded in the case. In contrast to some other cameras, the protective glass does not protrude at the back of the camera in a way that disturbs the design.

With a fine 921,000 pixel resolution, crisp contrasts, vivid colors and high viewing angle stability, the display offers a brilliant picture, but comes to its limits in very bright environments, such as sun at the sea, so that the subject is then somewhat harder to recognize, especially lacking in depth drawing under such conditions.

As the only remedy, Nikon offers a purely optical plug-on viewfinder, but this at a steep price of 300 dollars. For the same money, one gets an electronic plug-on viewfinder from other manufacturers (for example the VF-4 of Olympus with 2,3 million pixels), but of course they do not fit on the Nikon Coolpix A.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A records videos in full HD resolution with stereo sound. [Photo: Nikon]

The operation of the Coolpix is sometimes a mystery. Although the menu is clearly structured and not overloaded, as it is typical for Nikon, the usage and/or unused function of some control elements still raises some riddles.

With two user programs, two Fn-buttons (one preallocated as ISO key) and an extra menu for the last used menu settings, the Nikon offers some individualization possibilities, but there should be more direct selection keys or programmable keys. The four-weights, for example, only move the autofocus field, while the rear adjustment ring and the lens ring are often without function.

Here, Nikon would like to improve, as one would like to have access to the flash function, white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, release mode and maybe also the exposure measurement at the same time instead of only two of these functions, as the FN1-button can be only assigned to one of three functions, the Fn2-button to one of seven.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A is available since mid-March 2013. [Photo: Nikon]

Equipment And Features

Just a glance at the program selection wheel reveals the following: Program, aperture, and aperture priority, manual exposure, and the two user programs “U1” and “U2” dominate, but there is still full auto and a position for subject programs.

18 pieces are available, classics such as portrait, landscape, macro, baby or animals as well as beach, snow, candlelight, and fireworks are not missing. How to change the subject program, however, is not so easy to understand. In the menu, on the info screen, turning the program dial or pressing a button does not get you where you want to go; only the turn of the upper thumbwheel conjures up the setting on the screen. This wheel also plays the main role in the semi-automatic models, i.e. it adjusts exposure time or aperture. The lens ring and the rear control dial, on the other hand, remain without function.

The lens ring is not used until focusing. The Nikon Coolpix A does not offer multi-field autofocus, except for face detection. Instead, the single focus measuring field, which can be configured in two sizes, can be moved on the screen using a four-way rocker, a subject tracking function can be switched on, and in dark environments, the orange LED helps the autofocus to jump into action.

When the shutter release button is halfway depressed, the focus can be adjusted manually using the lens ring. A small scale is displayed to indicate the approximate focus distance, but other aids such as a focus magnifier cannot be activated.

If you switch the A to manual focus using the switch on the left side of the housing, the marked area can be enlarged and shifted in fine steps, but the Coolpix does not offer modern focusing aids such as focus peaking. The same switch also activates the macro function if desired, otherwise, the close-up range below half a meter is excluded from the autofocus for acceleration.

If one forgets to deactivate the macro function accordingly, the autofocus of the Nikon sometimes gets quite slow. The minimum focus distance of ten centimeters in macro mode does not allow breathtaking enlargements due to the wide-angle lens. Scenes that are 15 centimeters small can be displayed in full format, while smaller ones cannot.

Furthermore, the Nikon does not miss any classic functions: For example, the continuous shooting mode with fast four frames per second for about 20 JPEG photos in series before slowing down, or exposure series with up to two EV exposure differences, but in the classic way only with a maximum of three shots.

If, on the other hand, more modern functions such as HDR, panorama or digital filters are required, then the Coolpix must fit. After all, the Active-D-Lighting function, which digitally brightens shadows, is on board. Various picture modes such as Standard, Neutral, Brilliant, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape are also available.

The video function, on the other hand, is again well hidden; it can be found under the recording modes, where the continuous shooting function can also be found.

Fujifilm followed a similar strategy with some cameras with a classical touch. In video mode, the autofocus is automatically adjusted, but reacts very sluggishly, slowly and sometimes tends to pump.

Manual focus, semi-automatic, and manual exposure are also available for video recording, but exposure cannot be corrected while recording.

The sound is recorded in stereo via the integrated microphone, but an external microphone cannot be connected, and there is no level indicator or corresponding control. The microphone can be switched off for silent movies.

After all, the videos are stored on the memory card as MOV files with H.264 compression, as in the MPEG-4 standard. The frame rate is either 30, 25 or 24 frames per second in HD or Full HD resolution.

Although the Nikon Coolpix A does not have any modern equipment details such as integrated WLAN, remote control or a GPS, a GPS can be connected by cable and the remote release is carried out by an infrared remote control.

