Nikon Coolpix A camera review

Nikon Coolpix A camera review
Nikon Coolpix A camera review 2
Nikon Coolpix A camera review 3

The Nikon Coolpix A ($1,096.95) was announced in early March, 2013 and it was marketed as the world's smallest compact camera with a DX sized sensor. A month later Ricoh announced their new GR model which is smaller (Ricoh GR: 4.6x2.4x1.4"/117x61x36mm; Coolpix A: 4.4x2.5x1.6"/111x64.3x40.3mm) and lighter (Ricoh GR: 8.6oz/244g; Coolpix A: 10.6oz/301g) and most importantly $300 cheaper. The shutter on the Coolpix A can go up to 1/2000, while the Ricoh GR can shoot at 1/4000.

General

  • The Coolpix A is made in Japan - it seems that this is a big deal because it's proudly listed on two different spots on the camera.
  • The camera does not have an AA filter. I was able to see some moire effects in some of the test images.
  • The battery life is pretty good - I think it can easily take more than the suggested 230 shots. The Coolpix A has a separate battery charger - I was glad that Nikon did not decide to cut costs and provide "in-camera charging".
  • Following their goal to keep the camera compact and pocketable, Nikon did not add VR and kept the lens at f/2.8 (instead of f/2).
  • Two programmable buttons (one on the front and one one the back of the camera) will allow you to assign various functions for easy access.
  • During continuous mode, the buffer of the Coolpix A slows down after approximately 15 images but will continue to shoot at a slower rate:

Size comparison between the Nikon Coolpix A, Sony RX1 and Fuji X-Pro1 with a 28mm f/2 equivalent lens:

Nikon Coolpix A Sony RX1 Fuji X-Pro1 size comparison
Nikon Coolpix A Sony RX1 Fuji X-Pro1 size comparison 2

The built-in flash of the Coolpix A is pretty small, but you can go bigger since the camera is compatible with Nikon's Speedlights:

Nikon Coolpix A camera flash
Nikon Coolpix A with SB-900

Menu

One of the advantages of the Coolpix A is its menu and setting - if you own a Nikon DSLR, you will feel very comfortable finding the setting you are looking for:

Nikon Coolpix A menu

Camera info screen:

Nikon Coolpix A info display

Framing grid:

Nikon Coolpix A framing grid

You can display also the virtual horizon level:

Nikon Coolpix A virtual horizon

Auto focus/manual focus

The AF/Macro/MF selector is located on the side of the camera:

Nikjon Coolpix A focus selector

The manual focus is as simple as it can get - no focus confirmation, focus peaking or digital split image (found in the Fuji X100s). You only get a distance scale that can be controlled with the small ring on the lens (focus by wire):

Nikon Coolpix A manual focus screen

You can zoom in while in manual focus for closer view of the subject.

In macro mode I could not focus closer than the advertised 3.94" (10 cm).

Auto focus with the Coolpix A in low light is not on par with the latest compact cameras. I did several comparisons in dark environment with the Fuji X-Pro1 and in most of the cases the Coolpix A could not focus at all where Fuji was able to lock the AF pretty quickly.

ISO performance

Next are several 100% crops at different ISO levels (click on image for full size view):

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 100

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 100

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 200

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 200

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 400

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 400

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 800

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 800

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 1,600

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 1,600

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 3,200

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 3,200

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 6,400

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 6,400

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 12,800

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 12,800

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 25,600

Nikon Coolpix A @ ISO 25,600

ISO comparison with other cameras

A quick ISO 6400 comparison between the Nikon Coolpix A, Fujifilm X-Pro1 with a 28mm f/2 lens and the Sony RX1 (full frame):

Nikon Coolpix A ISO 6400

Nikon Coolpix A ISO 6400

Fuji X-Pro1 @ ISO 6400

Fuji X-Pro1 @ ISO 6400

Sony RX1 @ ISO 6400

Sony RX1 @ ISO 6400

Lens center sharpness

I am sure many readers were not happy with Nikon Coolpix A aperture of "only" f/2.8. This time I have to defend Nikon's decision - a 28mm f/2 lens will probably be twice as big (see the Fuji XF 28mm f/2 lens in the above comparisons) - keep in mind that this camera was designed to really fit in a pocket. This is how the lens performed at various apertures (100% crops, click on images for larger view):

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/2.8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/2.8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/4

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/4

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/5.6

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/5.6

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/11

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/11

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/16

Nikon Coolpix A 100% center crop @ f/16

I found the lens to be almost equally sharp all the way to f/11 (you can see also some moire patterns in some of the samples).

Lens corner sharpness

In the corners, the lens has acceptable sharpness from around f/4 to maybe f/8 (click for larger view):

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/2.8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/2.8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/4

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/4

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/5.6

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/5.6

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/8

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/11

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/11

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/16

Nikon Coolpix A 100% corner crop @ f/16

Sample images

Full size JPG versions of the sample images with ISO and aperture information are available on flickr:

Accessories

Nikon-UR-E24-HN-CP18-lens-hood-adapter-ring-set Nikon-DF-CP1-optical-viewfinder
Nikon-Coolpix-A-accessories

The main accessories for the Coolpix A which I did not have the chance to try are:

  • DF-CP1 optical viewfinder ($379)
  • UR-E24 adapter ring for attaching lens hoods and filters ($99)
  • HN-CP18 metal lens hood ($99)

Additional information

  • The Nikon Coolpix A manual can be downloaded here.
  • See all previous Coolpix A posts.
  • The camera is currently in stock and can be purchased from B&H for $1,096.95.

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix is a true pocket camera that combines the proven 16MP DX sensor and a compact sharp lens. This combo can deliver excellent image quality. When talking about the camera's disadvantages, it is important to stay within what is reasonable for a compact solution of this size. In addition to the slow AF and 1/2000 shutter speed, my only other major complain is the price tag of $1,096.95. I think Nikon will sell tons of those if they lower the price to at least $700 ($100 cheaper than the Ricoh GR).

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