Nikon Coolpix A: Mini-review--the first 24 hours.

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by studio460, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. [Here's an excerpt from my previous post from my original Nikon Coolpix 'A' thread:]
    Just opened the USPS Priority Mail box which was waiting for me [last night] when I got home . . . I just shot a couple of available-light frames in my office, and the colorimetry and overall image quality is contrasty, super-sharp, and pretty. The Nikon A's out-of-camera .JPGs have a "snappy-ness," and "looks-great-out-of-camera-ness" that my NX200 never had . . .
    Nikon Coolpix 'A': First impressions
    • The Nikon 'A' is an attractive product--a beautiful piece of minimalist industrial design.
    • It's significantly less bulky than my Samsung APS-C NX200 mirrorless-ILC.
    • Turn off the fake shutter sound in the menus, and it's quiet.
    • The 'A' provides excellent "feel," and superior tactile feedback from all mechanical buttons and controls.
    • At first blush, the images from the Coolpix 'A' may be even better than ones taken with my Nikon D7000.
    • Very Nikon-like operationally (e.g., menus, controls, etc.).
    • My favorite operational feature may be the dedicated ISO button--simply depress and spin the top dial.
    Here's a photo I took comparing the size of the Nikon 'A' to my Samsung NX200 APS-C ILC:
    First Nikon Coolpix 'A' shots at my desk:
    ISO: 100
    ISO: 100
    [100% crop]
    First Nikon Coolpix 'A' shots outside:
    ISO: 100
    ISO: 800
    ISO: 6,400
    ISO: 560
  2. to me it seems to be a liitle underexposing
  3. Mag said:
    to me it seems to be a little underexposing
    Possibly. I had the same impression on a few frames as well, but when I auto-corrected in post, the exposure remained the same. I believe the shots at my desk were shot in aperture-priority mode. The shots I took today were all in program mode (I was trying to get an idea of how "smart" the camera's program mode is). Here's a straight-out-of-camera, aperture-priority, matrix-metered exposure, shot in broad daylight--of the other high-contrast, daylight exposures, the camera appeared to do similarly well:
  4. Ralph, you are doing Nikon a great service!
    I am beginning to like the Coolpix A !!
  5. My apologies if I inadvertently helped to make anyone's wallet lighter. Let me re-post this information again:
    The Nikon Store, and other retailers are currently selling Coolpix 'A' refurbs for $899. Plus, the Nikon Store is also offering an additional 10% discount, resulting in a selling price of $809.96, plus tax.
  6. AF performance:
    I was initially about to post an erroneous review of the Coolpix' AF performance, until I realized I had the Coolpix' AF-mode set to macro the entire day (the lens hunted for a few seconds on every shot). I'll have to do another AF field-test tomorrow to confirm how fast or slow it is under real-world conditions. This was one of my most important performance metrics, since slow AF means missed shots, period. Especially since the Nikon 'A' has gotten somewhat mixed reviews on AF performance--some report it's fast, and some say it's a bit slow.
  7. I would like to know how good is the focussing ie AF? Let's say wide open aperture and AF onto the person's eye, do you get the tack sharp'ness? What about in night time and if you wanna AF to the buildings and you shot this on a tripod on base ISO with the self timer. As a SLR user, I've been thinking about this well when I can get a used copy and I prefer the Ricoh GR which is based on the same sensor I think. I can live with a fixed lens.
    With those bright light scenarios or tripod scenarios does its APC sensor compare fairly well with a APC dSLR in similar situations?
  8. When I was looking for a fixed lens high quality compact, I checked out the Coolpix A, and I tended to prefer its output more than the Fuji X100s that I bought. However, the AF on the Fuji is much faster and I like the optical viewfinder (which would be an accessory on the A). Now that I've used the Fuji for a while I have to say that I find it difficult to post-process the images to match closely what I get from my Nikons and from that point of view maybe I should have purchased the A. But the Fuji does have advantages (fast AF, hybrid viewfinder, f/2 lens) it's just that I've used Nikons so long I find it a bit more difficult to get exactly what I want from the Fuji.
