Nikon Coolpix A10 Review

Nikon Coolpix A10 Review ImageNikon Coolpix A10 Review Image

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Introduction

The Coolpix A10 is Nikon’s cheapest Coolpix camera, boasting an RRP of just £59.99. For that you get a 16.1MP CCD sensor fronted by a 5x optical zoom lens with an equivalent focal length of 26-130mm. The A10 will shoot 720p HD video and features six creative effect filters, as well as Nikon’s Smart Portrait mode for enhancing shots of friends and family. The ergonomic easy-grip design comes in four body colour options and each is powered by a pair of AA batteries.

Ease of Use

The first thing that strikes you about the Nikon Coolpix A10 is its power source. Where the vast majority of compact cameras are fuelled by rechargeable Li-ion power packs, the A10 uses a pair of conventional AA cells. Nikon’s Coolpix L840 is the same in this respect, and it’s a good way for Nikon to keep costs down. It’s also useful when you’re away from the mains and run out of power, and if you refuel the A10 with lithium batteries, Nikon claims it’ll snap a very impressive 700 shots, although standard alkalines are rated for a more mundane 200 shots. For every day usage, it’d make sense to invest in some rechargeable NiMH batteries to avoid throwing money away on single-use cells. Nikon recons NiMH rechargeables will manage a healthy 500 shots per charge, however their added cost does make the A10’s low price slightly less attractive. Another issue with AA battery power source is that the batteries and SD card share the same compartment, so when you go to change cards, the batteries can easily fall out if you’re not careful.

Elsewhere, the Nikon Coolpix A10 is very easy to use and refreshingly ergonomic when compared to slimmer cameras, and especially wafer-thin smartphones. The pronounced finger grip doesn’t have a rubber coating, but the camera’s fairly light 160g ready to shoot weight means it never feels prone to slipping from your hand. A textured thumb rest on the back, along with the raised video record button alongside it, help the camera feel extra secure. Whether or not the A10 would withstand a drop is another matter, as while the all-plastic casing doesn’t flex or squeak, it does feels cheap.

Nikon Coolpix A10
Front of the Nikon Coolpix A10

But the most obvious sign of exterior cost-cutting is the 2.7-inch, 230k-dot LCD screen. Its resolution is the minimum you’ll find on a camera these days, and it causes menu icons and fine detail to look pixelated. The screen’s contrast accuracy is even worse though, thanks to extremely limited viewing angles that mean you’ll need to be looking at the screen from exactly the right angle to correctly judge exposure. It’s particularly problematic in low light shooting, where shadows are displayed as large back areas and highlights easily burn to white.

Another frustrating aspect of the Nikon Coolpix A10 is its speed, or rather the lack of it. Where we’ve grown used to cameras letting you immediately view a shot after capture, the A10 requires a frustrating 3-4 seconds of processing time. This is symptomatic of a deeper issue with the camera, which is that – despite the new model number – it’s actually several years old. The A10 is identical to 2015’s Coolpix L31, which itself was the same as the L29 that preceded it. This could be seen as Nikon playing dirty, but given that smartphones have made conventional compact cameras a dying breed, it’s small wonder that Nikon isn’t investing big bucks into this section of the camera market. It’s actually surprising Nikon is even producing budget compact cameras at all, as some manufactures have simply stopped making them.

Nikon Coolpix A10
Rear of the Nikon Coolpix A10

It’s therefore small wonder that the Nikon Coolpix A10 doesn’t pack many fun or fresh features. Aside from its HD 720p video recording capability and six creative effect filters (see the Image Quality section of this review for samples), the only other point of interest is Nikon’s Smart Portrait system. Sadly the A10 has only been given a cut-down version that’ll only soften skin and enable the self-timer to snap a shot when the camera detects a smiling face. There’s one other trick that the A10’s Smart Portrait system can pull, and that’s Blink Proof, which uses face detection to alert you should someone in shot be blinking. The A10 doesn’t pack Nikon’s Glamour Retouch face enhancement effects which usually accompany Smart Portrait.

The Smart Portrait system is activated by selecting it from the mode menu using the Scene button on the rear panel. The mode menu also includes the default Scene auto selector shooting mode, along with a standard Auto mode that lets you take control of white balance and ISO sensitivity, as well as activate continuous shooting. The camera’s creative effect filters can also be accessed from the mode menu, as can fifteen user-selectable scene presets. Unfortunately these don’t contain a sweep panorama mode, or even the Panorama Assist setting that Nikon includes with the Coolpix A100.

