Ever since the debut of the Fujifilm X100 and it’s subsequent success, companies like Canon, Nikon, and Sony jumped at the opportunity to create their own large sensor, fixed focal length, point and shoot cameras; for the snapshot photographer who still has a demand for a quality finished product. We took what Nikon brought to the table, in the format of the Coolpix A, out for a spin one evening last week, to see how it would handle on the dimly lit streets of Toronto’s west end. But first let’s check the specs.
The Coolpix A comes equipped with a 16.2 megapixel APS-C sensor, and a fixed 28mm f/2.8 lens — just the combination necessary for late night street photography. Ergonomically, the camera is fantastic, fitting perfectly in the hand, with adjustment dials at the index and thumb contact points. The lens protrudes from the body of the camera, allowing for manual focus adjustments, which when coupled with an optical viewfinder makes for a camera that feels very much like the rangefinder’s of yesteryear.
Photographs from the camera taken in low ISO’s are rich in color, with a nice contrast. The lens is sharp and it shows, with details remaining tack from corner to corner. Once switched to the higher ISO’s, the image still remains useable, albeit a little noisy, but still picks up beautiful color gradations from varied light sources you’re likely to find inside restaurants and bars. One place the camera struggles is under yellow lights, which under automatic white balance settings come out very orange. This problem seems to be consistent amongst point and shoots, and particularly apparent in Nikon cameras, but ends up being a minor annoyance easily corrected by shooting in raw, or by manually setting your white balance (which we avoided for the purposes of this sample shoot).
With it’s recent sub $1000 mark price drop, the camera has become increasingly competitive against the Fujifilm lineup, and comes across as not only a competent point and shoot, but also as a versatile camera throughout nearly any conditions you may encounter. After a night with the Coolpix A, it’s easy to see why it earned a Silver Award from DP Review: the camera takes great photos, feels good in the hand, and also looks great aesthetically (how often do people actually come and complement you on a camera, right?).
Head over to the flickr gallery and check out the full resolution sample shots, with EXIF data and all that good stuff.
[ Coolpix A Flickr Sample Gallery ]