In the world of compact cameras, manufacturers have to work hard to tempt you away from the ever-present smartphone. One way this is still possible is the optical zoom -- and if you’re travelling or looking for flexibility, the bigger the better.
The A900 has a 35x optical zoom, which in 35mm terms means an equivalent of 24-480mm inside a body that will slip into your jeans pocket.
But of course, there’s a trade-off. Many of the most popular compact cameras currently on the market have a large one-inch sensor – in some cases, even larger. Not so with the A900, which has a more conventional compact camera-sized 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. In short, low-light performance may not match up to the best out there. However, if you’ll mainly be using this as a holiday snapper, it may not be such a big deal.
Another interesting feature is 4K video recording – showing just how commonplace the format is starting to become.
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Although the A900 is perhaps a little on the large side for a compact camera, you have to remember that the body houses a whopping great 35x zoom. Plus, it’s still small enough to fit in a coat or jeans pocket without much effort.
The design of the A900 is quite a boxy, but the camera looks stylish enough, with the silver and black colouring giving it a classic twist. The camera is adorned with quite a few buttons and dials, and there’s also a raised grip on the front of the camera, whose textured finish adds to a feeling of quality.
This camera allows you to take full manual control, and as such you’ll find options reflecting that on the mode dial on the top of the camera. As well as manual mode, semi-automatic options such as aperture priority and shutter priority are also available. For those who want to keep it simple, there’s a fully automatic mode alongside creative control, scene modes and a movie mode.
There’s a second dial that has different uses depending on the shooting mode you’re currently using. For example, if you’re shooting in aperture priority, you can use it to adjust aperture.
On the rear of the camera you’ll find a pretty standard layout. A four-way navigational pad features keys that double up to access common settings, such as flash and exposure compensation.
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You can change the AF point by pressing the OK button and then by using the directional keys to move to the point you need. Note, you need to be in the correct AF selection method first and you can’t do it in automatic mode.
The A900 is equipped with SnapBridge, something that’s appearing on all new Nikon cameras. This maintains a constant low-power Bluetooth connection with your phone (once you’ve set it up). Images can be transferred across automatically, without the hassle of having to connect via Wi-Fi every time you want to transfer a photo.
Images are resized to make them quicker to send via Bluetooth and, generally speaking, the images will be on your phone by the time you’ve retrieved your handset from your pocket. In short, it’s a hassle-free way to get your images on your phone and ready for uploading to social media sites without too much effort.
The A900’s screen can face all the way forward to help you take those ubiquitous selfies, and it can also tilt downwards, which can help with other shooting positions -- such as holding the camera high above your head to get the shot.
It would have been useful had the A900’s screen been touch-sensitive, especially for users who are coming to this camera from a smartphone. However, the fact that the screen is complemented by a good array of dials and buttons means it’s less of a problem than it could be.
Not surprisingly for a camera of this type, there’s no viewfinder.
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The camera’s lens offers a 35x optical zoom, which is fantastic for flexibility when travelling. In order to zoom the lens, you use the switch around the shutter release -- it’s a little fiddly, but it does the job quickly and smoothly.
A digital zoom is also available, which you’ll know you’re using because the zoom indicator bar at the top of the screen will turn from white to blue. In general, it’s best to avoid the digital zoom unless you're super-desperate, and with a 35x optical zoom you actually have plenty to play with.
Images taken with the zoom is at full stretch display plenty of detail and high quality. Switching on image stabilisation in the main menu is beneficial to help you achieve blur-free shots at these longer focal lengths, especially if you’re shooting hand-held.