Nikon Coolpix A10
The Nikon Coolpix A10 In-hand

Whether you’re in the all-singing all-dancing Scene auto selector mode, or plain Auto mode, you’re able to adjust image size and quality, and also apply up to +/-2EV of exposure compensation using the rear panel button that doubles as the right directional control in playback mode. The left directional button activates the self-timer, although only a 10-second delay option is available, while the up button gives you a choice of various flash modes, including a red-eye reduction option.

Despite the slow image processing, the Nikon Coolpix A10 powers up and snaps a shot in an adequate 2.7 seconds. Of course, you’ll have to wait at least the same time again to view the shot, and if you’re shooting in low light, the A10’s autofocus system will require a couple of seconds to find its mark. The camera usually indicates accurate focussing no matter what the conditions, however we encountered a disappointing number of shots that actually turned out to be out of focus.

Nikon Coolpix A10 Review ImageNikon Coolpix A10 Review Image

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Image Quality

Images shot with the Nikon Coolpix A10 look fairly good at first glance thanks to vibrant colour reproduction and accurate exposure metering. The aging 16.1MP sensor doesn’t capture much dynamic range though, so shadow have a tendency to be overly dark. Detail is well resolved when shooting close subjects, but the sensor limitations show up again when capturing more distant scenes like landscapes, where fine detail is soft and smoothed by image processing.

In low light, the A10 generates relatively dark shots with muted shadow detail. There’s plenty of grain and colour speckling at ISO 800, and though noise isn’t too much worse at the maximum ISO 1600 sensitivity, images are noticeably softer.

The 5x zoom lens with its 26-130mm-equivalent focal length is just as mediocre, with sharpness decreasing towards the corner of frame. Chromatic aberration is clearly visible on high contrast boundaries and can be quite distracting when viewing at 100% image size, while the lens’ lack of image stabilisation makes it hard to avoid blur from camera shake when shooting indoors while zoomed in. That’s because the Nikon Coolpix A10 won’t sufficiently increase ISO sensitivity in such situations, so you’ll need to do so manually to get sharp shots.

Noise

The Nikon Coolpix A10 has six sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 1600 at full resolution.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix A10’s 5x zoom lens achieves a maximum wide-angle focal length equivalent to 26mm, and can zoom in to 130mm (in 35mm-camera terms). As you can see, with no image stabilisation and the default Scene auto selector mode’s reluctance to engage high ISO sensitivities, blur from camera shake is a problem when using full zoom.

26mm

130mm

File Quality

Shooting the Nikon Coolpix A10 at its maximum 16.1MP resolution with Fine jpeg quality produces images in the region of 7MB each. Switching to normal quality at the same resolution brings that down to roughly 4MB. Other resolution options are also available: 8MP (approx. 2MB), 4MP (approx. 1MB), 2MP (approx. 0.5MB), and VGA 640×480 (approx. 100-150KB).

Fine

Standard

Macro

The Nikon Coolpix A10’s lens will focus as close as 10cm from your subject when the lens is at maximum wide-angle. However, the camera will only consistently focus at this distance when you switch to Auto mode and manually activate macro focussing.

Macro

Flash

The Nikon Coolpix A10’s flash has four settings when shooting in standard Auto mode: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill flash & Slow sync. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m shows the flash provides even illumination with the lens zoomed in, though some minor vignetting is visible in the wide-angle shot.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off – Telephoto (130mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (130mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

With the flash is set to Fill Flash, red-eye is fairly obvious, and it’s not entirely eliminated by switching to Auto with red-eye reduction. The Fill Flash shot is also out of focus, despite the A10 claiming the contrary.

Fill Flash On

Fill Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Flash Auto with red-eye reduction

Flash Auto with red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night

Surprisingly, the Nikon Coolpix A10 managed accurate focus for this night shot, however it’s underexposed and Scene auto selector mode’s decision to shoot at ISO 400 has resulted in a slow ½-second shutter speed that was very tough to hold steady.

Night Auto

Digital Filters

The Nikon Coolpix A10 offers six filter effects, all of which are previewed live and recorded at full resolution. Your options are: Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, Selective colour, Pop, Cyanotype, and Mirror.

Off

Nostalgic Sepia

   

High-contrast Monochrome

Selective Colour

   

Pop

Cyanotype

   

Mirror