  9. Yes, I have those same questions, Ray. As I said, I think AF performance (after overall image quality) is the single most important feature in a pricey compact. I do like the full-frame AF point selection on the 'A'. You move the AF point in a smooth vertical or horizontal direction (but, not diagonally) by depressing one side or the other of the multi-selector. At first it moves slowly, then as you keep the selector depressed, it picks up speed. I didn't have any time to shoot any human subjects today at work (I had to uh, work), but I definitely intend to perform the wide-open, AF-point-on-the-eye test at my earliest opportunity. If it's any help, in static tests at my desk, this is what I did (using specific points on my keyboard), and it appeared to work quite well. I'll try to post a report on as many of these AF scenarios as possible, hopefully tomorrow night.
  10. Ray said:
    What about in night time and if you wanna AF to the buildings and you shot this on a tripod on base ISO with the self timer . . . With those bright light scenarios or tripod scenarios does its APC sensor compare fairly well with a APC dSLR in similar situations?
    The Coolpix 'A' does have a self-timer, as well as built-in compatibility with Nikon's low-cost IR remote. With the low-light shots I've done so far (e.g., resting on a desk, or a parking meter on the street) tripod time-exposures should easily be within the realm of this camera. As far as comparing well with a DSLR, the images I've gotten so far appear as good or better than those taken with my Nikon D7000.
  11. Ilkka said:
    . . . Now that I've used the Fuji for a while I have to say that I find it difficult to post-process the images to match closely what I get from my Nikons and from that point of view maybe I should have purchased the A . . .
    It's interesting that you say that, Ilkka. One of the nice surprises about the Coolpix' sensor and in-camera .JPG processing is that there were no surprises. The Nikon picture settings produced out-of-camera .JPGs exactly as I'm used to seeing from my full-sized Nikon bodies. When set to "vivid," colors are rich, saturated, yet still natural. I was never happy with the images from my Samsung sensor, and they definitely had a different "look." This experience made me wary of non-Nikon APS-C compacts, warranted or not.
    That said, it's always easy to second-guess your past purchase decisions. As you said, the Fuji has speedier AF, a hybrid viewfinder, and a lens that's a full-stop faster--those aren't insignificant differences, and with cameras this feature-packed, there's always going to be trade-offs.
  12. Nikon 'A' single-point, auto-focus performance update:
    I'm happy to report that single-point, daylight-exterior AF performance appears excellent. It's fast and sure, and an order of magnitude faster than my two-year-old Samsung NX200 ILC (which had a faster, f/2.4 lens). Under normal interior lighting, it's similarly fast. It feels like it only takes a "moment" to acquire and lock focus (I never felt like I was "waiting"). Nor did I experience any hunting or re-focusing. In extremely low-light conditions (office interior with all lights off), it will struggle with low-contrast targets (as would any DSLR), but will still almost immediately lock-on when pointed at a high-contrast target, even in the very dim light of an unlit office interior. I'm not sure why anyone would characterize the Coolpix' AF as "slow." To me, it feels fast. I'll test under more varied conditions to confirm.
    Nikon 'A' AF-point selection:
    There aren't discrete AF-points which you "tab" through--it behaves as if there's a continuous array of AF-points across the entire sensor area (even if in fact they really are discrete AF-points). The active AF-selection point moves smoothly in either of two axes, controlled by the rotary selector button. Although I wish the AF-point moved a little faster from the get-go, once the selector button has been depressed for a few moments, as I mentioned, it starts to move more rapidly across the screen. Overall, AF-point selection is good, and better than traditional "tabbed" AF points, once the cursor gets going, and allows for very precise AF-point positioning. I didn't realize that modern compacts now allow you to select focus points anywhere in the frame--this can become a huge advantage when making more artistic compositions (plus, avoids the perils of focus-recompose), and is a feature which bests even fancy full-frame Nikon DSLRs.
