Nikon Coolpix P4

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      Stabilised optics and some neat shooting modes make this a good choice for family snapshooters.Although Nikon’s 8.1-megapixel Coolpix P4 is a very capable point-and-shoot digicam, with more user-adjustable controls than many competitors, it can’t compete with the slimline models for pocketability and style. However, its 3.5x optical zoom lens reaches further and the new lens shift-based Vibration Reduction (VR) system helps to compensate for the camera’s limited ISO range. . . [more]

      Full review


      Although Nikon’s 8.1-megapixel Coolpix P4 is a very capable point-and-shoot digicam, with more user-adjustable controls than many competitors, it can’t compete with the slimline models for pocketability and style. However, its 3.5x optical zoom lens reaches further and the new lens shift-based Vibration Reduction (VR) system helps to compensate for the camera’s limited ISO range.
      Evolving from the VR system developed for Nikon SLR cameras, the P4’s VR system has two modes: Normal, which counteracts camera shake and Active, which compensates for more pronounced movements and is useful when shooting from a moving vehicle. Our tests showed Nikon’s claims VR gives up to three stops more exposure flexibility to be credible.

      The P4’s metal and plastic body is smooth and sleek but no grip points are provided and the tethers for the battery/card compartment and interface connector are rather flimsy. The lens, which retracts and is covered by a shutter when power is off, covers a focal length range equivalent to 36-126mm (3.5x zoom), with apertures ranging from f2.7-7.6 at the wide position to f5.3-7.3 for tele shots. Like many point-and-shoot digicams, the P4 lacks an optical viewfinder, forcing users to frame shots on the 2.5-inch LCD screen, which is clear and bright, except in direct sunlight.

      Unlike most point-and-shoot digicams, the top-mounted mode dial includes both P and A shooting modes. It also carries quick-access links to white balance, ISO and resolution settings, as well as the Set-up menu and Movie mode. Aperture settings can be adjusted in 0.3EV steps and the camera will select the appropriate shutter speed each time. Sixteen preset Scene modes are provided, several with Scene Assist and nine of them having two ‘Effect’ settings that allow users to fine-tune the camera’s controls for specific results. For example, Effect 1 in Portrait mode makes skin tones lighter, while Effect 2 softens the image. Digital zoom is disabled with some scene modes.

      The camera’s wide-area AF system analyses more of the field of view than normal AF systems, allowing users to experiment with more imaginative shot compositions. Nikon’s Face Priority AF, which senses the presence of a human face within the frame and focusing on it, is included, along with in-camera red-eye fixing. The P4 also sports the D-Lighting function, which like Face Priority AF and in-camera red-eye fix was introduced to the Coolpix line in February 2005.

      The test camera produced sharp pictures with excellent colour accuracy and very modest saturation, which resulted in a more natural look than many digicams deliver. However, contrast was slightly high, which compromised highlight and shadow detail in very bright conditions, although shots taken in normal lighting were first-rate. Exposure metering was generally accurate, especially with the matrix setting, although shots taken after dark were under-exposed in both the A and Night Landscape Scene modes. The lack of a shutter priority AE setting made it impossible to force the camera to use its slowest shutter speed (8 seconds) and even setting the exposure compensation to +2EV failed to produce correctly-exposed night shots in either mode.

      Imatest showed resolution to be slightly lower than expected and revealed considerable under-sharpening plus moderate lateral chromatic aberration. However, edge-to-edge sharpness was excellent and we found no trace of purple fringing in outdoor shots. Noise was obvious in shots taken at ISO 400 (the top setting) and the flash required at least ISO 200 to light up an average-sized room.

      Close-ups taken with the wide lens setting were sharp and detailed but the same degree of magnification could not be achieved with the tele setting. White balance performance was typical of many digicams, with the manual setting and most pre-sets producing the most accurate colours.

      Movie clips were sharp and smooth but the high sensitivity of the microphone recorded noise from the AF system and even small gusts of wind could affect the sound track. The VR function allowed smooth shooting in this mode.

      Start-up to first shot took roughly four seconds, while shot-to-shot times without flash averaged 2.7 seconds. Flash extended the delay to between 3.5 and 8.5 seconds. Capture lag averaged 1.1 seconds, reducing to 0.2 seconds with pre-focusing. The standard burst mode recorded five shots at 0.6 second intervals, while the multi-burst setting captured 16 images at 0.5 second intervals and stored them on a single frame.

      Footnote: Nikon has also released a similarly specified model, the Coolpix P3, which comes with built in Wi-Fi LAN support and costs $100 more. [29]





      Image sensor: 7.18 x 5.32 mm CCD with 8.3 million photosites (8.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 7.5-26.3mm f2.7-5,3 Nikkor zoom lens (36-126mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 3.5x optical, up to 4x digital
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 92 x 61 x 31 mm
      Weight: 170g (without battery and card)
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (baseline compliant Exif 2.2); Movies – QuickTime/WAV (VGA/QVGA/QQVGA at 30 fps)
      Shutter speed range: 8-1/2000 second.
      Focus system/range: Contrast-detect TTL AF with AF-assist illuminator; range 30 cm to infinity; macro 4cm to infinity.
      Exposure metering/control: 256-segment matrix metering, Center-weighted, Spot, AF-Spot; P and A modes plus 16 scene modes.
      White balance: TTL auto, Direct sunlight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Shade, Flash and White Balance Preset.
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Auto with Red-eye reduction (In-Camera Red-Eye Fix), Anytime Flash, Flash Cancel, Slow Sync, Rear-sync.
      ISO range: Auto (ISO 50 to 200 equivalent); ISO 50, 100, 200, 400
      Sequence shooting: 5 frames at 1.8 fps.
      Storage Media: 23 MB internal memory plus SD card slot; internal memory holds 6 high-resolution images or up to 331 VGA shots.
      Viewfinder: n.a.
      LCD monitor: 2.5-inch TFT LCD with 150,000 pixels,
      Power supply: EN-EL5 rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Claimed battery life: 200 shots/charge.





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      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Image quality: 8.8
      • OVERALL: 9