on April 22, 2013
Bottom Line Up Front: Exceptional images, tack sharp and great color. Quick focus. Quality build, feels good in the hands and handles well. All the essential settings and knobs are accessible. Highly recommend if your shooting style is compatible working with a fixed wide angle lens (28mm full frame equivalent). Light, small and unobtrusive. Discrete, not intimidating and doesn't scream "professional." An excellent carry around camera and back up to a full DSLR. Seems a bit pricey, but you're getting what you pay for - high quality images. Great for street scenes and environmental portraiture. I consider the 28mm equivalent lens a bit too wide for tight head shots, but have used it with success in a pinch. I'm a professional documentary photographer and a pro DSLR mounted with a prime 35mm or 85mm is my primary tool of choice; however, there are times when whipping out a large intimidating professional camera wouldn't be appropriate - enter the Coolpix A. I've been looking for a compact carry-around camera that will produce high quality images and this little Nikon fills the bill. I've been shooting the camera extensively for about a month now and have been very pleased with the camera's performance and the images that it's produced. Ensure that shooting with a fixed wide angle lens (28mm FX equivalent) suits your style. If so, then this camera is definitely worth considering. If you want a mirrorless camera that can change lenses or zoom, then look elsewhere. If you are looking for a compact, robust, rugged wide angle fixed lens camera that produces excellent images, the Coolpix A may be for you. Would definitely recommend seriously looking as this camera.
on July 19, 2013
My primary camera is a Nikon D700. I own several lenses for the D700 but find that my 50mm 1.4G lens stays on it most of the time. I do all of my serious photography with the D700 but there are definitely times when I don't want to haul a heavy camera with me. I've been waiting for a small, compact camera from Nikon I can take along for those occasions (vacations, parties, etc).
Needless to say, I was excited by the introduction of the Nikon Coolpix A. I bought one and have been shooting steady with it for the last three weeks. The camera definitely delivers on the two things I was looking for - small size with outstanding pictures. Some people find the 28mm lens limiting but I'm accustomed to doing most of my shooting with a prime so it's no problem for me. I can shoot the camera in program when I just want snapshots for a casual event. I can also exert complete control when I want to do some serious shooting. The camera performs flawlessly either way.
The only real limitation for me was the lack of a built-in viewfinder. I purchased the accessory viewfinder for the camera but wasn't too happy about spending so much money just to have a viewfinder. If you're cooking for a high quality camera that's compact but delivers great pictures, I suggest you take a look at the Coolpix A.
on December 12, 2014
This is an excellent camera; basically the guts of a DSLR with a fixed prime wide angle lens that will fit into a front pants pocket. I wouldn't have paid full retail price for it, but with the recent fire sale after it was discontinued by Nikon, it was a steal at 60% off. My other pocket camera is an original Sony RX100, which I used extensively for 2 years before buying the Coolpix A. With the Sony, there were situations where I wish I had a little more image quality, either for good light landscape shots or for 2 AM at the dark bar shots. Most of my shots are in the 28 to 35 mm focal length, so giving up zoom for the Coolpix A's tack sharp prime lens was not a problem. I've heard the sensor is very similar to the one found in the D7000, and in my use, I've found it to be more than competent for any shooting situation I might realistically encounter. The ISO range is usable up to 12,800 when shooting RAW and with a little bit of work in Lightroom. The Nikon colors are much more pleasing to me than the colors I get from my Sony cameras, so there's very little, if any, color adjustments needed in post processing. This is the main reason I chose this camera over the Ricoh GR; in my opinion, the Ricoh's colors require a lot of adjustment in post, and I wanted to keep my time in Lightroom to a minimum.
One of the concerns with this camera is autofocus performance. It seemed about average for a point and shoot when I originally got the camera, but after updating to the latest firmware (version 1.12), the autofocus has improved to where it's no longer a nuisance. It focuses slower than the RX100, and about on par with the RX1. Even though focusing is not the fastest, it is very accurate.
For the last several years, my goal has been to find a digital equivalent of the Olympus XA; a small pocketable camera with a good lens that performs well. The Coolpix A isn't quite the digital XA that I've been seeking, but it's the closest I've found so far. Highly recommended (for the 60% off price).
*Edit April 15, 2015:
After using the camera for about 3 months, 3 spots of dust suddenly appeared on the sensor. I'm in the process of sending the camera back to Nikon for warranty repair, so I'll post an update once this takes place. One observation: Nikon's customer support process is garbage. Their website is broken (the Nikon representative with whom I spoke confirmed this), and it is taking an unnecessarily large amount of effort just to get this camera in the mail. In the past year, I've also had to send a camera back to Canon for the same problem (dust on sensor), and unlike Nikon, their return process is streamlined and painless. Canon even pays for all shipping costs as long as the camera in under warranty. Nikon is requiring me to pay for shipping myself, which I'm not thrilled about. This experience will definitely influence which cameras I buy in the future.