In addition, the Nikon has an integrated flash unit that has to be folded out manually for activation, as well as a TTL system shoe that can be used to connect the Nikon system flashes. Unfortunately, the relatively weak integrated flash cannot serve as a trigger; it only offers an automatic mode in the subject programs as well as in the full auto mode. In the creative programs, however, the flash always fires when it is extended.

However, a pre-flash to reduce red-eye, a long-time sync, flash at the end of the exposure, and flash exposure compensation are offered to the user.

After all, the Nikon offers numerous image processing functions and filter effects that can be applied afterwards, which goes far beyond the simple cropping and resizing that some cameras are content with.

The colors can also be adjusted afterwards and even the development of raw files to JPEGs is possible, although, on the recording mode, both formats can be saved in parallel.

Image Quality Of The Nikon Coolpix A

Apparently, the Nikon Coolpix A proves itself in practice with a good image quality on a high level and precise sharpness, whereby one has to take care that the focus is really where it should be.

Due to the shallow depth of field, especially with open apertures, a sharpness control with a playback magnifier is indispensable.

The Nikon behaves well against backlighting, lens flares, weak contrasts or even ghost images are no problem.

 

nikon coolpix a

When the aperture is open, the Nikon Coolpix A in the center of the image already shows a high sharpness and resolution, which is over 40 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm). This can hardly be increased by dimming, from F11 the resolution decreases slightly by diffraction, from F16 even significantly.

At the edge of the image, however, the Nikon is not convincing at open aperture, there, the resolution is only 20 lp/mm – this is half of the resolution in the image center! But at F4, the edge resolution already increases to 32 lp/mm and from F5,6 on, the edge resolution is equal to the one in the image center.

Unfortunately, this loss of resolution can already be seen on a 20 x 30-centimeter printout, so if you want sharp edges, you should at least fade down to F4, better still to F5.6. Visible is also the edge darkening of well over one aperture stop.

The gradient is quite smooth, but even dimming is of little help here. The Nikon also has to struggle with chromatic aberrations – at least at the outermost edges of the image, where color fringes are already visible at 20 x 30 centimeters, they are about 1.5 to two pixels wide.

Near the center of the image, however, these color fringes are not visible, even the average value does not show any significant deflections, so that only the outermost edge of the image is really affected. The minimal distortion of around 0.9 percent of the barrel shape, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable for a 28 millimeter and has hardly any negative impact.

The Nikon can convince with the signal-to-noise ratio, which is up to ISO 400 with more than 40 dB in the green area, with ISO 1.600 and 3.200 the critical limit of 35 dB is only just undercut, here one can turn a blind eye again.

The image noise is fine enough with about two pixels grain size, only the red channel breaks up a little with about three pixels from ISO 3.200 upwards. Color noise doesn’t play a big role there yet, only at the highest sensitivities of ISO 12.800 and 25.600 it becomes visible, whereas the luminance noise becomes slightly visible already from ISO 6.400 and rises steeply above that.

Nikon does without an overly aggressive noise suppression, especially at the highest sensitivities, but this is to the benefit of detail. Up to and including ISO 1,600, the Nikon Coolpix A reproduces the finest textures without measurable loss. This reduces the level of detail minimally, but even at the highest sensitivity the photographer can still view detailed instead of squished images.

 

nikon coolpix aThe low-noise suppression makes for rather moderate dynamic range values. For example, the Nikon Coolpix A at ISO 800 with 9.6 f-stops almost scratches the ten-stop mark, but otherwise, it tends to be slightly above nine f-stops and drops even below it above ISO 1,600. At ISO 25,600, only a poor dynamic range of just 7.3 f-stops is achieved.

The measurement of the tonal value curve confirms the crisp, high-contrast visual impression, but when resharpening, the Coolpix takes a conservative approach, so that the artifact rate of less than five percent doesn’t have a negative impact. The output tonal range is only convincing up to ISO 800, above that the Nikon uses less than 160 of the 256 possible gray value levels.

Even at actual color depth, the Coolpix is not really convincing at high sensitivities; above ISO 1,600 it distinguishes less than two million colors. At ISO 100 to 400, on the other hand, it is even over four million, a good value. While the manual white balance works flawlessly, the A prefers warmer colors and reproduces them a little more vividly, which also applies to green. Overall, however, the deviations are within the green range and can certainly pass for “beautiful” color reproduction.

Conclusions: Is The Nikon Coolpix A Worth It?

The Nikon Coolpix A shows itself as an extremely interesting digital camera with very good image quality packed in an excellently processed, compact housing. So you can always have it with you, but for the very good image quality, thanks to the APS-C sensor up to quite high ISO values, you have to compromise that it is a fixed focal length camera.

