Nikon Coolpix A review: A good but pricey enthusiast compact

The camera also has zippy burst shooting. It can run for at least 30 frames (with a fast 95MB/sec card) for JPEG at about 4.1fps; raw burst slows from 4.2fps at 17 shots, which is a really nice buffer for a camera in this class.

LCD visibility in bright sunlight is reasonably good, but still, I wish it had a viewfinder. Plus, the battery has a relatively short life.

Shooting speed, in seconds
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
2.1
0.2
0.2
0.3
0.3
Fujifilm X100S
1.5
1
1
0.7
0.6
Nikon Coolpix A
1.6
0.3
0.2
0.7
0.7
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1
2.3
0.3
0.3
0.7
0.7
Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Design and features
Though it's all metal and well built, shooting with the Coolpix A feels very much like a typical point-and-shoot. In fact, the biggest part of the experience was surprise. The first time I was out with it, I was convinced that everything would be poorly exposed and out of focus; I was completely surprised upon downloading the photos to see they were sharp, in focus, and technically quite good.

The grip is a small, raised strip inset from the side. In conjunction with a small, rubberized thumb rest on the back, there's sufficient leverage for single-handed operation.

Despite incorporating a 28mm-equivalent, fixed-focal-length lens, the Coolpix A extends and collapses the lens like a zoom. Although that adds some performance overhead, the trade-off is an integrated lens cover; that's a nice change from models like the X100S.

On the camera top is a standard mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes , plus two user settings slots, along with an adjustment dial. Though Movie is also a separate mode, you get to it in the Drive Mode menu instead of via the dial. Neither is a terribly convenient place. The popup flash is a fairly unimpressive fixed (as opposed to tilting) version.

There are two programmable buttons, one on the front and one on the back; the latter defaults to ISO senstivity setting. Sarah Tew/CNET

The back has a fairly typical layout, with an "i" button to bring up access to frequently-used settings. The multi selector dial is quite nice and easy to control precisely, but seems underutilized; disappointingly, the navigation buttons can't be programmed for direct feature access.

As you'd expect, there's a lens ring for manual focusing which feels reasonably precise for a servoelectronic operator. Though you can call up a magnification window, there's no manual focus peaking.

You select focus modes via a switch on the side. Sarah Tew/CNET

I like the placement of the three-position switch for selecting focus modes, but find it requires concentration to get to the middle position (macro) without sliding past.

Fujifilm X100S Leica X2 Nikon Coolpix A Sony Cyber-shot DSC- RX1 Sony Cyber-shot DSC- RX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 16.2MP CCD 16.2MP CMOS 24.3MP Exmor CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS
23.6 x 15.8mm 23.6 x 15.8mm 23.6 x 15.7mm 35.8 x 23.9mm 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12500 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/ 25600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp) / ISO 100 - ISO 51200 / ISO 102400 (exp, via multishot NR) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Lens
(35mm-equivalent focal-length multiplier)
35mm
f2
1.5x
24mm
f2.8
1x
28mm
f2.8
35mm
f2
1x
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus (inches) 3.9 11.8 4 7.9 1.9
Continuous shooting 6fps
31 JPEG/ n/a raw
(burst available only with focus and exposure fixed at first frame)
5fps
8 frames
(raw + JPEG)
4fps
n/a
2.5fps
(5 fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
Viewfinder Hybrid
Reverse Galilean
90 percent coverage
EVF
0.48-inch/ 2,360,000 dots
100 percent coverage
Optional
EVF
Tilting LCD
n/a
($449.00 est.)
Optional
Reverse Galilean
($449.96)
Optional
Reverse Galilean
Zeiss
n/a
($599.99)
EVF
Tilting OLED
0.5-inch/ 2,359,000 dots
100 percent coverage
($404.99)
None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
11-area
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Metering 256 zones n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 20 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 minutes 30 - 1/2,000 sec 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb 30-1/2,000 sec; bulb 30-1/2,000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes No
LCD 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.7-inch
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
Image stabilization None None None Electronic (movie only) Optical
Video
(best quality)
1080/60p/ 30p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
None 1080/30p/ 25p/24p (max 18Mbps)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
AVCHD: 1080/60p/ 50p @ 28Mbps; 1080/60i/ 50i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1080/24p/ 25p @ 24, 17Mbps
stereo
AVCHD:
1080/60p/ 50p
stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video Iris only n/a Yes Yes Yes
Optical zoom while recording n/a n/a n/a n/a Yes
External mic support No n/a Optional
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 330 shots 450 shots 230 shots 270 shots 330 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 4.9 x 2.7 x 2.0 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.6 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.8 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 15.5 12.2 (est.) 10.5 17.6 8.5 (est.)
Mfr. Price $1,299.95 $1,995 (est) $1,099.95 $2,799 $649.99
Availability March 2013 August 2012 March 2013 November 2012 July 2012

The camera's feature set ranks as sufficient, but not outstanding. It does have an intervalometer, a Nikon-standard feature that few other manufacturers ever include (off the top of my head, only Pentax does). While it offers bracketing up to two stops in 1/3-stop increments, it's only for three shots. There are no live special effects, only post-processing effects, no panorama (not even a panorama assist), and no built-in neutral density filter. As with its compeitors, there's a bayonet mount for add-ons, though it looks like the only currently available lens accessory is a lens hood.

Conclusion
While the Nikon Coolpix A delivers excellent images and is a fine camera, unless you're a real pixel-peeper I'm not sure it's sufficiently better to merit a $400 premium over the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 for a lot of folks. The Fujifilm X100S at least offers a great viewfinder and unique manual-shooting experience that makes it stand out for the not-insubstantial price difference. I'd watch for the price to come down on this one.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.6mm