Advanced Performance Compact Camera

The COOLPIX A marks Nikon's introduction to the advanced, fixed focal length lens, compact camera arena, joining companies such as Ricoh, Leica, Fujifilm, Sony, and Sigma. Characteristics of this group include fast lenses, RAW file capture, and large price tags.

Features of the COOLPIX A include a 16.2-megapixel DX sensor in a compact body with an f/2.8, 28mm lens (35mm equivalent). The build quality is very good and the buttons and dials all have a solid feel. Shooting modes include Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, scenes, and two customizable user modes. You can choose autofocus, manual focus, and there's the obligatory macro mode, with a minimum focusing distance of 4″. Other features are similar to what you'd find in a well-equipped DSLR, including exposure compensation, 1080p video, and in-camera editing capabilities. There's s hot-shoe mount for an external flash or optical viewfinder, and at the back of the camera is a 3″, 921,000-dot LCD that's loaded with icons.

There are two questions: How does it perform and who is this camera for? The COOLPIX A performs very well in many areas, including image quality, performance in low-light situations, video, and audio. Accessing the video function is difficult without the assistance of the manual, as Nikon moved it from a scene mode, where it typically resides on their compact cameras, to a place buried in the menus. The manual focus ring is large and easy to use, but it takes too much input for this reviewer's taste. Battery life is quite good.

The question about who this camera is for is more difficult to answer. At nearly $1,100 for a compact camera, it has a limited market. The COOLPIX A is for the serious pro photographer or amateur who's technically proficient and has deep pockets. The DX-format sensor gives it an obvious advantage to cameras with smaller CMOS sensors, but at more than double the cost of the Nikon COOLPIX P7700, it's still hard to justify the price.

Company: Nikon Inc.
Price: $1,099.95
Rating: 3.5
Hot: DX sensor; image quality; build quality
Not: Price; manual focus control; accessing video mode