  13. Exspeed 2 isn't the fastest AF processor. It killed the P7700 for me, with an active little granddaughter to photograph. Hopefully, Nikon has a premium APS-C compact in the works with Exspeed 4.
  14. I wouldn't assume that the two systems are directly comparable. The P7700 uses an EXPEED C2, a different processor than the EXPEED 2 used in the Nikon 'A' (how they're different, I have no idea). Plus, I would guess there are other contributing factors which determine the overall performance of an auto-focusing system, beyond just the processor.
  15. Doesn't roughly $1,000.00 seem high for a point and shoot? Especialy one that has only one focal length.
  16. Dynamic range: Daylight-exterior tests.
    Attempting to test the Coolpix 'A' more as a fully automated "point-and-shoot," I turned on Active-D lighting (set to "auto"), and shot some daylight tests in program mode. Shooting daylight exteriors rendered impressive dynamic range. What looked blown-out, even just to my eyes, still rendered detail in the sky in the digital capture (will post image samples when I get home). Here's some DxO dynamic range data for reference:
    DxO Labs' "landscape" (dynamic range) data:
    Nikon D800/E: 14.4 EV
    Nikon D7000: 13.9 EV
    Nikon Coolpix 'A': 13.8 EV
    Nikon D7100: 13.7 EV
    Ricoh GR: 13.5 EV
    Fuji X100S: 12.4 EV
  17. Kyle said:
    Doesn't roughly $1,000.00 seem high for a point and shoot? Especialy one that has only one focal length.
    Yes! But, think of it this way . . . think of it as a D7000 with an 18mm f/2.8 lens on it, only much sharper than the AF Nikkor f/2.8D F-mount version. Then make it about the size of a pack of cigarettes (albeit, 100s). At the Nikon refurbished price of $809, it's a bit more attractive. I paid $100 more than the Coolpix' retail selling price of $1,097 for my Samsung APS-C NX200 ($899), and its 16mm lens ($300) back in 2012, and the Coolpix totally out-shoots it in every dimension (except for lens interchangeability). Anyone who owns and uses a Nikon 'A', Ricoh GR, or Fuji X100S, will tell you these new APS-C compacts are in a different league than cameras from just a few years ago. I know it's only a single focal-length, but the image-making capability and operational ease these new compact cameras offer is pretty amazing.
  18. "Doesn't roughly $1,000.00 seem high for a point and shoot? Especialy one that has only one focal length."​
    Actually these are very good values compared with the golden age of P&S 35mm film cameras, when comparable fixed focal length cameras were introduced with MSRPs well over $500 and were less capable.
    Take a look back at MSRPs for 1990s models like the Minolta TC-1 (1996 MSRP $2,100!), Nikon 35Ti/28Ti (($1,120-$1,220), Contax T2 ($1,250), Konica Hexar AF ($1,200) and Ricoh GR1 ($800).
    APS sensor digital P&S cameras like the Coopix A, Ricoh GR Digital, even the lightly regarded Canon EOS M, all offer more features, better autofocus and exposure, and arguably better resolution than most folks got with typical consumer grade 35mm film, apart from the differences due to recording format sizes.
    Granted, these cameras are aimed at a niche market - candid snapshooters, folks who take a camera everywhere but want more than a cell phone cam - but those of us in that niche are fortunate to have these choices. Just a few years ago I wouldn't have bet on any APS sensor digicam being available in a camera this small and selling at a street price of under $1,000.
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Yes! But, think of it this way . . .​
    As long as you are willing to spend some time to look for it, there are always justifications for a camera (or lens) purchase. :)
    I practice that myself.
  20. Ralph: Just to be pedantic, the DxO figures are for the Fujifilm X100, not the X100s. They've not tested any X-Trans sensors yet, I believe, probably because doing raw testing on a non-Bayer layout is tricky. The X100s images show very low noise, but there's some evidence that the available raw converters are doing more digital noise reduction than when processing a Bayer sensor. The X100 is substantially older (pre-D7000, more contemporary with the D90). I suspect the X100s, with a newer sensor, is more comparable to the D7000; all I've got to go on is the images on dpreview. Honestly, while I'm currently taking a hard look at an X100, I'd be very tempted by the X100s if it weren't for the size of the price gap.

