Nikon Coolpix A900 Review

Nikon Coolpix A900 Review ImageNikon Coolpix A900 Review Image

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Introduction

The Nikon Coolpix A900 is a new superzoom compact camera which offers a 35x optical zoom, or an equivalent to 24-480mm in 35mm terms. Inside the camera is a 1/2.3-inch type CMOS sensor with 20.3 million pixels. It is one of the only point-and-shoot style cameras to feature 4K video recording – full HD recording is also available. Other interesting features include full manual control, and compatibility with Nikon’s Bluetooth Snapbridge technology. The Nikon Coolpix A900 retails for around $399 / £369.

Ease of Use

In terms of compact cameras, the Nikon Coolpix A900 is on the larger side – however it should still fit in all but the very tightest of trouser pockets. The larger side helps to accommodate the huge 35x zoom – which considering the focal length is actually quite impressively packed into the lens housing.

The camera has a relatively utilitarian look, but it appears quite stylish, with some nice rounded edges and corners to give an overall attractive appearance. There’s a textured grip on the front of the camera that helps your fingers to sit quite nicely and comfortably while you’re holding the camera one handed. On the rear of the camera there’s a small thumb rest area, which is also coated.

For a compact camera, there are quite a few dials and buttons on the Nikon Coolpix A900, which reflects the fact that you can take full manual control of this camera. Unfortunately you can’t shoot in raw format, though.

Nikon Coolpix B500
Front of the Nikon Coolpix A900

On the top of the camera is a mode dial which allows you to quickly switch between the different exposure modes on offer. As well as the usual automatic and scene modes you might expect from a point-and-shoot, here you’ll also find P/A/S/M semi-automatic and manual modes. There’s also a “creative” mode found here, as well as the “Short Movie Show” mode.

Also on top of the Nikon Coolpix A900 is the on/off button, which is found just below the shutter release button. Around the shutter release is the zoom rocker switch. It’s a little on the small side, but it feels relatively sturdy. Zooming the lens in and out is quite smooth, and it reaches the telephoto end of the optic pleasingly quickly. You will see a zoom indicator on the display – if you attempt to go into the digital zoom (there are two available), then first it will change to a blue colour, and then afterwards it will change to a yellow colour. You have to hold down the zoom switch for a second before the digital zoom will activate – a noticeable pause to help you avoid using it if you don’t want to.

The final dial on top of the Nikon Coolpix A900 is unmarked because it has different functions depending on when you’re using it. It is used to alter certain settings – for example aperture when in aperture priority, or shutter speed when in shutter priority. You can also use the dial to scroll through images in playback. If you’re shooting in manual mode, the dial on the top will be used to alter aperture, while the dial on the back of the camera can be used to alter shutter speed.

Nikon Coolpix B500
Rear of the Nikon Coolpix A900

The camera’s inbuilt flash is found on the top of the camera, there’s a switch just next to it which you need to slide across to make it pop up. When you’re done with it, you just have to push it back into place.

Moving to the back of the Nikon Coolpix A900, there’s the usual array of buttons we’ve come to expect from cameras of this type. There’s a four-way navigational pad, with each directional key doubling up to a specific function, for example the left key is for the drive mode or timer, the up key is to alter flash mode, the down key is to switch on macro focusing (and off again), and the right key is to access the exposure compensation setting.

Other buttons include a video record button, a playback button, a delete button and the main menu button. There’s also an OK button in the middle of the four way navigational pad, which you can use for a variety of menu adjustments and so on.

Nikon Coolpix B500
Top of the Nikon Coolpix A900

One particularly useful button can be found just underneath the thumb rest. It’s to be used when using particularly long telephoto lengths – if your subject moves out of the frame, you can hold down the button, and the lens will temporarily zoom out. You can then find the subject, and once that’s done release the button and the lens will resume the same focal length you were previously using – it’s a very quick and effective way to use the zoom and particularly useful if your subject is prone to moving.

The screen is mounted on a tilting bracket which allows you to pull it away form the main body of the Nikon Coolpix A900. You can face it forwards to help you when taking selfies. If you place it in this position, the display will flip and be centred in the screen so you can see what you’re composing correctly. The screen can also be tilted to face downwards, which is useful if you’re holding the camera over your head to get a high angle shot.