28 millimeters corresponding to 35 mm are neither particularly universal nor is the lens particularly fast at F2.8. But already at open aperture, it has an excellent sharpness in the center of the image, from F5.6 on the image edge is in no way inferior. T

he solid operation with a little less individual button assignment or too few direct accesses is complemented by the rather average equipment for a modern camera, modern functions like panorama or HDR are completely missing.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Nikon
Model Nikon Coolpix A
Price approx. 900 dollars at market launch, much cheaper now
Sensor Resolution 16.2 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.928 x 3.264
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens F2,8 28mm
Filter thread 46 mm (optional)
Viewfinder optical (optional)
Dioptre compensation
Resolution
Enlargement
Image field coverage
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 921.000
rotatable
swiveling
as viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI (PAL/NTSC)
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene mode programs
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 14 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection ISO TTL system hot shoe
Remote release Cable
Interval recording yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format MOV
Codec H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 30p
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-3,200
extended ISO 100-25.600 (upper limit adjustable)
manually ISO 100-25,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadows, WB fine correction
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 1
AF auxiliary light LED, bright orange
Speed approx. 0,5 s
Languages English
More 21 additional languages
Weight
(ready for operation)
300 g
Zoom
Zoom adjustment
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 230 recordings (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Many in-camera image processing functions including effect filters and raw development
  • Excellent image quality up to ISO 400, good up to ISO 1,600
  • From F5.6, excellent uniform resolution up to the edge of the image
  • Well manufactured, extremely compact housing

Cons

  • Tripod thread outside the optical axis and too close to the battery/memory card compartment
  • Too few direct selection buttons, e.g. for white balance, recording mode, flash function, etc.
  • Missing features like HDR, panorama and image stabilizer
  • Weak internal flash with virtually no edge illumination

Firmware Update C 1.12 for the Nikon Coolpix A: Focus Optimizations

Nikon provides a new firmware version C 1.12 for the Nikon Coolpix A. This shortens the closest focusing distance of the normal autofocus from 50 to 30 centimeters, and the focusing on high-contrast subjects should now work more reliably.

To make the manual focus mode easier to recognize, the focus area is now displayed in white when manual focus is used. In addition, the power consumption for interval shooting is lower after the update. The new firmware can be downloaded from the Nikon website and installed by the user, how this works is described on the Nikon website.

Nikon Coolpix A Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)16.9 megapixels (physical), 16.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.8 µm
Photo resolution
4.928 x 3.264 pixels (3:2)
3.696 x 2.448 pixels (3:2)
2.464 x 1.632 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Focal length 28 mm (35 mm equivalent)
Aperture F2.8 to F22 (wide angle)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus functions Single autofocus, continuous autofocus, manual
Filter thread 46 mm

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 921,000 pixels
Video finder Dioptre compensation

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/2,000 to 30 s (Automatic) 1/2,000 to 30 s (Manual) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (automatic) ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Remote access available
Scene modes Twilight, interior shot, candlelight, children, landscape, food, night shot, night portrait, close-up, portrait, sunset, sports, beach/snow, and one additional Scene mode program
Picture effects Blur, More Vivid, Normal, Portrait, B/W, Vivid
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 4 fps at highest resolution and max. 26 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)

Flashgun Of The Nikon Coolpix A

Flash built-in flash (flip-up) Flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash range 0.5 to 11.5 m at a wide-angle flash range at ISO 6 (ISO 100)
Flash code
Guide number 6 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL20 (Lithium-ion (Li-Ion))
Playback functions Red-eye retouching, image index
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Noise Reduction
Connections Data interfaces: USB USB type: USB 2.0 High SpeedVideo output: yes (HDMI output Micro (Type D))
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Portrait autofocus with face detection D-Lighting technology
for in-camera compensation between light and dark areas of the image Long-term noise reduction T-Long-term bulb exposure mode with ML-L3 infrared remote control

Size and weight

Weight 299 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 111 x 64 x 40 mm

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Nikon BS-1 (hot shoe cover) Nikon EN-EL20 Special battery Nikon
MH-27 Charger for special batteries Nikon
UC-E16 USB cable Restrap Camera softwareViewNX 2
additional accessories Nikon EH-5B Power Supply NikonEN-EL20 Special BatteryNikon
HN-CP18 Lens AccessoriesNikon
MC-DC2 Cable Remote ReleaseNikon
UR-E24 Lens Adaptor Removable Memory Card OpticalViewfinder DF-CP1 Infrared Remote Control
ML-L3GPS Receiver
GP-1WLAN Adapter WU-1a
USB
USB 2.0 High Speed

 

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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.