    I do think these cameras are on the pricey side for what they are (hence my X100 aspirations) - though the finder arrangement and the faster lens bumps up the cost of the Fujis. The Coolpix and Ricoh are reasonably pocketable, whereas the X100s is pretty chunky and more about the "experience" - though my D800 dwarfs it. Sony will gladly sell you a DSC-RX1 if you want to think a Coolpix A is small and cheap. If you won't buy a compact without a zoom the Canon G1x and Leica X Vario will gladly empty your wallet and fill your bag.

    Still, there are things that these can do that a DSLR or even mirrorless can't. The integrated ND filter (okay, not Nikon), the quiet leaf shutter and flash sync abilities, the fact that they really fit in a pocket (though comparing an X100 and a DMC-GM1 might be unfair). The Fujis' rangefinder view. I'm tempted for all these reasons - having something I can bring out without drawing too much attention to myself, or use with fill flash in bright light when I'm out and about, is appealing. I just wish they were a bit cheaper. Though that's true of most mirrorless cameras.

    Speaking of which... Ralph: I didn't realise you'd spent so much on the NX200. Thank you for the contribution to my salary, but... ouch. I can see why you might expect a lot from its image quality. I forget how much these things cost new(ish) - I got my GF2 as part of a clearance offer (my Panasonic store was changing management) well after its replacement was out, and my V1 was end of life. Most of these cameras ought to be easier to make than a DSLR, but I guess economies of scale and a lot of practice are kicking in.
  21. They are on the pricier side. However for a APC compact camera that's a niche. I could always go for a smaller sensor I suppose .. but for a SLR like quality when you have to go light and small ie to the beach, the picnic, travelling with the other half do I wanna take that SLR ..
    DxO Labs' "landscape" (dynamic range) data:
    Nikon D800/E: 14.4 EV
    Nikon D7000: 13.9 EV
    Nikon Coolpix 'A': 13.8 EV
    Nikon D7100: 13.7 EV
    Ricoh GR: 13.5 EV
    Fuji X100 [non-S]: 12.4 EV
    As Andrew correctly points out, I mistakenly entered the dynamic range EV data for the much older, Fuji X100 in my previous post, not the X100S (for which there is no DxO data).
  23. Nikon Coolpix 'A' dynamic range sample images: [out-of-camera .JPGs; Active D-Lighting "on" (auto); program mode.]
  24. Nikon Coolpix 'A' low-light torture test: [out-of-camera .JPGs; Active D-Lighting "on" (auto); program mode.]

    ISO: 6,400; f/2.8 @ 1/60th.

    [100% crop]
  25. Nikon Coolpix 'A' 48-hour impressions:
    • The Coolpix' power button is genius. It's a spring-loaded momentary switch: flick inward once, it's on--flick inward again, it's off. Quick, easy, and sure. No "rotating" or "positioning" a click-stopped, power-on knob (something I've fumbled with on many occasions with other compacts). I would've never believed that such a simple design feature can enhance your overall shooting experience, and since you're always trying to conserve battery power, you're constantly using this button.
    • Yes, the motorized lens has to extend on power-up (and, recede on power-down), but it seems to happen quickly enough not to slow you down from taking your first shot.
    • Off-center compositions requiring extreme AF-point positioning is easily accommodated by the full-frame focus point selection. This is a feature (which is non-existent on Nikon's traditional DSLRs) I wasn't aware of, and it's really, really useful.
    • AF performance is very serviceable under virtually all but the toughest of lighting conditions. It ranges from super-fast, to very acceptable.
    • Contrast-handling and program-mode shooting is very good, with the camera always exposing slightly to the left (as opposed to "ETTR"). While this can increase shadow noise, the camera is very well-behaved in preserving highlight detail (which I prefer).
    • For Nikon shooters in particular, the Coolpix 'A' produces familiar colorimetry and scene-rendering on par with other Nikon full-sized, DX-format DSLRs.
    • The included EN-EL20 battery charger has no cord, and no transformer--an Edison plug just folds out from the bottom of the compact charger.
    • The premium paid for this level of APS-C performance in such a compact, lightweight package seems well-deserved.
    • With a $1,000+ camera, you get an upgraded strap! Don't knock it--it's very nice. Stitched black leather-like material that's smooth on the branded side, textured on the "inside." A bold, yet understated, silver Nikon logo adorns each end of the strap. Good-looking, and, just nice!
  26. Ralph, I'll be interested in your impressions of the built in TTL flash and with Nikon TTL compatible hotshoe flash, if you get a chance. Flash capability is another feature often under-reported by most tech reviews. I use flash a lot, and probably get more use from my SB-800, including with non-Nikon cameras, than any other single bit of Nikon gear.
  27. Nikon Coolpix 'A' + Nikon Speedlight:

    Excited to try a Speedlight at a 1/2,000th shutter speed myself, I just shot a quick test after reading Lex' post. It works! The TTL-controlled exposure tended toward about a 1/2-stop of under-exposure (seemingly keeping with the A's mantra of preserving highlight detail). Here's some test shots in my office using a Nikon SB-600 in TTL-mode, mounted in the Coolpix' hot-shoe, bounced into the ceiling. The camera is in manual exposure mode, set at f/2.8 @ 1/2,000th (exposure raised slightly in post). It's now nighttime, and the ambient level in the room is fairly low, so you're basically seeing only the exposure illuminated by the bounced SB-600 :

    Nikon SB-600 ceiling-bounced in TTL-mode; ISO: 100; f/2.8 @ 1/2,000th.