*Edit August 8, 2015:
Apparently, Nikon outsources its Coolpix repairs to a place called Precision Camera. I sent it in due to dust/spots on the sensor and got it back in about a week. While improved, the sensor still has a few spots visible at small apertures. Instead of going through the painful process of dealing with Nikon's incompetent customer service again, I've just decided to keep the camera since I rarely shoot at apertures smaller than f16 and the dust spots don't show up under my own routine use.
Since I got the Coolpix A, I also picked up a used Ricoh GR for a steal of a price. After having used both, to my eyes the Nikon has slightly better image quality, better JPEG and RAW colors, much better metering, and faster focusing in low light. The Ricoh has vastly better ergonomics and handling, is an absolute speed demon in focusing in good light, and is thinner and lighter (significantly so). I've read that the GR also has well-known problems with sensor dust, so we'll see how long it takes for that to show up. Between the two, I'm not sure one is a clear favorite over the other. The Nikon makes better images with less computer work, and the Ricoh is one of the best designed cameras I've ever handled.
on October 1, 2013
I've had a variety of compacts in addition to my DSLRs. But I was always disappointed overall with the compact cameras since I was always comparing to my DSLRs. Not saying they weren't well made, decent compacts, but I wanted good noise handling, high ISO capability, good resolution, sharp photos, and something small to carry around when I didn't want to take the DSLR. The CoolPix A fit that.
The best thing was that the Coolpix A has a good APS sensor, but I wasn't sure about having a fixed wide angle lens. Then I started looking at the images taken with it, the capability of the camera itself, the size, the quality, etc, and that fixed lenses can perform better than its zoom counterpart. Well, this Coolpix A lens is perfect. Good sharpness and performance coupled with a camera that produces great colors along with a DSLR sensor that allows me to have the flexibility I wanted.
Did I think I'd go for a fixed lens, no. Am I glad I have it now, yes. The size and build of the A is great, I take it with me all the time. And when I load the images up against my DSLR photos, I don't have to feel I was using a lesser camera just for convenience sake. I got exactly what I didn't know I needed.
on June 9, 2013
I've owned numerous Nikon SLR bodies over many years. I have a trove of beautiful Nikon lenses that I treasure. I traveled to the Netherlands in April-May and decided one of my SLRs would just be too heavy. I splurged on the Coolpix A.
The camera is unbelievable. Please note, it is a fixed focal length lens, but the optics are fantastic. The many diverse options and controls suit me perfectly. Most are consistent with the higher end SLRs with the addition of some very intelligent and useful ones. There is, for instance a quite serviceable close-up feature.
I have to add one unanticipated characterisic. I was in an accident in Amsterdam; hit by a tram. I suffered some broken bones, etc., but am recovering well. The camera was in my vest pocket and received the full impact. Some metal was sheared off the lens casing, but the camera is perfectly sound and fully functional. All I can say is "wow, and kudos to you, Nikon."
on June 20, 2013
My regular DSLR is the Nikon D4. Am always on the lookout for a pocket camera that I can have in my purse to take pictures of the unexpected and to snap casual pics at parties etc. Am usually diappointed in the quality of lesser cameras. I dropped and broke my Fujix100 right before leaving on a trip, so I picked this up on a lark to try as my replacement pocket camera. I was blown away by the quality of the pictures you can get with this camera. I just love it and recommend it to anyone. Plus, if you already shoot Nikon, the menus layout will be competely intuitive. Does it have flaws -- sure every smaller camera does. But the file quaility makes up for any other issues.
on August 23, 2014
Very nice piece. Extremely sharp optic. Lens was was the fourth sharpest Nikon optic tested on DXO labs site. Very light and compact. Use it for backpacking. Took it into Shenandoah National Park. Up Old Rag, down into canyons w/ waterfalls. Great pics of bears w/ it. Combined w/ a Velbon UT-43D & a Gossen Luna Pro SBC it makes a very powerful and versatile photo kit. DSLR quality w/o the bulk. Plus the 28mm lens on this thing out performs the standard kit lenses. Wish it had the in camera ND filter. Can't figure out why so many reviewers trashed the A. Except for the fact that they are comparing it to what its not. A DSLR. Also probably because of the pretentiousness & snobbery inherent in the photo community. All the camera really is, is a black box w/ a lens on it. So you get the best lens/sensor combo you can get your hands on. To many bells & whistles out there. I think that Nikon was pricing the A as a cheap alternative to a Leica. If you can get a factory refurb unit of an A the price point isn't that bad. The A's color scheme looks more natural to me also. The Leica & Fuji cameras seem to have a color scheme similar to the Fujicolor films of old. With the trademark green cast you can't filter out. The Cosina/Voightlander 28mm brightline OVF works well with the A. There was also a Nikon 28mm brightline OVF made for the P6000 that looks like it was made by cosina/voitlander. Both are a more cost effective $100-$200 option than the official OVF for the A that rings in @ $396. The Fotasy hood/shade combo works well w/ the A (see my other reviews) Fantastic little camera. A DSLR in your pocket. A Leica on the cheap!!!! Highly recommended.
