Announced alongside the Coolpix 5700
we tested recently, the Nikon Coolpix 4500 is another model in the range of twisting Coolpix digital cameras. Whilst the overall design of the camera hasn't changed much from predecessors, Nikon have continued their tradition of improving this series with each update.
- 4x Nikkor-Zoom lens with focal range of 7.85-32mm (35mm equiv - 38-155mm) f/2.6-5.1
- 4.0 million effective pixels
- 1.5in LCD screen
- Magnesium-alloy body
- Shutter speeds from 8sec to 1/2,300 sec
- Macro shooting down to 2cm
- Noise Reduction mode
- Voice Memo
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL1
- CompactFlash Card Type I/II
- White Balance Bracketing
- Five-area multi autofocus
- 16 Scene modes
- TIFF or JPEG format images
- Auto pop-up speedlight
- Photoshop Elements, Fotostation Easy and Arcsoft Panoramamaker
- Priced from 645 to around 530
The Nikon Coolpix range is one of only a few cameras that offer a twisting lens design. It has long been a well-known feature of the Coolpix 900 series and although a new model number is being used with the 4500 the similarities it holds with the older series are obvious.
So at a basic level, handling has stayed the same as earlier models, with a very similar placement of LCD, viewfinder, shutter-release and many of the controlling buttons. Looking closer and having used the camera for sometime, you become aware of the minor changes that help improve the handling of this model. The most obvious of these, is the tiny joystick used to control the menus and various camera functions. The menu system has also changed for the better, but we'll cover that later in the review.
The flash uses a pop-up design and smoothly integrates with the body in a superior way to the more chunky Coolpix 995.
The LCD is quite small and there is no grayscale LCD provided for information as there was on the Coolpix 995. Another minor difference to the 995 is the subtly smoother shape of the body. The hand-grip is also different, with only a small portion of it being given a rubber coating. Nevertheless the camera is comfortable to hold and build quality is of a high standard.
I found the controls and menus to be very intuitive, and easy to learn. There are minor changes from other cameras, but those familiar with the series and even those who aren't, shouldn't have a problem picking up and using this camera after a quick scan of the manual.
Nikon UK have included some useful software to get beginners started at digital-imaging. The pack includes:
- Adobe Photoshop Elements
- ArcSoft Panorama Maker 3.0
- Nikon View
- Fotostation Easy
With the exception of Elements, which contains some advanced features, these programs are all simple and straightforward to use. Elements usually costs around 70 and it's good that Nikon have included it with an already competitively priced camera. The Panorama maker seemed to do a good job of combining images, and you can even make 360 degree rotating Quicktime files. Fotostation easy provides a convenient system for managing all the photos you'll take with the Coolpix.
The Coolpix 4500 menu shows a slight transition from earlier cameras and the more recent Coolpix 5700, with the most noticeable change being aesthetic. However it does also include new features such as perspective control and a small picture function. The perspective control allows you to correct converging lines on subjects such as buildings, or just apply weird distortions to any photo. The small picture function allows you to create a reduced size copy of a photo, so that it can be e-mailed or uploaded to a web-site quickly. Both these functions will be valuable to those reluctant to learn digital-imaging software.
This screenshot shows a typical display on the LCD when you're composing your photo. At the top left is the User Setting number currently activated. You can quickly change through these using the menu. Along the bottom is information on the current mode, shutter speed, aperture, image quality and shots remaining. Towards the top right are focusing, flash and ISO settings. There are many more possible combinations depending on the settings you use.
The Shooting menu contains settings for white balance, metering, continuous shooting mode, best shot selector, image adjustment, saturation control, image quality, image size, user settings, image sharpening, optional lens settings, exposure options, focus options, zoom options, speedlight options, auto bracketing, noise reduction and a setting reset feature.
|In the playback mode you can see simple information on each photo taken, or a histogram which can help you obtain the correct exposure. Lastly you can see the focus point the camera used when the shot was taken.
||The playback menu allows you to: Delete images, folder options, slide show, perspective control, small pic, protect images, hide images, print set and auto transfer.