    Nikon SB-600 ceiling-bounced in TTL-mode; ISO: 100; f/2.8 @ 1/2,000th.
  28. The Nikon System:
    One of the reasons I had initially wanted to stay brand-loyal for this purchase was for both the Coolpix' TTL-Speedlight support, and its familiar Nikon DSLR-like menus and controls. Although there's no CLS commander on-board, the A's TTL-compatibility with Nikon Speedlights is still a huge plus for Nikon system-owners. The sensor, I've already talked about, but I also wanted a camera with imaging characteristics similar to my other Nikon products. Here's a list of available Nikon Coolpix 'A' accessories:
    • Nikon Speedlights: direct, hot-shoe compatibility with i-TTL Nikon Speedlights.
    • Built-in IR receiver for use with Nikon ML-L3 wireless remote release ($19.95).
    • Nikon WU-1a wireless mobile adapter ($59.95).
    • Nikon GP-1A GPS receiver* ($279.99).
    *[connects to camera using supplied Nikon GP1-CA10 cable]
    • Nikon DF-CP1 optical viewfinder (though, hideously priced at $396.95, and of questionable utility).
    • Nikon UR-E24 + HN-CP18 filter adapter + lens hood set ($88.88)
    • Nikon SB-300 compact Speedlight ($146.95)
  29. Thanks for the samples, Ralph, much appreciated. I do wish Nikon had included CLS commander mode in the Coolpix A. Same gripe I have about the Nikon 1 System flashes.
    That might have clinched it for me, against the Ricoh GR, since I like using the SB-800 off camera for supplemental flash in candids. I can manage a small camera in one hand and the flash in the other. And I do use the SU-4 mode optical trigger and, on some occasions, the Pocket Wizard setup which isn't too heavy on the camera, but does make the flash unwieldy.
  30. Smallest RF/IR trigger available?
    Well, thanks for prompting me to do them, Lex. But, you should see the SB-600 sitting in the Coolpix' hot-shoe--it looks absolutely ridiculous! I was actually searching for a more compact TTL trigger than my PocketWizard TT1, but the one I was looking at topped out at a sync-speed of only 1/250th. Then I started thinking about going with a dumb optical trigger or SU-4, but then I'd give up all that TTL goodness. I wonder if my old IR Weins work at sync speeds up to 1/2,000th? I just happened to find my old Wein MeterMate II--maybe I'll connect that to a Nikon AS-15 hot-shoe adapter, and Velcro the Wein to the body, and see how that works.
    Alternatively, I may just use an old SC-17 TTL cable, and handhold an SB-600 when I want to do some off-camera TTL-flash. Hopefully that won't be too out-of-proportion to the camera (I wonder if anyone makes a "miniaturized" Nikon-compatible, coiled TTL cable?). I'm also thinking of buying the new SB-300, since it's pretty affordable, and won't be as ridiculous-looking on such a tiny camera.
  31. Several years ago a photo.netter published some tips and photos illustrated how to shorten the Nikon coiled TTL cables. I'm considering trying that on my SC-29, since the flexible protector has crumbled with age where the cable joins the hotshoe connector. The SC-29 cord is really too long for either a bracket or handheld off-camera use, but too short to be useful for connecting to the SB-800 mounted on a nearby tripod or light stand. So a shorter coiled cable would be better for me. I typically use Pocket Wizards when the SB-800 is on a tripod with reflector or diffuser.
  32. I had an SC-17 shortened years ago (which I still use, now on a Newton bracket) by the guy who makes Newton flash brackets. Reasonably priced. Not sure if he still offers this service. By the way, his rotating FR2 flash brackets are the smallest, strongest, best-designed brackets I've ever used:
  33. Nikon Coolpix 'A' random shots from an event this evening:
  34. I forgot to mention that the above images are straight, out-of-camera .JPGs with zero post-processing (except for a slight crop on the two girls). This evening was kind of my first "field-test." I was dealing with highly variable lighting conditions, and extremely low light levels, and had little time to fuss with my settings since I was also working at the time. I tried experimenting with my camera's auto-ISO settings, but apparently still have some issues to work out. Are there any other Nikon 'A' owners here?
  35. Nikon Coolpix 'A' features which are either lame, weird, or just plain stupid:
    • You use the command dial (top) to adjust aperture in aperture-priority mode, but in manual mode, this same command dial controls shutter speed instead. You need to use the rotary selector (back) to change aperture in manual mode.
    • The virtual-horizon indicator is not one of the programmable options for the Fn1 (front) button.
    • The Nikon user manual is extremely brief (56 pages); it's more like a "quick start."
    • You can set a minimum shutter speed in the auto-ISO menu, but when shooting in any mode except manual or shutter-priority, if there isn't enough light (i.e., the ISO is ramped up to its maximum), the camera will still drop your shutter speed below what you had set in the auto-ISO menu. If there is enough light, the shutter speed ramps back up to the minimum shutter speed you had set in the auto-ISO menu. Is this how it's supposed to work? Here are my auto-ISO settings:
    Auto-ISO sensitivity control = "ON"
    Maximum sensitivity = "3,200"
    Minimum shutter speed = "1/160"
  36. You ARE doing Nikon a great service here Ralph!
    Now where did I put those spare €699 ?