on July 22, 2014
I purchased both this camera and a Fuji X100 as both were highly recommended and though different in concept both provided a high end, fixed focus camera with a DX sensor. After over six months of using both I kept the Nikon and sold the Fuji. This had become my go to camera. I still wish it had a viewfinder and that on the Fuji was spectacular. The Nikon has a 28mm lens as opposed to the Fuji's 35mm (equivalents). The Fuji is one f. stop faster at f2. The flesh tones on the Fuji were better. However the Nikon was the camera I wanted to use most. The color is excellent. I use the lens shade and filter adapter most of the time. I also did so on the Fuji. Having sold the Fuji I do not miss it and continue to use the Nikon on trips everywhere.
on March 25, 2015
There's something about shooting an APS-C sized sensor with a prime lens in front of it. Brings one back to the old days! This lens is very sharp, and if one shoots in RAW format, there's lots that can be done to get terrific images. I'm using DXO software to process images and they have a module for this sensor/lens combination, which makes for easy correction of all of the inherent foibles.
This camera has produced outstanding images, even indoors in low light because of the f2.8 maximum aperture. With the f2.8 lens, exposures indoors can be at 1/30 sec or faster. I've found the shutter is whisper quiet, with no shutter-induced camera shake at all.
Reminds me of one of the range-finder Leicas. I bought it used on Amazon -- it's cheaper than the similar Ricoh product.
I own, and have owned lots of Nikon going back to the glory days of the "F" and even earlier. For various reasons, I've never been a fan of the company. So if this review sounds like it's from someone who idolizes Nikon, that would not be me.
For the right type of user, the Coolpix A is a fantastic little camera. There are some trade-offs made in exchange for the small size and very high image quality. The focusing is not super-fast, there is no viewfinder and no zoom lens.
The slow-ish focusing is a legitimate concern I think, since this should be go-everywhere camera. I haven't lost many shots to slow focus but the Coolpix A is not an ideal camera for capturing action. The Coolpix A does have nicely damped manual focusing, but you still have to evaluate your focus on the screen which will slow you down more than the AF. (Or you could choose a small aperture, rely on depth of field and not focus at all.)
As for the lack of a viewfinder, you can either use the screen or purchase a separate optical finder. Nikon's finder is very high quality but top notch optical finders have always been expensive.
The one thing I wish for would be image stabilization (Nikon's "VR"). Before someone says it's not needed with a short focal length lens...it is helpful with any lens, especially in low light. As for Nikon not incorporating VR in wide angle lenses, this isn't true; VR is used in the very good Nikon 16-35 lens. What is true is that the Coolpix A's only competitor, the very nice Ricoh GR, doesn't have image stabilization either.
Finally, the lens. Despite software tricks, wide angle zooms or wide-to-tele zoom lenses are really not that great in absolute terms. (There are exceptions like Nikon's $1800 14-24 lens but its gigantic and somewhat of a miracle.) OTOH, single focal length lenses need only do one job well and the lens on the Coolpix A is a champ. Being a wide angle, it's not ideal for tightly cropped portraits or pulling in tiny, distant subjects, but in a small room, a 28mm can save the day where a longer focal length would be useless. If you like to pick out small details from far away, a wide lens won't be a good choice. But if you want to take in the whole scene, a wide lens is almost a necessity.
In summary, at current close-out prices, Nikon has managed a small camera that does not sacrifice quality in exchange for compactness. There is some illumination fall-off in the corners and some unnecessarily complicated button pressing but wait until you see the images!
Incidentally, while the experts at Digital Camera Review say the Coolpix A is not class leading in any respect, none of the cameras in Amazon's comparison table are even similar, so who knows what class these guys are attending. There is one other camera in the same class, the Ricoh GR, which is almost identical in specs, purpose and performance and arguably simpler to use than the Coolpix. But at current prices, the Coolpix A has gone from being more expensive than the Ricoh, to being cheaper.