A feature that will appeal to those new to photography are the scene modes Nikon have incorporated. There are sixteen of these modes and their intended use is described by the titles:
Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach/Snow, Landscape, Sunset, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show, Close up, Copy text/drawings, Back Light, Multiple Exposure, Panorama Assist, Sports and Dusk/Dawn.
In addition to these modes, are the standard Auto, Programmed auto, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority and Manual modes.
Viewfinder and LCD screen
The viewfinder is very similar to previous Coolpix models and diopter adjustment is included. It provides an average-sized view and is reasonably clear.
I was slightly disappointed by the size of the LCD used on the Coolpix 4500. However it is sharp and you can adjust the brightness level. It has been well recessed to help protect it from scratches.
The standard connections for USB, Power-in and Audio/Video-out are present. There is also a sync terminal on the lens section of the body, this can be used to attach an external Speedlight flash.
The Coolpix 4500 uses the same EN-EL1 Lithium Ion battery as the Coolpix 5700, and Coolpix 995. This is something of a bonus if you're upgrading from the Coolpix 995 as you could swap batteries between cameras.
We found battery-life to be good, appearing better than the more complex Coolpix 5700. If you're going to be doing a lot of shooting and reviewing with the LCD you'd probably want a backup battery.
In terms of specifications alone, the Coolpix 4500 doesn't add all that much over the Coolpix 995. Yet, we need to take into account that the initial Coolpix 4500 recommended price is under 600, compared to the initial price for the Coolpix 995 that was around 800.
From most of the test shots we took with the Coolpix 4500, we were pleased with the level of quality produced. Whilst it struggles to compete with some more expensive digital cameras, in the 600-1000 range, it puts up a strong fight. Macro capabilities are a major strength of this camera and can be a lot of fun to experiment with. The swivel design is still quite unique, there are several cameras with a swivel LCD (e.g. Canon G2), but many people still prefer the Coolpix 4500 type of design.
For some awkward angle shots, the swiveling LCD is almost essential. With the lens pointing directly up, I was able to take this shot of the window skylights, whilst comfortably looking down at the LCD. With some other digital cameras (Nikon Coolpix 885 for example), I would have needed lessons from a contortionist before being able to take the shot so easily.
The strong points of this camera include the matrix metering system and accurate colours. The automatic white-balance system performs quite well and sharpening level controls and other image quality controls are useful. Noise levels, sharpness and focusing ability are average.
|At an average print-size this looks a very sharp and colourful photo. Looking at a 100% scale view of the fly's legs, the Coolpix 4500 is about as sharp as other digital cameras in this price range. Where it leaps ahead of many of its competitors, is the macro capability that allowed the shot to be taken. The Coolpix cameras have had this macro capability as one of their strong points for some time now and the Coolpix 4500 continues the tradition.
This wooden sculpture didn't present the Coolpix 4500 with much of a challenge, the metering and automatic white-balance have done their job well. Noise levels are very low, as we'd hope they would be at the lowest ISO setting.
Richly saturated colours and a shallow depth of field on macro shots were no problem to achieve.
At 100% magnification, this shot showed a high level of detail and a good tonal range.
To get a sharp enough shot here, the ISO setting had to be set to IS0400. Noise levels have increased and although quite distracting at a close up view in Photoshop, they'd be less noticeable on an average-sized print. The cropped section above is showing the worst levels of noise in this photo, it isn't as visible in lighter areas.
Whilst not offering anything particularly exciting over its predecessor, the Coolpix 4500 still has a lot to offer. The Coolpix 995 was a very popular camera and we expect the Coolpix 4500 to share a similar success. A reasonably competitive price, high-build quality, versatile camera functions, good handling and image quality add up to make an appealing camera.
We reviewed one of the Coolpix 4500's main competitors, the Canon G2, back in November 2001 and as the cameras are priced closely, you may want to check that out too.
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