Nikon Coolpix A: Lab Test Results & Comments

The Nikon Coolpix A is an unusual camera with a very robust, retro design and a body based on a magnesium-alloy chassis. It is extremely compact but has a 16.2MP DX-format sensor (Nikon’s version of the APS-C format). It also incorporates Nikon’s EXPEED 2 image processor system.

The Nikon Coolpix A is a very compact camera with a very large 16MP image sensor (DX/APS-C format). Like an SLR system it offers manual image control with standard exposure programs (P, S, A, and M), Raw image mode, additional scene modes, and video recording with 1920x1080 pixels.

The camera has a small pop-up flash that is seamlessly integrated into the body of the camera (left side of the body’s top panel). In addition, it has an accessory shoe that allows for use of optional Nikon flash systems like the SB-900.

On the left-hand side of the body there is a switch for the three focus modes (AF setting, macro mode, and manual focusing mode).

The Coolpix A has a high-resolution LCD (921,000 RGB dots) but it can’t be swiveled and doesn’t offer touch control. The camera has two setup dials: the first is located on the top and can be reached with the thumb of the right hand; the second encircles the OK button.

The camera offers a standard USB 2.0 interface, an HDMI port for photo and video presentations on HDTVs, and a special port for optional Nikon accessories like a GPS module or WLAN adapter.

The camera has a 28mm f/2.8 integral lens (35mm equivalent), offering a medium-wide field of view. It offers all standard exposure modes (P, S, A, and M) plus has 19 scene and effect modes and two user-defined modes (U1 and U2 on the mode dial). A large setup dial on the top, which can be accessed by the thumb of the right hand, is used to change image parameters. The camera offers a second setup wheel on the back, which encircles the “OK” button. The combination of both dials allows for a very fast and intuitive set up of all camera parameters. There are also numerous function elements to the right and the left of the LCD screen that add to the camera’s fast operability.

The LCD display has a high resolution (921,000 RGB dots) and shows a brilliant and sharp reproduction of the images and the setup menus. The monitor is fixed and doesn’t offer touchscreen functionality. For manual focusing the camera offers a large lens ring which can be activated even when shooting in AF mode.

The Nikon Coolpix A can record Full HD video. There is no image stabilization, which is fine for taking still photos with a wide-angle lens system but would be quite helpful when recording video. Nevertheless the video quality is very good, with nice color and high resolution.

Image Quality
Color:
Like nearly all Nikon cameras, the Coolpix A showed a very realistic reproduction of our color test charts and the standard test shots. The automatic white balance system did a good job under all lighting conditions. It showed only a slight tendency into cooler color reproduction. Only the brightest gray color field is shifted into the green and yellow area. This is also noticeable in the bright background and the brightest skin areas in our portrait shot.

The portrait shot shows good differentiation of red nuances (fabric of the T-shirt) and other image details with very fine structure (hair). Skin tones are fine, but the automatic white balance system showed a slight shift of brighter areas (skin, background) into the yellow area.

Sharpness: The resolution results are very good. The Nikon Coolpix A reproduced the ISO 12.233 chart with 3101 lines per picture height and was only marginally lower than its nominal sensor resolution of 3264 lines per picture height. There are nearly no aliasing or moiré effects visible in the portrait shot or the standard test box shot.

The camera showed crisp and clear reproduction of our standard test box shot. Colors are natural, even though the white balance system causes a somewhat cooler touch in the gray background.

Noise: The Nikon Coolpix A showed excellent results in our noise tests. The luminance noise level is very low (even for a camera with an APS-C-sized sensor) and stays below 1.0 percent even in images taken with ISO 3200. The color noise is reduced by a very effective anti-noise filtering system which causes only slightly noticeable color clouds when shooting in ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. The camera has two additional “high” settings, equivalent to ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600. The dynamic range results are good: the camera had a maximum of 10.6 f/stops and keeps a level of more than 10 f/stops up to the ISO 1600 setting.

Like nearly all Nikon cameras, the Coolpix A showed a very realistic reproduction of our color test charts and standard test shots. The automatic white balance system did a good job under all lighting conditions.

Lab results and test images by BetterNet, our TIPA-affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub.

Scorecard
Pro

+ Compact camera with large image sensor (DX/APS-C format)
+ Very good/realistic color reproduction
+ Very good results in our noise tests
+ Robust body, high-end finish
+ Full HD video capabilities

Con
- Missing an optical or electronic viewfinder
- Fixed monitor (no articulation)

The Nikon Coolpix A has a list price of $1099.95. For more information, visit www.nikonusa.com.

Image Tech
Image Tech is where we publish web-exclusive lab reports on cameras. To read the reports please go to the Shutterbug homepage at www.shutterbug.com and click on the Image Tech tab on the top navigation bar. New reports are published frequently, so check Image Tech for updates.

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