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Nikon CoolPix 4800 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £249.00

In the crowded digital camera market, the biggest share seems to go to the manufacturer who can fill as many niches in that market as possible. This is why Fujifilm, Olympus, Canon and Sony have dominated the field for so long; they have in their model ranges a camera to suit every need, from pocket compacts to power-packed semi-pro models. Nikon, a long respected name in the photographic world, has fallen behind the market leaders, preferring to concentrate its corporate energies on the professional market, where it is only competing with its arch rival, Canon. The Nikon CoolPix range consists of only 11 models, compared to 16 in Fuji’s FinePix range, 17 in Sony’s Cyber-shot and Mavica ranges, 17 in Canon’s PowerShot range and an astonishing 30 models in Olympus’ various consumer digital ranges. Nonetheless Nikon does make occasional forays into the mass market, and the result of its latest effort is this, the CoolPix 4800.


The 4800 is a mid-range 4megapixel camera designed for the user who wants something a bit more impressive than a pocket compact but doesn’t want to go to the expense of buying a full-spec semi-pro model such as the CoolPix 8800. With a comparatively low street price of around £249, the 4800 offers a tempting specification and seemingly good value for money. It shares many of the features of the 3200, 4200 and 5200, and from a distance even looks vaguely similar, but it is physically much larger than its stable mates, measuring 106 x 66 x 54mm against 88 x 60 x 37mm for the 5200. It’s also a lot heavier, weighing 295g with battery and card, against the 5200’s 180g.


The other major difference is the lens. The 4800’s larger chassis supports a big 8x zoom F2.7-4.4 lens, equivalent to 36-300mm, and made from Nikon’s high quality ED, or Extra-low Dispersion glass. In theory this should make the 4800 a formidable camera.


Unfortunately the potential of this superb lens is wasted, let down by several other distinctly sub-standard design elements, which is what tends to happen when you build down to a price rather than up to a specification. The casing is made of plastic, and while it is undoubtedly quite strong, it still feels a lot less well-made than Nikon’s other high-end consumer models. Some of the panels bend when squeezed and creak like a cheap Chinese import. The shiny metallic finish is quite smooth and slippery, making the camera difficult to grip despite its shape. With a camera of this size and weight, a rubberized handgrip would have been a distinct improvement. It’s also worth noting that the big 8x zoom lens has no image stabilization, which severely limits its usefulness at slower shutter speeds.


Other features are equally uninspired. The camera has an autofocus illuminator, which is normally a very desirable feature, but in this case it is simply a red LED with an effective range of only a few feet. This is unfortunate because the autofocus system is slow, indecisive and has trouble coping with low light situations. The LCD monitor has a diagonal size of 1.8 inches and a resolution of 118,000 pixels, which is about average for a camera in this class, while the electronic viewfinder has a somewhat higher resolution, at 225,000 pixels.

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 2,288×1,712 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.


”’Verdict”’


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.

(table:nikon)

Each pair of test shots below is made up from a reduced size whole image, and a crop from the same image at full resolution.


”’Although the overall exposure is good, this ISO 200 shot displays a lot of image noise in the shadow areas.”’


”’The branches silhouetted against the sky show some purple fringing, but it is not as bad as in some cameras.”’


”’Even on this cloudy day, the CoolPix 4800 produces good colour balance, although lens distortion is visible in the top right corner.”’


”’If you look at the branches in the top right corner of this image, you’ll see that they are blurred by serious lens distortion.”’


”’The CoolPix 4800 makes a nice job of this shot, producing good colours even on a grey, cloudy day.”’

Each pair of test shots below is made up from a reduced size whole image, and a crop from the same image at full resolution.


”’Flash coverage and colour balance are excellent, producing very natural tones on this indoor shot.”’


”’Compare this shot using artificial light and tungsten white balance with the same shot using the camera’s flash.”’


”’This sharply focused macro shot from a range of about 50cm has plenty of detail, and the flash coverage and exposure are very good.”’


”’At very close range the flash has caused over-exposure, but again colour reproduction is excellent, and macro focusing is sharp.”’

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 7
  • Image Quality 5

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 4.2 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 8.3x

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