Unfortunately, the screen is not touch sensitive, so you can’t use it to make changes settings. If you want to change the AF point, first of all you need to make sure that the AF area mode is set to Manual. Once that’s done, you can press the central OK button, then use the directional keys around the screen. Note that you can only manually set AF point when shooting in semi-automatic or manual modes.

Nikon Coolpix B500
The Nikon Coolpix A900 In-hand

The Nikon Coolpix A900 has very quick start-up time, you can go from completely off to ready to shoot in approximately one second. Moving through the menu systems and playback is also very speedy, making it great to use.

In good lighting conditions, autofocus is very quick and generally also accurate. However, it can struggle a little in lower light, even though there is a focus assist lamp to help things along. The macro mode allows you to get very close to your subject to fill the frame which is great – there is also almost no instances of a false confirmation of focus, too.

Like many of Nikon’s newest models, the Nikon Coolpix A900 is equipped with Snapbridge. This means that once you’ve set it up, the camera can maintain a low-power bluetooth connection with your smartphone to automatically transfer images and video across to your phone without having any additional input. You can either have images send across at full size or at a reduced size to save time (transferring over bluetooth is slower than over Wi-Fi). It’s a very handy tool that works well to take the hassle out of transferring your images ready for uploading to social networking – this may be particularly appealing to those who want to use the camera while on holiday.

The Nikon Coolpix A900 is one of the only compact cameras on the market which can shoot 4K video. To do this, you need to go into the Main Menu and change Movie Options to 2160/30p. By default, the camera will record in 1080/30p.

Nikon Coolpix A900 Review ImageNikon Coolpix A900 Review Image

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Image Quality

As is so often the case with compact cameras with a small sensor, the Nikon Coolpix A900 performs best when the light is good. In these conditions, the camera is capable of producing some nicely detailed images. Images look best when kept to A3 or below, as when you examine at 100% – even at low ISO sensitivities – it’s possible too see some instances of image smoothing.

Colours are also nice and vibrant, having a good amount of punch without straying into unrealistic territory. Automatic white balance does reasonably well in most conditions, but it can err ever so slightly towards warmer tones under artificial light. You may also want to switch to the Cloudy setting when photographing under grey skies and you want to boost colours slightly.

Having a long focal length is very useful if you intend to use the Nikon Coolpix A900 as an all-rounder. Images taken at the furthest reach of the optical zoom are just as good quality as those taken at the widest reach – switching on image stabilisation helps you to get a blur-free shot at longer focal lengths. If the 35x zoom isn’t quite enough for you, you can switch to digital zoom – these are useful if you’re desperate to get closer to the subject, but are probably best avoided if you want to stick to best image quality.

General purpose metering does a good job to produce balanced exposures, only requiring a little exposure compensation in scenarios where we’d usually expect it – such as very high contrast scenes.

At normal printing sizes, images taken at up to ISO 800 are very good. At ISO 1600, you will probably want to stick to A4 or smaller, while at ISO 3200, the quality degrades a little more and you’ll probably want to only print or share at very small sizes. Noise isn’t too problematic, but you can often see some severe image smoothing which gives a painterly effect when shooting in low light.

Noise

The Nikon Coolpix A900 has seven sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 3200 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)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix A900’s 35x zoom lens achieves a maximum wide-angle focal length equivalent to 24mm, and is capable of a telephoto reach of 840mm (in 35mm-camera terms).

24mm

 

840mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Given the range of the zoom lens, the Nikon Coolpix A900 shows some obvious purple fringing in areas of high contrast, as shown in the examples below.

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Macro

The Nikon Coolpix A900’s lens will focus as close as 1cm from a subject, however depth of field becomes very shallow at this extremely close distance.

Macro

Flash

The pop-up flash on the Nikon Coolpix A900 has four settings: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill flash & Slow sync. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m, the flash provides even coverage with the lens zoomed in, though some vignetting is visible in the wide-angle shot.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (24mm)

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Flash Off – Telephoto (840mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (840mm)

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Whether the flash is set to standard Auto mode – or Auto with red-eye reduction – the camera successfully avoids any trace of red-eye.

Fill Flash On

 

Flash Auto with red-eye reduction

Filters

The Nikon Coolpix A900 offers 28 different filter effects, all of which are previewed live and recorded at full resolution.

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