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A compact Coolpix
The solidly built 885 is more compact and easier to tote around than the 880, though it's still not entirely pocket-friendly. At 9.9 ounces with batteries and media installed, this Coolpix boasts a comfortable grip and small stature that make it great for one-handed shooting. We also like the camera's remarkably clear and bright 1.5-inch LCD, which has a fast refresh rate that eliminates jumpiness.
Clearly labeled buttons provide access to the most frequently used controls, and the 885 features a Transfer button for one-touch image downloads. A Quick Review button lets you see the last image you shot without having to switch out of Shooting mode. Another plus: Nikon has streamlined the command dial on top of the camera, allowing users to switch easily from automatic to custom shooting modes, shoot in a preset Scene mode, or choose Playback or Setup modes. We were particularly grateful that the Movie mode has been added to the dial--on the 880, it was buried so deep in the shooting menu that you could easily forget that option even existed.
What's not there
So what's missing from the streamlined dial on the 885? Not only is the ability to quickly select programmed, aperture-priority, or manual settings conspicuously absent, but the aperture-priority mode is gone altogether. You can still set exposures manually, but you must select that option through the shooting menu, making it quite difficult to switch back and forth between programmed and manual modes.
As was the case with the 880, the 885 offers limited adjustability within the manual mode: there are only two aperture settings from which to choose. Still, this function is key to the more advanced user, and we'd prefer it to be more easily accessible. That said, the 885 does offer a broad range of image parameter controls to advanced shooters.
The rich set of creative options for metering and setting the white balance includes a white-balance bracketing feature. Twelve available Scene modes offer convenient shortcuts to novices, while providing a useful guide for more experienced photographers. Not every mode proves particularly useful, however. For example, Museum simply cancels the flash. But options such as Night Landscape or Portrait, Fireworks, Beach/Snow, and Copy are handy.
Equipped with a 3X Nikkor zoom lens, the 885 produces sharp, detailed images, among the best that 3-megapixel cameras have to offer in this respect. The 885's Macro mode is particularly impressive, revealing fantastic detail as close as 1.6 inches. Colors are pleasing, though more saturated and less natural than with previous Nikon models. The automatic white balance performed satisfactorily in most of our tests, but we got better results with the Incandescent setting under incandescent lighting. We liked using the white-balance bracketing feature for portraits to get skin tones just right.
We were disappointed by the amount of color noise visible in our indoor photos, particularly in our flash-lit portraits. The camera has a noise reduction feature meant for long exposures, which automatically kicks in at shutter speeds longer than 1/4 second. Enabling that feature manually produced no noticeable difference in our flash-lit shots. Shooting with flash presents other problems as well, such as lengthening the already moderate shutter delay.