We used the Nikon Coolpix A in a variety of lighting conditions and the metering system handled everything admirably. It copes with tricky lighting conditions well, showing no signs of overexposure or under exposure. If ever you do feel that the Coolpix A isn't matching your exposure expectations, the impressive exposure compensation range of /-5EV in 1/3EV steps should more than meet your needs.
One of the benefits of having such a large sensor is that the Coolpix A should handle high ISO noise well across the full 100-25600 range, and testing shows that this is certainly the case. There are no signs of noise whatsoever at the lowest ISO setting, while the first real signs of noise appear in images is at ISO 800, meaning all settings up to this point can be used without a second thought.
Go to Nikon Coolpix A photos for more test shots.
The impressive performance continues up to ISO 3200, with noise appearing at these settings not doing so to the detriment of final image quality. Above ISO 3200, noise does begin to cause issues with image quality, and it's best to steer clear to the Hi1 and Hi2 extended settings, but the ISO performance is outstanding.
White balance is another area where the Coolpix A proves a reliable operator, with an accurate level of performance in a range of conditions. The only area where the white balance struggles is in overcast conditions, preferring cooler results – a problem easily solved by shooting in Raw. Colours, meanwhile, are vibrant and punchy, while a range of onboard colour adjustments can suit any preference you may have in this area.
Nikon no doubt opted for the fixed lens in some part due to the promise of excellent optical performance, and thus there's little excuse for poor performance in this area. There are some signs of vignetting at the maximum aperture, although these soon disappear when you stop down. Chromatic aberrations, meanwhile, are well controlled by the lens, and sharpness is generally good bar in the far corners of the frame at the maximum aperture.
The Nikon Coolpix A is the first APS-C compact to genuinely fit in a pocket – a great achievement. That makes it damn expensive, but Nikon has done an awful lot to ensure that it meets the premium price tag. Build quality is exemplary and image quality is first class.
There are, however, areas where the Coolpix A could be improved. The sluggish AF performance is a concern, especially in less than perfect shooting conditions. The fixed focal length won’t be to everyone's taste, and at 18mm it's going to be a bit too wide for a range of conventional shooting conditions.
Nikon users looking for a premium compact to accompany their DSLR will be able to pick up the Coolpix A and use it instinctively in an instant, and for a first shot at the premium compact market the Coolpix A is an impressive model. It's just a shame that it's burdened with such a high price tag and performance that doesn't quite meet expectations.
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