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The only real problem that I found with the design of the camera is the hatch over the battery and card slots. It has no latch, and comes open very easily. Several times while I was out testing the camera I found that the hatch had come open in my pocket. The card and battery have separate latches so they won’t fall out, but the hatch lid is only made of fairly thin plastic, so it could easily be damaged or even snapped off in some circumstances. The battery itself is a 1,100mAh lithium-ion rechargeable for which Nikon claims a 200 shot capacity.
Main mode selection is controlled by a large dial in the middle of the top panel, with additional options such as EV compensation, flash mode, macro mode and self timer accessed via the D-pad. Shooting modes on offer include an all-auto mode in which the menu is inaccessible, as well as a good selection of scene modes, including a portrait mode featuring Nikon’s outstanding face-recognition AF system. Most of the scene modes have secondary options and effects, such as different colour balance settings or soft-focus modes. There is a help mode that tells you what each effect does. More useful is the program mode, which allows full access to the menu system, and unusually for a pocket compact an aperture priority mode, which allows the more experienced user to exercise some creative control over depth of field.
The technological highlight of the P4 is of course its optical image stabilisation. It’s one of the smallest cameras on the market to have such a system, and to be honest I’m not entirely convinced that a camera with only a 3.5x optical zoom really needs it, but there’s no denying that it works very well. Like most such systems it allows steady hand-held shots to be taken at shutter speeds around three stops slower than would otherwise be possible. The system has two modes, normal and active. In the former it detects panning movements both vertically and horizontally, and damps out vibrations that are at right angles to the camera movement, which should help when trying to capture moving subjects, if only the monitor was a little quicker. In active mode the VR system damps out all vibrations regardless of direction, which is useful for situations like taking pictures from a moving vehicle.
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