    About user manuals.. well.. I never used my D200 & 800
    manuals.. and the D300 came without ( or did it??). My
    Sony television follows the same approach as the A:
    nothing more than a quick start booklet. Apparently the
    way to go anno 20xx...
  37. Thanks, Albin. Here's another "dynamic range" image, and a sunburst shot from earlier this afternoon. Both were shot in program mode, matrix-metered, and are unaltered, out-of-camera .JPGs:
  38. [​IMG]
    ISO: 200; f/5.6 @ 1/250th.
    [100% crop]
  39. [​IMG]
    ISO: 200; f/5.6 @ 1/200th.
    [100% crop]
  40. Nikon Coolpix 'A': 5 days later . . .
    Boy, do I love this camera. Its out-of-camera .JPGs never fail to please. While I normally shoot my pro bodies in "neutral," this camera is really fun to shoot in "vivid." All of the shots above are straight out-of-camera, program-mode .JPGs, with no post-processing applied. I've been using it like a point-and-shoot, because often, I'm capturing images on-the-fly, when I have only the briefest of moments to shoot (the dolly-shot production image was shot from the waist, with just a glancing view of the viewfinder).
    The camera does tend to under-expose, but I like that! I never lose any detail in my highlights, which is great, since I typically won't have time to make any adjustments. Since there's no time to optimize my exposure, I've been shooting primarily in program mode, which previous to owning this camera, I've never used on any of my other full-sized Nikon bodies. I've also been experimenting using shutter-priority in combination with auto-ISO. This seems to work well--I force the camera to obey my minimum shutter speed, and the camera adjusts the ISO accordingly. So far, its self-selected ISO settings have been pretty "smart." Also, since under low-light conditions, it always defaults to f/2.8 anyway, I often get a bit of depth-of-field isolation on close-up shots--perfect!
    However, the main benefit, besides its stellar picture quality, is that the Coolpix seems noticeably smaller and lighter then my previous mirrorless-ILC (even though it's only slightly smaller, and only slightly lighter). This is a key point. That means, I am taking it with me everywhere. Everyday. This was my initial objective with my first ILC, but I soon tired of dragging it along due to its just-slightly-too-big-and-heavy profile. This Coolpix 'A', I think, will now continue to be with me everyday. My original goal was to buy an ILC so I would have two focal lengths available; however, my real need was a camera that was actually compact enough to want to always have with me.
  41. looks like you got a lil buddy there. keep posting -- i'd like to see some candid portraits.
  42. Thanks, Eric. Yes, I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to shoot very many candid portraits yet. Here's another from yesterday:
    ISO: 200; f/5.6 @ 1/800th.
  43. Another one from last week in a restaurant under mixed lighting (no flash):
    ISO: 1,400; f/2.8 @ 1/250th.
    One more, under fluorescent lighting, using auto white balance (no flash):
    ISO: 800; f/2.8 @ 1/125th.
  44. Ralph, does the Coolpix A "remember" a manual focus preset after turning the camera off and on again? That's one of the most annoying omissions from the V1 - it resets manual focus to nearly infinity. Makes it tough to use zone focusing unless I keep the camera on continuously.
  45. Lex said:
    Ralph, does the Coolpix A "remember" a manual focus preset after turning the camera off and on again?
    Nope. The 'A' reboots back to infinity also. That's a win for the Ricoh GR, and its clever "snap-focus," zone-focusing feature. A work-around on the Coolpix is to acquire focus in AF mode, then flip the hard switch to "MF." The focus distance remains at the originally acquired focus distance; however, once power is cycled, focus returns back to infinity.
  46. Another way to work with focus while in manual-focus mode on the Nikon 'A' is to program the Fn1 button on the front of the camera to "AF-ON." When the hard switch is set to "MF," you can then press the Fn1 [AF-ON] button, and the camera will enable auto-focus while depressing the Fn1 button. Not really a "solution," just a way to momentarily acquire focus automatically while in manual-focus mode.
  47. Nikon Coolpix 'A': pros and cons . . .
    • Slim and compact--you will take this camera everywhere.
    • Excellent overall image quality; high-performance, fixed-lens optics.
    • APS-C imager produces very quiet images up to about ISO 1600.
    • Nikon's signature "Picture Control" profiles, and Active-D Lighting curves, provide both color and contrast which look "right," straight from camera.
    • Nikon i-TTL Speedlight support + 1/2,000th flash sync.
    • Quick-access info-button camera settings menus (in addition to familiar DSLR-like main menus).
    • Surprisingly capable auto white balance.
    • Power-on button is genius; programmable Fn1, Fn2 buttons; customizable U1, U2 user modes.
    • Excellent build-quality; positive tactile feedback on all buttons and controls.
    • Plentiful stock of refurbished models (e.g., Adorama: $789.95; Nikon USA: $899.96)
    • Battery life seems better than expected.
    • Relatively high price ($1,096.95).
    • Inconsistent aperture/shutter speed controls (e.g., in aperture-priority, command dial controls aperture; in manual, command dial controls shutter speed).
    • Annoying "macro" and "standard" AF focus-distance hard switch.
    • Manual focus setting resets to infinity on power-cycle.
    • Virtual-horizon indicator cannot be programmed to Fn1 button.
    • Minimum shutter speed setting in auto-ISO menu is ignored in aperture-priority, and program shooting modes.
    • No CLS commander mode.
    • Only using EXPEED 2 ASIC.
  48. Nikon Coolpix 'A' built-in flash + ambient daylight [auto-ISO; program mode]:
  49. Nikon Coolpix 'A': face-recognition AF mode . . .
    The first image in the previous post was shot in face-recognition AF mode, and is the first time I've used it. All I can say is, "Wow!" Ken Rockwell was right! The Coolpix finds, and tracks the subject's face in your frame almost instantly, and just holds on! Its ability to find and lock focus on faces outperformed single-point AF mode in this test, even under very low-contrast lighting conditions. While more varied testing is required, I'm pretty impressed! In light of this new performance benchmark, I have to amend my initial enthusiasm for the Coolpix' single-point AF performance:
    AF performance summary:
    face-recognition: A+
    single-point: B-
  50. Ralph - I'm not even in the market for a camera like this, and I have really enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for sharing.
  51. Thanks for the kind words, Chip!
  52. Those flash results look great. Thanks for the posts and sample photos.
  53. Lex said:
    Those flash results look great.
    Thanks, Lex! Of course, I only showed you the good exposures! Actually, my first built-in flash tests at the beach yesterday had me doing a bit of flash forensics work after ingest. I incurred a couple of issues, which at first, were a bit puzzling (issues which are probably more likely to crop up when shooting casual snapshots, as opposed to more studied shooting). Here's a couple of flash anomalies (which, by the way, probably aren't specific to this particular camera), which I encountered:

