The camera does have a few good points. Unlike the semi-pro models that it aspires to emulate the 4800 has no manual exposure modes, but it does have a very useful selection of scene modes, including options for portrait, landscape, sports and night portrait, each of which have several sub-divisions for specific situations, such as positioning the subject within the frame, photographing architecture, sports composites and more. There is also a selection of colour modes including a very nice cyanotype feature, which duplicates the blue-tinted tone of old-fashioned prints.
Also worthy of special mention is the zoom control. It has a progressive action, which makes precise control of focal length much easier than usual. Press it a little and the zoom moves slowly, press it harder and it moves more quickly.
Unfortunately the other controls are not as well designed. To switch to playback mode you press the playback button as on most other cameras, but on most other cameras tapping the shutter button switches instantly back to shooting mode so you don’t miss shots while mucking about with controls. This is called shooting priority or capture priority. However the 4800 has other priorities, and you have to press the playback button again to get out of playback mode, and it’s the same with the menu button. Another glitch is the macro mode control. Macro is activated by pressing the down direction on the four-way pad, but once activated there is no on-screen display to remind you that you are in macro mode. Also, all the button-controlled options have to be confirmed by pressing the ‘OK’ button within a few seconds, which is pointlessly tedious.
Although the CoolPix 4800’s 4MP 2,288x1,712 pixel images have plenty of detail, they lack dynamic range and suffer from noticeable image noise even at the lowest ISO setting. Colours tend to be over-saturated, especially on the green channel, and the automatic white balance seems to have trouble with bright colours, again especially green. The purple fringing effect was thankfully kept to a minimum, and on the whole exposure and focusing were accurate. Flash range, coverage and colour balance were all good.
One major problem we noticed was that the lens suffers from focusing aberrations in the corners of the image. If you look closely at the sample pictures, particularly in the top right quadrant of the wide angle shots, you’ll see that part of the image appears to be out of focus, which could be the result of a misaligned lens. However, it is possible that this is simply a fault on our review model, rather than a design defect.
The CoolPix 4800 is a mediocre camera which could have been far better if only so many corners had not been cut. It has some interesting features, but these are more than offset by its many flaws. Nikon can and does produce much better cameras than this, which means that many people will buy the CoolPix 4800 based solely on the reputation that goes with the name, when they would be better off looking elsewhere. There are other cameras from other manufacturers in the mid-price, mid-range superzoom category that sell for about the same price, but which offer superior performance, handling and build quality.