Nikon COOLPIX A First Impressions

Nikon have just unveiled their new COOLPIX A, signalling their first foray into the enthusiast compact sector. The recipe from many manufacturers in this sector, notably Fujifilm, has been to combine a large sensor and fast, prime lens with a compact body, before adding a splash of manual controls, a stylish, retro design and RAW recording capability.

Nikon has clearly been doing their homework, as the COOLPIX A is the first to include the same APC-S size sensor as the majority of their DSLR range. This DX format (in Nikon parlance) sensor, is in fact the same 16.2 megapixel unit that’s been used to such good effect in the Nikon D7000, and Nikon have also borrowed its EXPEED 2 image processor too, which augers well for image quality.

A noteworthy feature of this new model is that like the D7100 announced earlier this month, the COOLPIX A sensor doesn’t utilise a low-pass filter. This should allow the camera to maximise the resolution and sharpness of images, but its absence also mean there’s an increased risk of distracting moirĂ© patterns in certain images. Nikon have presumably figured out a way to remove any unsightly artefacts so that customers can benefit from the additional sharpness, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, but with its larger sensor it should easily outperform every other model in the COOLPIX line-up.

Compact, stylish design
The COOLPIX A uses a sleek, stylish design, small enough to fit into coat pockets, if not quite trouser pockets. Made from both magnesium and aluminium alloy panels, it has a sturdy, high quality look and feel. There’s a choice of two colours, either black or silver.

The control layout is simple and well thought out, with top controls for the shooting modes and a primary dial which can be used to control shutter speed in shutter priority mode, for example. There’s a wealth of customisation on offer; two of the camera’s buttons can be configured to perform one of a series of functions. Function button one has 11 options, whilst the control of Auto-ISO offered by the menu means that the seldom used ISO button can be customised to perform one of 7 different operations, like changing the display brightness.   

The display itself is both large and high quality, with the 7.5cm (3”) screen comprising 921,000 pixels. The menu system will be immediately familiar to Nikon DSLR users, replicating the look and feel of the DSLR menu system to good effect, allowing quick and easy access to the settings.

There’s no optical viewfinder, but you can purchase a dedicated optical viewfinder – the DF-CP1, which sits neatly on the camera’s hotshoe.

Fast, fixed lens
The COOLPIX A uses an 18.5mm f/2.8 fixed lens, which offers an equivalent focal length of 28mm, ideal for a whole host of shooting situations. The seven bladed diaphragm with maximum f/2.8 aperture should allow precise control over depth of field, whilst a dedicated manual focusing ring surrounds the lens and can be used to override autofocus at any time.  

The camera can shoot up to 4 frames per second and ISO 100-6400 (expandable to both 12,800 and 25,600) should ensure excellent results in low light. RAW recording is a must-have feature of enthusiast compacts, and the COOLPIX A can record 14-bit NEF RAW files.

Full-HD movies can be captured in 30, 25 or 24 frames per second, with full manual control of exposure, whilst GPS and Wi-Fi units are both available separately.

Whilst we await the chance to get our hands on the new COOLPIX A , it looks like a very interesting model from Nikon, and clearly strengthens the COOLPIX range, taking quality to a level we’ve not seen from their compacts to date. Whether it can challenge the all-conquering X100 and X100s remains to be seen, but if the shots from the D7000 (which uses the same image sensor and processor) are a guide, then we can expect superb image quality.

With its stylish, compact design, plethora of customisable functions and system expansion options like GPS and Wi-Fi, the COOLPIX A adds to the already impressive choice available to the enthusiast looking for a stylish, compact camera with a large sensor.

We’re looking forward to getting our hands on the £999 camera shortly, stock is expected towards the end of March, so why not keep an eye on parkcameras.com to find out when the first units arrive, so you can pop into our showroom to try it for yourself.

Park Verdict
An impressive enthusiast compact camera that combines a high performance sensor, high quality lens and intuitive menu system that will be immediately familiar to Nikon DSLR owners.

We Love

  Large sensor captures incredible detail and offers great results in low light
  Menu system derived from Nikon’s DSLRs
  RAW recording offers the ultimate image quality

Jon Penney
Park Cameras


Anonymous said...

Much of this sounds great, but is 18.5mm (28mm equiv) not a little too wide? Certainly not ideal for portraits. I would have preferred something more towards Nikon's magnificent 35mm f1.8 DX lens (52.5mm equiv), which is much closer to what the unaided human eye sees. Maybe a 28mm lens (42mm equiv) would be a good compromise for general purpose use.

Anonymous said...

This sounded great until I got to the bit about the 18.5mm (28mm equiv) lens. I won't buy one for this reason. I'd like something between 35mm and 50mm equiv.

Anonymous said...

The advanatge of being widder I spose is that you can always crop down fairly easy where as "cropping up" needs stitching.

If you look at why someone might upgrade to a larger sensor aswell I think I makes sense. To me the most ovbious users of such a sensor are...

1.The ability to print large landscape pictures - Most users are I'd guess going to want something wider than 35mm to do that.

2.The ability to take low light pictures indoor and still have relatively low noise - Your generally close to your subject indoors or want to capture the scene as a whole, both of which need a wide lens.

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