    Flash exposure "error" condition 1:

    A couple of head-and-shoulders snapshots resulted in the flash being too hot. I immediately assumed it was my "stupid" built-in flash's fault. But upon closer inspection, I realized this only happened on mis-focused pictures. I presume the camera thought the intended subject was further away, where the camera was inadvertently focused, and therefore increased its output due to its "distance-aware" TTL programming.

    Flash exposure "error" condition 2:

    Then, when this second "error" condition occurred, of course, I immediately thought my flash was "broken." For five frames in a row, the flash "failed" to fire (it actually did fire, but at an extremely low output level). But upon later review of all successive frames, I discovered that the only frames where the flash "didn't fire" happened to include a Scotchlite-coated, reflective handicapped parking sign. All frames taken at about the same distance which happened to exclude the sign resulted in proper flash exposure. I'm assuming that the TTL circuitry must've "seen" the high reflectivity of the sign, and reduced its output accordingly.

    TTL "fail."

    Coolpix 'A' flash-exposure compensation "mystery" menu options:

    Perhaps other Coolpix-series shooters can answer this one for me? The only information in the manual regarding how to use the Coolpix' built-in flash merely tells you how to move the switch to pop it up. There is a separate flash-exposure compensation camera settings option, accessed by pressing the info button. It enables you to increase or decrease the amount of flash compensation desired in 0.3-stop increments (up to a maximum of +/- 3.0 stops). But, there's also another flash compensation setting in the main camera settings menu (accessed by pressing the menu button) which offers two options: 1.) "entire frame," 2.) "background only." It's a toggle-selection (choose either 1. or 2.), with no other selectable options. I tried "entire frame," and that seems to preserve the ambient exposure. A quick Google search turned up nothing, and as I said, the manual only reveals how to pop-up the flash. Are there any other Coolpix users who have an idea how these options work?
  54. Nikon UR-E24/HN-CP18 third-party filter adapter + lens hood:
    This third-party UR-E24 filter adapter and HN-CP18 lens hood replacement is sold by various Amazon sellers for less than half the price of the Nikon version. Sold in both black and silver, under the brand, "JJC," it's priced between $39.99 and $44.99 (Amazon Prime). I opted for the Amazon Prime seller and got it in only two days. For some reason, all US retailers are backordered on the Nikon OEM version, which I was initially planning to order.
    The reason I bought the lens hood is because the metal front of my lens assembly is really starting to get banged-up and scratched (I've been wearing this camera to work everyday), so I really could use the protection of a metal lens hood. The ability to add filters now is an added bonus! Of course, with the lens hood installed, I lose the "pocketability" of the camera, but it's really only been around my neck since I got it. This particular third-party accessory is a quality, all-metal product that's a direct-fit replacement for the Nikon UR-E24/HN-CP18 part. The hood has a slightly different shape than the Nikon OEM product, but I think it actually looks cooler than Nikon's version:

  55. Ralph, regarding the flash exposure problems you encountered, that seems typical of Nikon's auto-flash. I occasionally see similar problems with the D2H and SB-800, and V1 with SB-N5. Both tend to overreact to small bright hot spots in the frame, whether a reflective sign as in your example, or a bright house light or street light.
    I don't know whether Nikon puts too much emphasis on distance, reflected values, or what. But Nikon TTL flash is occasionally tripped up badly by some situations that other cameras handle more gracefully.
    In that respect, Ricoh's auto-exposure/auto-flash with the GRD4 was far better than Nikon's - it's very difficult to badly fool Ricoh's auto-everything mode in the GRD4. So is the typical Olympus P&S auto-flash exposure - that's why I recommended an Olympus P&S to a friend as her first P&S digicam. I don't know whether Ricoh translated that same excellent auto-everything capability to the APS sensor GR.
    With the D2H and SB-800 I'd often use the flash FV lock to get more consistent flash results in tricky situations. This option isn't available with the V1 and SB-N5.
  56. Lex said:
    Ralph, regarding the flash exposure problems you encountered, that seems typical of Nikon's auto-flash.
    Well, if that behavior is typical, then at least now I know about it. I guess it caught me by surprise since I shoot very little on-camera TTL flash normally (except for specialized event work where highway signs are pretty much absent). Caveats aside, overall, I'm pretty happy with the Coolpix' built-in flash performance. In addition, I think the camera's program mode is exceptional, and is the first time I've ever used program mode on any camera.

    If you haven't noticed by now, I'm pretty happy with the camera overall, and have been using it mainly as a point-and-shoot, "snapshot" camera when I don't have, or don't want to take the time to take more precise shots. In this role, the Coolpix has performed very well. I guess what I really wanted/needed was the very best "set to program mode and forget it" kind of compact camera there was, and I think the Nikon Coolpix 'A' comes pretty close to being just that.
  57. If I seemed grouchy about Nikon's flash, it's only because it's already so good I'd like it to be perfect. The Ricoh GRD4 auto-everything flash mode is nearly perfect - even strong backlighting at night doesn't fool it. But despite my nitpicking even the SB-N5 flash I've had for a couple of months with the V1 works very well, including in tricky bounce situations.
  58. Yeah, in general, the Coolpix' flash is pretty good, too--didn't think you sounded grouchy. It's always a bit disappointing when they get things almost perfect, but not quite. But, again, I'm so darned pleased with this camera's overall performance, it's easy to forgive any of its few (small) shortcomings.
  59. This got to be the most detailed hands on review ever.
    Another way to work with focus while in manual-focus mode on the Nikon 'A' is to program the Fn1 button on the front of the camera to "AF-ON." When the hard switch is set to "MF," you can then press the Fn1 [AF-ON] button, and the camera will enable auto-focus while depressing the Fn1 button. Not really a "solution," just a way to momentarily acquire focus automatically while in manual-focus mode.​
    After focusing this way, will the focus remain locked so that you can recompose before releasing the shutter? If the focus is locked, will the exposure also be locked when you recompose?
  60. Robert said:
    After focusing this way, will the focus remain locked so that you can recompose before releasing the shutter?
    If the focus is locked, will the exposure also be locked when you recompose?
    No, not if the Fn1 button has been assigned to AF-ON (I just tested it--the focus stays fixed, but the auto-exposure varies as you re-frame). However, you do have the option to set the Fn1 button to AE/AF lock.
  61. /////////////////////////////////AF UPDATE/////////////////////////////////
    I just bought a Sony NEX-3N, and now that I have a current compact to compare the Coolpix 'A' with, I need to amend my AF report for the Coolpix 'A':
    Nikon Coolpix 'A', close-focus AF speed: slow (1.0 secs.+)
    Nikon Coolpix 'A', normal distance AF speed: acceptable (<1.0 secs.)
    Sony Alpha NEX-3N, close-focus AF speed: fast (about 3x faster than the Coolpix 'A')
    Sony Alpha NEX-3N, normal distance AF-speed: fast (about 1.5x to 2x faster than the Coolpix 'A')

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